EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D.

President Eisenhower Appoints Civil War Historian Bruce Catton a Member of the Civil War Centennial Commission

Item #20354


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EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. - President Eisenhower Appoints Civil War Historian Bruce Catton a Member of the Civil War Centennial Commission
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EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. - President Eisenhower Appoints Civil War Historian Bruce Catton a Member of the Civil War Centennial Commission

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EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. (1890-1969). American officer and thirty-fourth president of the United States. DS. (“Dwight D. Eisenhower”). 1p. Large Folio (approximately 23” x 19”).Washington, D.C., December 6, 1957. Appointing Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and founding editor of American Heritagemagazine BRUCE CATTON (1899-1978) “a Member of the Civil War Centennial Commission.” Countersigned by Secretary of State JOHN FOSTER DULLES (1888-1959; “John Foster Dulles”).

 

Catton was a World War I veteran, journalist and federal employee before penning his Army of the Potomac trilogy, a Civil War history comprised of Mr. Lincoln’s Army (1951), Glory Road (1952) and A Stillness at Appomattox (1953), with the lattervolumewinning him a Pulitzer Prize for History and a National Book Award for Nonfiction. His other Civil War studies include U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition, Banners at Shenandoah: A Story of Sheridan’s Fighting Cavalry and This Hallowed Ground. In 1977, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ford who noted that Catton “made us hear the sounds of battle and cherish peace.” It was undoubtedly because of his scholarly accomplishments that Catton was chosen to sit on the Civil War Centennial Commission, which the U.S. Congress created in 1957 to coordinate the commemoration of the war and lasted until 1965, the 100th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox. The events were diverse and included everything from battle reenactments to historical roundtables. Contemporaneous with the Cold War, the commemoration was meant to promote “the successes and advantages of Western democracy over communism and totalitarianism.  However, American society was in the midst of a growing civil rights movement, with the centennial of Bull Run in 1961 occurring only seven years after the Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The national commission’s events planned for the anniversary of the firing upon Fort Sumter got headline news when an African American delegate from New Jersey was denied accommodations in the same restaurant and hotel facilities as other event participants in Charleston, South Carolina.  The New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York state delegations promptly boycotted the meeting.  President John F. Kennedy wrote the national commission insisting on a non-discrimination policy in its activities,” (“Preserving the Memory - Centennial Celebration,” NPS.gov). Southern states used the centennial to promote Jim Crow and the Southern way of life. Sadly, “the Centennial Commission was never able to promote its original vision of national unity nor was it able to promote its anniversary events and to draw the large crowds that it had once envisioned.  The controversy surrounding the centennial events demonstrated that the legacies and repercussions of the Civil War had not yet been completely comprehended or entirely solved,” a situation that lingers even today, (ibid.).

 

A soldier and commander, Eisenhower “devoted a lot of thought to the Civil War. It was a war that wove like a thread through his life, even though he was born 25 years after the Confederate surrender… After a thirty year military career, Ike and his wife, Mamie, bought the first and only home they ever owned – a Gettysburg farm on which Confederate troops had camped before moving up to the front lines. A Confederate body was found buried in the backyard during reconstruction and landscaping of the farmhouse and grounds. The General liked to sit on his porch and muse how the two great armies confronted each other here at this very spot after traveling for hundreds of miles at a pace no greater than Caesar’s legions traveled 19 centuries before,” (“Ike and the Civil War,” NPS.gov). A great admirer of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and President Lincoln, Eisenhower gave the commemorative speech on the 100th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1963, in which he said, “We read Lincoln’s sentiments, we ponder his words – the beauty of the sentiments he expressed enthralls us; the majesty of the words holds us spellbound – but we have not paid to his message its just tribute until we – ourselves – live it. For well he knew that to live for country is a duty, as demanding as is the readiness to die for it.”

 

Dulles, an attorney who specialized in international law and represented the United States at the Versailles Peace Conference, became prominent in Republican politics before Eisenhower tapped him as secretary of State in 1953. During his tenure Dulles helped build NATO and other post-war alliances and opposed the spread of Communism.

 

Affixed onto the document is a paper seal blind-embossed with the Great Seal of the United States. Folded into quarters with some wrinkling, age toning along the edges and slight paper loss not affecting the writing. Darkly signed and in very good condition. A fine association!

 


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