Democratic Newspapers Seized by Federal Agents

Thursday, August 22, 1861

New York newspapers named by the Grand Jury convened on August 16, were banned from the United States Postal Service. The order came directly from Montgomery Blair, Lincoln’s Postmaster General, who wrote “none of the newspapers published in New York city which were lately presented by the grand jury as dangerous, from their disloyalty, shall be forwarded in the mails.”

The listed included the New York Daily News, the Daily Journal of Commerce, and weeklies like the Freeman’s Journal and the Eagle.

In Philadelphia, as the morning train from New York pulled into the station, Federal Marshals went through the bundles of newspapers on board and seized every single copy of the New York Daily News. The sale of the paper within the city of Philadelphia was suppressed.

As the express train for Baltimore and Washington stopped in Philly, more copies of the Daily News were confiscated, including 500 copies for Annapolis, Alexandria, Baltimore and Washington and over 1,000 copies bound for Louisville.

With that work behind them, the Federal Marshals stopped all work at the Christian Observer by taking possession of the paper’s officers. Their crime was running an editorial that referred to the national conflict as an “unholy war.”1


Floyd Steals a March… on Wise?

The night previous, rival Confederate Generals Wise and Floyd of the Army of the Kanawha in western Virginia, planned their next move after the skirmishes at Dogwood Gap. With the Union pickets thrown west towards Gauley Bridge, the Generals decided that Wise should move to attack Carnifex Ferry (twenty miles northeast of Gauley). A regiment of Union troops was believed to be at Cross Lanes, five miles beyond. Floyd’s command would remain at Dogwood Gap, keeping an eye on the Yankees to their front.

On the morning of this date, General Wise and his Legion began to slosh their way north towards Carnifex Ferry via Sunday Road, a muddy seventeen miles. There was a shorter route, but Floyd wanted Wise to use the more circuitous road in the fear that they would be spotted by Union troops.

During the skirmishing at Dogwood Gap two days prior, Union General Cox ordered Col. Tyler’s regiment to move from Cross Lanes to Twenty Mile Creek to better cover the left flank at Gauley Bridge. This left both Carnifex Ferry and Cross Lanes unguarded. When Wise stepped off, neither he nor Floyd knew of this development. However, not long after Wise left Dogwood Gap, Floyd received word that Cross Lanes had been abandoned.

Marching seventeen miles in one day, through the heavy rain and thickening ankle-deep mud is no simple task. Wise and his men made it to Carnifex Ferry and found it abandoned. He ordered the men of his Legion to rest and cook their rations.

As they were doing this, from the south rode General Floyd with his entire brigade behind him. When he had heard that Union Col. Tyler had abandoned Cross Lanes, Floyd ordered his men to fall in and they immediately moved towards Carnifex Ferry via the shorter road he had warned Wise not to use.

Wise was furious and rightly so. Floyd’s unannounced move left the James River and Kanawha Turnpike unprotected and open to the Union forces at Gauley Bridge. If held, it would cut off the Army of the Kanawha from its supply base at Lewisburg.

From Wise, Floyd ordered a regiment and four pieces of artillery to be transfered to his (Floyd’s) command, as per Lee’s order of the day before. He later upped the asking to 100 cavalry troopers. Wise’s men, whose tents did not arrive until nightfall, spent the day in the rain. It wasn’t until late afternoon when Floyd ordered Wise to return with his Legion to Dogwood Gap the following day.2

  1. The Political History of the United States of America, During the Great Rebellion by Edward McPherson, Philp & Solomons, 1864. []
  2. When I originally wrote this post (back in March), I neglected to add a source for this part. More than likely, it was Lee vs. McClellan; The First Campaign by Clayton R. Newell and Rebels at the Gates; Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided by W. Hunter Lesser. []
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4 thoughts on “Democratic Newspapers Seized by Federal Agents

  1. I’ve been enjoying your reports on Floyd and Wise. Being focused on the Trans-Miss, I’d never heard of these two jokers. It reminds us just how unprepared the nation was for war. Recruits showed up with squirrel guns, flintlocks, even corn scythes, and officers had no idea what to do with their men.

    In my own state of Missouri, the first battle at Boonville was heralded by a Confederate scout spotting the advancing Federals and riding back to his lines to tell his comrades, “They’re coming, boys. They were shooting at me back there!”

    Well, yeah. What did you expect them to do?

    1. These two jokers were actually quite famous at the time. Floyd was the Secretary of War under Buchanan and Wise was a very outspoken Virginia governor. They didn’t do all that much (relatively) in the war, and were thus forgotten. I took a strange liking to West Virginia history a few years back and stumbled across their antics. It’s all sad and hilarious.

  2. “Democratic Newspapers Seized by Federal Agents”…so much for free speech and freedom of the press. War seems to condone trampling rights and Lincoln transgressed as much as any. Not his finest moment, but just like FDR and Japanese “Relocation Camps” you have to take the good with the bad with your heros…

    Nice piece…can’t wait for more on the war in the far west…AZ, NM and the California column…


    1. Very true. Those freedoms are usually the first to go in times of war and revolution (of which the Civil War was both).

      I do my best with AZ and NM, but I have to admit that I left out the California column. There’s a mention or two (and a brief summary when Johnston passes through NM), but little more. I was going to cover it in detail, but I ran out of time and words. I with I could have done more with it. The whole California (and west coast) thing is really fascinating, especially in the early part of the war.

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