One of the curious things about modern pop civil war history is how closely it follows Republican newspaper editorial analysis in interpreting the war, 1861-1865, without actually referencing much material from the newspapers themselves, either opinion pieces or reportage.
You may not want to rely on a newspaper’s account of a battle as your sole source of information, but newspapers generally are filled with important direct and collateral intelligence about the events of the day.
I am looking at a column from the summer of 1861 claiming Bull Run was brought on by the powerful Blair family and their hatred of General Winfield Scott. Here is another article, quite a long one, interviewing Scott about his plans to win the war. The content is not something you’ve ever seen in a history book. And here comes McClellan replacing Scott in November and what is the first thing McClellan wants to do? Why, organize the army into corps-level units. Hmmm, the received wisdom is that Lincoln wanted corps and McClellan resisted. What to make of this embarrassment of informational riches?
Here for your own amusement is a shadow of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 as it was presaged in a few stories and headlines of August and September, 1861.
"The most reliable information concerning the rebels is that they are slowly moving their forces to the line of the Potomac in prosecution of their programme to enter Maryland and encourage support of revolutionary traitors in that state, with ultimate designs on Washington." Boston Herald, 8/16/61
"75,000 Rebels Ready to Invade Maryland" Boston Herald, 8/31/61
"The Rebels estimate their forces before Washington at 125,000. They say an attack will be made this week…" Boston Herald, 9/7/61
"There is little doubt” that General Johnston is moving his army to the upper Potomac to invade Maryland in hopes that state will 'raise the rebellion flag.' " Boston Herald, 9/19
"The New York Times Washington correspondent says, 'Positive information from England proves beyond a doubt that if our army on the Potomac should experience a reverse, the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by the British Minister would be a speedy fact.'" Boston Herald, 9/21/61
In the midst of this excitement, on September 14, the paper notes with relief, “All quiet on the Potomac.” Where have we seen that before? And in what a scornful context!
This is the kind of fun that can be mined from the richness of our newspaper archives. Try it.