A Bohemian Brigade
The Civil War Correspondents
James M. Perry
This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 10/28/07 and covered Chapters 3 & 4
10/28/2007 9:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Good evening everyone, and welcome to the second installment of our BOOK CHAT on “A BOHEMIAN BRIGADE: THE CIVIL WAR CORRESPONDENTS, MOSTLY ROUGH, SOMETIMES READY,” by James M. Perry.10/28/2007 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Last week we discussed how the author being a journalist might influence his writing about journalists of another era. We also spoke at length about the observations made by journalist William Howard Russell of “The Times” of London. And, of his subsequent departure from America after the tone of his report on the Battle at Bull Run raised anger towards him from both North and South, closing doors that had been previously opened to him.
10/28/2007 9:10 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anyone have any quick thoughts going back to last week? If not, let’s move on.10/28/2007 9:12 pm (et) amhistoryguy: CHAPTER THREE - BULL RUN FROM THE FRONT - Immediately after the battle of Bull Run, Northern newspapers proclaimed a great victory. Perry questions “How Could American Newspapers get it so wrong.” His answer is, the telegraph, and the competitive nature of reporting news.
10/28/2007 9:12 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Is this really why the newspapers got it wrong? Why were so many details incorrect, everything from there being no “Masked batteries” as reported, to the numbers engaged, and the number of casualties. Thoughts on why the newspapers got it so wrong?10/28/2007 9:13 pm (et) bluelady: I think it funny that nothing was learned by trying to get it in first.
10/28/2007 9:13 pm (et) bluelady: I think it is the answer...getting it right didn't matter as much as getting it in first.10/28/2007 9:13 pm (et) mobile_96: Same here, seems they did the same thing over and over again.
10/28/2007 9:14 pm (et) secret squirrel: I think they used rumors and assumptions when reporting.10/28/2007 9:14 pm (et) bluelady: It is still that way today.
10/28/2007 9:14 pm (et) Susansweet: I think it was trying to get it first they were not even there and just wanted to report first.10/28/2007 9:14 pm (et) Vickie: They were definitely more interested in getting the story in first and not too worried about getting it right.
10/28/2007 9:14 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Getting a story in First seemed to be a reputation thing, but didn't getting it wrong work against reputation?10/28/2007 9:15 pm (et) Vickie: I would think people would learn not to believe what they read in the papers.
10/28/2007 9:15 pm (et) mobile_96: Another problem being that they could only view a portion of the field, limiting 'what they saw'.10/28/2007 9:16 pm (et) amhistoryguy: And purchase papers that got it right rather than first.
10/28/2007 9:16 pm (et) Susansweet: it also didn't help that as Stedman said they didn't know anything about military tactics or modern warfare.10/28/2007 9:16 pm (et) mobile_96: And also they were using each others notes far too much.
10/28/2007 9:16 pm (et) amhistoryguy: A very good point mobile. And often they did not understand what they were seeing.10/28/2007 9:17 pm (et) bluelady: Not necessarily...look at reporters today...if they get something in wrong during the heat of a story, they simply make up some excuse and make the correction later.
10/28/2007 9:17 pm (et) amhistoryguy: The military had no “Information officers,” relaying to reporters details and educating them on objectives and such. While the reporters themselves shared information, often the information shared was incorrect.10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) bluelady: amhg...look at the 3 big NY papers...they really got it wrong but continued to do well...they didn't seem to loose much of their readership.
10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) mobile_96: Showing noting has really changed in reporting.10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) secret squirrel: Thinking about the trouble they caused Gen Ewell.
10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) secret squirrel: Right mobile, CNN live.10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) bluelady: But as everyone is saying...they could only report what others gave them and what they saw.
10/28/2007 9:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Reporters today get put over the coals though when they get it wrong, even if they make corrections.10/28/2007 9:19 pm (et) Susansweet: But even today early reports can have many mistakes.
10/28/2007 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Mistakes were acceptable wouldn't you say bluelady? That's why readership did not decline.10/28/2007 9:20 pm (et) Vickie: It seems people only believed what they wanted to when they read something. And would get angry when it was the truth and they didn't like it.
10/28/2007 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I don't think they are as acceptable today, although they may be as frequent.10/28/2007 9:20 pm (et) bluelady: But it doesn't take long before all is forgiven and things go on as usual.
10/28/2007 9:21 pm (et) mobile_96: And the papers covered other material they were interested in, so yes, mistakes could be forgiven.10/28/2007 9:21 pm (et) bluelady: I think mistakes to a point were acceptable back then because the people were anxious to read about what was happening at the front...even if it was skewed or just partially right.
10/28/2007 9:22 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think that was the case then too Bluelady, I agree.10/28/2007 9:23 pm (et) bluelady: Today...I think about all of us here in the east who wanted to find out more about the fires in CA or the miners trapped in Utah...and how the reporters were saying well this could happen or we think this is going on.
10/28/2007 9:23 pm (et) Susansweet: You had to rely on what they reported as no live action reports from the field to say wait that isn't right.10/28/2007 9:23 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Individual reporters were not to blame in the eye of the public, the papers took any charges.
10/28/2007 9:24 pm (et) bluelady: Or watching the different coverage's on the Minnesota bridge..3 different news casts had differing death totals at the same time!10/28/2007 9:24 pm (et) amhistoryguy: We use more sources for our info today though, more papers, mags, tv, radio reports. Some people go from network to network.
10/28/2007 9:24 pm (et) Susansweet: Exactly Blue and even out here we get different reports on the fires from different stations.10/28/2007 9:24 pm (et) bluelady: Right and what is different about then is what others were saying...they didn't know the total picture.
10/28/2007 9:25 pm (et) amhistoryguy: So as has been said, little has changed over the years.10/28/2007 9:25 pm (et) secret squirrel: 10 people can see a car accident and there will be 10 different stories.
10/28/2007 9:25 pm (et) Susansweet: Exactly. No helicopter flying over the battlefield.10/28/2007 9:25 pm (et) bluelady: Now...with on the spot new conferences with those in charge there is a better chance of getting it more correct but...
10/28/2007 9:26 pm (et) mobile_96: Plus the victims.10/28/2007 9:26 pm (et) bluelady: It still hasn't changed much because of the competition to get it in first.
10/28/2007 9:27 pm (et) amhistoryguy: We should remember that the news is a business.
10/28/2007 9:28 pm (et) mobile_96: However, I still get pretty frustrated with all the different versions that fill the news spots.10/28/2007 9:28 pm (et) Susansweet: Right they are getting paid to do the reporting.
10/28/2007 9:28 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Henry Villard ‘s dispatch on Bull Run was only 600 words long, and he mentions that he needed special permission to send longer dispatches. Looking at a web site on telegraph.10/28/2007 9:28 pm (et) amhistoryguy: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/nonnenmacher.industry.telegraphic.us - I see that it generally cost $1.55 for a 15 word message to be transmitted. That would make 600 words cost about $700. Easy to see why the limit on dispatches.
10/28/2007 9:29 pm (et) Susansweet: Is that now or then ?10/28/2007 9:29 pm (et) bluelady: Is that the price back then?
10/28/2007 9:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That was then - 186010/28/2007 9:29 pm (et) secret squirrel: How could one get special permission? Cell phone call?
10/28/2007 9:30 pm (et) bluelady: WOW!!!!10/28/2007 9:30 pm (et) Susansweet: wow
10/28/2007 9:30 pm (et) mobile_96: I think they stopped telegrams today.10/28/2007 9:30 pm (et) bluelady: lol ss
10/28/2007 9:30 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He had to send a telegram : )10/28/2007 9:31 pm (et) bluelady: Maybe especially with dsl and email.
10/28/2007 9:31 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anything further on Chapter Three? If not, let’s move on to Chapter Four, a chapter we may need to spend considerable time on.10/28/2007 9:32 pm (et) Susansweet: I thought it was interesting that they were not considered non combatants and could be captured as prisoners of war.
10/28/2007 9:32 pm (et) bluelady: I have a copy of a telegram sent by a navy admiral to my grandfather congratulating him on the birth of my mother...it was very short needless to say!10/28/2007 9:32 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That was interesting. They were at risk on the battlefield.
10/28/2007 9:32 pm (et) Susansweet: I have the one sent to my father telling him I was born.10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) bluelady: I think anyone who was considered suspicious could have been captured during the war.
10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) Susansweet: But then there is the story of Stedman grabbing a banner and carrying the flag.10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) secret squirrel: They could give away secrets, some traveled with units.
10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) Susansweet: So they weren't noncombatants.10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) bluelady: How about the ones who were clever to be able to get out of that house?
10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) ks: Susan, the status of correspondents (if captured) was a complete surprise to me. Don't know why, but it was.10/28/2007 9:33 pm (et) bluelady: exactly Susan .
10/28/2007 9:34 pm (et) mobile_96: And him not mentioning it in his own dispatch.10/28/2007 9:34 pm (et) mobile_96: SS, have to remember that both sides read the papers watching for movements by the other.
10/28/2007 9:34 pm (et) bluelady: Such restraint of modesty or he could have been in deep dodo with his publisher for getting in harms way.10/28/2007 9:35 pm (et) Susansweet: I also noticed they are the ones that named themselves Bohemian Brigade.
10/28/2007 9:35 pm (et) secret squirrel: A good example of the reporters allegiance to one side or the other.10/28/2007 9:35 pm (et) mobile_96: Don't agree with the harms way idea, they were in harms way just being close to the action.
10/28/2007 9:35 pm (et) bluelady: I wonder why the gave themselves a name like that?10/28/2007 9:36 pm (et) bluelady: Well I meant picking up the flag like that...they really got shot at...flag bearers that is.
10/28/2007 9:36 pm (et) Susansweet: The Bohemian movement was high then, it made them sound "cool"10/28/2007 9:37 pm (et) bluelady: I'll buy that Susan.
10/28/2007 9:37 pm (et) amhistoryguy: CHAPTER FOUR - THE THREE GRACES: GREELEY, BENNETT, AND RAYMOND. While the defeat of the Union army at Bull Run was certainly a wake up call for the Federal military, the disastrous reporting of the event should have served as a wake up call to the newspapers as well.10/28/2007 9:37 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Perry makes a couple of good points at the start of this chapter; 1) the papers covered the war with more passion than good sense. 2) It was more important to be first, than it was to be accurate. Thoughts on this?
10/28/2007 9:38 pm (et) ks: And how fascinating to have the detailed descriptions of these men. :) Thoroughly enjoyed this chapter.10/28/2007 9:38 pm (et) amhistoryguy: We covered a bit of this in our initial comments.
10/28/2007 9:38 pm (et) ks: For some it remains the same...more important to be FIRST.10/28/2007 9:38 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Regarding Horace Greeley; the focus on Horace Greeley is very important. Look at all the places he turns up or has influence on over the course of the war. In 1860, he is on the platform with Lincoln at Cooper Union - His 1861, “Let them go in peace, followed by his call for “On to Richmond,” - His 1862 editorial “Prayer of Twenty Millions,” demanding emancipation -His personal attempts as well as an authorized attempt to negotiate a peace with the Confederacy. Greeley is a very important and often overlooked figure during America’s Civil War, IMO. Thoughts on Greeley?
10/28/2007 9:39 pm (et) Susansweet: I loved Greeley's letter to Lincoln and the reply that Lincoln was overheard to say.10/28/2007 9:39 pm (et) bluelady: I thought we covered the second part...many reporters seemed to have their sides chosen and were passionate about the cause of their side.
10/28/2007 9:39 pm (et) amhistoryguy: BTW, doing a quick search, as far as I could tell, there is no relationship between Greeley’s wife, Mary Cheney and Vice President Dick Cheney ( or to Barack Obama).10/28/2007 9:40 pm (et) bluelady: I think Greeley was the original nut case...but a clever one at that.
10/28/2007 9:40 pm (et) bluelady: lol10/28/2007 9:40 pm (et) bluelady: He was also the one whom advised "go west young man".
10/28/2007 9:41 pm (et) secret squirrel: Manic depressive.10/28/2007 9:41 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He had a great amount of influence.
10/28/2007 9:41 pm (et) bluelady: That is better said than nut case.10/28/2007 9:41 pm (et) secret squirrel: I see Greeley as theatric and a drama king.
10/28/2007 9:41 pm (et) bluelady: Hey much so since many were blaming HIM for the Bull Run disaster!10/28/2007 9:42 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He not only had power, he wanted people to know he had it.
10/28/2007 9:42 pm (et) ole: Horace Greeley? Hot and Cold.10/28/2007 9:42 pm (et) Susansweet: Sort of like Hearst later on.
10/28/2007 9:42 pm (et) ole: Excellent observation, amhg.10/28/2007 9:42 pm (et) bluelady: Reminds me of the beef industry blaming Oprah for their loss of sales after she was touting the bad about beef!
10/28/2007 9:43 pm (et) ole: The big voice sometimes carries a bit of clout.10/28/2007 9:44 pm (et) amhistoryguy: There is always someone anxious to point the finger at someone else.
10/28/2007 9:44 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Next we look at James Gordon Bennett. The contrast between Bennett and Greeley is quite interesting. Greeley’s lack of formal education to Bennett’s extensive education. I also found it interesting that while Perry mentions the seedier side of Bennett’s editorial practices, “Bennett joyfully wallowed in the journalistic sewer,” yet, he fails to mention that Bennett was also granted the first ever exclusive interview of the President, Martin Van Buren, in 1839. Thoughts on Bennett?10/28/2007 9:45 pm (et) bluelady: I didn't think he was any better or worse than Greeley.
10/28/2007 9:46 pm (et) secret squirrel: Sounded very serious, no nonsense.10/28/2007 9:46 pm (et) Susansweet: But Perry says he was the greatest American journalist ever.
10/28/2007 9:47 pm (et) secret squirrel: Also, did have the flaw of being into himself, a narcissist.10/28/2007 9:47 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I was reminded of what my mentor of sorts, Barbara Tuchman, once told me about reading history, “What an author chooses to leave out, is often as important as what the author chooses to put in.” Perry, IMO, is clearly less than fond of Bennett, or his son, who performed a “comfortable and nonviolent service,” during the Civil War.
10/28/2007 9:48 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I also have to admit to disappointment at Perry’s notation that Bennett wrote “an amusing piece about why Americans shake hands all the time,” and then fails to provide even a brief line from this amusing piece. I searched for a sample of this Bennett piece, but was not successful in finding it. My curiosity may send me searching further. What made the piece “amusing?”10/28/2007 9:49 pm (et) Susansweet: Dave I had a mentor that not only said that but to also know who your author is , it may make a difference.
10/28/2007 9:49 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I also found Perry’s hint that there was something less than respectable about Bennett’s wife, Henrietta Cream odd, in that he hints at this by stating “ Bennett’s journalistic rivals invited libel suits by hinting in print that she wasn’t any better than she should have been.” What was printed, why is this worthy of mention? What does it even mean?10/28/2007 9:50 pm (et) bluelady: I think that Perry might have had a place dear to him because of his innovation in Journalism...as Perry put it he was the creator of the modern English newspaper" according to Perry.
10/28/2007 9:52 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought leaving out that Bennett had conducted the first presidential interview was an attempt by Perry to make Bennett out to be less than a serious journalist, but that's my opinion.10/28/2007 9:53 pm (et) bluelady: Yeah and the next sentence did nothing to highlight that supposed humor.
10/28/2007 9:53 pm (et) bluelady: But wouldn't that have made him a more serious reporter or impressive to include that?10/28/2007 9:54 pm (et) amhistoryguy: His somewhat snide remark about Bennett's son being in a "comfortable and nonviolent service," also somewhat a slam.
10/28/2007 9:54 pm (et) Susansweet: I did find that an interesting way to put it.10/28/2007 9:55 pm (et) Basecat: Did the son pay for a substitute to fight for him?
10/28/2007 9:55 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It would have given him some respectability, especially after stating he "wallowed in the journalistic sewer."10/28/2007 9:56 pm (et) Susansweet: Nope Steve. They created the forerunner of the Coast Guard for him.
10/28/2007 9:56 pm (et) amhistoryguy: No, the son served on his fathers donated yacht, one of the first coast guard vessels, Bennett gave it to the government.10/28/2007 9:56 pm (et) Basecat: Thanks...Back to lurking.
10/28/2007 9:57 pm (et) secret squirrel: He was no worse than Lincoln with his son Robert.10/28/2007 9:57 pm (et) Susansweet: SS that is true , since Lincoln put Robert in a safe spot.
10/28/2007 9:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought the comment was a low blow towards Bennett.10/28/2007 9:58 pm (et) bluelady: But did Lincoln do that for Robert or was that done by the generals for Lincoln?
10/28/2007 9:58 pm (et) secret squirrel: An attempted low blow.10/28/2007 9:58 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Lastly, we look at Henry J. Raymond, of the New York Times. Although personally ridiculed by the other papers, in many ways, IMO, Raymond was the more “normal” of the three. Thoughts on Raymond?
10/28/2007 9:58 pm (et) secret squirrel: No, Mary wanted her son safe!10/28/2007 9:58 pm (et) Basecat: Tend to think it was forced by Mary Todd, but that's for another time and place.
10/28/2007 9:59 pm (et) bluelady: So in other words Perry had mixed feelings about Bennett.10/28/2007 9:59 pm (et) bluelady: Well then I think to have a happier home Lincoln had no choice! ;)
10/28/2007 9:59 pm (et) bluelady: But back on topic.10/28/2007 10:00 pm (et) bluelady: Agreed there AMHG.
10/28/2007 10:00 pm (et) Susansweet: Perry didn't spend much time on Raymond.10/28/2007 10:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought Perry's feelings towards Bennett were not mixed, but rather neg. Perry recognized him as a "genius" but also in the "journalistic sewer."
10/28/2007 10:00 pm (et) bluelady: I think to Perry Raymond was boring.10/28/2007 10:01 pm (et) amhistoryguy: According to Perry; Greeley somewhat a “crackpot,” - a less than respectable Bennett, and Raymond, the “good Republican,” supporting Lincoln and the Union. The big three in the NY newspaper business.
10/28/2007 10:01 pm (et) amhistoryguy: And they all strongly disliked one another.10/28/2007 10:02 pm (et) mobile_96: More like Hated each other.
10/28/2007 10:02 pm (et) bluelady: I think that Raymond would have rather been in politics.10/28/2007 10:03 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That does seem to be the case Bluelady. He may have made a better politician.
10/28/2007 10:03 pm (et) Susansweet: It seemed like that was what Perry was saying10/28/2007 10:03 pm (et) Susansweet: Said he was a good journalist and paper was a good paper but they didn't click.
10/28/2007 10:04 pm (et) bluelady: Perry stated that his paper probably suffered due to his political interests for himself.10/28/2007 10:04 pm (et) Susansweet: He would rather be in Politics.
10/28/2007 10:04 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I was somewhat surprised that Perry spent so little time on Raymond. Maybe there was little to say.10/28/2007 10:04 pm (et) bluelady: Little to say about him as a journalist I would guess.
10/28/2007 10:04 pm (et) Susansweet: Must have found him boring compared to the other two.10/28/2007 10:05 pm (et) secret squirrel: Guy: with a title like the little villian? something must be left out.
10/28/2007 10:05 pm (et) Basecat: Just from my prior readings on the 3, they all felt they could take advantage of the boob from Illinois. Little did they know that they themselves were manipulated by Abe at times during the war.10/28/2007 10:05 pm (et) Susansweet: Also called Jefferson Brick.
10/28/2007 10:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: One thing very important about these three and their newspapers, given the cost of getting war news, many, many others smaller papers simply reported what they printed -"From the Tribune" etc.10/28/2007 10:06 pm (et) bluelady: He probably could have written much on his politics and offices he held...that is where his influence was.
10/28/2007 10:06 pm (et) Susansweet: I have read even the Southern papers reprinted article from the New York papers.10/28/2007 10:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Their influence was very powerful.
10/28/2007 10:07 pm (et) bluelady: Many small local papers took their news items from the larger papers because of the cost to send someone to the front.10/28/2007 10:07 pm (et) Basecat: amhg..Didn't the Richmond papers print stuff from the NYC papers during the war?
10/28/2007 10:07 pm (et) Susansweet: Correct me if I am wrong aren't they all three still being printed today?10/28/2007 10:07 pm (et) Susansweet: I have read that Steve.
10/28/2007 10:07 pm (et) Basecat: Tribune is not.10/28/2007 10:08 pm (et) Susansweet: Oh okay wasn't sure.
10/28/2007 10:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Yes, Basecat, these papers were quoted throughout the South. A major source of military intel as well.10/28/2007 10:08 pm (et) Basecat: IIRC Tribune went out of business in the 1960s.
10/28/2007 10:08 pm (et) bluelady: I remember reading about how Amos Humistons's wife found out about him a few months after Gettysburg.. from a reprinted article about the soldier holding a picture ..written by a larger paper with a correspondent at the scene.10/28/2007 10:09 pm (et) secret squirrel: BC, yes, i was thinking it couldn't have been out of print too long ago.
10/28/2007 10:09 pm (et) Susansweet: I have read the same thing Blue.10/28/2007 10:11 pm (et) Basecat: The Herald merged with the Tribune in 1924, and became the New York Herald Tribune. The paper ceased publication in 1967.
10/28/2007 10:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anyone ever given any thought to the notion that here the newspapers are making money off the war, and in a position to aid the enemy and extend the war by supplying intel.10/28/2007 10:12 pm (et) Basecat: Lee made it a point to get copies of the NYC papers whenever he could for just that reason amhg.
10/28/2007 10:13 pm (et) ole: Expect no one gave it much thought...that they may be giving information.10/28/2007 10:13 pm (et) Susansweet: So the only paper left is the Times ?
10/28/2007 10:13 pm (et) bluelady: Right but I don't think the papers were doing it on purpose.10/28/2007 10:13 pm (et) bluelady: Correct Susan.
10/28/2007 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: Susan...The New York Post is the oldest newspaper still in print. Was founded by Alexander Hamilton.10/28/2007 10:14 pm (et) bluelady: The tribune and herald combining...I bet Greeley and Bennett were rolling over in their graves!
10/28/2007 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: In NYC I should say.10/28/2007 10:14 pm (et) Susansweet: LOL good point Blue .
10/28/2007 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: The merger took place after the death of Bennett.10/28/2007 10:15 pm (et) Basecat: Bennett, JR. I mean.
10/28/2007 10:15 pm (et) ole: So it was over his dead body.10/28/2007 10:16 pm (et) Susansweet: Had ole , bad.
10/28/2007 10:16 pm (et) Basecat: For those who don't know...There is a statue of Greeley located right near City Hall in lower Manhattan.10/28/2007 10:17 pm (et) Susansweet: Is it facing west ?
10/28/2007 10:17 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anyone have anything more on tonight's chapters? I was shooting for a 10:30 ending, and it looks like we are getting close.10/28/2007 10:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: THANKS FOR BEING HERE, NEXT WEEK’S ASSIGNED READING - A bit longer than the last two assignments, CHAPTER FIVE AND SIX - 51 pages IIRC. Hope to see you all back again next Sunday for more, “A BOHEMIAN BRIGADE, CIVIL WAR CORRESPONDENTS; MOSTLY ROUGH, SOMETIMES READY,” by James Perry.
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