The nation's urban residents learned of Shiloh and what they knew about the war from the nation's newspapers. As the mass media of the day,
Murat Halstead (1829-1908)
Murat Halstead, editor of the Cincinnati Daily Commercial, along with other editors introduced urban Americans to the Civil War. Newspapers represented the nation's window to the world in the 19th century. Their editors wielded tremendous power and considerable political influence as they interpreted the narrative of daily events. In addition, newspapers were everywhere. At any given moment, a city the size of Cincinnati could have as many as 10 daily as well as up to two dozen weekly papers in English and, in the case of Cincinnati, German. Reading a local paper aloud in a tavern was often a daily ritual. Editors were unabashedly partisan, reporting the news from their own ideological perspective and that of their political party. Halstead earned the respect of his readers and his contemporaries for his aggressive reporting and biting commentary.
By the onset of the Civil War, Halstead had already become a fixture in the
newspapers brought a daily stream of news from the front via telegraph, filtered through the lens of the local editor who served his loyal constituents. During the Civil War, editors published approximately 2,000 newspapers each week in the United States, almost 400 of them daily. New York had as many as 17 daily newspapers during the war. Richmond, Virginia, had four. Cincinnati had no fewer than six, two published in German, one Republican, and the other Democrat. Generally four pages of copy and advertisements, each newspaper reflected the political voice of the Republican or Democratic parties or the editorial voice of the publisher. Anxious to sell copies, editors sought to one-up each other in a competitive environment. Accuracy often gave way to an approaching press deadline and a good story, but by reading the newspaper, and listening to the newspaper being read in the neighborhood taverns, Americans kept up with the progress of the war on the battlefield and the political situations in the nation's capital. With rare exceptions, opposition newspapers such as the New York World and the Cincinnati Enquirer continued to publish throughout the war. As long as Democratic editors took a pro-Union stance, they were generally free to criticize the administration, almost at will.
Reporting on the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 brought the horrors of war to the home front, particularly for Western cities. In the bloodiest
Cincinnati publishing community. Born to a farm family in rural Butler County, Ohio, some 20 miles north of Cincinnati, Halstead contributed to several newspapers while a student at Farmers' College. The Cincinnati Daily Commercial hired Halstead as a reporter in 1853 and his hard work quickly earned him a partnership.
Halstead paid close attention to national politics, earning national recognition for his reports. He attended the execution of John Brown and reported from seven of the eight political conventions that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. As the secession crisis deepened, Halstead proposed that a national convention be appointed to reach an appropriate compromise. Like many other Northerners, including the president, Hal-stead only became an abolitionist as the war progressed.
Although Halstead represented a nominally Republican paper, he took Republicans to task as well as Democrats. He waged editorial war with the local Democratic mouthpiece, the Daily Enquirer, but no individual was safe from his scathing attacks. He asserted that Abraham Lincoln ''could not be a more inefficient man,'' and that Secretary of War Simon Cameron ''attends to the stealing department." Halstead helped spread the rumor that General William T. Sherman was ''insane'' and that General Ulysses S. Grant had a serious drinking problem. He witnessed the Battle of Fredericksburg, which left him profoundly disgusted with the federal war effort.
Over time, Halstead became a much stronger supporter of Lincoln and the war effort, rejoicing in the victory and mourning the loss of the president. But for the duration, he remained a strong voice that constantly reminded Cincinnati and the nation of the dire consequences of waging civil war.
battle on record in the Western Hemisphere to that date, more than 3,400 soldiers died on the field and another 2,000 succumbed to their wounds. Correspondents reported the carnage. Many families experienced the pain of losing a loved one for the first time as the three-year regiments recruited in 1861 fought their first major battle. Because many of these regiments had been formed from young volunteers from the same locale, reports of multiple casualties from the same regiment devastated many small towns and urban neighborhoods.
Battle on this scale demonstrated just how unprepared the nation was to care for wounded and disabled soldiers. The cities of the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys responded in the fashion of the 19th century, through the voluntary association, to treat the wounds of those injured at Shiloh. The citizens of Cincinnati quickly outfitted a hospital ship, sending it down the Ohio to the Tennessee to aid the shelter tent hospital hastily set up to tend to the wounded. The most severely wounded had died before significant help arrived, but voluntary service became a way of life for the nation's urban residents.
In American cities of this time, the voluntary association was the most important agent of social action. Citizens bound themselves together to
George Templeton Strong (1820-1875)
The diary of George Templeton Strong, a 40-year literary exercise by a prominent New York lawyer, offers readers a view into the mind and soul of the New York elite and the way they experienced the Civil War. A lifelong New Yorker who was educated at Columbia College and later a trustee, Strong was also a member of the Episcopal Trinity Church Wall Street, a cofounder of the Union League Club of New York, and during the Civil War, the Treasurer of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. In his endeavors, Strong represented the engaged, public-minded citizen of the era. Strong's sense of vol-unteerism reflected the contemporary view that citizens improved their society through voluntary association, which proved essential to the Union war effort.
The Sanitary Commission, a semi-official agency that was staffed by women but led by men, became Strong's all-consuming, unpaid vocation during the war. Reacting to women's relief efforts at the beginning of the war, the federal government established the commission in July 1861 to coordinate relief efforts around the nation. It helped soldiers in need, trained and provided nurses to military hospitals, and cared for wounded and disabled soldiers. The Commission served a public purpose with private funds. Early on, his work on the Commission often left Strong form schools, literary societies, fire companies, orphanages, chambers of commerce, and the like to improve their respective cities. From this spirit of volunteerism among women arose the U.S. Sanitary Commission and a number of affiliated organizations. Although men held the positions of authority, the impetus for the Sanitary Commission was women's response to war. Abhorring the violence, death, and injury of battle, but equally the disease, sin, and iniquity that accompanied life in a mobile city, women reformers, many of whom had been active in the various reform movements of urban America before the war, used the Sanitary Commission to establish a formal connection between the military and the home front and to effectively distribute supplies to the armies. It is from this voluntary service that the civilian nurses such as Dorothea Dix and Katherine Wormeley earned their reputation as the saviors of the wounded soldier. These women offered their most dramatic service at the front in the immediate aftermath of a battle, but their work in the hospitals established in the nation's cities far from the front proved equally important to the recovery of severely wounded and ill soldiers. Local branches of the Sanitary Commission engaged in a variety of fund-raising activities, the most successful of which was the sanitary fair. A combination of circus, exhibition, and auction roughly based on the Great Exhibition in London of 1851, these Sanitary Fairs quickly became the preferred method of fund-raising in American urban areas. In all, Northern cities organized more than 30 fairs and raised more than $4 million in the process, although New York's Metropolitan Fair and Philadelphia's Central Fair contributed more than 75 percent of the total. In addition, the work of the U.S. Christian Commission supplemented the work of the Sanitary Commission. Together they contributed more than $12 million of relief aid.
and his fellow trustees with a deep sense of frustration. It was often difficult and sometimes nearly impossible to get the government to cooperate with the commission's work, to the point that Strong and the other commissioners nearly disbanded the organization in early 1862. After that crisis and with the support of Secretary of War Edwin Stan-ton, the Sanitary Commission went on to raise more than $20 million worth of cash and supplies through Sanitary Fairs across the Union. The New York Fair of 1864 raised more than $1 million in cash.
Strong's diary and his work for the Sanitary Commission revealed a deep-seated, internal conflict over the nature of the war that existed in many Americans. A staunch Republican who put saving the Union above all else, Strong often wondered early in the war whether Lincoln could lead the nation to victory. During the tumultuous summer of 1863, which included the infamous Draft Riots, Strong had no sympathy for Irish strikers who sought increased wages in response to wartime inflation. Only late in the war was he convinced that Lincoln had taken the correct path. Despite his misgivings, Strong, and other citizens like him, helped preserve the Union through their voluntary contribution of time and money to the cause.
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