Greetings Cosmic Americans!
We all have our favorite Civil War author - mine is Bruce Catton. Not because he championed some paradigmatic shift or headed some interpretive school of thought, but because he introduced me to Civil War scholarship - written with elegance and grace that I have not seen matched since I first read his work in 1976.
Catton's The Civil War was the first book (a Christmas gift from my grandparents) on the war that I ever read. It was a short history - a condensed version of the war so to speak. Of course I was captivated - who wouldn't be. He brought to life the great issues of the era. What would come of slavery, secession, and the relationship between the federal state and the individual states and localities? He answered my youthful questions (probably framed differently than I would today) in a narrative style that enlivened the era - to say the least. I have since read just about everything he has written. My favorite: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy.
Bruce Catton passed away in 1978 - but we as scholars still have much to learn from him. Those who would weigh down their work (alliteration anyone?) with heavy-handed jargon that no one will ever read might have a look at Mr. Lincoln's Army - if only to have a reminder on hand that a historian can write a compelling...and yes, accessible story.
Catton was not perfect, and his work has certain limitations and flaws. But let's face it. His books are just plain good.