James Eric Black, Georgia State University, “In Defense of Vespertilio-homo: Finding the Truth in the 1834 Moon Hoax”
The most fruitful studies of the New York Sun’s 1835 Moon Hoax have been conducted outside the journalism academe in social histories and science studies. Journalist scholars have been slow to determine what the moon hoax actually meant to their profession. The writer of the moon hoax attempted to present a satirical analysis of religious sermons and scientific studies that had anticipated lunar life. The success of the hoax depended on the vulnerability of the reading audience who by this time began to expect factual information from the media yet accepted a comingling of fantasy. For at least a hundred years, the “moon-hoax” was synonymous with fraud. It is important to place the moon hoax in its rightful place historically. More than just entertainment, the moon hoax was an example of a more serious discourse between rivaling factions of society, each in its own way searching for truth or profit. The moon hoax, the first non-political or war-based newspaper sensation in American media history, offers a representative anecdote of published commentary about the meaning of truth in journalism and the concept of objectivity. This project argues that the hoax became an early catalyst for the discussion of factual objectivity in the media. This paper seeks to discover the truth behind the moon hoax, not the facts of the story itself, but the effect the series may have had on the concept of news.
Nikhil Bilwakesh, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, “’Their faces were like so many of the same sort at home’: American Responses to the Indian Rebellion of 1857”
In this paper, I examine media coverage of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in two American newspapers, The New York Times and The New York Daily Herald. The Times represents a northern Democratic “doughface” sensibility, and engages in sensationalistic reportage of atrocities purportedly committed by the rebels, while the Herald coverage, mostly written by London correspondent Karl Marx, is more sympathetic towards the rebels, and questions British media reports. I argue that the response to the American mutiny in the American media was based in part on the anxiety of slave revolts. Rhetorically, we see such an anxiety in the sensationalist accounts of sexual abuse of white women by colored men, often exaggerated and fictionalized. The stoking of such fears dramatize the urgency of repressing slave uprisings, which were also always represented in terms of sexual defilement of white women by colored men.
Jon Wells, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, “Women Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South”
This paper seeks to shift the scholarly focus in southern studies away from novels and novelists and toward the incredibly rich, diverse, and fascinating world of periodical culture. A relatively unexplored source of information on southern culture, magazines and newspapers published in the southern states provide a fuller, more comprehensive look at women and the mind of the South. In embarking on careers in journalism, southern women were pushing against traditional boundaries. As editors, contributors, correspondents, and reporters in the nineteenth century, women were entering traditionally male bastions. Particularly in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the periodical business was characterized often by rough political maneuvering, with newspapers and magazines publishing wildly partisan accusations against political opponents even as they also offered readers news, poems, and short stories. Thus, when women engaged in the world of periodical publishing they were stepping into an arena that had been almost the exclusive province of men since the first magazines and newspapers were printed. At the same time, however, journalism for women was often an outgrowth of their careers as authors, and here women were apt to encounter less resistance.
Crompton Burton, Marietta College, “’The Dear Old Regiment’: Maine’s Regimental Associations and Memory of the American Civil War”
In the aftermath of the American Civil War thousands of Union veterans streamed home anxious to put the privations and horrors of campaign and combat behind them. Civilians once more, they proved reluctant to speak of their wartime experiences except to those best suited to understand; fellow veterans. These conversations and exchanges underscored the potential benefits of recapturing unit camaraderie and prompted former soldiers to organize regimental associations to perpetuate the memories and deeds of their service during the conflict. Over time, these organizations expanded their activities beyond reunions, campfires, and parades to include the compilation and publication of formal unit histories.
Regimental histories published between 1870 and 1920 represent a significant component of Civil War literature and are valuable not only for what they reveal of the conflict, but for what they describe of the veteran’s post-war experience and efforts to handle memory of their ordeal as well. For all that, many of the scholars dedicated to the study of such memoirs and reminiscence have elected to pay only cursory notice to the unique circumstances under which regimental histories were produced. As a result, there remains great latitude to seek enhanced understanding of the environment in which regimental historians took up the pen, set down the record of their unit’s wartime service, and offered up its legacy to future generations.
Maine’s notably strong association memberships and dedicated veteran authors provide particularly fertile ground upon which to explore the way in which the group dynamics of these organizations contributed to the production of an enduring body of literature and to examine the role of regimental narratives in providing contemporary military historians a level of detail crucial to bringing modern campaign and battle studies to life. In combination with minutes, records and correspondence from association files, these materials chronicle a poignant, if underappreciated, chapter in a Civil War history that extends well beyond Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
Dianne Bragg, University of Alabama, “An Affair of Words: Tennessee’s Civil War Press and the Confederate Nation”
Tennesseans did not know what to do. South Carolina had seceded and other Southern states quickly followed suit. Still, Tennessee’s political landscape was not clear cut and the state’s newspapers reflected this unrest. Confederate leaders had their work cut out for them if Tennessee was to unite with them in disunion. Complicating matters, newspapers throughout the state took opposing viewpoints, sometimes within their own pages. Then came Fort Sumter, and Lincoln gave the Confederates what they needed to solidify Tennessee’s support for the Confederate nation. As the state quickly moved toward secession, the press began to do its part to make this new nation a reality to Tennesseans.
Although most Tennessee newspapers joined this nationalistic effort, there were Union holdouts that made the task difficult, especially in East Tennessee. Even so, secession held the day and Tennessee officially entered the war in June 1861. Few could have imagined that the state would be lost so quickly in a war that Lincoln would ultimately win, albeit after many tumultuous years and great losses on both sides.
A review of the Tennessee press from 1861 through the end of 1862 offers a glimpse into the political leanings of a people who were torn between their support of a Confederate nation and their concern for their own state’s best interests. The struggle of Tennessee newspapers to promote Confederate nationalism was one that reflected the turmoil that existed within Tennessee’s communities. From the plantation owners along the Mississippi River to the small farmers of middle and East Tennessee, the Tennessee press covered a political landscape as divided as its geography. Few would escape the struggle unscathed.
Scott Lambert, Oklahoma State University, “Frozen Words: Media Coverage of the Battle of Stones River”
Frozen Words: Media Coverage of the Battle of Stones River examined how the press covered the battle of Stones River, fought Jan. 1-3, 1863 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The paper examined the importance of the press during the Civil War, the pressure to report the news quickly for larger Northern newspapers and the mistakes that were made because of that rush. The paper also examined the fractures in Northern press coverage and the differences in coverage between newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. The paper also examined how Southern coverage was critical of General Braxton Bragg in some cases, a departure from much Southern war coverage. Finally, it examined the importance of the citizen journalist during the Civil War.
Katherine Pierce, Sam Houston State University, “The Moral Becomes Material: The Census of 1850 and Political Conflict prior to the Civil War”
As the number of rail lines, telegraphic ties, and secular and religious newspapers delivered their divergent ideological cargo to Americans across the nation, the Census of 1850 appeared to present a neutral, Olympian overview of the country. Debates untangling the relationship among slavery, prosperity, and rights could now shift from abstract theories of political economy and scriptural references to a statistical basis of evaluation. Recognizing the value of such “neutral” data, Congressmen each could receive as many as 1,000 free copies of the compendium to forward to local editors, party speakers, and interested constituents. The minutiae of the Census became stock copy in newspapers across the nation.
The Census of 1850 and its tables provided a daguerreotype of the nation. By the time the abridged edition, or compendium, was published in 1854, editors and politicians stood ready to seize selected facts for use as political bludgeons against party and sectional enemies. These statistics provided new weapons for rhetorical warfare among slaveholders, abolitionists, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, Democrats, and Republicans. Americans claimed they could now reckon the benefits and costs of slavery to their nation. The Peculiar Institution or “the Slave Oligarchy” was revealed to comprise a total of 347,256 slave owning individuals in a nation of 19,553,068 free whites. Politicians, clergy, and editors soon changed the tone of the long-running debate by shouting, writing, and distributing both the statistics and their meaning to the public. For ordinary Americans, the census offered the potential to “show us to ourselves” independent of the rhetoric of party or other interest.
What mattered between 1850 and 1861 were facts available as ammunition for politicians, editors, clergy, and neighbors in their efforts to convince, cajole, and mobilize the uninformed, indifferent, or hostile. This information heightened the national and sectional identities that seemed to provide partisans and opponents membership in communities and states with fixed material attributes.
Timothy Huffstutter, University of Alabama, “What Does Humor Reveal?: Observations of The Chattanooga Daily Rebel’s Comedy and Confederate Morale”
This paper is a smaller, shorter version of my undergraduate honors thesis, completed in the spring of 2007. I originally began the project desiring to deal with some aspect of The Chattanooga Daily Rebel, a pro-Confederate newspaper from my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not really sure how I would develop a project for a thesis, I began reading issues on microfilm at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library. In my conversations with my thesis advisor, Professor Carol Sheriff, I commented on how much comedy was in this journal and how much I was laughing as I read. She helped me turn my sessions of reading Civil War comedy into a viable thesis project.
In order to cut down on the length of my thesis, I decided to focus on the humor of the Chattanooga editions of the Rebel for this paper. What and who were the butts of jokes in these issues? Why did Roberts make fun of certain events and topics? What do these jokes tell us about Confederate morale? The home front? What can the presence and types of humor tell us about the war and the journal? If I succeed at nothing else with this paper, then at least it will be good for a few laughs.
I argue that the preponderance of humor in the Chattanooga editions of the Rebel indicate that Confederate morale was fairly high during this period. Albert Roberts, the staff’s humorist, joked about a wide variety of war-related topics. However, after defeat at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, there is a noticeable drop in comedy, indicating a drop in morale.
Janice Wood, Auburn Univeristy, “John R. Thompson: A Poetic Approach to Reporting the Civil War”
Described as “a poet in journalism and something of a journalist in poetry,” Virginian John R. Thompson (1823-1873) blossomed in dual careers in Southern newspapers during the Civil War. Ranked among the best war correspondents in the South, Thompson contributed regular columns to the Memphis Daily Appeal and poems that appeared periodically in various publications. Whether writing in poetry or prose, he focused on war-related issues, events, and personalities surrounding his active social life in Richmond.
By the time he began reporting on the war, Thompson had already distinguished himself as the editor of the influential Southern Literary Messenger and socially connected himself to members of the Confederacy’s administration. Thompson’s writing and editing endeavors took him around the South and across the Atlantic, but he was happiest when working in Richmond. He ventured out only when compelled for employment or for treatment of the tuberculosis that eventually claimed his life.
This paper samples Thompson’s columns for the Daily Appeal in which he used the pseudonym “Dixie” and painted verbal pictures of everyday life in Richmond during the war and the devastation of battle. Also included are portions of his poetry that reflected his journalistic subject matter or aspects of his personal life.
Clay Morton, Macon State University, “Nineteenth-Century Newspaper Humor: Orality, Literacy, and Regional Identity”
The nineteenth-century United States was marked by a tension between an emerging typographic literacy and a lingering orality, and the nation’s most powerful concentration of oral residue was to be found in its southern region. The disparity between the typographic culture of the North and the residually oral culture of the South is well illustrated by the nineteenth-century newspaper humor of the respective regions. This essay explores the differences between “Down East” and “Old Southwest” humor and, employing research from such orality specialists as Walter Ong and Eric Havelock, illustrates the typographic features of the former and oral features of the latter. These differences can perhaps best be understood in terms outlined by Mark Twain in his famous essay “How to Tell a Story” (1895), which distinguishes between humorous and comic stories. In short, the comic story form is a typographic one favored by the Northern school. It emphasizes content over performative manner; is conveyed with deliberate comedic intent; is tightly structured, culminating in a climactic punch line; and is often satirical. The humorous story form is a residually oral one favored by the Southern school. It emphasizes manner over matter; is conveyed with feigned seriousness; is characterized by wandering prolixity, ending “nowhere in particular”; and resists satire, preferring to celebrate the humanness of folly rather than attempt to eradicate it. After examining such humorists as the Down East’s Thomas Chandler Haliburton and Old Southwest’s George Washington Harris, the essay concludes that the epistemological distinctions between oral and literate cultures are perfectly illustrated by Southern and Northern newspaper humor of the nineteenth century. A meaningful joining of the two strands of scholarship employed here, Southern studies and orality-literacy research, would therefore seem to be long overdue.
Matthew Simmons, Georgia State University, “The Press and Gettysburg : Painting the Big Picture in July 1863”
The Press and Gettysburg: Painting the Big Picture In July 1863 aims to tell how the press collectively created a perception and national memory of The Battle of Gettysburg. Not only was Gettysburg a massive battle in the Civil War, it was perhaps the most important battle, not to mention a significant milestone in the shaping of modern America. The reporters who covered the event served as the one to bring its meaning to the public.
This article attempts to present the reporter’s role through personal stories of journalists, the effects on reporters of watching the events unfold before their eyes, and how the press formed a truer picture by piecing information together over time. Perhaps some of the first to truly recognize the importance of this particular battle, journalists raised the story of Gettysburg to an almost legendary status. The appreciation of the press was well earned, Gettysburg being widely considered to be the turning point of the lengthy war.
With striking stories like those of Samuel Wilkeson and the reports of G.W. Hossmer, the fight was given a desperately personal quality. The personal stories of Union and Confederate reporters, along with the gradual patchwork of these reports, eventually formed an overall image in public perception and memory.
Megan Bever, University of Alabama, “Roots of Reconciliation: Intersectional Romances in Civil War Fiction, 1860-1865”
In the decades following the Civil War, historians have found that white northerners, and to a certain degree, white southerners embraced a culture of reconciliation in order to patch the wounds of the four year struggle. Looking at popular fiction published in periodicals and in novels, scholars have found that authors used romantic relationships between northerners and southerners as a metaphor for national reunion. These intersectional romances did not first appear in post-war literature, however. In fact, authors in the North and in the South wrote stories of intersectional romance during the Civil War in order to convey their opinions about the notion of reconciliation.
Romances written by northerners and southerners were crafted similarly – lovers met, discussed politics, tried to survive the war, and made conclusions about their compatibility – and as such, these stories can be easily compared to determine the disparate war aims in the Union and in the Confederacy. As the North fought to save the Union, authors embraced themes of reconciliation. Although lovers disagreed over secession, they generally found that they could live together happily, especially when a pro-Confederate lover rescinded his or her secessionist sympathies. Conversely, Confederate authors wove tales of deceit and corruption, using their stories of intersectional romance to portray northerners as vile and to stress the need for Confederate independence.
The existence of reconciliationist literature in the wartime northern press contributes to our understanding of reunion. Post-war reconciliation is often largely attributed to industrialization and racism that left northerners longing nostalgically for an imagined antebellum plantation lifestyle. Yet wartime stories indicate that northerners wanted reconciliation from the beginning of the conflict, as they fought to save the country. As such, historians need to look to wartime intersectional romances to find the roots of national reunion.
Stephen R. Duncan, University of Maryland, “Bohemian Rhapsodies: Ulysses S. Grant, Sylvanus Cadwallader, and Civil War Journalism”
Sylvanus Cadwallader, a nineteenth-century journalist for the Chicago Times and the New York Herald, was allowed a unique perspective on a much vaunted hero of the American Civil War, Union commander Ulysses S. Grant. During the period between October, 1862 and Lee's surrender at Appomattox—and beyond—Cadwallader spent a vast majority of his days with the general and his staff as the unofficial, yet essential, voice for Grant in the northern press. However, the accomplished correspondent is best known to us not through his voluminous articles detailing the progress of the Union army from Vicksburg to Petersburg, but for his controversial account of Grant's drinking binge while on a two day steamer expedition: the famed “Yazoo Bender.”
The now infamous narrative was included in Cadwallader's memoirs, which were written in the 1890s but sat unnoticed and unpublished until 1955 when they surfaced as Three Years with Grant. A historical firestorm erupted when many who saw the tale as an attempt to impugn the revered general's legacy, vehemently protested the accuracy and authenticity of the journalist's reminiscence. And although there is strong corroboratory evidence to support Cadwallader's claim, those who focused only on this aspect of his writings missed the greater view of the reporter's historical contribution. Here is a source who spent the better part of the war in close contact with Grant; a witness who wrote about the conflict continually as it unfolded, and candidly in the years after. Despite Cadwallader's myriad motivations for relating the “Bender” story, the perspective he gives into both Grant's efforts and his character is of value still today.
Giovanna Dell-Orto and Hazel Dicken-Garcia, University of Minnesota, "’Watch What They Say’: Insights from Civil War Journalists on Free Expression during Times of Crisis.”
The contrasting tensions between the public interest and individual rights, especially free expression, during times of crisis seem to suggest that there has never been a time for criticisms, however veiled, of government policies when national security is (or is perceived to be) threatened. This paper reveals how efforts to suppress what one 19th-century editor called "perverse and evil theories"--hated ideas--have been treated by those who are institutionally invested in First Amendment rights of free expression, namely journalists. The focus is on the Civil War, but the strenuous struggle by writers and editors to define freedom of expression 150 years ago provides beneficial insights for strikingly similar dilemmas in the present. A status of permanent national crisis such as the "war on terrorism" makes it all the more urgent to examine what, if any, restrictions on expression have been justified and even supported by journalists under the guise of security and patriotism.
James Mueller, University of North Texas, “The Little Bighorn and the Election of 1876”
This paper examines coverage of the battle of the Little Bighorn and the Sioux War as a campaign issue during the 1876 presidential election. The battle was undoubtedly one of the biggest news stories of the year, but historians have disagreed on its impact on the campaign. Historians writing about the battle tend to argue that it was a big campaign issue, while biographers of the presidential candidates and political scientists hardly mention the battle at all. Some journalism historians have looked at the battle coverage as a way of evaluating the partisanship of the press in 1876.
This paper examined 1876 campaign coverage in a variety of newspapers from the time of the Republican and Democratic conventions through election day. It concludes that while newspapers tended to view the battle through a partisan lens, the battle was not a major campaign issue, and coverage faded rather quickly compared to topics like Reconstruction, the economy and government corruption.
Edward H. Jeter, Sam Houston State University, “Mormons, Frontiers, and Whiteness in the New York Times, 1890-1899”
For most of the nineteenth century, press portrayals of Mormons and Mormonism tended overwhelming to the negative. By the 1890s, however, both the portrayals and the realities they described began to change. Mormons’ abandonment of polygamy and entry into national political parties, the perceived closing of the frontier, and the recognition of Utah’s wealth led many to develop new ways of talking about Mormons and their racial identity. This paper will analyze narrative strategies used in the New York Times in the 1890s to address Mormons who were no longer beyond the frontier and were (supposedly) no longer polygamous.
White, Protestant America’s nineteenth-century frontier mythology helped define the American character and justify the violent exploitation of the American West by Anglo-Americans. In the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century, many observers worried that the frontier was closing and with it the source of America’s greatness.
Changes in Mormonism and in frontier mythologies in the late 1800s and early 1900s changed how White Americans talked about both. Various events such as the announced end of new polygamy and Utah statehood led to extensive discussion of Mormonism. Many of those portrayals situated Mormons relative to the recently closed geographic and racial frontier. Depending on the speaker, Mormons occupied different places relative to the presumed frontier: beyond it as non-White savages, on it as a marginally civilized and questionably White fringe element, or within it as the vanguard of White progress.
These various models for describing Mormons provided ways of reinterpreting the past and the present. For some, the closing frontier required resolving the “Mormon Question” once and for all. For others, coming to view the frontier as closed made it easier for them to view Mormons as pioneering White Americans rather than as hostile, non-White foreigners.
Niels Eichhorn, University of Arkansas, “Kladderadatsch: A German Newspaper Perspective on the Civil War and Its International Context”
Scholars have paid little attention to newspaper opinions concerning the Civil War in continental Europe. By looking at the images published in the satirical weekly Kladderadatsch, the reactions to and perceptions about the Civil War in Central Europe receive long overdue attention. Despite the satirical tone of the paper, the nine images indicate a nuanced and critical understanding of the origins of secession, the outbreak of war, and of the Civil War itself. In addition, they illustrate how well the paper understood the implications of Civil War developments, like the Trent affair, for the European continent. Most importantly, these were not views expressed by a large daily in London or Paris, but, for Civil War historians at least, an obscure satirical weekly in the heart of Europe—the Prussian capital of Berlin. Events like secession, the developing cotton famine, the Trent affair, taxes, and emancipation received quick and critical attention by Kladderadatsch’s artists. Especially the images on the Trent affair illustrate an understanding of Civil War diplomacy that almost outstrips that of modern scholarship. The coverage of the Civil War in Kladderadatsch indicates that scholar of the Civil War have to pay more attention to diverse European continental newspaper views and broaden their international focus and understanding of the Civil War.
Kirk Strawbridge, Mississippi State University, “A Rebel Journal: The Land We Love and Southern Identity”
Daniel Harvey Hill understood better than many that, at any given time in its history, southerners have negotiated an identity based on the constant struggle between “tradition” and “progress.” His journal, The Land We Love, only lasted a few years after the Civil War, but it serves as a telling record of both the intellectual/cultural and agro-economic development of the South. The Land offered poems, stories, and first hand accounts of the Civil War along with practical advice on agriculture. In short, Hill’s journal offered a glimpse into how southerners understood a recent past of hardship and a future of uncertainty based on two essential elements of the southern landscape: the physical and the spiritual.
The Land We Love espoused its philosophy long before the period of intensified Confederate memorial activities known as The Lost Cause. Thus, it is important to view the journal in a context outside the usual definitions of the Lost Cause. To understand the South, one needs to shed labels such as modern, pre-modern, agrarian, or industrial. It is in these conflicts, between the impulse to commemorate the past and bring greater prosperity to the future, where the real South is found. By blending a southern nationalism that promoted regional superiority and distinctiveness with a progressive program to modernize the South, The Land helps define a complicated, often contradictory region.
Jennifer Bunn, Georgia State University, “Grace Greenwood: The Road to Becoming the First Female Correspondent (1847-1852)”
This paper will examine the life and works of Sara Jane Clarke (Grace Greenwood). She was a fiery journalist who stood firmly for what she believed in at time where this was unheard of from a woman. She continuously fought for women’s rights, abolition, and numerous other reforms. She contributed to many publications with majority of her work in: Godey’s Lady’s Book, National Era, Saturday Evening Post, and The New York Times. Her passion and head-strong beliefs are exhibited in her works, which were considered outside the female realm during the 1840’s to 1870’s.
Paulette D. Kilmer, University of Toledo, “Technical Manslaughter and Carelessness Masquerading as Accidents: Why Newspapers Conveyed the Archetype of Consequences Via Gory Details”
This in-depth text analysis of three hundred accident accounts published in The New York Times from May through July of 1880 examined all reports of mishaps, regardless of length, to create a body of continuous narrative for study. The researcher wondered if another explanation beyond sensationalism might plausibly illuminate the purpose of gory details in disaster coverage. An archetype is a pattern that persists over time and place. The author documents the presence of the archetype of consequences (impulsive, thoughtless, and careless actions precipitate consequences that often cannot be reversed) and its motifs: ignorant fools, heroes tested, and horses: nags or Pegasus? in the Times’ articles and suggests avenues for future research based on the archetype of consequences.
David Bulla, Iowa State University, “The Mid-Atlantic Copperhead Press”
The peace Democratic press of the Civil War North faced constraints on their right to publish freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Constraints came officially from the federal authorities and unofficially from mob action. No group of editors faced a higher degree of constraints than the editors in Maryland. The following study looks at several key examples of press suppression in the Old Line State, focusing on the generally pro-South editors in Baltimore. This paper also looks at press suppression in neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware. It concludes that Maryland faced a higher degree of suppression than its bordering states because of its strategic place in the Union—a slave state that bordered the nation’s capital and a critical stop on the railroad line going up and down the East Coast. The current study relies heavily on an examination of the newspapers of that era, assessing the political journalism of the Civil War in the words of journalists.
Victoria M. Bryan, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “‘That Way the Fighting Lies, and I Long to Follow’: Alcott’s Autobiographical Bent in Hospital Sketches and Little Women”
Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, originally published in 1863, and Little Women, originally published in 1868, are both autobiographical in nature, though the former is more true to life than the latter due to Alcott’s burgeoning realization that her own experiences, if attributed to women in her fiction, would not appeal as strongly to the conventional public for which she was writing. She was not the only woman who faced the burden of disguising the ways in which her own life blurred Civil War gender lines but could not find safety in these numbers and, in order to support herself and her family with her writing, she found that she had to disguise many of the autobiographical events about which she wrote by attributing them to a fictional character, as in Hospital Sketches, or, in order to become a more successful writer, to attribute them to men, as is the case in several excerpts of Little Women. She often fictionalized these occurrences, attributing them to men and adjusting them to fit the expectations of her audience. It is for this reason that her Civil War literature may be considered more fact than fiction.
Leigh Pendergrass, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “’What Anybody Now Could Do To Anybody’: How the Civil War Changed Race, Class, and Gender in Eudora Welty’s ‘The Burning’”
Eudora Welty was born forty years after the Civil War and wrote only one story about the Civil War. Though it is her only Civil War story, “The Burning” looks at the complexities of the relationships between Union soldiers, Southern debutantes, and slaves near the end of the Civil War, attempting to show her audience a different view of the Civil War conflicts and the people involved in those conflicts. Welty presents the Union soldiers as destructive and angry, violently forcing changes on the old South. The debutantes are helpless and feeble, unable to break away from life as it was. The former slaves, however, have the ability to adapt to the new environment of the South. While Welty shows her characters in unexpected ways, it forces her audience to consider the implications of the war, not just the histories that have been told of the war. Her characters make her audience question the structure and complexities of good and evil, stasis and change in the Civil War, allowing her audience to question similar issues in other conflicts, relationships, and instances.
Jon Wells, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, “’Of Interest to Women’: Female Editors and Press Associations in the South, 1865-1900”
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, there were hundreds of female journalists throughout the former slave states. Many of these women, following precedents laid down in the 1840s and the 1850s, wrote columns specifically aimed at female readers, while others operated newspapers and magazines on their own, and were responsible for finding suitable contributions, paying authors, handling subscriptions, and sending the finished draft to the printer. Together with female columnists, women editors played a highly visible role in the postwar intellectual and political culture of the region, one that scholars are only now beginning to appreciate. Not only were these southern women active participants and leaders in the growth of journalism as a profession, but they were often at the forefront of calls for greater rights for women. Although southern history lacked seminal moments that might inspire a movement for women’s rights, such as the North’s Seneca Falls meeting in 1848, the region did have a conspicuous and significant phalanx of southern female journalists, both black and white, who helped to spur the movement in its early phases. Key to the movement was the formation of press associations in the region beginning in the 1870s, groups that gave women professional respect, a training ground for coordinated activism, and a foundation for advocating greater political and intellectual equality.
Steven Cox, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “Under the Sod and Dew: Reconciliation, Rhyme, and the Birth of Memorial Day”
Every spring Americans remember fallen veterans of wars. A holiday in most states, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, sees thousands of cemeteries across the United States decorated with flowers and flags. In the years immediately following the Civil War programs and observances sprang up across America, some just weeks after the Confederacy’s surrender in April of 1865. Some of these events inspired poets to compose countless poems to remember the fallen, and to speak to the efforts of reconciling the North and the South. Because there were simultaneous ceremonies to memorialize the fallen, the observance of remembering our war dead in a ceremony or special day does not have one birthplace, but is claimed by many cities across the United States.
On a day in late April 1866, four Southern women in Columbus, Mississippi, walked to a city cemetery and began decorating the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. Nearby lay several dozen graves of Union soldiers and the women decorated their graves as well. An account of this act was published nationally and inspired the poet Francis Miles Finch to compose the poem “The Blue and the Gray.” These events, and similar ceremonies, poems and occasions led to a national Memorial Day, for America to remember her fallen soldiers, who gave their lives for their country. Nevertheless, some veterans of the Civil War were hesitant to forgive, and wrote poems that carried resentment past the war, some in direct response to Finch’s “The Blue and the Gray.” Almost comical, often derisive, and almost never forgiving these poems show how it took years for the citizens of this country to look forward as a single country again. General Order No. 11, issued by General John A. Logan, of the GAR, made Memorial Day an official Federal Holiday in 1868.
Therese Aloia, Excelsior College, “Estranged Allies: A Re-Examination of the 1871 Treaty of Washington”
This article examines the influence of the newspapers and public opinion on the formation, negotiation and conclusion of the 1871 Treaty of Washington between the United States and Britain. The international ramifications of the Treaty are visible through the lens of two primary newspapers, the New York Times and the London Times. Throughout the 1860’s and 1870’s the New York Times and the London Times carried the proceedings and international developments between each respective country as well as worldwide events. The political issues and incidents of Britain and American relations clearly manifested themselves in the daily press and subsequently reflected in the attitudes of its many readers. The focus of problematic foreign policies between Britain and America in post Civil War years echo the sensitive issues of the four-year conflict. While the Civil War occurred on American soil, it became increasingly rampant with international complications due to the “perceived” recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and subsequent interpretation of that action by the United States as a blatant violation of neutrality. Britain’s political stance of neutrality in the Civil War was at the heart of the controversy compounded by their involvement in funding the construction of ships for the Confederate cause. Both American and British journalists and press aggravated the delicate balance of public opinion towards diplomacy in the final stages of the Treaty of Washington through their inclusion of letters and proceedings as well as editorials with specific party bias. The developments in the arbitration between United States and Britain led the two nations to the brink of possible warfare. The article concludes with the eventual peaceful resolution of the Treaty as a positive step towards successful diplomatic policy between two allies in the post Civil War years of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, the role of the press, despite its controversy, played a crucial role in the transmission of information as well as influenced the political development and resolution of the Treaty.
Traci Pate, Georgia State University, “Changes in the Coverage of Railroad Strikes from 1876-1877”
The press covered many labor disputes throughout the 1800s, but the coverage was not always consistent. In 1876, newspapers covered many different railroad strikes. As a strike progressed the coverage became more biased against the strikers. The following year a general strike shocked the nation. A railroad strike in July of 1877 was the catalyst for this violent strike. The coverage of this railroad strike was sensational, and openly biased against the strikers from the first reports. After the violence of 1877 shocked the nation the newspapers placed less emphasis on the causes and context of labor disputes and instead focused more on the results and the damage sustained by the strikers.
Paul Oresteen, Georgia State University, “The Great Baseball War of 1890: How the Press Supported the Players’ Struggle”
The struggle between owners and players in professional baseball in 1890 became what the press would call “The Great Baseball War.” The players formed a labor union called the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players that was to represent them and voice their grievances to the owners. When none of the players issues could be resolved the Brotherhood declared independence from the reigning leagues to create their own Players’ League. The press supported their struggle covering the event as a labor struggle between the owner’s class and the working class. The New York Times and syndicated columnist W.I. Harris very openly supported the players in their effort. The press referred to the labor dispute as a war and treated it as such.