Controlling the News During the Civil War (1861)

As this passage from The Situation, a recurring feature in The New York Herald throughout the war that brought readers bits of news and information that did not warrant a complete article, shows, both the US Government and the Confederacy considered control of the slant and tone of news reaching citizens an important part of a successful strategy.

In the August 23, 1861 issue, the paper shared this information with its readers:

The (Federal) government has inaugurated a vigorous crusade against Northern journals whose articles favor the treasonable practices of the Southern rebels. The New York Daily News was seized by the United States Marshal in Philadelphia yesterday, and its transit to the South and West totally cut off. The same official also took possession of the office of the Christian Observer, which has been deprecating what it calls the present war.

The authorities at the South appear to be exercising a like supervision over those Northern papers which do not represent the views of the rebels. A committee is established at Nashville, Tennessee, which takes hold of all bundles of Northern papers and prohibits their going further South, unless the tone of their articles and news suits their peculiar ideas.

This is done no doubt for the purpose of keeping the Southern people in ignorance of the true feeling of the North, and the real objects of the war, and enabling the rebel leaders to circulate the most atrocious falsehoods concerning the spirit and the conduct of the Union army, which we are credibly informed they do not hesitate to do, in order to keep up a feeling of bitter hostility to the United States government and the people of the North.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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