The fledgling Northern press tagged themselves as the “Bohemian Brigade,” which fit their tattered existence and life “on the periphery of a society which scarcely understood their function.” The so-called reporters were suspected as spies, and their penchant for either reporting, or fabricating, what they saw or heard, caused consternation in Lincoln’s regime. The South had few real newspapers, as paper to print them on was scarce.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Stonewall and the British Reporter
“A more baffling problem of [press] coverage arose when Stonewall Jackson staged his Shenandoah campaign . . . routing [Gen. Nathaniel] Banks at Front Royal and Winchester, threatening Washington, and making good his escape while Union armies converged on him from three directions.
When Jackson struck . . . G.W. Clarke, a Britisher representing the [New York] Herald, was “musing over the dullness of the war” in the hotel at Front Royal. [Northern] Colonel John R. Kenly, commanding a detachment of nine hundred men there, dispatched Clarke to cut the rope ferry across the Shenandoah [River]. Clarke won a citation in Kenly’s report, but he was captured [by Jackson’s forces] in the brisk skirmish that followed. He was introduced to the Confederate commander.
“Jackson reached his hand and caught mine, remarking he was glad to see anyone connected with the American Thunderer. “I am very glad to see you under the circumstances, General,” I said, “and I hope you will be good enough to pass me out of your lines as soon as possible.”
At this the General’s face changed slightly. He remarked that he had not time to attend to that just then, and rode off.
Clarke wrote to the General as a British subject to demand his release. At Winchester, Jackson granted him an interview.
“This time [Jackson] wore a blue military overcoat. “General, I suppose you will restore me my horse and clothes?”
“Oh,” replied he, “it was taken in the camp and must be considered contraband of war.”
“But . . . I stand as a neutral, and you know it to be the law of nations that a neutral flag covers neutral goods.”
“Yes,” said the rebel chieftain; “but the Southern Confederacy is not recognized by neutral nations, and, consequently cannot by bound by neutral laws.”
Clarke was released two weeks later at New Market – minus his goods. The other correspondents, for all their efforts to report Jackson’s whirlwind campaign, might just as well have been captured too.
Charles Henry Webb of the [New York] Times [was] . . . among the first to comprehend the genius of Thomas J. Jackson. “We may run the mountain fox to death yet . . . The correspondents of some papers claim it as a victory [over Jackson] . . . is it always necessary to pander to the [public] appetite that demands victory in all cases, an assurance that the enemy lost at least one more than we? One thing is certain, Jackson is equally eminent as a strategist and tactician. He handles his army like a whip . . . This retreat of his, if retreat it can be called, has been conducted with marvelous skill. He has not much mercy on his men, but he gets extraordinary marches out of them on very short commons.”
(Bohemian Brigade, Civil War Newsmen in Action; Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts, pp. 119-122)