It has been over fifteen years since the first edition of this book appeared. At that time, in 1981, the nation was still grappling with the immediate implications of the Vietnam War and the trauma of the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Print and television media had played an important role in both cataclysmic events; a significant number of Americans blamed or credited correspondents with getting the nation out of the Asian War or losing it, unfairly bringing down a president or ridding the nation of a menace to the constitution.
A book detailing the anti-press activities of a major American military leader in the nineteenth century, therefore, seemed timely in those turbulent days. William T. Sherman's battle with Civil War reporters resonated at a time when Richard Nixon and his vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, railed against the media, and military figures, both famous and in the trenches, blamed the press for the loss in Vietnam.
As was the case in the 1970s, the political-military- media battle during the Civil War seemed to focus on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. What did the Founding Fathers mean when they guaranteed freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights? Were press rights the same in wartime as they were in peace? How far could leading politicians and military leaders go in defending their positions on the issue? Where did defense of the constitution or of national security begin and end?