Although the American Civil War has received extensive scholarly attention, surprisingly little scholarly work has been devoted to western newspapers and their experiences with secession, the war and the start of the Reconstruction era.
Professors Debra Reddin van Tuyll and Mary (Cronin) Lamonica are producing a two-volume edited work on the topic, and we need a few more chapter authors. One volume examines the press of the Midwestern region and the second book examines the far West. The volumes, collectively, will cover an area stretching from Ohio (considered the frontier at the time of the war) to the states and territories on the Pacific Coast.
Midwestern editors and their western counterparts were not immune from the war or its impact. A number of skirmishes and some battles occurred across the frontier. Southern sympathizers abounded, and recruiters for the Union and Confederate armies ranged across the western states and territories, looking for hale and hearty men to serve. Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio had to deal with both Confederate supporters and Federal recruitment and military incursions. Mining camps throughout the Rocky Mountain frontier had similar problems, with law enforcement often having to separate Northern and Southern miners.
The volumes also will examine home front issues. Western migration continued, towns were established and mining camps were booming. But the onset of war also meant shortages of supplies in frontier communities. Because western states and territories sent units to fight in the war, newspapers had to serve audiences anxious for war news. And, most publishers had to provide that news without a dedicated corps of reporters.
Midwestern and western editors also faced problems meeting that demand due to the lack of communication infrastructure. Without railroads and telegraph lines in much of the western United States, news, whether war-related or political, was slow to reach western editors. Editors faced equal difficulty in getting their frontier concerns to politicians and military officials back east.
This two-volume series will examine the Midwestern states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri in Volume 1. Volume 2 will focus on the far western states and territories, including the Dakotas, Oregon, California, Texas, Washington (which included Idaho and some of Montana), Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Kansas. (Indian Territory did not have a press during the war years, although it will be mentioned throughout the book as several battles occurred there, and Native American families were devastated physically and emotionally by the war).
The volumes focus primarily on Union-supporting states and territories, with the exception of Texas and the divided state of Missouri. Supporters and opponents of the Union and of the Confederacy lived in the Midwest and the far west, a reality that led to lively politics, confusion and fear (at times), skirmishes and battles, and lively editorial practices.
The two-volume set will be arranged thematically and will roughly parallel the work of Debra Reddin van Tuyll’s 2012 work, The Confederate Press in the Crucible of the American Civil War. Van Tuyll’s work was grounded in the notion that press function is determined by its political and social environment. Additionally, just as the press is influenced by its society, it influences its society to develop politically, socially, and economically in particular ways.
Van Tuyll’s book offered a thematic history of the Confederate press as an important social structure in the nascent Southern slave republic. In that book, then, van Tuyll looked at the social, political, economic and legal environment of the Confederate press. Additionally, she explored who was reading the newspapers that southern journalists were producing, as well as who those producers were.
The new two-volume work examines the social, economic, political, cultural, and intellectual history of the Midwestern and western press during the Civil War. The work should be grounded in primary sources, including archival material such as letters, diaries, newspaper business records (when they can be found), readership and advertising records (when they can be found) as well as the newspapers themselves. It will be important that the book examine how western editors covered both the war and home front issues and that looks at the public’s responses to the war. Therefore, the editors encourage authors to examine primary source material from citizens, politicians, business leaders and members of the press to provide as well-rounded a view of news and information from 1860 through Reconstruction as possible.
The public’s response is particularly important, because as historian Alice Fahs noted in her work, The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865, the press, collectively, helped shape a cultural politics of the war.
The two-volume set will be a scholarly, yet readable work that reaches a wide audience. Authors’ work should be completed by November 2019. A panel presentation at either AJHA or the Symposium on the Nineteenth-Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression in Chattanooga will be planned, as well. The authors anticipate finding a university press for this work—perhaps Oxford University Press, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, or even the University of California Press. A full prospectus is available from either editor. Email us at DVANTUYL@augusta.edu or email@example.com.