Bombastic Yet Insightful: Georgia's Civil War Soldier Correspondents

By Risley, Ford | Journalism History, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

Bombastic Yet Insightful: Georgia's Civil War Soldier Correspondents


Risley, Ford, Journalism History


Writing from Vicksburg, Mississippi, in early 1863, "Amnon," a correspondent with the Augusta Chronicle & Sentinel, declared that the North's siege of the city was doomed to fail. The Union Army was being "decimated" by death and desertions, he boasted, and if troops tried to attack the Confederate stronghold, it would become a "slaughter pen" filled with Yankee dead.' Two months later, however, a more subdued and chastened correspondent gave his readers back home in Georgia a vivid picture of the toll Federal bombing had taken on the strategically important city. The shelling had become so constant that residents of Vicksburg were indifferent to the constant attacks. "Amnon" described one elderly man who calmly sat on the front porch every day while Union shells flew over head. Despite the threat to his safety, the man never moved.2

The reporting of "Amnon" during the siege of Vicksburg was characteristic of the letters Georgia's soldier correspondents supplied to their hometown newspapers during the American Civil War.3 Written in the bombastic, inflated style of the era, many of the letters not surprisingly were little more than boastful propaganda proclaiming the superiority of the Southern cause and the bravery of Confederate troops. Yet other letters had a real human interest quality, contained excellent descriptive features, and provided valuable insight into the war.

Historians have virtually ignored the reporting done by the South's soldier correspondents, even though it constituted the majority of original news printed by many Confederate newspapers during the Civil War.4 Struggling financially, few Southern editors could afford to hire paid, full-time correspondents to cover a war of the vast scale that the Civil War presented. Instead, many editors made arrangements with hometown soldiers to send back letters describing their wartime experiences.

This study examines the soldiers' correspondence that appeared in the newspapers of one state, Georgia.5 More than forty soldiers corresponded with the state's newspapers at various times during the war. Some of the men, going by such names as "Private," "Bayonet," "Ready," and "Ogelthorpe," sent back only a handful of letters and were never heard from again. But other soldiers, such as "J. T. G." of the Columbus Enquirer, "Tivoli" of the Atlanta Southern Confederacy, and "Toutle-Monde" of the Savannah Republican, sent back regular correspondence for years.

Soldier correspondents were important because they provided much of the original reporting found in Georgia's wartime press. In relating the stories of hometown men fighting in faraway places, these volunteer correspondents provided readers with their own brand of "local" news, the sort of news that had not been emphasized by the state's newspapers before the war, yet had taken on added importance as newspaper reading increasingly became a part of daily life.6 While soldier correspondents had no formal training, they regularly used such reporting techniques as interviewing and firsthand observation. And the vivid, descriptive style of their letters was in line with the increasing realism found in writing during the nineteenth century. In these ways, soldier correspondents unknowingly, but significantly, were helping to influence the future direction of news coverage and reporting by Georgia's newspapers.7

The practice of American newspapers using letters from individuals as news goes back to the earliest days of the country's press. Reporting had yet to evolve as a profession, and enterprising editors looked everywhere they could for copy. Private letters from informed individuals to other private citizens occasionally were made available to editors who were glad for any bit of news. The writers of these letters frequently were referred to in print as "our correspondent,' even though they were not paid for their writing.8 Likewise, soldiers had been used by American newspapers to provide copy in all of the nation's wars prior to the Civil War.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bombastic Yet Insightful: Georgia's Civil War Soldier Correspondents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.