Blood and Ink: Front Pages From the Civil War

1860 edition of the Charleston Mercury. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. (Newseum collection)


1861 "Extra" edition of the New York Illustrated News devoted to events at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. (Newseum collection)


1862 edition of The Union Sentinel, a handwritten newspaper published on lined notepaper by students in Warren, Conn. (Newseum collection)


1863 edition of the Union-occupation newspaper Stars and Stripes printed on wallpaper. (Newseum collection)


1864 illustrated edition of Harper's Weekly. (Newseum collection)


1864 "Extra" edition of the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer detailing the capture and burning of Atlanta. (Newseum collection)

On display indefinitely

Location: Mezzanine Level

WASHINGTON — Experience the story of the Civil War as Americans in the 1860s did — through the front pages of newspapers.

"Blood and Ink: Front Pages From the Civil War" showcases more than 30 historic front pages from the Newseum collection spanning the length of the war, from the birth of the Confederacy to the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Front pages from Northern and Southern newspapers show both Union and Confederate viewpoints while illuminating the challenges faced by reporters on the battlefield and the new technologies that revolutionized war reporting.

Newspapers covered the conflict 150 years ago with more speed and depth than any previous story. The newly invented telegraph allowed newspapers to report breaking news as soon as it happened, but the pressure to be first sometimes resulted in factual errors. As the war dragged on, newsprint became scarce in the South, forcing some newspapers to print on wallpaper. Roughly half of the newspapers in the South did not survive the war.

The exhibit includes a Northern newspaper's false report of a Union victory in the First Battle of Bull Run; two Southern newspapers printed on wallpaper; an amateur newspaper handwritten by students in Connecticut; illustrated newspapers featuring maps and war scenes drawn by battlefield sketch artists; a front page used by a Union soldier to write a note to his mother; and newspapers covering key events including the election of Abraham Lincoln; the opening shots of the war at Fort Sumter, S.C.; the Battle of Gettysburg; the fall of Atlanta; the South's surrender; and Lincoln's assassination.

Newspapers in the exhibit also trace the divisive issue of slavery, the chief cause of the Civil War, from an 1807 newspaper featuring ads for slaves to an 1865 front page heralding the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.

The groundbreaking news coverage of the deadliest war in U.S. history transformed journalism and ushered in a new era of breaking news coverage.

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