For most people at the time, far from battles or capitals, the Civil War arrived in long gray columns of text. A new system of telegraph stations, railroads, and press organizations spread words with unprecedented speed and in enormous quantity. Reports form the battlefield poured out in brief messages and long torrents, editorials commenting on every event and utterance. Even generals and presidents understood the shape and meaning of the Civil War through print.

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Copyright © 2009 Organization of American Historians. This article first appeared in the Journal of American History 96:2 (Sept. 2009), 441-446.

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