A BOHEMIAN BRIGADE by James M. Perry

A BOHEMIAN BRIGADE

The Civil War Correspondents--Mostly Rough, Sometimes Ready
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A preposterous, controversial, infuriating, and disarming band of rogues and heroes—the Civil War newsmen—are

insightfully profiled by journalist Perry (Arrogant Armies, 1996), one of their latter-day own.

Modern American journalism emerged from the Civil War: Perry makes it clear that, thanks to the telegraph and the

importance placed on breaking news and scoops, the conflict was the first instant-news event. Peeling away the layers of prose

and posturing, Perry draws upon his experience as a newspaperman to show—for better or worse—what made reporters tick. They

were pompous and arrogant, highly inventive, they lied and cheated, they got the story wrong more often than they should have,

and they drank too much: in short, "They did a lot of things reporters are still doing today." But they were also, Perry admits,

worthy war correspondents—some of them even admirable. We are afforded fascinating glimpses of the news process from the

inside, with both overviews (why James Gordon Bennett's Herald said what it did compared to Horace Greeley's Tribune) and

intimate tales (correspondents filing thrilling reports of battles "witnessed" 200 miles behind the lines, the reporter who kept Grant

from drinking himself to death, and how European correspondents covered the action). Perry is particularly taken with the work

of Charles Carleton Coffin of the Boston Morning Journal and Whitelaw Reid of the Cincinnati Gazette. Reid he liked for his

careful writing, penetrating details, and willingness to call officers on their errors; Coffin was a sharp, dramatic writer who

"probably knew as much about making war as most of the generals." Both are represented here, as are a good dozen more, by

excellent selections of their dispatches—all of which, despite their antiquated style, ring with urgency and dire circumstance.

An utterly engaging exposition of the war correspondent's work—rotten to sublime—same as it ever was these 150 years

hence.

Pub Date: April 14th, 2000
ISBN: 0-471-32009-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000




MORE BY JAMES M. PERRY

NonfictionTOUCHED WITH FIRE by James M. Perry
by James M. Perry
NonfictionARROGANT ARMIES by James M. Perry
by James M. Perry

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionHELL BEFORE BREAKFAST by Robert H. Patton
by Robert H. Patton
NonfictionLINCOLN AND THE POWER OF THE PRESS by Harold Holzer
by Harold Holzer