Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/338

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Newspapers Since 1860

along with the most enterprising of the early settlers. When Lincoln read his first inaugural, only four states or territories in the Union were without newspapers to report it; twelve years later, not one was without a newspaper to chronicle the defeat and death of the great journalist who sought the Presidency. News style had taken essentially the form still to be found in the more conservative papers of the country; headlines were still inconspicuous, never more than one column wide, and seldom revealing the news they topped. The custom among many papers of sending correspondents throughout the South and the Far West to report conditions and events was now to prove useful preparation for the period when the South became the greatest source of news in the world. Foreign correspondence after its rapid spread in the forties had been somewhat more fully organized, although it was no more ably conducted. The pressure of domestic events led to some neglect of the foreign field, just before and during the war, and it was not until the short Franco-Prussian conflict that European affairs again received much attention from the American press.

Never before was a war so well reported as was the American Civil War—so fully, promptly, and accurately. Although it is generally believed that Englishmen in the Crimea virtually created modern war correspondence, its real beginnings had been made years before by American reporters in the war with Mexico, and the whole system of reporting the progress of war and presenting it fully and promptly to the public was developed very nearly to perfection by American journalistic enterprise in the Civil War. The problems confronting the newspapers when the war began were the greatest ever faced by journalists. The size of country to be covered, the number of armies and of widely separated actions, and the still primitive means of communication tested the valour and ingenuity that sought to overcome them. When the first gun was fired no paper had a system for reporting from the front, though in the weeks before that event several of them had begun to send men to important places by way of precaution. Before Sumter fell, the New York Herald had received enough papers from its correspondents to furnish a roster of the Southern army which convinced the leaders that there was a spy in the Confederate war office, and in a short time after Sumter a net of reporters was spread all