Book Chat
A Bohemian Brigade
The Civil War Correspondents
James M. Perry

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 11/04/07 and covered Chapters 5 & 6

11/4/2007 9:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Good evening once again everyone. And welcome to our THIRD installment of our Book Chat on - “A BOHEMIAN BRIGADE: THE CIVIL WAR CORRESPONDENTS, MOSTLY ROUGH, SOMETIMES READY,” by James M. Perry.

11/4/2007 9:07 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Last week’s discussion included observations on how it was more important to get the news first, even at the expense of getting it right. The newspaper business was very competitive. The telegraph was expensive, but it contributed to the speed of getting the news out, as well as to often getting the news wrong.

11/4/2007 9:07 pm (et) amhistoryguy: We also got some great background on the big three editors of New York papers, Horace Greeley, something of a “crackpot; James Bennett, a genius but “wallowing in the journalistic sewer;” and Henry Raymond, a “good Republican” who supported Lincoln and the Union.

11/4/2007 9:07 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anyone have anything that needs to be added to last week’s discussion?

11/4/2007 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: If not, we can move on.

11/4/2007 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: CHAPTER FIVE - OUT WEST Right off the bat Perry makes an interesting statement when characterizing the theaters of the war, making the claim that the eastern theater was “the more crucial of the two.” Perry also seems to put the reporters covering the war in that theater in a separate class that was “sometimes hardworking,” but also “hard drinking,” “devious, dishonest, sophomoric and undisciplined.” Comments ?

11/4/2007 9:11 pm (et) Skylark: Not to be flip, but didn't they say that about the generals as well?

11/4/2007 9:11 pm (et) ks: I read his statement and thought "Them's fighting words on CWWT." ;) Very much surprised me to see that in print.

11/4/2007 9:11 pm (et) Babs: I'm sure we could take up the whole time discussing the relative importance of the West.

11/4/2007 9:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought some of his characterizations were unfair, in that in a number of cases EASTERN reporters came west to report.

11/4/2007 9:11 pm (et) Susansweet: I thought the same Pat, ,

11/4/2007 9:12 pm (et) mobile_96: Maybe it was meant more crucial because it was closer to home and more in a more compact area than the west.

11/4/2007 9:12 pm (et) Susansweet: Found his statement that the War in the west was serious business too an interesting way to start the chapter.

11/4/2007 9:12 pm (et) ks: But perhaps it's a more modern day (and enlightened) view to see the importance of the western theatre? Especially if the PRESS watelling people at that time that the EAST was the important theatre...

11/4/2007 9:12 pm (et) Babs: I though these two chapters were much more interesting than the earlier part of the book.

11/4/2007 9:13 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It might be more likely that Perry read somewhere that the East was more important, and he just went with it.

11/4/2007 9:14 pm (et) Susansweet: He does say the west was downplayed by Eastern historians.

11/4/2007 9:14 pm (et) amhistoryguy: You may find it hard to believe, but I don’t take pleasure at “picking on” authors. In the case of Perry and his few lines about Dennis Mahoney’s arrest, I again have to point out some either some poor research or editing. First, Perry states that “A Federal marshal and a squad of soldiers pulled the old man from his bed in August of 1860 and whisked him out of the city.” In the sentence prior to this Perry mentions “ sixty-year old Dennis Mahoney.”

11/4/2007 9:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Well, Dennis Mahoney was born January 20, 1821, which in 1860 would make him 39 years old, not 60. Next, if the arrest happened in “August of 1860,” this was prior to Lincoln’s election and the secession of any states. Mahoney was actually arrested by U. S. Marshal H. M. Hoxie on August 14, 1862, for publishing an article allegedly disloyal to the United States.

11/4/2007 9:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Dates and details are readily available in “History of Iowa,” Vol IV, part of the Iowa History Project.

11/4/2007 9:15 pm (et) secret squirrel: Wow, what poor research.

11/4/2007 9:16 pm (et) amhistoryguy: While Perry writes that “Wilkie said Mahoney was arrested to prevent him from running from congress,” Perry might have added that it was while Mahoney was in prison that he was nominated by Democrats in Iowa’s 3rd District. He was not a candidate prior to his arrest.

11/4/2007 9:16 pm (et) amhistoryguy: FWIW, Mahoney wrote a 414 page book after the war, “Prisoner of State.”

11/4/2007 9:16 pm (et) Babs: Multiple errors there.

11/4/2007 9:16 pm (et) ks: Wow. Amazes ME that you research such details, Dave. :) Glad you do though.

11/4/2007 9:17 pm (et) secret squirrel: Wonder who edited this book?

11/4/2007 9:17 pm (et) Skylark: I have a question about the Easter/Western theaters.

11/4/2007 9:17 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I kind of go back to Perry's initial claim that his being a journalist gave him insight into what it was to be a CW journalist - I would prefer someone who could do research.

11/4/2007 9:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Fire away Skylark.

11/4/2007 9:18 pm (et) mobile_96: I agree AMH.

11/4/2007 9:18 pm (et) Skylark: Thanks, amhg. Was the Western Theater a sort of Purgatory for second-rate stringers? If that was the case, the mood and style of the reporting would have been quite different.

11/4/2007 9:19 pm (et) ks: We've not read anything to give that impression, have we?

11/4/2007 9:19 pm (et) amhistoryguy: What caught my eye initially was the date of 1860 for the arrest - seemed too early, and it was.

11/4/2007 9:19 pm (et) Susansweet: He says they were the real Bohemians, . . . mostly rough.

11/4/2007 9:20 pm (et) Skylark: So the rough guys were sent out West to cover the "secondary" front?

11/4/2007 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I don't think that was the case Sky.

11/4/2007 9:20 pm (et) Skylark: OK, thanks, amhg and Susan.

11/4/2007 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: In large part it seem that the individual reporters when wherever they wanted to go.

11/4/2007 9:21 pm (et) ks: I'd wonder if it was more the characteristic of one seeking adventure "Go WEST, young man!" that brought those western reporters to the west.

11/4/2007 9:21 pm (et) kayq: Yes, and according to author's portrayal of Wilkie's travels, fairly resourcefully as well.

11/4/2007 9:21 pm (et) Skylark: That sounds reasonable, ks; the western theater attractred the wild guys.

11/4/2007 9:22 pm (et) Susansweet: the correspondents went where they wanted to go .

11/4/2007 9:22 pm (et) ks: That was fascinating. To read Wilkie's account about how he had little to no money and didn't need it since soldiers wanted news to go home and he was welcome in most every mess.

11/4/2007 9:22 pm (et) Babs: Which paid better? Did anyone do the math?

11/4/2007 9:23 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It may be covered later in the book, so I won't spoil it, but there was an opportunity for the "resourcefull" reporter to make "extra" money in the west, speculating in cotton. Much easier to do in the south.

11/4/2007 9:24 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thus, it may well have been more profitable in the long run, to have been a western reporter.

11/4/2007 9:25 pm (et) mobile_96: I have a book on the civil war letters (Missouri in 1861) of Wilkie.

11/4/2007 9:25 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Wilkie’s description of reporters Knox and Fish firing at Confederates across a stream adds weight to the wisdom of not treating reporters as non combatants. Later on there is a description of Wilkie and Browne firing away as well.

11/4/2007 9:26 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Quite a number of examples of the "rough" nature of these men.

11/4/2007 9:26 pm (et) ks: But do you think THEY would have realized how ineffective their short ranged handguns were? Just caught up in the macho aspect of it all??

11/4/2007 9:26 pm (et) mobile_96: Especially the drinks.

11/4/2007 9:26 pm (et) mobile_96: Think so KS.

11/4/2007 9:27 pm (et) ks: Especially the drinks? What meanest thou, mobeel? :)

11/4/2007 9:27 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I don't think it was important to be effective - they were shooting at the Rebs - Macho thing.

11/4/2007 9:28 pm (et) mobile_96: The evenin' drinking sessions they had.

11/4/2007 9:28 pm (et) ks: Ah, gotcha.

11/4/2007 9:28 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I was also a bit surprised at Perry’s comment that Fremont was “as absurd a figure as either side produced during the war. Of course Perry is entitled to his opinion, I’m no big fan of Fremont, but IMO, the comment is absurd without any follow up or explanation.

11/4/2007 9:30 pm (et) Susansweet: He also called him Gaudy.

11/4/2007 9:32 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can accept "gaudy" but I'm not sure what is meant by being an "absurd figure." As a general, as a leader, what did he do that was "absurd?"

11/4/2007 9:32 pm (et) ks: The section on Wilkie was the first and only time I've seen Nathaniel Lyon referred to as "Daddy" Lyon. Shocked me. Anyone else ever run into that term with ref to Lyon??

11/4/2007 9:33 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Not just absurd, but "as absurd a figure as either side produced during the war."

11/4/2007 9:33 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I have never seen that before either ks.

11/4/2007 9:33 pm (et) Susansweet: I kept thinking of others I would describe as more absurd than Fremont.

11/4/2007 9:34 pm (et) Susansweet: And the Daddy must be to fit with Pap Price.

11/4/2007 9:34 pm (et) Basecat: Just an aside on Fremont that many may not know... The "largest and most expensive 'trophy'" in college football is a replica of a cannon "that accompanied Captain John C. Fremont on his expedition through Oregon, Nevada and California in 1843-44." The annual rivalry game between the University of Nevada and UNLV is over the Fremont Cannon.

11/4/2007 9:35 pm (et) Susansweet: Another aside on Fremont is two of his cannons are still somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas , never found after he had to abandon them.

11/4/2007 9:35 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He has the "Daddy" in quotes, but it would be interesting to know who refered to him as that - especially given Perry's prior research - Maybe Perry just liked the term.

11/4/2007 9:36 pm (et) Babs: Those guys writing the eye witness accounts from the hotel room made me think of Geraldo.

11/4/2007 9:36 pm (et) Susansweet: I just realized he doesn't footnote !

11/4/2007 9:36 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I would have preferred to be informed of Fremont's inadequcies, rather than hear a blanket "absurd" comment.

11/4/2007 9:37 pm (et) secret squirrel: Yes Susan this is like an editorial.

11/4/2007 9:37 pm (et) mobile_96: Not a single one Susan.

11/4/2007 9:37 pm (et) Basecat: amhg..Not hard to include that when in charge in Mizzou, his staff was made up of mainly European Soldiers, and that his HQ was more like his kingdom.

11/4/2007 9:38 pm (et) Basecat: That's absurd during the CW.

11/4/2007 9:38 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That may be a signal as to the quality of the research for me in the future - look for footnotes or endnotes.

11/4/2007 9:38 pm (et) Skylark: Is there a bibliography, if no citations?

11/4/2007 9:39 pm (et) Susansweet: There is a bibliography

11/4/2007 9:39 pm (et) ks: Interesting. Just did a Google search and came up with excerpts from Wilkie's "Missouri in 1861" which mobile mentioned earlier. It's in Wilkie's account about Lyon that "Daddy" appears. Will type a short version up....

11/4/2007 9:39 pm (et) Skylark: But no footnotes... eeeeeenteresting. My editor would hang me on that.

11/4/2007 9:39 pm (et) Susansweet: Mostly secondary souces now that I look at it

11/4/2007 9:39 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I agree, but I would have liked to have had the specific absurdities noted.

11/4/2007 9:40 pm (et) Basecat: Am with you AMHG...If I turned in a paper like that in College, the remarks in red would have been all over that page.:)

11/4/2007 9:40 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anything in the remainder of this chapter that anyone would like to address?

11/4/2007 9:40 pm (et) secret squirrel: Anyone think this author would care to speak about this book one Sunday evening?

11/4/2007 9:41 pm (et) Babs: Not if he reads the log.

11/4/2007 9:41 pm (et) Skylark: Squirrel - what an interesting idea.

11/4/2007 9:41 pm (et) secret squirrel: Maybe....maybe not?

11/4/2007 9:42 pm (et) Skylark: I agree that it sounds like an editorial, squirrel.

11/4/2007 9:42 pm (et) mobile_96: Have him in after the log is cleared

11/4/2007 9:42 pm (et) Skylark: And don't give him the key

11/4/2007 9:42 pm (et) ks: "He smiles little or nine, is a strict disciplinarian, has the full confidence of his men, among whom. or at least among the Regulars, he is know as "Daddy." A lot of Regulars will be scuffling on their campus---somebody calls out, "Daddy is coming!" and in an instant everything is as quiet as a meeting house. He goes absently along, plucking his beard carelessly with one had, stopping here and there to give some order or to ask some question in a harsh, authoritative voice, and is a sort of a man that one will stop to take a good look at as he passes. I don't think he has anything like physical fear--is all through a soldier, and will yet make his mark high in the military world."

11/4/2007 9:43 pm (et) Skylark: Well, that sounds like something that should have been cited, indeed.

11/4/2007 9:43 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I feel bad picking on an author, I appreciate the work they do, I just wish it was accurate.

11/4/2007 9:44 pm (et) Skylark: Rats, wish I had the book - how is it presented, amhg? As an opinion piece or as definitive research?

11/4/2007 9:44 pm (et) Skylark: As a reflection, perhaps.

11/4/2007 9:44 pm (et) amhistoryguy: CHAPTER SIX - AFLOAT - In this chapter, we read the accounts of Bradley Osbon, THE naval correspondent. There are quite a number of interesting accounts. Comments?

11/4/2007 9:45 pm (et) Susansweet: He has so many quotes , it would be nice to know where the quotes come from , what source

11/4/2007 9:45 pm (et) ks: Wished I were more familiar with NAVAL terminology in this one. ;) I'd have then known what was being blown up and where the flags were being hung.

11/4/2007 9:45 pm (et) Skylark: Amhg, I would place the responsibility on the editor, here.

11/4/2007 9:46 pm (et) Susansweet: Osbon was quite the character.

11/4/2007 9:46 pm (et) amhistoryguy: At the beginning of the book Perry makes not of the fact that since he is a journalist, he has a special insight into CW journalists.

11/4/2007 9:47 pm (et) ks: No kidding. He knew how to work his way into being in the right place.

11/4/2007 9:47 pm (et) Skylark: Thanks, amhg

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) Susansweet: I loved how he would enlist and be placed on just the right ship.

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Doesn't seem like errors in editing to me Sky, errors in research

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) Babs: I thought he was Forrest Gump.

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) Susansweet: The conversations with Farragut were so interesting.

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) secret squirrel: I just wonder how he got "out" of his military duties so fast!

11/4/2007 9:48 pm (et) Susansweet: Exactly Babs.

11/4/2007 9:49 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He really got around, reminded me of Forrest Gump - always turning up.

11/4/2007 9:49 pm (et) ks: I'd not known previously that, when Lincoln took office, 50 out of 90 of the US Navy's ships were sailing ships and only 42 ready for war.

11/4/2007 9:49 pm (et) ks: Did you and Babs talk? ;) Great minds on the Forrest Gump comparison.

11/4/2007 9:49 pm (et) Susansweet: The established Navy too did not want to switch from wood to iron either.

11/4/2007 9:49 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Wonder how it was that he was the only naval reporter.

11/4/2007 9:50 pm (et) Susansweet: Perry says there were others but not to the extend of Osbon because he would get on exactly the right ship.

11/4/2007 9:50 pm (et) Basecat: Osbon's first name?

11/4/2007 9:51 pm (et) Skylark: Amhg, we talked about this before, and the conclusion we (our dear PHP and the rest of us) came to was the lack of fast communications: might as well read the Naval dispatches.

11/4/2007 9:51 pm (et) Skylark: At least with the land wars there were telegraphs, even if not used all the time.

11/4/2007 9:52 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Bradley

11/4/2007 9:52 pm (et) Skylark: So you would have to wait for your reporter to come in with the ship.

.11/4/2007 9:52 pm (et) Skylark: Or for another reporting ship, in which case why have someone on board.

11/4/2007 9:53 pm (et) Susansweet: I think that is it, sky, the others would wait until the ships landed and get the reports.

11/4/2007 9:53 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That's a good point Sky. Yet the river service could have been an interesting assignment.

11/4/2007 9:53 pm (et) Skylark: Dang I might talk myself out of next week's assignment ... shhhhh

11/4/2007 9:54 pm (et) Skylark: Amhg - true enough. But there was more coverage on the Mississippi, wasn't there?

11/4/2007 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Or at least on the Rivers.

11/4/2007 9:55 pm (et) mobile_96: Probably None on blockade.

11/4/2007 9:55 pm (et) Basecat: Sorry...nary a bio. on Osbon on Google...Just listed books he wrote etc.

11/4/2007 9:55 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think the reports on the rivers came from reporters on shore largely.

11/4/2007 9:55 pm (et) Skylark: LOL just had an image of a reporter on the blockade signaling his story to the shore reporter.

11/4/2007 9:56 pm (et) Skylark: While the Confederate navy takes notes.

11/4/2007 9:56 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Interesting how Osbon got his name, surname - Osborne.

11/4/2007 9:56 pm (et) Susansweet: I was amazed how he slipped into to Gosport to view the Virginia.

11/4/2007 9:57 pm (et) ks: Osbon did the signal flag work as well, Sky. :)

11/4/2007 9:57 pm (et) Skylark: ROTFL

11/4/2007 9:57 pm (et) ks: No kidding!! Excerpts of this chapter made him out to be quite the sleuth and spy.

11/4/2007 9:57 pm (et) Babs: Sk, He did do some signaling. Oh KS beat me.

11/4/2007 9:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: His offer to lead a mission to destroy the vessel might have given history a different twist as well.

11/4/2007 9:58 pm (et) Susansweet: I have heard the Farragut story before but heard it was a junior officer whose field glasses Farragut was using , he asked him to come down , didn't so asked for his glasses, When Farragut came down with glass the shot went over his head.

11/4/2007 9:58 pm (et) Susansweet: Can you imagine if he had Dave. Wow , no Monitor Vs. Virginia.

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) Babs: The movie about him will be called The Osborne Identity.

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) Susansweet: lol Babs, I would go see this movie

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) Skylark: Hahaaaaaaaaaa

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) ks: What was it? He was a broom salesman and an order arrived with his name mispelled?? Easier and cheaper to change his name than to return order?

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) Susansweet: Yeah that was it Ks.

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) secret squirrel: Sounds like that character "uncle BS".

11/4/2007 9:59 pm (et) Susansweet: Kind of like Grant at West Point.

11/4/2007 10:00 pm (et) ks: Hadn't thought of that, but you're right, Susan. :)

11/4/2007 10:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That was it - imagine if a book came with a misspelling of your name - want the book, change your name.

11/4/2007 10:01 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Were brooms worth that much that it was a financial benefit to change your name.

11/4/2007 10:01 pm (et) Skylark: I would make them change it. Send it back. Bleah.

11/4/2007 10:01 pm (et) Susansweet: How different is it than want into the USA change your name.

11/4/2007 10:01 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Makes him an interesting character with an interesting name.

11/4/2007 10:02 pm (et) mobile_96: If he had the money to ship back.

11/4/2007 10:02 pm (et) ks: Didn't seem probable to me, Dave. But that's what we read.

11/4/2007 10:04 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Well, it is a bit early tonight, I thought there would be more discussion, but if there is nothing else we can wrap it up for tonight - Anyone have anything else to add.

11/4/2007 10:04 pm (et) Babs: He was a good artist.

11/4/2007 10:04 pm (et) Susansweet: This chapter was the most interesting of the six we have read I felt.

11/4/2007 10:04 pm (et) Skylark: That was interesting- thank you.

11/4/2007 10:04 pm (et) Babs: SS, I agree.

11/4/2007 10:05 pm (et) Babs: Two more chapters for next week?

11/4/2007 10:05 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thanks everyone for your participation tonight. Homework for next Sunday, same time, same place, will be : CHAPTER SEVEN AND CHAPTER EIGHT - That’s about 45 pages.

11/4/2007 10:06 pm (et) Susansweet: great

11/4/2007 10:06 pm (et) mobile_96: sounds good to me

11/4/2007 10:06 pm (et) kayq: Sounds good. Thanks for leading us thru this interesting literary 'mire,' and with great aplomb. ;)

11/4/2007 10:06 pm (et) Babs: The changing loyalties among papers reminds me of TV newscasters today always trying to move to a better market.

11/4/2007 10:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think we will be getting into some interesting chapters - I agree Susan - 5 & 6 were interesting.