I ran upon a copy of The Chattanooga Daily Rebel when a reader recently introduced me to www.newspapers.com. Published between 1862 and 1865, this was the longest running Confederate periodical. Originally containing four pages, it quickly shrank to a single sheet yet circulation seemed to be restricted only by availability of paper stock. As the Union Army moved southward – eventually occupying Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1863 – the paper operated nomadically until it was finally captured in Selma, Alabama and printed its last copy on a hand press on April 27, 1865.
Now anyone who studied journalism at any level was taught to report the news without bias. Despite our opinions of this agency or that one, newspaper-men have always needed to sell papers and therefore there is a certain pressure to write what their customers want to read. So you can imagine this wartime publication was filled with news of the war with a slant toward its Confederate readership.
The copy I’ve clipped from April 22, 1864 shares a story of a sergeant escaping the Union Army disguised as a female slave. Presented anecdotally, he secured weapons and transportation from the enemy and high-tailed it back to his company. Certainly the terminology used in this article would never be accepted today, but it’s funny to imagine this man dressed in drag and smeared with soot as he races across the countryside. During those terrifying times I imagine the people needed a little humor as much as they did information.
There is an update from various forts and areas of the front. The nearby city of Dalton, Georgia shows a 2 day old report that includes weather and road conditions. And then there is the startling count of losses over the past year – 93,770 men lost.
A short article reminds readers of the necessity of eating salt. During intense economic depression, it seems folks were wont to spend precious pennies on this natural flavoring. So the article “throw[s] out these hints for the benefit of those of our people who are deterred from buying the essential supply of salt on account of the high prices” that not only will salt preserve foods, “but it is now well known why the animal loves salt and why it ultimately falls into disease if muriate of soda is for a time withheld.”
The Chattanooga Daily Rebel also introduced an up and coming publication, Smith & Barrow’s Monthly Magazine whose scope would be “Tales, Poetry, Sketches of life and manners, Official Army and Navy Intelligence, Instructive Miscellany, and Articles on Political Economy.”
We are so bombarded with news and entertainment these days that you hardly know what to believe and sometimes I just feel like I want to escape it. Yet looking at the things that were written or sung in years past, it’s clear there is much to be learned from it.