Exploration of some of the unsung early war correspondents in New York and London who created the model for vivid prose and humanitarian alarm.
With the installation of a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable connecting America and Europe in 1858, the race for newsgathering took off, while the eruption of the Civil War shifted reader interest from local scandal to “the exclusive battle dispatch that could be issued in an extra edition and hawked on the street at great profit.” Patton (Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution, 2008, etc.) captures the gritty, wild-eyed quality of trailblazing early newspapermen like John Russell Young, who made his name covering the Battle of Bull Run, and the Ohioan Januarius MacGahan, along with their exacting editors—only two women are featured: one is MacGahan’s comely Russian wife, the other a wealthy humanitarian widow, Emily Strangford, who met the reporter while setting out to help victims of Turkish-Bulgarian violence in 1876. All the New York newspapers—e.g., James Gordon Bennett’s Herald, Horace Greeley’s Tribune and Henry J. Raymond’s Times—competed with one another for the scoop, learning the value of “creating news instead of waiting to record it”—e.g., the Herald’s sending the rookie reporter Henry Morton Stanley to Central Africa in pursuit of the incommunicado missionary David Livingstone. MacGahan and other American expat correspondents in Paris stumbled on the Franco-Prussian War; he was horrified by the bloody insurrection, taking pains to characterize the violence fairly in his emotional dispatches for the Herald, for which he was highly praised. Another visionary correspondent was the extraordinarily talented artist and writer Frank Millet, who plunged into covering the Russian-Turkish War of 1877 by crisscrossing Central Asia during an era of difficult land travel and illustrating his essays with tremendously moving sketches of the bloodied and wounded. These correspondents became heroes of their time and doubled at times as capable explorers.
Densely researched, swift-moving account full of fighting detail.