Civil War Newspapers

Newspapers in the Civil War Era

Newspapers provided vital news to troops about what actually was happening in the Civil War. There were plenty of rumors picked up from other soldiers, but it was good to get solid information.

 

civil war newspaper

1863 newspaper (photo by Virginia Allain)

For the wives and parents back home, the newspaper was eagerly read searching for news about war activities that affected their loved one in the service.

I’ve provided links to Civil War newspapers online, articles about journalists and publishing and included fascinating images from the Civil War era.

Selling Newspapers to the Troops in the Civil War

Remember that at this time in American history, there were no phones, no radios, no television, no Internet, so news traveled by word-of-mouth or by the printed page (the newspaper).

1863 newspaper vendor at Virginia camp.

Civil War Newspapers Online – for your reading and research

If you’re researching the Civil War, you’ll love this indexed newspaper files. You can enlarge them to read online.

Books That Reprint Civil War Newspapers – or tell the stories behind collecting the news during the war

 

 Fighting Words: An Illustrated History Of Newspaper Accounts Of The Civil War WAR NEWS: Blue & Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War Civil War Newspaper Maps: A Historical Atlas Fanatics and Fire-eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War (The History of Communication) The Moving Appeal: Mr. McClanahan, Mrs. Dill, and the Civil War’s Great Newspaper Run Witness to the Civil War: First-Hand Accounts from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper The New York Times: Complete Civil War, 1861-1865 (Book & CD)

&

 

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Civil War newspaper greatly enlarged for an exhibit at Gettysburg. Further down the page, you’ll see an original page of this same newspaper that we had framed for my father.

Read Civil War Newspapers Online

andersonville newspaper

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper with sketches of emaciated Andersonville prisoners.

What You Might Find in the Old Newspapers

I found a newspaper online from December 1864 that described the Andersonville prisoners being paroled and taken onto the steamer, New York, for transport to Maryland. This is the right time for my ancestor’s release from Andersonville, so I read the full-page article with him in mind.

There were heart-wrenching sketches with the story that showed the emaciated prisoners on the deck of the steamship. One of those could have been my great-great grandfather.

Christmas 1987_Clyde_2

Clyde Martin with his original, framed newspaper featuring Lincoln’s assassination.

My father was thrilled one Christmas to receive a framed newspaper about Lincoln’s death. He had long been a collector of books about Abraham Lincoln. It was an interest that dated back to his childhood when he read a biography that made a big impression on him.

The family went together to purchase the newspaper and get it framed so it could be viewed both front and back. He loved this addition to his Lincoln collection.

Although the issue shows its age of over 150 years, it is a treasure to be preserved.

Background Information on Newspapers, Journalism and Printing – during the Civil War

I found the description interesting of how a story was collected in the field, then sent by telegraph. Because the telegraph lines were frequently cut by opposing troops, it was quite difficult to get stories to the papers in a timely fashion.

Finding Your Ancestor Inside a Book

What are the chances that your Civil War ancestor might be mentioned in a book about the Civil War? Probably slim, unless he was a general or other high-ranking officer. It is always possible, since more primary source material like diaries and letters are getting published plus an abundance of new research. Your ancestor may turn up in print some day.

That’s why when I see a book on Amazon about the war or a history topic, I look for the names of my ancestors.  Not all books have the LOOK-INSIDE-THE-BOOK feature, but it only takes a minute to search when you find one that does have it.

The preview feature usually shows the table of contents and a few pages from the first chapter. See the screenshot below to see how the search function can turn up valuable information. In some cases, it shows the index. You’ll want to scan that for events and names that are important to you.

Put the Amazon Search Inside a Book to work for you.

Put the Amazon Search Inside a Book to work for you.

For this book, I put in the name Walsh and the search brought up 5 page links. By clicking on each link, you can see the whole page with that name highlighted on it.

It’s a little bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, since there are 284,298 books under the topic “Civil War.” More are being added all the time. I look for books relating to areas of the war where I know my ancestor might be (Andersonville, Vicksburg, Brice’s Crossroads). I also use this search for books on Indiana and Kansas history where I might find Abraham Tower before or after the war.

Did You Check the 1890 Veterans’ Schedules?

Although the 1890 census was almost totally destroyed, there was a Veteran’s Schedule done at the same time. It’s possible your Civil War ancestor will show up on this. It documented around 75,000 Civil War Union veterans or their widows.

According to the census office, this is the information collected, “name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service. It also included the post office address, any disability incurred in the service, and general remarks.” Some of the census takers ended up recording Confederate veterans and veterans of other wars. Read more about the Veterans Census on the National Archives site.

To get something looked up in this Veteran’s Schedule, there’s a special angel out there willing to search for free. Just one search request per person, per day. Allow a week for the look up. The site is called Ancestral Findings and here is the form to submit your request.

I’ve just submitted mine for Abraham Bates Tower. Can’t wait to see if anything turns up for the searcher. Wish me luck.

 

UPDATE March 6, 2015: Had a reply on my inquiry on the 1890 Veterans Schedule and no luck. Sigh.

Requesting Civil War Medical Cards from the National Archives

I just submitted my request for medical information about my ancestor. Although I don’t know if he was ever wounded, he most likely had medical treatment when he was released from Andersonville Prison. I’m really curious about any information that might be included with this.

Here’s the query I sent to the National Archives:

“I would like a copy of my ancestor’s Civil War Medical Cards.
His name was Abraham Bates Tower. He started as a private and later was a Corporal. He was in company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He was a prisoner of war at Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

I am working on a book about his life.

My mind is teeming with the possibilities that this might reveal. Do you know if your ancestor was wounded or had medical treatment during their service?

I found out about medical cards from a blog post on the Genealogy Circle. There are some intriguing posts there called Civil War Saturday, so I’ll be busy reading all of those. Here’s the one about the Medical Cards.

The blogger, Cindy Freed, also has a book that looks helpful. The title is Ancestors in a Nation Divided: An In-Depth Guide to Researching Your Civil War Ancestors and it is available in Kindle or paperback.

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UPDATE: I received an email from my inquiry.

“Dear Ms. Allain:

This is in response to your inquiry requesting to obtain a copy of the Civil War Carded Medical Cards pertaining to Private/Corporal Abraham Bates Tower, Company G, 93rd IN Infantry.
We searched Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Entry 534: Carded Medical Records, Volunteers, Mexican & Civil Wars (1846-65).
We were unable to identify any Carded Medical Records pertaining to Private/Corporal Abraham Bates Tower, Company G, 93rd IN Infantry.
Sincerely,
P. H.
Archives I Reference Section
Archival Operations-Washington, DC “

Find Potential Civil War Soldiers on Your Family Tree

If you don’t know the names of your Civil War ancestors, start by examining your family tree. Look for males with a year of birth between 1818-47. This would be the expected dates for those the right age to serve. Top officers with years of military experience were older than the average recruit. For example, Robert E. Lee born 1807.

Keep in mind that some youngsters may have enlisted while underage, perhaps attracted by the adventure of being a soldier. Likewise, someone over the maximum age of 45 could lie about their age to enlist. Apparently no one checked their age.

One sees very young boys serving as drummer boys with units or even as a powder monkey with the Federal Navy. Boys as young as 11, 12 and 13 are known to have served as drummer boys. These boys would have birth dates in the 1850s.

Powder Monkey by Gun 1864 Print
Powder Monkey by Gun 1864 Print by ClassicOldPhotos
This boy carried bags of gunpowder on the USS New Hampshire. Photo from 1864.

Search the names from your tree in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System maintained by the National Park Service. It helps to put in the name of the state where your ancestor lived in the early 1860s.

Lately there’s been research about women who disguised themselves as men to serve in the Civil War armies. I’ve seen an estimate of around 400 who chose this unusual way to serve their country or to remain with their spouse. Since this is a fairly small number and they usually assumed a masculine name, it will be quite difficult to track this. Here’s an article that names some of the better-known women who served as Civil War soldiers.

Tombstone Tuesday – Finding Your Ancestor’s Grave

I’ve mentioned before about using Find-a-Grave for tracking down your Civil War ancestor. You can read that post here. There are other sites, if you don’t have any luck with that source.

Try the Billion Graves site.  It functions quite a bit like Find-a-Grave with volunteers submitting photographs of the gravestones in the cemeteries across the U.S. and around the world. Put in your ancestor’s name and if you have it, the year for birth and death.

There’s an advanced search where you can narrow the search down by state and county. If you already have an idea of where the grave is, this works fine. If not, the site recommends not searching too specifically. The ancestor may surprise you by being buried some distance from where you expect them to be.

So Sad – The Photo Was Not My Ancestor

Yesterday, I wrote about a photo that a distant cousin thought was our Civil War ancestor. You can read about that here (Authenticating a Civil War Photo). I wanted to verify this, so did some searching.

It turns out that the soldier in the photo is from the same company as our ancestor and was in Andersonville Prison at the same time. I discovered this by running the photo through Tineye.

Results of the TinEye search on the photo.

Results of the TinEye search on the photo.

The link it provided didn’t work, so my next step was to run the link through The Wayback Machine. That’s a site that stores defunct web sites.

When I saw the results, a web site from 2008, I then googled the topic and found where the page currently resides. Here’s the story about the soldier that the photo actually shows. His name is Lambert Rogier.