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
§ 4. Censorship
Censorship in the North was unorganized, spasmodic, sometimes oppressive, and generally ineffectual. The Post Office Department then, as more recently, denied the privilege of the mails to papers adjudged to be treasonable, even to some which criticized the use of force against the seceding states. Correspondents were in some cases welcomed and trusted by the military authorities; in others they were excluded. Early in the war a censor was placed in the telegraph office at Washington; but official oversuppression finally brought about a reaction which led to a more liberal policy. The natural desire of the authorities to prevent the circulation of information that might be useful to the enemy, and the nervousness caused by the many Copperhead papers opposed to the war, friendly to the South, or unfriendly to the government, led to much official criticism of mere news enterprise and to acts of suppression by the authorities. For instance General McClellan requested the War Department to suppress the New York Times for printing a map of the works and a statement of forces beyond the Potomac, no part of which had, in fact, come from other than public sources. The New York World and Journal of Commerce were suspended for several days because they unsuspectingly published a bogus presidential proclamation. The Chicago Times, a leading Copperhead paper, was forced to suspend publication for a short time because of disloyal utterances. The strong feeling engendered by the conflict led to many acts of mob violence against newspapers, most of them in smaller towns, and in the aggregate, scores of them were as a result suspended or destroyed, though relatively fewer fatalities resulted than from the earlier acts of violence against the abolitionist press. The most important mob attack on a great city paper was directed against the New York Tribune during the draft riots on 13 July, 1863.