Ranks and Columns: Armed Forces Newspapers in American Wars

By Alfred Emile Cornebise | Go to book overview

Preface

The British author George Orwell had an abiding interest in old magazines, asserting that their fascination lay in "the completeness with which they 'date.' Absorbed in the affairs of the moment, they tell one about political fashions and tendencies which are hardly mentioned in the more general history books."1 He might well have included old newspapers in his comment, because they possess the same attributes, and as with the magazines, are concerned with much more than merely political matters. Troop newspapers, naturally, are numbered among them, and to these, produced by and for American troops since the early days of the Republic to the present, this study turns. Little has been done heretofore on the subject of the American soldier press, which contains much of interest to the historian. Recent books on the American Civil War, for example, largely neglect these sources. Although there are numerous memoirs and collections of letters and diaries of participants and observers of that great conflict, creating a sense of immediacy, the soldier press can further assist the historian in rounding out the picture of that struggle and evoking its ambience. The same is true of the troop papers that appeared in the other wars that Americans have fought since the founding of their Republic. With only a few exceptions, almost no studies have been produced on the subject of the military press, not only in the United States, but elsewhere. A systematic inquiry into these neglected sources would yield much information about innumerable bygone conflicts, often in surprising ways.

While recounting the history of soldier papers in American wars, this book simultaneously delves into them sufficiently to reconstruct aspects of the daily lives and attitudes of the men who published and read them. In the process, much information that official documents do not reveal about the impact of war on the combatants can be gleaned. Intertwined with any history of the soldier

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