Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Addition to the Collection

The other day I was in a mood to add another antique Civil War book to my collection.  At this point, however, I am looking for some relatively rare first editions, like Jefferson Davis' The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government or James Longstreet's From Manassas to Appomattox.  When I found these books online, the prices were astronomical, so I decided to explore the world of Civil War-era newspapers, which by and large are a little more within my budget.  While on eBay, a May 31, 1861 edition of the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune caught my eye because it contained a period map of Washington and surroundings.  I bought the paper, and it arrived on my doorstep just yesterday.

The map did not disappoint.  It indicates the location of several buildings and landmarks, including the Smithsonian Institution, the as-yet unfinished Washington Monument, the "President's House" (White House), the Capitol, and the War & Navy Department.  The map also marks various points in Northern Virginia, such as Little Falls Bridge (Chain Bridge), Bailey's Cross Roads, and Arlington Heights.

Photo of May 31, 1861 New York Semi-Weekly Tribune (courtesy of seller)
The paper contains a fascinating assortment of news items. The front page, in an editorial-style piece, cries "To Richmond! To Richmond! Onward!"  There is extensive coverage of General Ben Butler at Fortress Monroe, as well as early movements by both armies in Western Virginia.  The paper was published only a week after the Union entered Virginia, so several news pieces cover the occupation of Alexandria.  I also found an article on James Jackson, who had killed Union Colonel Elmer Ellsworth in Alexandria only the week before.  Aside from war news, the edition covers foreign news, such as an earthquake in Argentina.  The back page contains business news, including agricultural tidbits like cattle and coffee prices.  There are also plenty of vintage advertisements. 

In future posts, I may reference some of the more interesting articles in the newspaper.  I am not sure if I will be collecting newspapers in addition to books, but I felt quite a connection to the past holding my new purchase, knowing that nearly 150 years ago, someone was getting a daily dose of war news from this paper.  How did that person feel? What must it have been like to see such drama unfold? Collecting a document such as this conjures up all kinds of thoughts and images.  I think I can see myself buying a few more old newspapers.  Just don't tell my wife!

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