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The North Reports the Civil War

The North Reports the Civil War

Copyright Date: 1955
Pages: 848
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  • Book Info
    The North Reports the Civil War
    Book Description:

    Andrews presents the drama of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of reporters’ own diaries, dispatches, and printed news stories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7430-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Arthur M. Schlesinger

    SINCE the publication in 1873 of Frederic Hudson’sJournalism in the United Statesmany books of varying value have treated aspects of the history of American newspapering. The vast majority, however, have stressed the role of the editors and of the editorial function, leaving largely untold the story of the actual men who collected, wrote, and sent in the news.

    InThe North Reports the Civil War, Dr. Andrews, professor of history at the Pennsylvania College for Women, repairs this defect. He has written a scholarly, readable, comprehensive narrative of the war correspondents on the Northern side of the great...

  2. 1 The Reporter and the Fort
    (pp. 1-5)

    IT was shortly after five o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday, April 11, 1861. Abraham Lincoln had been in the White House for thirty-eight days. Two days earlier the Associated Press had made the public aware for the first time of extensive military and naval preparations “intended for defensive purposes only.”¹ Only a few moments before, Reporter Bradley Sillick Osbon of the New YorkWorldhad climbed up into the main crosstrees of the U. S. revenue cutter “Harriet Lane,” just outside the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Seated beside the coast pilot, he surveyed the harbor with deep interest....

  3. 2 The Press Girds for the Conflict
    (pp. 6-34)

    THE journalism of antebellum days was geared to the leisurely pace of an age in which the stagecoach, the horse car, and the sailing ship were still being used in varying degrees. By and large, the American people of that day were more accustomed to being regaled with somebody else’s opinion of what had happened the week before than with the news of the previous twenty-four hours. During the eighteen-fifties the morning papers regularly went to press at about 10:00 p.m., and their copy was usually on hand well before that.

    In spite of the fact that almost fifty thousand...

  4. 3 “Gentlemen of the Ravenous Pen”
    (pp. 35-59)

    FROM the beginning of the war until its very end the national capital was the focal point of press interest, not simply because it was the seat of the national government but also because Washington got the first reports from the eastern war theater and transmitted them by telegraph to all parts of the country. As one of theHeraldmen phrased it, Washington was “the center of gravity around which the Eastern correspondents revolved.”¹ In recognition of the importance of the national capital as a center of war news, the press sent its ablest men there to make the...

  5. 4 The Men in the Field
    (pp. 60-75)

    THE average field correspondent with the Northern army knew well from personal experience the meaning of the “strenuous life.” Day and night, in all weather, he had to be alert to avoid being scooped by rival newsmen. It was his business to go everywhere, to see everything, and to squeeze information out of everybody from the commanding general to the rearmost teamster in the quartermaster’s train. Some army reporters made their way to the enemy’s picket lines and over a persuasive bottle of whiskey established confidential relations with the enemy pickets. “Early news is expensive news, Mr. Greeley,” retorted Charles...

  6. 5 The First Fruits of the Censorship
    (pp. 76-101)

    WHILE in London as Minister to the Court of St. James’s, Edward Everett once had occasion to discuss the Battle of Waterloo with the Duke of Wellington while both were at a dance in the ballroom of Devonshire House, The Duke had just received a letter from a man who was about to write a description of the battle and was seeking information. The Duke said:

    I answered him that by comparing and studying the almost innumerable printed descriptions of the battle, English, French, and German, a man of sense could acquire a better knowledge of it at the present...

  7. 6 The Curtain Slowly Rises
    (pp. 102-134)

    LIFE in the field for the war correspondents of 1861 was far less strenuous during the summer and autumn of that year than it was to be during their later campaigns. Most of the fighting during the first year of the war was in the Eastern border area, comparatively near the centers of metropolitan journalism. Furthermore, editors had little or no previous opportunity to test the performance of their representatives under battle conditions and were themselves mostly inexperienced in gathering war news. They therefore were likely to hold a slack rein on their reporters, although they stressed the importance of...

  8. 7 The First Tidings From the Fleet
    (pp. 135-157)

    DURING the spring and summer of 1861 the reporters assigned to the naval branch of the service had little more to write about than did their army brethren. At the beginning of the war the United States Navy was anemic, resulting in no small measure from limited appropriations and the spirit of routine with which it had become thoroughly impregnated. Of the ninety vessels listed in the Navy Register for 1861, more than half were sailing vessels—ships of the line, frigates, sloops, brigs—now, in an age of steam, almost completely obsolete. Five of the forty steamers whose names...

  9. 8 An Affray With General Halleck
    (pp. 158-188)

    SOON after Fremont’s departure from Missouri, the press took note of another change in the Western army command. It was on November 18, 1861, that Major General Henry W. Halleck, eastward bound from California, arrived at St. Louis to head the new Department of the Missouri. Wisconsin, Illinois, and the western half of Kentucky, as well as the trans-Mississippi area, were included within the jurisdiction of the newly organized department. Commonly known among the soldiers as “Old Brains,” perhaps because of his election to Phi Beta Kappa during college days, Halleck had left the regular army during the fifties to...

  10. 9 The Press Goes to the Peninsula
    (pp. 189-217)

    AS the winter of 1861-1862 drew to a close, the reporters along Washington’s Fourteenth Street saw indications that the long period of military inactivity in the East was near its end. Under continuous prodding from the President and his civilian advisers, McClellan it seemed was about ready to undertake the forward movement for which the press clamored. To Edwin M. Stanton, who just had replaced the discredited Cameron as Secretary of War, Joseph Medill addressed a letter of congratulation which expressed the opinion that:

    this ... has been a contractor’s war, a war on Chinese principles. It has been a...

  11. 10 “Come, Sir, this is no Time for Prayer”
    (pp. 218-251)

    IN many ways 1862 was a banner year for the newspaper men who reported the activities of Uncle Sam’s fighting fleet. At Roanoke Island and Fort Henry during the first week of February, they watched the Federal gunboats beat down powerful enemy fortifications. In March the epic struggle between the “Virginia” and the “Monitor” afforded them an unforgettable view of the world’s first battle between ironclad warships. Little more than another month had passed before they saw Farragut destroy a Confederate squadron below New Orleans and sweep past two massive Confederate forts in one of the most thrilling naval battles...

  12. 11 Battle Reporting at its Best
    (pp. 252-285)

    WHILE the reporters with McClellan’s army were recording the failure of the Peninsular expedition, and their navy colleagues were covering operations at widely scattered points, a storm was gathering behind the Virginia mountains—a storm destined to break within a few weeks and sweep almost to the gates of Washington. To the north and west of Richmond lies the Shenandoah Valley, which was an ideal route for the invasion of the North. From Lexington in central Virginia the Valley extends in a northeasterly direction to Harper’s Ferry, where the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the main line of transportation between Washington...

  13. 12 On the March with Buell and Rosecrans
    (pp. 286-314)

    WHILE the movements of McClellan’s army absorbed the attention of the press in the East during the early summer months of 1862, the army newspapermen in the Kentucky-Tennessee war theater found comparatively little to write about. Most of the reporters in that area were below Nashville, advancing eastward with Buell along the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Among them was the formerHeraldreporter, Henry Villard (now with the New YorkTribune), William F. G. Shanks of theHerald, and William S. Furay of the CincinnatiGazette. To the camp newspapermen the army’s advance on Chattanooga must have...

  14. 13 “Dont Treat ... Fredericksburg as a Disaster”
    (pp. 315-336)

    HARPER’S FERRY was the principal rendezvous of the newspaper correspondents with McClellan’s army during the early autumn of 1862. On September 26, 1862, one of theHeraldreporters wrote to Hudson:

    I expected to be at the front yesterday afternoon, but was unable to reach there, because ... I had to come a round-about way; and, being unable to get a horse, had to foot it a short distance. I will be there this afternoon, and will confer with Mr. Cash.¹ Mr. Ashley¹ is here. He says he is going to Harper’s Ferry on Monday where the Herald Headquarters will...

  15. 14 By-Lines by General Order
    (pp. 337-373)

    ON a Thursday evening in the middle of January, 1863, the New YorkTimeseditor, Henry J. Raymond, received a telegram from theTimesBureau in Washington, conveying the sad news that his brother’s corpse was at Belle Plain¹ and asking him to come to Washington immediately. Raymond’s younger brother James was a soldier in the Army of the Potomac. Knowing that he had been ill, the editor left for Washington at once. When he arrived at the capital the following day, he was unable to find Colonel Swain, the author of the telegram; so he went down to the...

  16. 15 Some “Casualties” Among the Bohemians
    (pp. 374-405)

    FOR more than a year after the fall of Memphis, in June, 1862, operations along the Mississippi continued the dominant theme of war reporting in the West. During the long river campaign many correspondents were captured or were victims of disease and other occupational hazards. Of the better-known correspondents, Knox, Richardson, and Browne were stopped from writing before Vicksburg fell. Finley Anderson’s career was interrupted by Confederate imprisonment, although he returned to the field in the spring campaign of 1864. For various professional reasons, Wilkie wrote less and less after the fall of Vicksburg.

    Taking the places of these men...

  17. 16 Gettysburg as the Newsmen Saw It
    (pp. 406-436)

    ON June 26, 1863, eight days before Vicksburg fell, C. C. Coffin mailed to his Boston paper an almost inspired prediction of the outcome of the Gettysburg campaign. It was five days before the battle, when he wrote from Baltimore:

    If Lee advances with nearly all his force into Pennsylvania, there must be a collision of the two armies not many miles west of Gettysburg, probably among the rolling hills near the State line, on the head waters of the Monocacy. ... I believe that Washington and Baltimore will not be harmed. I expect to see Adams, Franklin, Cumberland and...

  18. 17 “Shambling Shanks and the Fugacious Furay”
    (pp. 437-463)

    WHILE Grant and Meade were striking sledgehammer blows on opposite ends of the battle line, Rosecrans—to the infinite boredom of the army reporters—procrastinated at Murfreesboro. Bragg, who in January, 1863, after the Murfreesboro battle had retreated southward to Tullahoma, contented himself with cavalry raids on the Federal lines of communication, as Rosecrans for almost six months devoted his energy to fortifying his position, rebuilding his army, and wrangling ceaselessly with the War Department. Stanton had angered the general by a personal letter, written soon after the fight at Murfreesboro, in which he announced his intention to offer a...

  19. 18 Grim Days at Chattanooga
    (pp. 464-495)

    ARMY correspondents were none too popular around Chattanooga after the Federal setback at Chickamauga the third week of September, 1863. There was widespread feeling in the army that the press had woefully misrepresented the bloody struggle. The ChicagoTribunereporter, A. H. Bodman, frankly admitted that the battle accounts:

    lately published by Faray [sic], of the CincinnatiGazette, and Shanks of theHerald, have excited a feeling of hostility towards the whole profession, and those of us who remain receive the benefit of that feeling. We are snubbed, and told by looks if not by words, “You are not wanted...

  20. 19 Strange Tales from the Red River Country
    (pp. 496-521)

    ON a crisp February day in 1864 the PhiladelphiaPresseditor, John Russell Young, hunched over his desk to read a telegram from his superior, Colonel Forney. The Colonel’s telegram, referring to plans Young previously had made to represent thePresson the Red River expedition to Northern Louisiana, instructed Young to:

    Go to Broad & Prime & meet mail agent Mr. Mount who has Stanton’s letter & pass for you, covered by a letter franked by me. He will reach Phila about half past five having left [Washington] at quarter to eleven.¹

    Several nights later, a party of local newspapermen gathered around...

  21. 20 Into the Wilderness Again
    (pp. 522-551)

    ON the night of March 8, 1864, a special dispatch to the New YorkTribuneflashed over the wires from Washington to New York with some interesting news for theTribune’s morning edition. At five o’clock the previous afternoon, the dispatch indicated, an officer leading a child by the hand had entered the dining room at Willard’s “quietly and modestly” and had seated himself at the table alongside the other diners. A gentleman from New Orleans who recognized the officer had gone over to shake hands, and as if by electric communication the news spread through the dining room that...

  22. 21 “Atlanta is Ours, and Fairly Won”
    (pp. 552-584)

    EVEN when his preparations for the Atlanta campaign were almost completed, Sherman had lost none of his antipathy for the press corps. Before he started on his Meridian raid in February, 1864, Sherman had given orders that if any newspaperman was found accompanying the army he was to be tried by a drumhead court martial and shot before breakfast. Nevertheless, D. B. R. Keim, theHeraldreporter, decided to find out whether the General meant what he said.

    “How about this order of yours?” Keirn asked Sherman. “Does it leave me out? Can’t I go?”

    “I won’t have a damned...

  23. 22 “If All ... Battles ... Were as Well Described”
    (pp. 585-612)

    ALTHOUGH civilians were common around City Point, Virginia, during the latter part of June, 1864,Heraldreporter William H. Merriam still must have been surprised when, shortly after noon of June 21, he saw a long, gaunt, bony man, dressed in black, enter General Grant’s tent. The stranger had just come in from Washington on “The City of Baltimore” without giving any advance notice. Mistaking him for a member of the Sanitary Commission, the sentinel had refused to admit him to the General’s presence until, after some parleying, the stranger had identified himself as Abraham Lincoln, President of the United...

  24. 23 The Grand Finale
    (pp. 613-637)

    DURING the twenty months following their capture near Vicksburg in May, 1863, the New YorkTribunereporters A. D. Richardson and Junius Browne endured the stench and starvation of seven different Confederate prisons. Colburn of the New YorkWorld, who was with them at the time of their capture, was turned loose by the Confederate authorities within a month. But repeated efforts—by Greeley, Stanton, Ben Butler, Governor Brough of Ohio, even Lincoln himself—failed to win the release of the twoTribunereporters. The Confederate exchange agents claimed that they were being held in retaliation for citizens arrested and...

  25. 24 “Thirty”
    (pp. 638-654)

    ALTHOUGH Edwin Lawrence Godkin had represented the LondonDaily Newsin the bloody Crimean War of the eighteen-fifties, in his opinion it did not begin to compare with the American Civil War. In fact:

    There never was a war which afforded such materials for “special correspondence” of the best kind as this one—no matter in what way we look at it. It is vast, grandiose, sanguinary, checkered, full of brilliant episodes, of striking situations, of strange and varied incidents of all kinds. In the two things which most impress the imagination, the size of the forces engaged, and the...

  26. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 747-750)
    J. Cutler Andrews