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A Bohemian Brigade: The Civil War Correspondents, Mostly Rough, Sometimes Readyby James Perry
Synopses & Reviews
Much of our understanding of the American Civil War is based upon newspaper dispatches written under horrific battlefield conditions, and journalists? memoirs penned under more reflective moments after the war?s end. A Bohemian Brigade is the masterful account of the true nature of combat correspondence its probable accuracy and ultimate accountability during the Civil War years. In this even-handed survey, James M. Perry examines a civil war, a free press, and the inevitable impact each had on the other. Focusing on the self-proclaimed "bohemian brigade" whom General William Sherman vilified as "the buzzards of the press" Perry assesses the performance of a ragtag band whose professional descendants remain controversial to this day.
The tales Perry tells are entertaining, sometimes hard to believe, but always historically accurate. Competition led reporters to file stories prematurely as they raced to be the first to get their accounts on "the lightning" their name for the telegraph. The headline of the New York Herald on July 22, 1861, erroneously proclaimed the Union Army?s rout at the first battle of Bull Run a "BRILLIANT UNION VICTORY!"
Army commanders on both sides distrusted a free press they could not control. Thomas Knox?s critical accounts of Union campaigning at Vicksburg so provoked General Sherman that he ordered a court-martial to prosecute this civilian reporter as a spy!
Yet the press also made invaluable contributions to each side?s cause. For instance, neither army had any procedure for publishing casualty lists. After a battle, reporters would collect the names of the dead and wounded. At times, their efforts became heroic.
Bradley Osbon, an experienced seaman, covered the Union?s capture of New Orleans by signing aboard fleet officer David G. Farragut?s flagship, the Hartford, as a clerk. Upon learning of Osbon?s maritime exploits in the Far East from Osbon himself, Farragut promoted the reporter to the rank of fleet signal officer.
And in reporting General Ulysses S. Grant?s engagement against General Robert E. Lee at the battle of the Wilderness, reporter Henry Wing also delivered a personal message from Grant to his commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln: "Whatever happens, there is to be no turning back." Lincoln kissed the reporter on the forehead for relaying these stirring words of hope.
With a dry wit and keen eye for detail honed by his four decades of journalistic experiences, Perry provides a fresh understanding of how the reporting of a war can affect the trajectory of war itself.
Advance Praise for A Bohemian Brigade
"In this masterfully crafted book, A Bohemian Brigade, Perry takes us behind the lines and behind the scenes to meet reporters from America?s most difficult war who risked imprisonment and often their lives to get the story straight and get it in the paper. With his usual skill, Perry makes you feel like you are there with them."—Ken Bode, Dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
"Civil War reporters were a colorful breed: rough, rowdy, courageous, competitive?occasionally even accurate. Jim Perry, a great reporter himself, recognizes these bohemian adventurers and brings them vividly to life in this entertaining and eye-opening look at the men who crafted the rough draft of our history."—Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
"They were rowdy, biased, took themselves too seriously, got it dead wrong a lot of the time, yet often showed real courage under fire. Sound familiar? No, not today?s reporters. The ones who covered the Civil War. This is their story and it?s a good one, told as only a working reporter could tell it."—Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News
"A Bohemian Brigade is a joyous account of a time when reporters did not take themselves seriously?nor did anyone else written by one of the great reporters of his generation."—Sander Vanocur, The History Channel
"Jim Perry has written a fast-moving book about some of the most colorful and irrepressible?and most neglected& #150;players in our great national conflict. His tales of how muleback, quill-pen reporters got the news and then got the news to their newspapers are full of bold ingenuity, chance-taking, defiance of authority, and not a little hell-raising. Perry is an old hand at the business, and he makes clear the historical importance of their work without bogging down a wonderfully readable narrative."—Ernest F. Furgurson, author ofChancellorsville 1863 and Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War
Book News Annotation:
Focusing on a self-proclaimed "bohemian brigade" of Civil War journalists, this volume considers the nature of combat correspondence. Perry describes how competition drove journalists to file stories prematurely, sometimes erroneously predicting the outcome of battles. He also considers army commanders' distrust of war correspondents in spite of their sometimes important contributions. Perry writes for the Wall Street Journal. The text is accompanied by black and white illustrations.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The modern journalist emerged for the first time in the Civil War. It was the world's original instant-news war, made possible by the telegraph and by steam power, which fueled the new big presses and locomotives that transported journalists and armies from place to place at unheard-of speeds. In the "Bohemian Brigade, " as the reporters called themselves, James Perry has found a subject ideally suited to his dry wit and keen eye for detail. With the insight only a journalist can bring, Perry observes the major campaigns and pivotal events of the Civil War and demonstrates how these trailblazing correspondents became a major factor in the military's long-standing distaste for the media. Expertly paced, this is perfect for Civil War buffs and fans of excellent history writing.
"LIKE THE WAR ITSELF, THIS IS A STORY OF REMARKABLE PERSONAL DRAMA."-New York Times Book Review
More Praise for A Bohemian Brigade
"Highly engaging . . . Perry has a special feel for his topics and a keen eye for detail."-Wall Street Journal
"James Perry has written a compelling and detailed account of the men who did their best to cover-and, at times, fight-the first instant-news war. This book tells the story of the sometimes painful birth of the modern war correspondent."-Dan Rather, CBS News
"Civil War reporters were a colorful breed: rough, rowdy, courageous, competitive-occasionally even accurate. Jim Perry, a great reporter himself, recognizes these bohemian adventurers and brings them vividly to life in this entertaining and eye-opening look at the men who crafted the rough draft of our history."-Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
"A Bohemian Brigade is a joyous account of a time when reporters did not take themselves seriously-nor did anyone else-written by one of the great reporters of his generation."-Sander Vanocur, The History Channel
Includes bibliographical references (p. 287-292) and index.
About the Author
JAMES M. PERRY is a senior political writer emeritus for the Wall Street Journal. In 1997, he won the prestigious Fourth Estate Award (of which Walter Cronkite, Theodore H. White, and Eric Severeid are also recipients) presented by the National Press Club. He is the author of four other books, including Arrogant Armies (published by Wiley).
Table of Contents
The World's Greatest War Correspondent.
Bull Run from the Rear.
Bull Run from the Front.
The Three Graces: Greeley, Bennett, and Raymond.
A Very Angry General.
Prisoners of War.
Grant Finds a Reporter.
The Jolly Congress.
The Reporter Who Was Kissed by Lincoln.
"There Is to Be No Turning Back".
The Fall of Richmond.
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