The Civil War Essay - Critical Essays

The Civil War

This interesting volume collects news reports and editorial comment from four Civil War newspapers, the Richmond Daily Dispatch, the Charleston Daily Courier, the New York Tribune, and the Boston Evening Transcript from 1861 to 1865 to provide a journalistic overview of the sectional conflict. Taken from the issue of each newspaper that appeared on the third Saturday of the month, the items reflect both the changing fortunes on the battlefield as well as the ideological divisions that brought on the war itself.

Editor Brayton Harris provides timelines and editorial notes to orient the reader to the flow of events and the personalities on both sides whose names appear in the various stories. The result is a series of sectional vignettes that reveal how the war developed from the perspective of the sectional rivals. A particular value of this method is to disclose the central role that slavery played in the war itself. Few readers will doubt, after experiencing these pages, that human bondage was at the core of the war and the dispute about the nature of the American experiment.

The volume may have most appeal to the ever-growing number of Civil War devotees who will respond to having source material presented in an accessible and readable manner. Non-specialists in the field could perhaps have gained from somewhat more explanation of the historical context of these first rough drafts of Civil War history. The immediacy of the story will capture most readers and return them to a time when the destiny of the nation hung in the balance and Americans, North and South, defended their beliefs with what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”