Fighting Words: An Illustrated History of Newspaper Accounts of the Civil War

Andrew S. Coopersmith, Author New Press $35 (325p) ISBN 978-1-56584-796-5
""To glance at a Civil War paper is to be transported to a different era from the one in which we live today,"" writes Coopersmith in his introduction to this rich analysis of Civil War reporting. Yet, readers will no doubt find some comparisons between the ""war of opinion"" that raged almost 150 years ago and the polarization the country is experiencing now. Coopersmith, a historian and Civil War enthusiast, presents a panorama-in-print of a fractious and frenzied nation through articles, editorials and illustrations culled from more than 80 Civil War-era newspapers, most with markedly different agendas. The multiple takes on the same events underscore the nation's divisiveness and the conflicts that raged along political, social and racial lines. Reporting on the Battle of Bull Run, an early Southern victory, the Charleston Courier's headlines trumpeted: ""Southerners Victorious!!... The Enemy in Full Flight and Closely Pursued!"" Meanwhile, the New York Times tried to downplay the Union's losses as ""exaggerations,"" with headlines like, ""The National Army Not Routed"" and ""Shocking Barbarities Perpetrated by the Rebels."" Also engaging is the rousing and opinionated language news writers often used to shape public opinion. Southern papers, for example, frequently described the war as a fight against tyranny, and after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Southern Illustrated News ran a cartoon of him stripping off his bearded visage to reveal a devil's face. The articles and images collected here offer a fascinating glimpse into the reportage of the Civil War period, and Coopersmith's running analysis serves not only as the glue that holds them all together, but as a source of insight into the war's key events, the news writers and their motivations.
Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 325 pages - 978-1-59558-141-9
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