As tensions were steadily building between the North and the South one hundred and fifty years ago, a clash between the two armies became ever-more apparent; on June 29, 1861, U.S. General McDowell made apparent his plan of attack on the Manassas Junction with Lincoln’s cabinet. In less than a month’s time, the first major battle of the Civil War will erupt at the railroad junction just south of Washington, D.C. Like in today’s conflicts, the media of 19th century Arkansas was dedicated in keeping their audience apprised of the latest news.
By the opening days of July, 1861, Arkansas had begun noticing the impact of the Federal blockade that was initiated by Lincoln to cut off all trade and commerce on the high seas. Among those hit the hardest were Southern newspapers, as paper had become, and would continue to be a scarce commodity. One Arkansas newspaper noted, regarding the decrease in the supply of paper, “ No matter at what sacrifice to ourselves pecuniarily, we intend the [Little Rock-based newspaper]True Democrat shall live and issue regularly during the war.”
The imminent hostilities building in the nation was not all bad for newspaper sales, however. Like today, newspaper sales skyrocket during major newsworthy events. Regarding the increase in newspaper sales, The True Democrat noted, “Since the commencement of the troubles between the North and the South, the increase of our subscription list, with the subscription price always in advance, has been unprecedented.”
By July 2, 1861, President Lincoln authorized the suspension of habeas corpus between Washington, D.C. and New York. A suspension of habeas corpus, simply stated, means that someone can be imprisoned without due process of law. By July 4, Lincoln had requisitioned congress for nearly a half million troops and nearly a half million dollars to quell the “rebellion” in the South. It was apparent that a major clash was imminent and Arkansas newspapers, like today, were up for the challenge in keeping their readers informed.