Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861

Lincoln’s Journey, Davis’ Speech

How did the approach of the war register in the major newspapers?

The front page of the New York Times did not yet have those immortal words: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But the Times was developing a reputation for sound reporting, and it had a special, unnamed correspondent in Charleston. Receiving constant updates both from him and from its Washington, D.C., correspondent, the Times tracked the approach of war with the headlines of 1861 as follows:

“Anxiety relative to Fort Sumter” (April 2); “Cabinet Meeting on the Southern Policy of this Administration” (April 3); “The Crisis Approaching” (April 5); “The Impending Crisis” (April 6); “The War Cloud” (April 8); “The Impending War” (April 10); and “The War Imminent” (April 11).

None of these appeared at the top of the masthead, as news sometimes does today; instead, they were placed either at the top of the extreme left-hand column or the top of the extreme right. The reader could not possibly be confused as to what was the lead story of the day. Even so, there were some Americans who refused to believe it. Civil conflict had been threatened numerous times in the past, and it had always been averted.


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