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Civil War Newspaper Analysis

The Civil War has been a defining moment in American history, impacting the nation and its people. In order to better understand the historical context of the American Civil War, this study analyzes articles published during that period. There have been many historians’ studies of the Civil War, but this one will focus exclusively on newspapers to see what they reveal about the war. There is a long tradition of newspaper coverage of historical events in the United States, and they are a great resource for learning about local life and culture. Newspaper stories from the nation, including some from the South and some from the North, serve as primary sources in this analysis. Examining these publications can shed light on the time’s political, social, and economic issues, which may help explain the emergence of regional schisms.

South Carolina, the first State to secede from the United States, did so on December 20, 1860. The act of secession was officially declared in the Charleston Mercury newspaper (Para 1). The declaration was made in response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. Six other states followed South Carolina’s secession. The New York Times, on March 11, 1861, reported on the signing of the Confederate Constitution in Montgomery (Para 1). The article noted that the Confederate Constitution was largely based on the United States Constitution, with some changes to the wording to reflect the newly-formed Confederate States of America. According to the article, the Constitution had been unanimously passed by the provisional government and was signed by the members of the Confederate Congress (New York Times, para.1). It noted that the members of the Confederacy were hopeful the remaining slave states would follow suit and join the new nation.

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. In response, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to join the Union Army. This news was reported in the April 15 edition of the National New York Tribune, which featured an extensive analysis of the situation, including the reasons for the attack and the implications for the future (New York Tribune Para 1-9). The Tribune also provided a detailed account of the fort’s defense and the efforts of Major Robert Anderson, the Union commander, to hold off the Confederate forces (Para 4). The article concluded with an assessment of the potential consequences of the event, noting that the Civil War had taken on a “national character,” with the North and South now pitted against each other. It further declared that compromise could not resolve the conflict and that the only solution was a “triumph of one side or the other” (Para 9).

The New York Times reported on the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, describing it as a sweeping, comprehensive, and decisive document establishing the freedom of all enslaved people within the United States (Para 1-2). The article explained that the Proclamation would free the enslaved people in Confederate-controlled territory and those in Border States such as Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky. It would abolish slavery throughout the entire American republic (Para 2). In addition, according to the article, the Proclamation would “provide a means of enforcing the acts of emancipation,” and the President would appoint officers to superintend the execution of the order in each State (para 2). The article concluded by expressing the hope that the Proclamation would prove the beginning of the most glorious era in the history of humankind.

On July 1, 1863, the Gettysburg Compiler reported on the Battle of Gettysburg, which had occurred just days before. The Gettysburg Compiler reported that Confederate forces had attacked the Union troops at Gettysburg on July 1 and were initially successful, pushing the Union forces back (Para 1). However, the Union troops rallied and eventually pushed the Confederate forces back. The newspaper reported many casualties on both sides, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 (Gettysburg Compiler para 3). It also reported that the Union had taken several prisoners and captured several Confederate flags. The newspaper concluded its report by noting that the Union forces had held their position and were now preparing for a renewed Confederate attack.

The Battle of Vicksburg, one of the most significant engagements of the American Civil War, concluded on July 4, 1863. As Confederate forces under General John Pemberton surrendered to Union forces under General Grant, the Siege of Vicksburg ended in a decisive Union victory. The news of the surrender of Vicksburg was received with the wildest manifestations of delight in the North (New York Times para 4). The victory was hailed as one of the most brilliant of the war, and the news was received with unbounded enthusiasm.

On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. The speech was widely reported in newspapers across the United States. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the silence that followed the delivery of the address was awful ((para 1). It was a silence of deep feeling, and it showed how the address had moved the vast sea of human faces before him. Lincoln delivered a speech that day that was only 273 words long, yet it would go down in history as one of the most significant (Philadelphia Inquirer para1).

On March 19, 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant was appointed Lieutenant General of the Army and given command of all Union forces. President Abraham Lincoln declared in the General Orders No. 58 of the War Department. The news of Grant’s appointment was widely reported in the national newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune. On March 23, 1864, the Chicago Tribune described Grant’s appointment as “the highest military honor” that can be conferred upon an American soldier. It noted that the nation is to be congratulated on receiving the services of so able and successful a general (para 1).

On January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted, officially ending slavery throughout the country. The Amendment was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states and published in the National Intelligencer newspaper on December 18, 1865. The National Intelligencer reported on the ratification noting that it had been adopted by 28 of the then-36 states in the Union (para 2). The newspaper noted in the first paragraph that the Amendment was a great and good work, which will be gratefully appreciated by the millions of citizens whose rights it secures and whose wrongs it redresses. The Thirteenth Amendment was a historic moment for the US and the millions of African Americans enslaved for centuries (National Intelligencer para 2). It marked the official end of slavery, a landmark achievement in the country’s long struggle for justice and equality.

On April 7, 1865, Confederate General Lee surrendered, ending the Civil War. The news of the surrender spread quickly throughout the nation, with newspapers reporting on the historic event. The New York Times ran a headline on the surrender and concluded with a hopeful call for unity (para 1). On the fateful evening of April 15, 1865, President Lincoln was shot and fatally wounded by John Booth. The President was immediately taken across the street to a boarding house, where he died the next morning. The shocking news of the assassination spread quickly throughout the country. The New York Times reported about the President’s assassination on April 16, 1865. The paper also included a proclamation from Vice President Andrew Johnson calling for a day of national mourning (para 1).

On April 26, 1865, the New York Times reported that Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had signed a surrender agreement with Union General William T. Sherman in North Carolina (para 1). The newspaper said that Johnston had surrendered all the forces under his command. The terms of the surrender, which had been agreed upon the day prior, included “an immediate suspension of hostilities and the disbandment of the Confederate troops, who were to retain their arms and private property and to be allowed to return to their homes” (New York Times para 1). The newspaper also stated that this agreement had effectively ended the Civil War. The report noted that the Confederate government had been dissolved, and President Jefferson Davis had fled the capital of Richmond, Virginia. It also included a statement from President Abraham Lincoln, expressing his hope that the war, which had caused so much bloodshed and ruin, had reached its end. The article concluded with a call for peace and unity.
On December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was officially ratified, formally ending slavery. The New York Times reported on the historic moment with a celebratory headline (para 1). The article reported on the process of ratification and the impact it would have on the nation. It also mentioned the joyous celebration of African-Americans in the city. The Times’ report explained the implications of the Amendment and President Abraham Lincoln’s role in the long struggle to abolish slavery (New York Times para 2). It also noted that the Amendment had the full support of the Republican Party and was the most important accomplishment of the Civil War. The article concluded with a hopeful prediction that the Amendment would lead to a new racial harmony and progress era.

In conclusion, newspapers in the United States have covered the rising racial and class divide for years. However, newspaper accounts from that period demonstrate that political arguments about economic interests, political authority, territorial expansion, and slavery ultimately failed to prevent the country’s division. Newspapers published during the Civil War era reveal the physical disintegration of the Union. This analysis of the Civil War, as depicted in newspapers, paints a picture of the conditions that eventually led to the end of slavery in the US.

Works Cited

Charleston Mercury. “Union Is Dissolved!” Charleston Mercury, December 20, 1860.
Chicago Tribune. “Major General Grant Appointed Lieutenant General and Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States.” March 18. 1864.
Gettysburg Compiler. “Battle of Gettysburg,” July 1, 1863.
National Intelligencer. “The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” January 31, 1865.
Philadelphia Inquirer. “The Gettysburg Address.” November 19, 1863.
The New York Times. “Confederate Constitution Signed at Montgomery.” March 11. 1861.
The New York Times. “Emancipation Proclamation.” New York Times, January 1, 1863,
The New York Times. “Johnston Surrenders and the War Comes to an End.” The New York Times, April 26, 1865.
The New York Times. “Lee Surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia.” April 7. 1865.
The New York Times. “The Amendment Abolishing Slavery Is Ratified.” December 6, 1865.
The New York Times. “The Battle of Vicksburg: A Desperate Struggle” July 4, 1863.
The New York Times. “The President Assassinated.” April 16, 1865.
The New York Tribune. “Civil War Begins,” April 12, 1861.


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