The quaint lakeside township of Benzonia is the birthplace of noted civil war historian Bruce Catton. His favorite place to write was a summer home perched on a bluff overlooking the sparkling waters of Crystal Lake. A glance to the north offered a spectacular panorama of Lake Michigan, wooded hills and sandy bluffs.
Catton's interest in the Civil War was inspired by the presence of Grand Army of the Republic veterans, whose faded blue uniforms, bedecked with medals, were the center of attraction at local patriotic celebrations. Many had served at Shiloh and Cold Harbor, some with the ill-fated Michigan 24th Infantry, which lost three quarters of its men at Gettysburg.
Those who survived returned home to the tranquil beauty of Northern Michigan. As they aged, these veterans became more inclined to describe the great adventure of their lives; the camaraderie of the campfire and the horror of combat. Their tales fascinated young Catton.