Civil War Newspaper Catalog

Presented for sale by Phil Barber, Cambridge, Mass. 02139 Telephone (617) 492-4653

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All items in this catalog are unconditionally guaranteed to be genuine and accurately described. Each catalog entry is briefly described for its general appearance, historical significance, and content. Every one contains hours of additional historic reading, much more than I could find the space to describe here.

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The War for the Union: British Perspectives

    Although we tend to look at our history in a vacuum, the rest of the world has always eagerly followed events in the United States. This was especially true during the Civil War. With the secession of the southern states, enemies of freedom everwhere gleefully celebrated the apparent self-destruction of the world's only experiment in democratic self-government. The success of the United States had been a thorn in the side of Europe's petty Kings and Emperors, whose people looked across the ocean for a model of how they might live as well, free of their arbitrary authorities.

    There was strong support for the insurgency among the English aristocracy, who identified with the highly class-structured Southern society. British diplomatic recognition of the rebels, with subsequent financial and military aid, would have gone far to win the Confederacy’s independence, just as the American Revolution would have failed without French aid. But Britons of all classes were solidly opposed to human slavery, which England had abolished throughout her vast empire in 1834. Working people in particular supported the Union war effort, despite the cost to themselves. Literally millions of mill workers faced destitution, as British mills cut back production during early wartime cotton shortages.

     British newspapers are generally strongly pro-Confederate and hostile to the United States' leaders and war effort. They contain splendid perspectives on the conflict that are not to be found in any other contemporary accounts. Their correspondents traveled and marched with rebel forces and sent home vivid pictures and words of what life was like in "rebeldom." The English pictorial newspapers, chiefly the great Illustrated London News, the world's first pictorial newsweekly, contain the highest quality wood engravings of American news. They are very similar in style to the American Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's, and offer glimpses into life in the South and the North, the like of which are not to be found elsewhere. For this reason I am proud to include these often overlooked treasures among my Civil War catalog offerings.

    For more on Britain's involvement in our war, and how its government's actions (and inaction) profoundly affected its outcome, we recommend Amanda Foreman's fine new book "A World on Fire, Britain’s Crucial Role in America's Civil War" (2011).

The outcome of our civil war was determined by overseas events to a surprising extent. The European powers, though nominally sympathetic to the insurgency, immediately began scheming to recolonize the western hemisphere. Spain reconquered Santo Domingo a month after Sumter. Britain sent ten thousand troops to Canada later that summer. Soon after, French forces began the invasion of Mexico. With the Pope's blessing, France's self-styled "emperor" Napoleon III developed an elaborate plan with Spain and Britain to set up an Imperial Catholic regime that would eventually expand to include Central and South America. The scheme hinged on Mexico's occupation by French forces, stationed there to checkmate the southward expansion plans of the nominally allied Confederacy. But in Mexico a ragtag peasant army inflicted a severe defeat on crack French Zouaves on Cinco de Mayo, 1862. Although they would be later overwhelmed, this startling reversal caused British leaders to reconsider and pull out of the alliance. Later that year a diplomatic crisis triggered by Garibaldifs march on Rome forced the resignation of the aggressive French Minister of War, and la reconquesta was abandoned. By 1863, international recognition of the Confederacy became an impossibility. Secretary of State Seward had long intimated that such interference would mean a U.S. declaration of war, and now Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was having its intended effect, triggering an astonishing outpouring of heartfelt public support for the Union, a pro-republican explosion that, coming after the bloody revolutions of 1848, shook the aristocracy of the Old World to its core and convinced them their interests, if not their very survival, lay in distancing themselves from the American conflict.

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Related Website Catalog Links at
My Introductory Catalog, for an extensive selection of "atmosphere" issues of newspapers and periodicals of the Civil War years.

My 19th Century Newspaper Catalog, which includes numerous individually described issues on the causes of the war and its legacy.

I hope you have enjoyed this listing, and have found it useful and informative. This catalog contains a very small sampling of our large and ever-changing inventory of Civil War newspapers. More organized and diverse editions of the catalog are planned to be uploaded to this site, so please visit us again. We normally try to have at least three to four hundred different individually described items in each of our topic catalogs, but they tend to sell out so rapidly that it is hard to keep up with the demand! Please feel free to e-mail your comments to our address below, or call us during regular business hours, eastern time.

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