Academic journal article Military Review

FANATICS & FIRE-EATERS: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

FANATICS & FIRE-EATERS: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War

Article excerpt

FANATICS & FIRE-EATERS: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War, Lorman A. Ratner and Dwight L. Teeter, University of Illinois Press, Champaign, 2003,232 pages, $34.95.

Lorman A. Ratner and Dwight L. Teeter's book, Fanatics & Fire-Eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War, is an interesting history of the press just before the Civil War began. The topic is interesting and timely, given recent interest in the objectivity of news media. The authors cite a broad range of newspapers, geographically and politically, from the radical fire-eating Charleston Mercury to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, and others that were geographically and politically between these extremes. The authors also give an excellent detailed discussion of what they call the "democratic press" and the associated development of the telegraph service.

Ratner and Teeter's case studies are excellent examples of mid-19th-century media coverage: the caning of Senator Charles Sumner, the Dred Scott case, Bleeding Kansas, the attempted insurrection at Harper's Ferry, and Abraham Lincoln's election and the firing on Fort Sumter.

Unfortunately, the text contains many factual errors, ranging from the sloppy to the egregious. For example, the authors incorrectly state that John Brown was incarcerated in Richmond, misdate Confederate President Jefferson Davis's inauguration, and even get President George Washington's birthday wrong. …

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