In the 1800s Harper's Weekly was Time/People/Newsweek magazines all rolled into one. Take a step back in history as we see the events of the Civil War unfold as a Harper's Weekly subscriber would have. You can access all Harper's Weekly issues from 1857 to 1865 at the HarpWeek database. Browse issues or simply search for names, locations or events.
This Week in the Civil War
January 18, 1862 This Month in the Civil War: The Battle of Port Royal Ferry in South Carolina on January 1st was the first of 1862 and a victory for Northern Forces. According to the article combined Northern military and naval forces overtook a force of approximately 8,000 Southern soldiers. You can read a personal account in a letter written by Emmett Cole, a Northern soldier of the Michigan Infantry Regiment. This small battle early in the Civil War has numerous references on the web. Try using Google to see what useful information you can find.
November 9, 1861 Map of the Southern States. It is now November, five months and many more battles after the war's first major battle in Bull Run. It is clear that this war would be a long drawn out affair. In this edition Harper's Weekly published a full spread map, in four pieces, of the Southern States for readers to follow. The whole map can be viewed through Cornell University's Map Collection. You can also see the individual pages by going to HarpWeek and browsing the November 9th 1861 issue. This map serves as a reminder to us that we are living in a vastly different world today than our ancestors did in 1861. Today we have access to soldiers on the battlefield and even reports as the battle is raging. The article points out that "Care should be taken, however, not to confound newspaper rumors with authentic intelligence. The adoption of this simple expedient will ren-der the otherwise confused accounts of the war in Missouri and Kentucky perfectly intelligible, and will shed a flood of light on the newspaper narratives of current events." Even in a time of slow news, where it may take weeks to report about an event getting reliable information about quickly moving events was just as much an issue as it is today.
October 19, 1861 Ironclad Boat Construction Think of ironclad ships that fought in the Civil War and the names "Monitor and Merrimack (really the CSS Virginia)" come to mind first. But don't stop there, ironclad ships have a history going back to the early 1800s. If you are interested in the history of these ships the library has "The Introduction of the Ironclad Warship" by James Phiney Baxter. Both the North and South were hard at work to bring ironclad warships into the battle in 1861. The article refers to an effort by the North to construct an ironclad that would be known as the USS Galena. While the names Monitor and CSS Virginia live on in Civil War naval history it is the USS Galena that survived through the war.
September 21, 1861 Cape Hatteras Forts Fall The Confederate forces suffered their first defeat when Union troops overtook forts on islands of Cape Hatteras*, North Carolina. The author of this editorial was certain that the war would soon be over. It can also be seen that the issue of slavery was at the forefront of thought during this time. Click the image to read the article or browse through HarpWeek for news from the Civil War.
August 3, 1861 The First Battle of Bull Run Today news is brought to our screens almost as fast as it happens. It may seem strange to us that it took 13 days for Harper's Weekly to report on the first large battle of the civil war. From our perspective it is easy to see how important this battle was while a person reading this story on August 3, 1861 could not conceive that the would continue for nearly 4 more years. Even more interesting is that the article about the battle isn't on front page but instead on the 11th page. Maps and images of the battle are scattered in preceding pages.
July 6, 1861 The Wheeling Convention. Why do we have West Virginia? The answer is theWheeling Conventions. The residents of the counties of western Virginia voted 70-3 to secede from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union. Thus was a new state born and entered the Union two years later. Read thearticle from Civil War History with all the details.
June 22, 1861 Fight at Bethel, Virginia. Scholars debate which battle was the first of the Civil War. June 9th Northern and Southern forces met at Bethel Virginia and had, what was to then, the biggest battle. Bull Run/Manassas, fought on July 21 1861, is considered the first battle and was still more than 1 month away. The fighting at Bethel was more than a skirmish but perhaps less than a battle. The article reports on a Friendly Fire incident between two New York regiments.
Andrew Heiz, Electronic Services Librarian
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