Item description for Words of War: The Civil War Battle Reportage of the New York Times and the Charleston Mercury and What the Historians Say Actually Happened by Donagh Bracken...
As the divided nation threw its sons into civil war, the home front demanded to know what was happening. Newspapers, North and South, responded by sending special war correspondents into the battlefront with the armies and navies of the Union and Confederacy. They reported what they saw and, in many instances, what they wanted to see. Thus was born American journalism as we know it today. In the North, The New York Times' correspondents accompanied the armies of Grant, Sherman, McClellan and other general officers and admirals in the Eastern and Western Theaters. The writings of Time's correspondents Franc Wilkie, L.L.Crounse and many others set the structural standard for American war correspondence as we know it today. In the South, newspapers wrote with greater passion. Chief among the passion providers was the Charleston Mercury, the spark plug for Southern secession and the arch opposite of The New York Times. The writings of Robert Barnwell Rhett. Sr. and Jr. and George William Bagby writing as Hermes, brought a blood rush to their readers as they bore their witness to the Civil War. Placed in juxtaposition, the two newspapers capture not only the flavor of the time but also the fever of war. The modern reader can see, as each paper reports the same battle, how political belief alters the view of reality.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 6.25" Height: 9" Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2007
Publisher History Publishing Company
ISBN 1933909323 ISBN13 9781933909325
Availability 0 units.
More About Donagh Bracken
Donagh Bracken edited and arranged for publication the American Civil War Historycope Series, a visualization of the 384 major battles of the Civil War as determined by the Civil War Sites Preservation Committee authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1993. The Series was designed for advanced classroom study. He is a writer of long standing, having written for major newspapers and trade magazines on subjects such as history, economics and government. He is a graduate of Manhattan College.
Reviews - What do customers think about Words of War: The Civil War Battle Reportage of the New York Times and the Charleston Mercury and What the Historians Say Actually Happened?
Wise Words May 10, 2008
This is a fascinating book, not just for Civil War buffs or journalism junkies - but for any of us who get a daily news fix from the newspapers, TV or the Web. It reminds us that we should always bear in mind who's delivering the information. In his book, The Words of War, Mr. Bracken takes a very novel approach to a discussion of the Civil War, contrasting the coverage of several wartime events by two newspapers from two disparate regions, The Charleston Mercury of South Carolina and the northeast's New York Times. The differences in the reporting are striking, with the tenor and the details differing greatly. How interesting it is to read news reports from over a century ago against current events. The politics, the war, the economy and the specific issues might vary; now it's not the North and the South, as much as it is the red states and the blue states. This book serves as a terrific reminder that we must continue to question the objectivity and validity of the information we get. I highly recommend it.
Will appeal to many Aug 20, 2007
The old axiom, "History is written by the winners," is essentially rejected in Donagh Bracken's new book, The Words of War. Bracken compares the Civil War battle reportage of the New York Times and the Charleston Mercury, juxtaposing the articles back to back. The result is a clear demonstration that history, at least during the many battles of the Civil War, is simply written by those who happened to be there.
In his introduction to the book, Bracken writes, "When the Civil War started, American journalism was put to the test. It was the start of the modern age of journalism, and it was a rough start indeed." The formative years of American journalism saw newspapers operated almost exclusively as propaganda organs, owned by some political person or party and used primarily to persuade the public for one cause or another. But when the Civil War came along, the very purpose of newspapers changed.
The public wanted information that was current, demanding up-to-date reportage of events that took place hundreds and thousands of miles away. Newspaper editors switched the focus of their papers' content from propaganda to covering the facts of battle, the "who-what-when and where" of it all. While the papers in the North and South always had different takes as to the "why" element of battle reportage, they still had to meet the chief demand of their reading public: that they get the facts, preferably as soon as possible. The new telegraph technology allowed for current reportage, and for the first time in the history of warfare, correspondents provided stories in a timely fashion.
New York was the newspaper capital of the country when war broke out, boasting 17 dailies. Many were pro-South and only five of them supported President Abraham Lincoln. Bracken focuses on one of those five, the New York Times, and its considerably talented editor Henry J. Raymond. Long interested in politics and journalism, Raymond was a principal founder of the New York Times in 1851 and also helped create the Republican Party after he left the Whigs in 1856.
In contrast, Bracken presents the firebrand editor of the Charleston Mercury, Robert Barnwell Rhett. Under the wonderful pseudonym "Hermes," Rhett penned the editorials that would lead South Carolina to be the first state to secede on Dec. 20, 1860. "He was quick of mind, brash and self-confident," writes Bracken, "and of the latter, annoyingly so to some." Rhett had considerable editorial influence over the Charleston Mercury, which was owned by Rhett's family.
Bracken is described on the book jacket as "...a writer of long standing having written extensively for newspapers and magazines for thirty years on subjects ranging from world history to economics." His familiarity with the Civil War subject matter is obvious in The Words of War and his approach to writing the book is organized and efficient.
Each chapter presents a battle, beginning with an author's commentary that sets the context. Then Bracken prints verbatim and unaltered the articles from the Charleston Mercury and then the articles from the New York Times that covered the battle. Sometimes maps, drawings and paintings are reprinted. Bracken then concludes each chapter with a section called "What Historians Say," usually a few paragraphs that cut the facts about the battle down to the barest of bones.
The most interesting portions of the book are found in the sections where actual dispatches and communications between the armies were published in the papers. For example, Bracken presents the fascinating exchange between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner during the battle at Fort Donelson early in 1862, as printed in the New York Times. Buckner sent Grant a dispatch proposing that a group of commissioners be appointed to determine terms of surrender. Grant responds:
Sir: Yours, of this date, proposing an armistice and the appointment of Commissioners to settle the terms of capitulation is just received. No terms except unconditional surrender and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works. I am very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Thus we learn how the famous nickname, Unconditional Surrender Grant, was created. The exchanges and notes between opposing commanders add a great deal of interest to Bracken's book.
The Words of War will appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Civil War buffs, journalists and history students will find a great deal of value in the book. The book is so well organized that the reader does not have to go through the entire book in one sitting; he can peruse this chapter or that chapter, go to whichever battles he finds most interesting, and not lose any of the overall context. The book reads easily and provides information and perspective that even the most diehard of Civil War buffs will find new and enlightening. Bracken's effort is a solid one.
Beginning with the firing on Fort Sumpter and concluding with the Appomattox surrender of General Lee to General Grant four years later, "The Words Of War" is a unique and seminal contribution to the American Civil War literature. What author and Civil War historian Donagh Bracken has done is to compile and organize in chronological sequence the reports by newspaper correspondents from both the North and the South with respect to how the journalists wrote about the war for their newspapers back home. Specifically, the reporters for 'The New York Times' like Franc Wilkie, L.L. Crounse and others who were embedded with the northern Armies of Grant, Sherman, McClellan, and other officers and admirals in the Eastern and Western Theatres; and the reporters for such southern newspapers like the 'Charleston Mercury' like Robert Barnwell Rhett Sr. & Jr. and George William Bagy (under the pen name of Hermes). The northern and southern newspaper accounts are placed in juxtaposition with each other making for an inherently fascinating, impressively informative, enthusiastically recommended contribution to personal, academic, and community library Civil War Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Reporting the Civil War May 16, 2007
Fascinating perspective on the role journalism plays in guiding the minds and hearts of the public. The same events told from the perspective of the participants. Civil War scholars will want to add this to their collections!