Writing in Richmond

In early 1861, relations between the North and South became so bad that a group of Southern states decided to secede (withdraw) from the United States and form a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. But Northern political leaders would not let the Southern states leave the Union without a fight. By April it was clear that the differences between the two regions were going to be settled through warfare.

As the two sides prepared for war, Pollard established himself as one of the Confederacy's most vocal defenders. In addition to helping his brother Henry Rives Pollard edit a strongly pro-Southern newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, he completed a book called Letters of a Southern Spy. This collection of essays, published in the spring of 1861, viciously attacked President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865; see entry) and all Northerners as cowardly and dishonest people who wanted to stir up a race war in the South.

Letters of a Southern Spy angered many people who lived in and around Baltimore. After all, the city, which was located only thirty miles from the Federal capital of Washington, D.C., was home to many people who opposed slavery and remained loyal to the Union. As threats against Pollard poured in, he hurriedly left town and relocated to the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Once Pollard arrived in Richmond, he joined the staff of John M. Daniel's Richmond Examiner as the editor of its editorial page. During his first weeks in Richmond, Pollard wrote many editorials praising the Confederate people and their civilian leaders, such as President Jefferson Davis. He also expressed great confidence in the South's military leaders. As time passed, however, Pollard grew more critical of Davis and other civilian authorities. Statements of hopefulness about the Confederacy gradually gave way to nasty, gossipy attacks on Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens (1812-1883; see entry), and many other rebel (Confederate) leaders. The only group of Confederate leaders toward which Pollard remained friendly was the military command. Eventually, however, even some military leaders felt the sting of Pollard's critical editorials. Today, many historians point to Pollard's harsh words as prime examples of the sort of attacks that Davis was forced to endure throughout the course of the war. These attacks, they agree, hindered Davis's ability to lead and unify the Confederacy.

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