How did newspapers report politics leading up the civil war?

Newspapers reporting start of Civil War

The ongoing story of 2017 is Donald Trump and this pure dichotomy of America. The divided sides feels very much like we are leading up to a Civil War. This makes me wonder what America was like before the Civil War–and specifically how did the media of that time cover it?

Six articles that I’ll read about Civil War and newspapers

  1. How the Civil War gave birth to modern journalism in the nation’s capital
  2. The press’ experience during the Civil War helped shape today’s media
  3. Newspapers in the Civil War: an Essay
  4. Printed Media and the American Civil War
  5. Illinois Newspapers and Reporters during the Civil War
  6. The Fall and Rise of Partisan Journalism

High-resolution images of newspaper pages leading up to the Civil War

An eBay auction has nine newspaper pages from April 1-10, 1861 featuring events leading to the start of the Civil War. Here’s four of the best images:

Major Anderson's supplies cut off--war imminent
Major Anderson’s supplies cut off–war imminent. Reliable information has been received from the North that reinforcements are ordered to Fort Sumter, and will be accompanied by a squadron under command of Commodore Stringham.

Republican censure of Lincoln's imbecility
Republican censure of Lincoln’s imbecility

War movements
War movments. Goaded by the taunts of the Republican press in New York, it would appear that the Lincoln Administration means to end its whiffling “point-no-point” tactics, and take steps that are certain to lead to civil war.

Opening of Civil War.
Opening of Civil War. A special dispatch from Charleston to the Herald states that the authorities have received official notification that supplies must be furnished to Major Anderson at any hazard. Midnight war preparations at Charleston.

If you have anything to share about how newspapers reported the start of the Civil War, PLEASE let me know in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “How did newspapers report politics leading up the civil war?”

  1. The Smithsonian has an article, but they split it up into nine slides, so I’m not linking to that garbage. Sorry, Smithsonian. I expect much more from you!

  2. Matt, you’re baiting me with an article like this, aren’t you? One of my favorite topics–media history! In addition to your articles there are a few good books on the topic. One of my favorite is more an illustration than explanation: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete Unexpurgated Text
    The surface topic is fascinating itself–where the debate around slavery stood in 1858 from the actual words of both sides, when debates long speeches vs trading soundbites. But the even more fascinating idea is how the author found the transcripts of these speeches and decided which versions to include. The only records are what was reported in newspapers, transcribed by reporters in the crowd as they were given. That resulted in very different accounts of what was said, usually depending on the political leaning of a newspaper. (Hint, hint, your employer.)

    1. I knew you were going to enjoy this one!

      I’ll check out this book. The Civil War is getting a lot more interesting now that we can relate to it more now than ever. Your point about the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and the skewing of the reporting is so relevant today! We saw that in Trump’s inauguration speech. Perhaps history might be repeating itself four years from now if a Lincoln-like figure rises up to debate Trump, to bring our country back to normal reality. Which would then polarize our country even further.

      1. The lead up to the Civil War is always good to revisit whenever you start to think “this country has never been so divided!” In fact, so is country’s founding years, Reconstruction, and much of history. If anything, I wonder if 200 years from now we will view the second half of the 20th Century as the Big Exception in polarization, including the Press.
        If you want to look back a little further, look how Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to attack Washington and Adams, even hiring one of the most extreme newspaper editors, Philip Freneau, to work at the State Department….

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