The Civil War in Primary Resources: An Exhibition by the Special Collections Library


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Media coverage of the Civil War was unlike anything seen before. While photography was still in its early stages, depictions of the battlefront relied heavily on illustrated daily or weekly journals which included woodblock engravings that were taken from onsite battlefield sketches. These images and war reports were printed and delivered to homes where civilians could follow the war almost in real-time. Major publishers included Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Harper’s Weekly, New York Illustrated News, and Southern Illustrated News. Most woodblock illustrations from the Civil War attempted to take a relatively neutral stance due to uncertainty as to who would be the victor and for fear of being censured after the war was over.

Wartime reporting of events, first-person accounts, and details of individual battles mostly relied upon telegraphs, railroads, and horses. Reporting during the Civil War was unlike any news communication in the past and required the mastery of logistics to get the stories to the public in a timely manner. Both North and South used a strategy of destroying lines of communication, including cutting telegraph lines to disrupt the flow of information, which proved to be challenging for wartime journalists.


U.S. Civil War 1861-1865


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