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.

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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.


Would You Go to War for $1000?

It’s interesting to see the old recruitment posters for the American Civil War. I’ve seen them in museums at Gettysburg and Richmond.

$1000 bounty civil war recruitment

Photo of a Civil War recruitment poster (taken at a museum).

Usually, the amount of the bounty (bonus) in the 1860s is a few hundred dollars. Sometimes there are multiple bounties to entice recruits. In some cases, the money was paid up front or some held back to be paid at the end of the enlistment.

Having the money at the sign-up time would be good. Then you could leave some for the wife and children to live on while you are away fighting in battles.

recruitment posters

Photo of a Civil War recruitment poster (taken at a museum).

With the monthly pay for a soldier being just $16, you get an idea of the value of money at that time. $1000 is a considerable sum.

I met one genealogist who found that his ancestor changed his name and fought in a different regiment. It made me wonder if he did that to collect more than one bounty. That would certainly complicate your search for that ancestor.

Would $1000 convince you to join the army and march away to war? Search online for recruitment posters for the state and county where your ancestor lived.

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.

Accessing Subscription Genealogy Sites for Free

Genealogy can be an expensive hobby or passion. alone can be over $150 for a year’s subscription.

Fortunately, it gives you a free two-week trial which has some added benefits down the road. If you sign up for the trial membership, then you get email notices from the site pretty regularly.

Every so often, usually around holiday weekends, it has an open search. If you don’t want to pay for the year’s membership, you’ll want to take advantage of the open access times offered.

At special times during the year, this military records site offers free weekend access to certain records. Sign up for their emails at the site to be notified of these.

At special times during the year, this military records site offers free weekend access to certain records. Sign up for their emails at the site to be notified of these.

The example shown in the graphic above is my email from the Fold3 site which is another genealogy subscription site. It specializes in military records. As you can see, it offers the free access every now and then as well.

Best of luck on hunting down your ancestors!

ONE WARNING: Be sure to cancel at the end of the trial period. Some sites automatically roll into the full membership and charge your credit card.

(graphic created by me using Awesome Screenshots)

Tracking Down Your Ancestor in the Census

Don’t give up if at first you aren’t finding your Civil War ancestor in the census for the years or locations you expect. Here is one roadblock you may encounter:

He may have moved. My great-great grandfather lived in Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and was back and forth in those states over the years.

When I finally found him in the 1910 census, he was in the household of his daughter. She was widowed with 5 children, married again, then widowed again.  It wasn’t that easy to find her, but when I did, BINGO.

Here Abraham Tower returned to Indiana and is in the household of his daughter when the census taker comes around.

Here Abraham Tower returned to Indiana and is in the household of his daughter when the census taker comes around.

TIP: Track down their children or their siblings for the missing census year. Sometimes they are living with them.

Look for Land Records on Your Civil War Ancestor

I’d seen a reference to my ancestor and the word “patent.” Had he invented something? No. It turned out to be a land patent.

The place to search for these is the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Bureau of Land Management’s records. It lets you search online for transfer of land titles from the Federal government to individuals. The place to search is the General Land Office Records (called GLORecords).

The records include Cash Entry, Homestead and Military Warrant patents. This helps you locate a place and time where your ancestor was based on a land transaction with the federal government.

Here's the search form for the land records.

Here’s the search form for the land records.

Just click on the examples here to see them larger.

My great-great grandfather's listing.

My great-great grandfather’s listing.

You can view the actual land patent.

You can view the actual land patent.




Put the Power of Facebook to Work for You

There’s an amazing range of interest groups on Facebook. Some have thousands of members. I’ve found ones that specialize in the Civil War and these groups put you in daily contact with some very knowledgeable history buffs, authors, re-enactors and genealogists.

To find these groups, search on Facebook by keywords. The ones I’ve found helpful are:

  • Civil War
  • The American Civil War
  • Civil War Faces
  • The Civil War Buff
  • Descendants of Andersonville Prisoners

There are groups for certain regions, certain battles, for Civil War recipes and many more topics. For groups listed as “closed,” you have to get an invitation from someone in the group to join.

You can join a group and then search the back postings using the little magnifying glass. Search by the last name of your ancestor or a battle or a regiment. At first, I like to get acclimated in a group by liking and commenting on a few interesting things. Then you can put a question or share some information you have once they are used to seeing your face on the site.

Be polite and show appreciation when others help you.

Here's an example of a Civil War interest group on Facebook.

Here’s an example of a Civil War interest group on Facebook.