Blog Series: The Civil War & the Press

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A blog series by Zac Cowsert, “The Civil War in the Press” explores the interactions between soldiers and civilians, politics and the press throughout the Civil War. Through a variety of posts examining both civilian and military newspapers, this series uncovers how Civil War newspapers illuminate the ways in which secession and Unionism, party politics, soldier life, military occupation, army-press relations, patriotism, and the Civil War itself played out in print. You can read each series’ post by clicking on the title or clicking “Read More.”


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Patriotism in Print: The American Union, A Soldiers’ Wartime PAper

“On the evening of July 3, 1861, a dozen Union soldiers (self -described ‘disciples of Faust’) broke into the offices of the of the Virginia Republican—a decidedly secessionist organ—and appropriated the newspaper’s office for their own use. The next morning—on the Fourth of July—the first issues of the American Union hit the streets of Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). The newspaper—composed and printed entirely by Union soldiers—enjoyed a brief existence in Martinsburg, lasting only as long as the Union troops occupied the town. Despite its short tenure, however, the paper sheds light onto the patriotism and zeal of Union soldiers during the war's opening months…”

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Righteous or Riotous? The 2nd ohio Cavalry & The Crisis

“As the snow fell from a wintry sky on March 5, 1863, over a hundred men gathered on the fields of Camp Chase, outside Columbus, Ohio, ostensibly for the purposes of attending church. For a ‘church party,’ however, they were oddly equipped, armed with ‘clubs, hatchets, and axes.’ Once the men—soldiers of the Second Ohio Cavalry—assembled at their ‘appointed rendezvous,’ they formed up into a line and made their way into Columbus. The soldiers had been planning this foray for some time, knowing that Sunday church offered them the perfect excuse to enter town and commence their mischief. Winding their way through the city streets, the troopers finally arrived at their destination. Upon posting lookouts, the men of the Second Ohio put their clubs, hatchets, and axes to use and 'poured into ‘the building,’ intent on destroying the offices of the Copperhead newspaper The Crisis…”

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“A Very Spicy Little Sheet:” the Knapsack, A Soldiers’ Newspaper & the Politics of War

“A Union officer once remarked, ‘Does not a newspaper follow a Yankee march everywhere?’ In the fall of 1863, the soldiers of the Fifth West Virginia Infantry found themselves stationed at Gauley Bridge in the southern part of their newly-minted home state. It proved to be a relatively peaceful posting and, apparently true to Yankee form, the men promptly set about establishing a regimental newspaper. Forming the rather grandly named Fifth Virginia Publishing Association, the Association soon began issuing copies of the four-page Knapsack every Thursday morning at five cents a copy. Although only published for a few months, the paper illuminates much about soldier life and the politics of war…”

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“On Saturday, July 9th, 1864, Captain Ewald Over of the 6th West Virginia Infantry received an order originating from Major General David Hunter. The order directed Capt. Ewald—the military commander of Wheeling, West Virginia—to arrest the editors of the Wheeling Daily Register and shut the newspaper’s offices down. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Captain Ewald and a small cadre of soldiers entered the offices of the Wheeling Daily Register and placed editors Lewis Baker and O.S. Long under arrest. A soldier was posted outside the Register’s office, and the two prisoners were escorted to the Athenaeum on the corner of 16th and Market Streets. A small military prison that housed upwards of one hundred Confederate prisoners, the Athenaeum (christened “Lincoln’s Bastille” by the locals) now confined two United States citizens as well…”


“The Printing Press Cannot Remain Idle”: The Ohio Twenty-Second, A Civil War Soldier Newspaper

“In their inaugural and only issue, dated July 12, 1861, the erstwhile printers of The Ohio Twenty-Second made their purpose and politics clear. ‘Our motto is: “Death to traitors and protection to all loyal citizens.’ It has been well said that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.” While we find the latter indispensable in these perilous times, we will unite with it the power of the former, and go forth to battle for ‘the Constitution, the Union, and the Enforcement of the Laws.’ For the men of the Twenty-Second Ohio Infantry, and indeed for many Union soldiers throughout the Civil War, the war could be waged by musket and pen alike and the Ohio Twenty-Second offers a brief window into the patriotism, politics, and daily life of Union soldier in the opening months of the Civil War…”