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Wisconsin in the Civil War

A Soldier Criticizes Sensationalist Newspaper Coverage of the War

The telegraph allowed the press to flood hometowns with stories about the war. In his letter home from Mississippi in the summer of 1862, Sergeant Major George Driggs of Company E, 8th Wisconsin Infantry, cautions his family not to believe everything they read.

So many conflicting accounts, even of our battle before Corinth, have been given, t'would puzzle the brain of the clearest headed man or woman to form any accurate idea of the facts, and as a truthful writer states, "these reports were mostly coined in our rear." They were not all "eye witnesses of the fight," as some of these letters were known to have been written the day previous! to the fight, and pictured as best to suit the anxious multitude at home — exciting, and eloquent in their tenor and worthy of a better cause than thus deluding the nervous and superstitious ones at home.

These writers all seem to be rivals, and each one is anxious to send in his report in advance of the other, whether they savor of truth it matters not, so long as they get well paid for it — it leaves room for more controversy through the columns of each of their favorite journals, thereby adding new lustre to their already distinguished cognomens.

These hirelings of the press, who have been prowling through the army, are desirous of making an imperishable reputation, (I think they are accomplishing it.) Soldiers, keep a close watch of your ration — the enemy are still among us! …

Old women, resume your knitting — politicians your wire-pulling — loungers your daily avocations, and ardent "luvyers," who have "heart sweets" in the army, do not let these airy sensation articles deceive you, but trust in an Over-ruling Providence, that he, in whom your dearest affections are centred, is doing his duty to his country, and will some day return to you bearing laurels…

Source: Driggs, George W. "Opening of the Mississippi, or, Two Years Campaigning in the South-west." (Madison, Wis.: W.J. Park & Co., 1864), page 97.

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Sergeant Major George W. Driggs.
Sergeant Major George W. Driggs.

WHI 81763
Civil War illustrated envelope. A man, probably Jefferson Davis, rides a pig carrying a sign that reads, '2d EDITION!!! 40,000 Killed, Wounded, THIS ONE MISSING! VIA CINCINNATI!'

Civil War illustrated envelope. A man, probably Jefferson Davis, rides a pig carrying a sign that reads, "2d EDITION!!! 40,000 Killed, Wounded, THIS ONE MISSING! VIA CINCINNATI!"

WHI 75860

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