Bruce Catton Hates Reenactors!

From page 100-101, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, by Edward Tabor Linenthal

"Prior to the commencement of Civil War centennial celebrations, Bruce Catton, the popular Civil War historian whose writings helped spark widespread interest in the war during the 1950s, had delivered a speech at Gettysburg College on Dedication Day 1962 that raised deep-seated concerns about the shallowness of planned festivities. Catton worried that a "sentimental haze will cloud the landscape" and people will "fail to see the deep, tragic issues and profound lessons" that such events should communicate. He was especially critical of historical reenactments, which he said, "require us to reproduce, for the enjoyment of attendant spectators, a thin-shadow picture of something which involved death and agony for the original participants." Battles were not waged in a "spirit of fun," Catton argued, but were "desperately real and profoundly, if unforgettably tragic." A battle was not just a "tournament in which brave men did gallant things for the admiration of future generations." Echoing the concerns of those who believe that Civil War commemorations were being trivialized and sanitized to make them entertaining, Catton declared that the Civil War was fought, above all, over "'shattering issues," notably slavery, and that no other place besides Gettysburg offered Americans "so good a vantage point for that long look back into our past to find the meaning that lies beneath the tragedy."