Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 2. Progress During the Civil War

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XX. Newspapers Since 1860

§ 2. Progress During the Civil War

Never before was a war so well reported as was the American Civil War—so fully, promptly, and accurately. Although it is generally believed that Englishmen in the Crimea virtually created modern war correspondence, its real beginnings had been made years before by American reporters in the war with Mexico, and the whole system of reporting the progress of war and presenting it fully and promptly to the public was developed very nearly to perfection by American journalistic enterprise in the Civil War. The problems confronting the newspapers when the war began were the greatest ever faced by journalists. The size of country to be covered, the number of armies and of widely separated actions, and the still primitive means of communication tested the valour and ingenuity that sought to overcome them. When the first gun was fired no paper had a system for reporting from the front, though in the weeks before that event several of them had begun to send men to important places by way of precaution. Before Sumter fell, the New York Herald had received enough papers from its correspondents to furnish a roster of the Southern army which convinced the leaders that there was a spy in the Confederate war office, and in a short time after Sumter a net of reporters was spread all over the South, placed at every important point, and sent with every army. The Herald quickly built a great news-gathering organization, with the Tribune and the Times following as close competitors, while every important paper in the country sent at least one correspondent to Washington or to the front. These men, nearly all inexperienced in their special duties, but called upon to report a more rapid and long-continued series of military movements than had ever before been recorded, not only accomplished a remarkable series of individual achievements but set a new standard in that type of journalism.