America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture by Bruce Catton
THE FIRST MODERN WAR
1. Describe the first way the Civil War was the first modern war.
2. Describe the second way the Civil War was the first modern war, especially its key element.
3. Discuss how #2 is a part of our history from the Civil War to the present and how this has shaped our sense of origin, identity, meaning and value as a country, especially from 1900 until now.
4. What does Catton mean when he says that the Civil War was both an ending and a beginning for the U.S.A., and what might these two things mean for our understanding of the U.S.A. of today?
THE POLITICS OF WAR
1. In the early pages of this chapter, how does Catton make his argument that we must see the Civil War as an extension of American politics, that the military conflict had a political base?
2. How does he show that Lincoln is an example of this as President, the Commander in Chief with no military background?Any thoughts on this in contemporary terms?
3. How were troops raised in the civil war? Pluses and minuses?
4. What do you think are the pluses and minuses of how we raise and maintain troops today?
THE ERA OF SUSPICION
1. Describe what Catton says were the simple fears and the visceral fears of people, both North and South, before and during the civil wars.
2. Why does he say some fear is a good thing but too much is a bad thing for a democracy? Reflections on this relative to our own day and time?
3. What is Lincoln’s death teach us about the theme of suspicion embodied in American history?
4. Is the contemporary deep division in naming American origin, identity, meaning, and value an expression of an “era of suspicion” like that expressed in the Civil War? Defend your answer.