Civil War Journalism
by Ford Risley
September 2012, 154pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-34727-6
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-0-313-34728-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The Civil War was the first American war widely covered by the press, with an estimated 500 reporters from the North and South covering the conflict. Thousands of photographs were taken during the war, and more than 3,000 illustrations and cartoons were published in magazines, along with daily articles and editorials about the conflict as well. As a result, the press played a significant role in the war, just as the war played an important role in the development of the press.

This book examines newspapers, magazines, photographs, illustrations, and editorial cartoons to tell the important story of journalism, documenting its role during the Civil War as well as the impact of the war on the press.

Civil War Journalism presents a unique synthesis of the journalism of both the North and South during the war. It features a compelling cast of characters, including editors Horace Greeley and John M. Daniel, correspondents George Smalley and Peter W. Alexander, photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner, and illustrators Alfred Waud and Thomas Nast.

Written to appeal to those interested in the Civil War in general and in journalism specifically, as well as general readers, the work provides an introductory overview of journalism in the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. The following chapters examine reporting during the war, editorializing about the war, photographing and illustrating the war, censorship and government relations, and the impact of the war on the press.

Ford Risley is professor of communications and head of the Department of Journalism at Penn State University. His published works include Abolition and the Press: The Moral Struggle Against Slavery and articles on Civil War-era journalism.


"A valuable work for those interested in the history of journalism and of the Civil War. Highly recommended."—Choice, April 1, 2013

“Ford Risley has skillfully blended a clear account of the nuts and bolts of Civil War reporting with a sweeping narrative of the critical importance of political journalism. This volume represents journalism history that does justice to both disciplines and will be a valuable addition to the literature.”—Dr. Lonnie A. Burnett, University of Mobile and Author of The Pen Makes a Good Sword: John Forsyth of the Mobile Register

"We cannot understand the Civil War unless we know what American citizens on both sides knew and when they knew it. The mass media of any age bring information that helps citizens decide their course of action, so by studying Civil War journalism we come closer to answering the question of why Americans took up arms against each other for four and a half bloody years. Ford Risley has given historians a comprehensive record of that information dissemination with its inaccuracies, biases, and downright foolishness along with courageous attempts to get the truth. It’s all here under one roof: the sacrifices and work of thousands of journalists who found themselves always inconvenienced and frequently in danger. It would be difficult to overestimate Dr. Risley’s contribution to the field of journalism history and the broader study of the American Civil War. "—Nancy McKenzie Dupont, PhD, Associate Professor, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi

"Richly detailed and generously stocked with interesting quotes from contemporaries, Civil War Journalism manages at the same time to be an excellent synthesis of its subject—concise, efficient, up-to-date and reliable. The writing is engaging, the stories and vignettes compelling."—Joe Hayden, Associate Professor, University of Memphis, Journalism Department

"Ford Risley is one of the finest journalism historians in America. His new book, Civil War Journalism, is an extraordinarily well-written and insightful examination of the role of the Northern and Southern press during the nation’s most wrenching time of conflict. Of particular relevance to the 21st century is his chapter on censorship and suppression and his analysis of the strained relationships between the Union and Confederate governments and the journalists who covered them."—David B. Sachsman, Director of the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression and holder of the West Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
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