BASED ON THE BOOK, WAR NEWS: Blue & Gray in Black & White, by Brayton Harris


PART II: DOCUMENTS, Selected Excerpts from Civil War newspapers (BELOW)



By Brayton Harris

PART II: DOCUMENTS, Selected Excerpts from Civil War Newspapers

Editors Make War (1860-1861)

The Civil War began in the newspapers, when the nomination of Abraham Lincoln as Republican candidate in the 1860 presidential election triggered alarm throughout the Southern press, which widely believed that Lincoln would end slavery, under force of arms if need be. The Richmond Enquirer cited evidence:

Not the least significant feature in the present canvass is the organization of Black Republican Clubs in the Northern States into military companies under command of marshals, captains, and sub-officers, some of whom have distinguished themselves in the   Mexican war, and all of whom are selected with reference to superior qualifications as martial men. . . [400,000] ready for any service which their leaders may demand at their hands. . .

The Baltimore American called Southern fears an overreaction:

Some philosopher has said that mankind suffers more from the apprehension of troubles than they do from any actual evils of their lot. . . . the South has been taught to believe that the election of any but an ultra Southern man to the Presidency would irrevocably injure its property in slaves and lead the way to the overthrow of slave institutions. Yet though no ultra Southern man has ever been elected President, slave property has steadily increased in value, and the two strongest things on the Continent at this moment are the Union and slavery.

Election came, and the South Carolina legislature announced an intention to secede. The editor of the Harrisburg Telegraph was not impressed: “Let the chivalry amuse themselves,” he wrote, November 10, 1860, “the farce will soon be ‘played out.’’ Two days later, however, he reprinted the suggestion of “a sensible Kentucky editor,” to let them go their own way, after all.

Their absence would be an incalculable and invaluable relief to the balance of the people of these United States. We should escape large quantities of quadrennial gas and noise and confusion and stuff. . . . Every four years these Southern Quixotes swell up with bad whiskey and worse logic, and tell the balance of the people if they don’t do so and so, that they—the Quixotes—will secede. Let them secede and be—blessed.

The Chicago Democrat agreed:

The chivalry will eat dirt. They will back out. They never had any spunk anyhow. The best they could do was to bully, and brag, and bluster. . . . They are wonderful hands at bragging and telling fantastical lies; but when it comes to action, count them out.

The editor of the Sandusky (Ohio) Daily Commercial Register wished that South Carolina would get on with it, if secession was its true wish, but predicted that the state “will not do anything of the kind.” He blamed the whole issue on newspaper hype:

The rage of the day, the sensation, the excitement, the panic, or whatever else is generally uppermost in the public mind on the streets, in the shops, in the hotels, on the cars, or wherever men are to be found, inevitably becomes the leading staple of the newspapers. . . . For weeks past, since South Carolina has become rampant . . . nothing can get into the popular ear but secession, disunion and division.

  “I never thought I should witness such time,” a businessman in Charleston wrote to a friend in Boston:

We are in the midst of a revolution. . . .We are in a state of starvation—no meat to eat, even at twenty-five cents a pound. I am in hopes the Abolitionists of the North will be paid in their own coin. There will be no compromise—it is out of the question.

A few newspapers, including Newark (New Jersey) Daily Advertiser advised caution:

It is impossible to condemn too strongly the pestiferous inventions and exaggerations of reckless political gossips and paid letter-writers, whom the times have hatched into being. The moral influence they are wielding, perhaps without being fully conscious of it themselves, is dangerous to the last degree. . .

“Caution,” however, was not the word of the day and after some months of such back-and-forth, the New York Tribune called for action. From June 25, and every day for a week through the Fourth of July, the Tribune‘s editorial page took up and amplified the theme with a vengeance:

Forward to Richmond! Forward to Richmond!
The Rebel Congress must not be allowed
to meet there on the 20th of July!

There was no particular danger, the Tribune assured its readers, because the Confederate armies “dare not meet the Unionists in fair and open battle.” For some unfathomable reason—unless you will allow for public pressure stirred up by the Tribune—the president ignored the “go-slow” advice of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and gave permission for the army to attack Confederate forces gathering at Manassas Junction, some twenty-five miles west of the Capitol. Thus was the first real engagement of the war—Bull Run/First Manassas, a disastrous loss for the Union—provoked by a newspaper.

Source: Richmond Enquirer,September 28, 1860; Baltimore American, September 27, 1860; Harrisburg Telegraph, November 12, 1860; Chicago Democrat (Quoted in the New York World , November 28, 1860); Sandusky(Ohio) Daily Commercial Register, December5, 1860; Boston Journal, December 17, 1860; Newark (New Jersey) Daily Advertiser, January 12, 1861; Hale, William Harlan. Horace Greeley, Voice of the People. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950). 243.

“Voluntary” Censorship (1861)

A string of outrageous security violations led both governments to work out cooperative agreements with journalists.

Savannah Republican:

We are requested by the military authorities of the Confederate States to urge upon our brethren of the press . . . the importance of abstaining from all specific allusions to the movement of troops. The very wisest plans of the Government may be thwarted by an untimely or otherwise injudicious exposure. 

An open letter, addressed to the press by the Confederate secretary of war, appeared in the Richmond Enquirer:

It must be obvious that statements of strength, or of weakness, at any of the points in the vicinity of the enemy, when reproduced in the North, as they would be in spite of all the vigilance in our power, would warn them of danger to themselves, or invite an attack upon us; and, in like manner, any statements of the magnitude of batteries, of the quantity and quality of arms, or of ammunition, of movements in progress or in supposed contemplation, or the condition of troops, of the Commissariat, &c., might be fraught with essential injury to the service.

The New York World reported on a “full understanding” between journalists and the Federal government:

The Executive Government of the United States and correspondents arrived at a full understanding . . . regarding the transmission of telegraphic dispatches giving information as to movements of the army. So, hereafter, it will be necessary for the distant public to await the arrival of the mails before knowing what advances of troops have been made, as also what reinforcements have arrived. The Government alleges that it has been greatly embarrassed in its movements by the Washington correspondents of the New York press, and patriotically called upon them to co-operate in not publishing any movements prematurely. Should a battle occur, the Government will probably permit the official accounts to be transmitted.

In 1860, the London Times sent its Crimean super-star, William Howard Russell, to report on the troubles. A skilled writer, forthright but pompous, he quickly earned the enmity of too many members of the government and military, was denied privileges, and was on his way home by April 1862. In addition to filing news reports, Russell kept a diary (published in 1863 as My Diary North and South). The following is his entry (note his use of “government” as a plural noun) for July 10, 1861:

The Government have been coerced, as they say, by the safety of the Republic, to destroy the liberty of the press, which is guaranteed by the Constitution . . . . The telegraph . . . is to convey no dispatches respecting military movement not permitted by the General; and today the newspaper correspondents have agreed to yield obedience to the order . . . and relying on the Government to publish the official accounts of battles very speedily. They will break this agreement if they can, and the Government will not observe their part of the bargain.

Source: Savannah Republican, June 4, 1861; Richmond Enquirer, July 1, 1861; New York World, July 11, 1861; Russell, William Howard. My Diary North and South (London: Bradbury and Evans, 1863). vol. II, 150.

Beware the Spurned Suitor; or, the Pen is Sometimes Mightier than the Sword

As authorities on both sides tried to keep reporters from traveling with the armies, obtaining a posting as a “volunteer aide” offered an easy escape—provided that a friendly senior officer would agree to the ruse. At times, the applicants overreached, as did two specials early in the war, Albert Deane Richardson of the New York  Tribune and William Swinton of the New York Times, who approached newly-appointed acting Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox with a demand that they be accorded military rank, privileges of the general’s mess, and freedom from censorship. Cox, no fool, refused. He obviously did not understand (as the Chicago Times would note) that a special correspondent

is a very important personage, and must be treated with becoming consideration by all with whom he comes in contact, and especially be patronized by the superior officers, who are expected to furnish him with a horse and detail a servant to take care of it. All plans of battles and general movements should be submitted to his inspection. He should be admitted to all military councils, and be furnished in advance with a copy of every order, general or special. . . . “Our correspondent” holds a rod of terror suspended over the heads of all officers, whom he threatens with a severe writing down if they fail to pay him due deference.

Cox paid a price, so to speak, with a double dose of “writing down.” The New York Tribune version:

General Cox’s brigade is in a wretched condition. Insubordination, disorganization, inefficiency and incompetency are so palpable that it would be wrong to pass them over in silence. Several times within the past 24 hours large bodies of men have helped themselves to whiskey and displayed the most disgraceful drunkenness. The camp last night was in a locality affording neither comfort nor safety. The precaution of throwing out pickets was neglected in some directions and five hundred resolute, disciplined men could have routed the command. . . . The only safety of our troops lies in the fact that the Rebels are even worse disorganized than they, and dare not attack. . . .

Published the same day in the New York Times:

I cannot close this letter, already too long, without saying a few words concerning this division of the Grand Army of the Union. The men have no confidence whatever in their leader, and are already in a state of insubordination. . . . Last night our men were  encamped between two high hills, and most of them compelled to sleep on the bare ground, although their tents were in wagons hard by. If [Confederate General] Wise had attacked us last night with five hundred men, our rout would have been com­plete. Not a picket was thrown out. This system of carrying on a war in an enemy's country, and especially when the enemy is thought to be only a few miles in advance, is certainly a novel one, and original with Brig.-Gen. Cox.

Brig. Gen. Cox survived, was promoted major general and served with distinction. While still in the Army he was elected governor of Ohio, later served as secretary of the Interior, a Congressman, a university president, and became a prolific author, penning five histories of the Civil War.

Source: Chicago Times, February 17, 1862; New York Tribune, August 2, 1861; New York Times, August 2, 1861,


Command and Control (1862)

Some newspaper coverage of the Union victory at the Battle of Shiloh/Pittsburg Landing (April 6-7, 1862), while accurate in some detail was seriously flawed; tales of an unprepared army caught so off-guard that soldiers were bayoneted as they slept triggered public outrage, contributed to the summary relief of Maj. Gen. Grant by his superior, Maj. Gen. Halleck, and prompted Halleck to issue Special Field Order, No. 54, banning all “unauthorized hangers-on” from his army:

Guards will be placed along Chambers Creek, and no officer or soldier will be permitted to pass to the rear, and no citizen to the front of that line, without special authority. Commanders of Army Corps and Divisions will see that their camps are cleared of all unauthorized hangers-on, and any one attempting to evade this order will be compelled to work on the intrenchments and batteries, or in constructing roads. The Provost-Marshal of the army will report to these headquarters any officer of whatever rank who may neglect to enforce this order, or connive at its violation.

—By order of Major General Halleck, J. C Kelton, Ass’t Adjutant General   

The putative hangers-on, the members of the press corps assembled, appointed Whitelaw Reid of the Cincinnati Gazette (who, ironically, had written the most damning report of the battle) to turn their outrage into words, and then presented the subsequent memorial to the general:

The undersigned, loyal citizens and accredited representatives of loyal journals, respectfully represent that they came here in compliance with the order of Secretary Stanton, authorizing journalists to accompany the army—some of them bearing passes issued by his authority, and have remained here several weeks, for the sole and exclusive purpose of recording the approaching battle.

They are now informed that Field Order No. 54 requires them to leave the army lines.
While they will not attempt to remain unless they can do so openly, and with the permission of Major General Halleck, there are many newspaper letter-writers attached to the camps in fictitious capacities, who, notwithstanding whatever precautions may be taken, will succeed in evading Field Order No. 54, and remaining with the army, while the duly accredited and responsible representatives of the press are excluded, in manifest injustice to themselves and the journals which they represent.

While desirous of avoiding everything injurious to the army, or any portion of it, they represent that their exclusion, just on the eve of the event which they came here especially to record, will be unjust to the loyal public journals and to the country which looks to them for information; and respectfully ask whether . . . there are any conditions on which they will be permitted to remain.

                                    /Signed/ Fourteen journalists present, approved by seven others.

General Halleck responded that he was required to exclude all civilians, no exception. “I have no objections to what you may write,” he declaimed. “I care nothing about what the newspapers publish.” No one believed him, but most saw no alternative and accepted the expulsion order; a few of the more adventuresome borrowed army uniforms and stayed in the shadows.

Source: Smart, James G., ed. A Radical View: The “Agate” dispatches of WHITELAW REID 1861-1865. (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1976). vol. I, 188-194


All in a Day’s Work

Wilbur F. Storey, editor of the Chicago Times, gave his specials honest guidance in a hotly competitive environment:  “I want news, and when there is no news, send rumors.” It was a hard life.

The energy, enterprise, and lavish expenditure of money by the representatives of the press with the army, for the furtherance of the single object of getting news, and getting it first, too, would astonish people, were even only the half told. Probably in no business in existence is the competition so hard as between the leading newspapers of New York and their representatives in the field.

 The Richmond Dispatch offers explanation:

The duties of newspaper correspondent are much more difficult than many are inclined to believe. He is obliged to know everything, hear everything, and do everything at the same time—in fact, he is expected to be ubiquitous. If anything escapes his eye, up jumps somebody and accuses [him] of a willful omission of facts to the prejudice of another; if he is led into error by the statements of others, he is accused of falsification; whether he blame severely, makes what he believes a plain statement of events, or praises but feebly, it is all the same. Somebody is dissatisfied. What wonder the band of young fellows who began with this war and wrote such pleasant, interesting, and gossipy letters for the Southern papers, has dwindled down to one or two? Who can blame them for leaving a labor that met with little true reward—the appreciation of the country? To have accomplished the task expected of them would have required the fabled lamps of Aladdin; and even then I have my doubts—while the vast public look to the pen of the correspondent for news, and for the daily record of events, few individuals are willing to assist him in his search after the truth.

In a letter to his editor, Sam Wilkeson of the New York Tribune described his efforts at managing a team in the field:

Colston came to me yesterday with his lifeless drawling whine about the impossibility of getting “accommodations” and buying forage for his horse. Soon he asked me for money (I have furnished him $25 in all) and an­nounced his purpose of going to [retrieve from the mail] a box of summer clothing and of comforts sent to him by his wife. The mention of the word “comforts” by a news­paper man in the field enraged me. He has no more right to them than private soldiers have. . . .

The work needs first Class men:men of physical courage, intelligence, tact, patience, endurance, DEVOTION.

To enlarge on this—while my hand is in. I wear four shirts a week when I am at home. The flannel shirt I have on I have worn five weeks. It is abominable, cer­tainly. But it is not unendurable. . . . Rails make my bed. . . . My jackknife is my spoon, knife, fork, and toothpick. . . . My horse (the Tribune’s) don’t starve & by God! he shan't starve. I have burst open a planter's store room, and taken the hominy corn hidden for his family's food, and shelled half a bushel of it with my fingers, and fed it to “Bayard” out of my pocket handkerchief—running the risk of the Provost Marshal. That pocket handkerchief—certainly, I have washed it ten times. Washing! It has not cost me 80 cents since I left Washington. He must be damned helpless who cant wash clothes.

Franc Wilkie, New York Times:

Almost every third man you meet is the “Reporter of the Some-thing Diurnal.” Half of them are individuals who board with some officer, and whose letters invariably inform the world that the gallant Colonel of the regiment pre-eminently distinguished himself in the late fight that his men fought a half day’s hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, and finally fell back in splendid order some two hours after the——Regiment on the right and the——Battery on the left had disgracefully run away without firing a single shot. . . .

It is the writers of this class who are constantly giving the world information as to our strength and our position. . . . They do not hesitate to advise Gen. Halleck, condemn Gen. McClellan, and criticise the operations of the profoundest minds engaged in working out the tremendous problem now submitted to the National Government. They are particularly severe on West Pointers, and are ardent admirers of men in proportion as their early education unfits them for the vast and intricate responsibilities of Generalship. Invariably the officer who is most free with his table, bottle, horses and information is (to them) the greatest soldier.

 We applaud the plea lodged in the Mobile Daily Register and Advertiser:

Let our correspondents . . . condense their logic, leave out their rhetoric entirely, and in their recapitulations take some things for granted. Are they writing from the front; let them bear in mind that all our soldiers are heroes, and not dwell too  much on the gallantry of Major This or Colonel That, or even of Private So and So—that will keep (if it is worth keeping) till the war is over. . . . The intellectual fault of our age and nation is verbiage; the times admonish us to correct it. . . . If an idea can be stated in four words instead of five, we implore them to strike out the fifth . . . and, as a general rule, to omit their comments and permit the reader to make them instead. We could say more, but our theme admonishes us to desist.

Source: Chicago Times cited in Franc B. Wilkie: Thirty-Five Years in Journalism (Chicago: 1891), 114; L. L. Crounse, “The Army Correspondent,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, October 1863, 627; Richmond Dispatch, March 14, 1862; Starr, Louis M. Bohemian Brigade; Civil War Newsmen in Action. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987) 112-113; New York Times, May 16, 1862; Mobile Daily Register and Advertiser, October 23, 1864.

Dateline: Washington

Much of the press material for the North was focused by the lens of “Washington.” It was there that official reports were parsed, government leaders pursued, and rumors amplified. On any given day, perhaps thirty specials made regular daily rounds of congressional and department offices, military headquarters, nearby army camps, the railroad station, hotels, bars, and restaurants—sending their copy to New York “in wads” by the telegraph (up to 50,000 words a day). A reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Commercial offered his observations:

They hang about the Department offices; they button-hole the unhappy ushers; they besiege goers and comers; they read physiognomies; they absorb the contents of all leaky vessels like a sponge; they study hotel registers as faithfully as a monk his breviary; they “spot” “distinguished arrivals” as quickly as a detective, and pursue them like Death in the Apocalypse. And if these resources fail, there is a bank that never fails, a supply that never gives out, in their fertile imaginations.

Source: Cincinnati Daily Commercial, October 25, 1861. 

A Few Words on Words

The style of much mid-nineteenth-century newspaper writing was, on balance, dense—a series of generally-related clauses strung together like, and about as swiftly-moving as, the joints of a caterpillar. The lead sentence of a November, 1863 Chicago Daily Journal report of the battle at Missionary Ridge contained 169 words:

The battle has been given and won; the dear old flag steams like a meteor from the craggy crown of Lookout Mountain; Mission Ridge has been swept with fire and steel as with a broom; the grim crescent of the enemy, curving away along the range from the far northeast south to the base of Lookout, has been crushed like a buzzard’s egg; the terrible arc of iron, five miles long that bent like a quadrant around half our horizon, is broken and scattered; the key has at last been turned in the Chattanooga lock, the enemy must fly from East Tennessee like shadows before the morning; the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad is once more true to its name; the Tennessee River is all clear to its landing; our communications are perfected and confirmed and to the Federal Army Chattanooga is no longer the end but the beginning of things; the step put forward is not to be withdrawn; our eyes may now be lifted and look beyond Chattanooga.

Many correspondents had a dif­ficult time capturing the flair and flavor of combat; there are too many examples of atrocious writing to merit extended attention, so let one sample from the Knoxville Daily Registersuffice:

The alarm was sounded, and when the boats had gained a point where they were within range of our uppermost batteries, a ten-inch Columbiad wel­comed them with an iron messenger in the shape of a shell. In less time than it takes to relate it, five transports, heavily laden with provisions, and one gunboat were receiving the fire of these death-dealing monsters that grin de­fiance from the hills overlooking the Mississippi. At this juncture, it was fearfully grand and awfully sublime to see the flaming metal gushing forth from the mouths of our blackthroated defenders, which had been aroused and angered by the insolence and audacity of the foe in venturing within their dominions.

It is infinitely more rewarding to review some of the better contributions to the journalistic record—such as this, by Maj. Robert Henry Glass, writing for the Lynchburg Republican:

As we rode through the field this morning, the enemy’s bullets could be heard cutting through the corn and whistling by your ears as thick as hail, and yet but few of our men were touched. The calculation recently made by some one, that it takes seven hundred balls to kill one man, is really true, though the calcula­tion is not of much consolation to the poor fellow who gets the fatal shot.

Even more rewarding—the account of the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg, the bloodiest day in U. S. history, written by George W. Smalley with input from three other New York Tribune reporters. The six-column masterpiece was re-printed in almost fourteen hundred newspapers and has—rightly—been called the best piece of battle reporting of the war.

Fierce and desperate battle between two hundred thousand men has raged since daylight, yet night closes in on an uncertain field. It is the greatest fight since Waterloo, all over the field contested with obstinacy equal even to Waterloo. If not wholly a victory tonight, I believe it is the prelude to a victory tomorrow. But what can be foretold of the future of a fight in which from five in the morning till seven at night the best troops of the continent have fought without decisive result?                        * * *

Burnside hesitated for hours in front of the bridge which should have been carried at once by a coup de main [soon becoming] outnumbered, flanked. . . . His position is no longer one of attack; he defends himself with unfaltering firmness, but he sends to McClellan for help.

                                    * * *

Burnside’s messenger rides up. His message is: “I want troops and guns. If you do not send them, I cannot hold my position half an hour.” McClellan’s only answer for the moment is a glance at the western sky. Then he turns and speaks very slowly: “Tell Gen. Burnside this is the battle of the war. He must hold his ground till dark at any cost. I will send him Miller’s battery. I can do nothing more. I have no infantry.”  

“No infantry,” but, as Smalley pointed out, fifteen thousand fresh troops, “impatient to share in this fight,” were held in reserve. All day.  

Source: Crozier, Emmet. Yankee Reporters 1861-65. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956) 365-66; Knoxville Daily Register, May 7, 1863; Lynchburg Republican, September 5, 1961;  New York Tribune September 19, 1862. Full text in The R ebellion Record, A Diary of American Events, ed. Frank Moore. (New York: Putnam, 1861-63) vol. V, Documents, 466-472.


History . . . day-to-day

Day-to-day . . . battles, skirmishes, rumors and rivalry do not provide enough copy to fill much of a newspaper (or justify the salary of a journalist in the field). The better among them found plenty to write about, adding color to that “first rough draft of history.” In February 1863, a special from theColumbus Sun Columbus Sun was “hungry as a wolf” when he spotted a welcome sign:

Those great golden letters above the door—restaurant—tell of good things within that make a soldier think of home. . . . the smiling individual who meets you at the door evidently understands his business. Dinner for one? Yes, sir, what will you have? What have you got? Coffee, real Rio—this is always mentioned first, for everybody likes real Rio—beef, mutton, pork, potatoes, butter and bread. A hungry man eats everything with pleasure, but this coffee certainly has a strong smell of villainous rye; and the beef is poor enough to have fasted ever since it left the verdant plains of Texas; and the butter smells as if it had made a trip from Texas too, or had even run the blockade from some foreign country across the deep blue sea. There is, how ever, no use in grumbling about what one has eaten, and, after all, this dinner is so much better than camp fare, that you feel good and pull out your pocket book with the air of a man who has been benefited and wished to compensate his benefactor. What do I owe you, sir? Two dollars and a half. Two dollars and a half! You are exor—  And before you can finish the sentence your accommodating host begins talking in such an excited manner about paying forty cents a pound for flour, fifty cents for pork, three dollars for butter, five dollars for coffee, so much for wood, house rent &c &c that you feel ashamed that you have said anything and are glad to beat a hasty retreat.

The menu during the Siege of Vicksburg, siege ofVicksburg, as reported in theAugusta Daily Constitutionalist Augusta Daily Constitutionalist, was somewhat more exotic:

I told you we would stay until starved out. Well, rats are a luxury. Small fishes sell at twenty dollars. Chickens at ten dollars each. Corn meal has sold at one hundred and sixty dollars per bushel. Mule meat has sold readily at two dollars per pound, in market, and I eat it once a week. The soldiers have had only one meal a day for ten days, and then one man does not get what a child should have.

We close this sampler with a haunting vision of an October in southern Missouri, from the New York Times:

This, our first night on the open prairie, gave us a foretaste of Winter. The night was intensely cold, and this morning there was a heavy frost, accompanied by an east wind that cut one to the very marrow. Winter is nearly upon us—the woods have lost their rich variety of Autumn tints and now present only a dull, dead expanse of faded brown. The leaves go whirling crazily to the ground or rattle like skeletons in the mournful winds. I dread the march over these gloomy mountains. . . . a few ragged boys, overgrown girls,
pale women and fever-wasted men gaze enviously at us from the doors of their log shanties as we pass by, headed, as they assume, for warmth and home and family. The country through which we pass seems weighted down by something like a nightmare or Puritan Sunday—or as if half the State were dead and the balance had just returned from attending the funeral.

Source: Columbus (Georgia) Sun, February 17, 1863; AugustaDaily Constitutionalist, July 26, 1863; New York Times, November 4, 1861.

This ESSAY is Copyright © 2010, Brayton Harris and is provided for students and researchers . . . without restriction, but "Fair Use" is welcome, an acknowledgement would be appropriate: Harris, Brayton. War News: Blue & Gray in Black & White. Newspapers in the Civil War. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace, 2010.

WAR NEWS (published in 1999 as Blue & Gray in Black & White) is an exploration of the individual and collective efforts of newspaper journalists during the Civil War. As eyewitnesses to one of the most memorable conflicts in history, they left a record that is sometimes brilliant but, at other times, marred by shoddy journalism, sensationalism, and self-serving reporting. They were, however, the American public's primary source of information about the battles that were tearing the nation apart. This book focuses on the personalities, politics, and rivalries of editors; the efforts of newspapers to influence military appointments, strategy, and tactics; advances in printing technology; formal and informal censorship, the suppression of dissident newspapers, and, most of all, the war correspondents themselves.


BRAYTON HARRIS is a retired U. S. Navy captain who served as a media coordinator in Vietnam and as a special assistant to the secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon. He has also been a printer, a publisher, and an editor, and is the author of more than two hundred articles and ten books, including The Age of the Battleship: 1890-1922 and The Navy Times Book of Submarines: A Political, Social, and Military History.

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