A Civil War Newspaper


A Civil War Newspaper


Glen Kleine, assistant professor of English at Eastern, has the interesting hobby of collecting old newspapers of historical significance. One item that he has recently acquired is a copy of the Charlestown (South Carolina) Mercury, dated Sept. 8, 1862. On page one is an article copied from the Knoxville Register reported the Battle of Richmond, Ky., from the Confederate army viewpoint. The article was written August 30, apparently just after the last of this battle which has been labeled by some historians as the most decisive Confederate victory in the whole Civil War. Two other articles of local interest deal with Cassius M. Clay and a proclamation by Jefferson Davis.

Under the headline "The Victory at Richmond, Ky.," the battle report gives an account of the several skirmishes including some small details which are not found in the several other accounts which we already have.

Early on the morning of Saturday, August 29, 1862, General Kirby Smith and his staff rode their horses eight miles from their headquarters to a place about half a mile from Rogersville where they were to join their troops. Just before they arrived, this report states, the Union artillery started firing and shortly thereafter the Union infantry began shooting. In less than an hour the fight was over, and after the Union forces withdrew, it was determined that losses had been heavy for both sides. General Smith's headquarters reported that several important Confederate field officers had been killed.

The second skirmish occurred at two or three o'clock in the afternoon after the Confederate soldiers had marched eight miles toward Richmond in the hot August sun without any water except what the men drank from puddles along the road. After several hours rest, they advanced to the edge of town where the Union forces made a third stand. After heavy fighting, the article relates, "we routed them, and drove them through the place a little before sundown in utter confusion."

One part of Smith's army was sent around to the Lexington road to intercept the Union troops as they fled north in the direction of Louisville. There they executed a highly successful ambush in which the Confederate forces "succeeded in capturing and killing nearly the whole army, taking all their guns and some ten pieces of artillery, with all their wagons, stores, etc," (The Confederate Military History, Vol. VIII says that only nine cannons were captured.) The writer of the article apparently was mistaken also when he reported that one of the three Union brigades was commanded by Cassius M. Clay.

The article closes with the exclamation that "it was a grand sight to see our ill-clad and sometimes barefooted troops, with no food and but little water marching with a steady front on their splendidly-equipped foe."

Another column in this 108-year-old newspaper contained a proclamation by Jefferson Davis setting Sept. 18, 1862, as "a day of prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the great mercies vouchsafed to our people, and more especially for the triumph of our arms at Richmond... "

Cassius M. Clay, that controversial anti-slavery leader of Madison County, was the subject of a short news item which indicated that Clay had decided to end his military career and to return to St. Petersburg as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. The New York Post is quoted as saying that Clay was probably convinced that "the recent decisions of President Lincoln and the present policy of the Government would debar him from carrying out his own views and would render his military system...obnoxious to the Government..."


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “A Civil War Newspaper,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed August 14, 2018, https://madisonsheritage.omeka.net/items/show/815.