Newspapers and the Civil War

I wonder how dreadful it must have been for Sam Wilkerson to write his story while sitting next to his dead son. Here was a journalist communicating with the most powerful medium available at the time. He illustrated courage and conviction by doing his job. Journalism was an endearing profession and during the Civil War. Citizens waited for the delivery of newspapers in apprehension.

While teaching the students about the Civil War, I believe we must remind them that newspapers were the medium of communication. Our students live in a world that has always had the internet. Society has changed from newspapers to social networking. Call me old fashioned, but I still get home delivery of newspapers. How long will printed news continue to survive? The number of newspapers and periodicals going out of business alarms me.

The following links share my concern:


I struggle with the social network!  I made my first blog a few days ago, as a requirement for this course. My blog was only three paragraphs long and I was hoping that was’t too much. I thought blogs were supposed to be short, until I found out blogs can be long but “tweets” must be short. Who knew? And what is a “tweet” anyway? I miss the days of going to the library and searching the periodical index! There was nothing better than searching on microfilm and micro fiche!

What has happened to society? Too much. Too fast. I recently bought a “smart” phone that I don’t know how to use. I just learned how to “attach” an email five years ago. I guess you can say I am a little behind the curve.

I’ll give you my newspaper when you take it from my cold, dead hands.

Posted in Discussion, Primary Sources
4 comments on “Newspapers and the Civil War
  1. Rebecca says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in the “too much too fast” thought. I have a tablet, but prefer real books, I have a smart phone but prefer a map, but I’m taking this bull by the horns and trying to figure this 21st century stuff out. Struggle… yes I am. Spent my entire day trying to build a custom google map only to finally realize it’s probably not the best avenue for the material I’m trying to put into my learning plan. Hang in there!

  2. janeapplebee says:

    What a great New Yorker article! (Which I read online.) I l cringed at Lippmann’s take on journalism and the importance of a free press in the 20’s, it sounds so familiar – “Lippmann’s preferred solution was, in essence, to junk democracy entirely. He justified this by arguing that the results were what mattered. Even “if there were a prospect” that people could become sufficiently well-informed to govern themselves wisely, he wrote, “it is extremely doubtful whether many of us would wish to be bothered.”

    And the “Mullet” journalism model of Huffington Post and other online journals – business up front, party behind. (Referring to the well edited front page in relation to the dreckig reader contributions that make up the bulk of the rest of the paper.)


    Got to say, I bought the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday edition today on a lark, I sometimes do that for the pleasure of print and the crosswords, but mainly I am an online news consumer – what’s fit to print is old news and cost money in addition to my ISP bill. And the Economist and Harper’s go unread most of the time. So…. yeah, well, I guess I have gone over to the dark, albeit back-lit, screen side.

    That being said you may feel vindicated to know that one of my favorite lesson plans – which I have yet to use myself – is a newspaper lesson using front pages from several newspapers reporting Lincoln’s assassination and funeral services. Prof. Michelle Jolly (Sonoma State University) developed it and presented it to a group of us at a TAH workshop in Ukiah, CA. She used newspapers from; New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, Richmond, and Washington D.C. – if I remember correctly. She assigned us to small groups for each paper, we reported out to the group and then had a whole class discussion wherein she led us to noticing:a)The black border of mourning was missing from the southern papers, b) the tone in the Southern papers was very different from the Northern and California papers; c) also the delay in the reporting in New Orleans testified to the breakdown in infrastructure all down the Mississippi in 1865.
    One problem with the lesson is that even blown up and printed on 11×17 pages, students will need to use magnifying glasses to read the papers… which sort of makes it more fun too.

  3. salbertson says:

    I love print also…books, newspapers…anything on paper. I struggle with a lot of the technology, and run into multitudes of problems using it with my students, but I do love the access to so much information on the internet. I find it takes a lot of time to create and do computer projects, and at times it is very frustrating for me because of problems I encounter. I appreciate these opportunities to increase my technology knowledge base, and I love all the great resources people share.

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House Divided Project

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Dickinson College
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Gilder Lehrman Institute
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