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Fascinating Issue of Louisiana Civil War Newspaper, Published on Wallpaper
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This extremely rare issue is printed in seven large columns and contains “nearly as much reading matter as a full [four-page] sheet in former times.” It includes a wealth of Civil War material on military and naval affairs, slavery, conscription, war bonds, local news, the deaths of Generals Earl Van Dorn and Stonewall Jackson, the costs of publishing a newspaper, various notices, and even a few advertisements.

[CIVIL WAR]. Newspaper. The Southern Sentinel (Alexandria, LA), June 13, 1863, vol. 1, no. 10. Printed on recto of white/green/brown wallpaper as a result of a paper shortage throughout the South. There are no auction records for this edition. 1 p., 17¾ x 25½ in. irregular.

Inventory #22638       Price: $3,500

Excerpts:

            “The SOUTHERN SENTINEL, though not an official paper being published at the Headquarters of the commanding Generals of the Department and District and of the Governor of the State, where the latest intelligence is received every day, will always be able to give its readers reliable information of all the interesting and important events transpiring throughout the Confederacy, as well as the most recent Northern and foreign news.” (c1)

            “The upward tendency of our expenses has compelled us to make the change in our terms, which we this week announce, we will not for the present take any yearly subscriptions, and for 6 months we shall charge the same as we have heretofore done for 12, viz: 5 dollars, payable invariably in advance. The cost of each paper already furnished to subscribers, has far exceeded the price demanded, whilst single copies have been sold at a very little over actual cost.” (c1)

Yankee Outrages.

            “The Confederate Congress some time since, passed an act for the purpose of making a record of the heretofore unheard of enormities and outrages perpetrated by the Federal armies in this war. A record to show to posterity and foreign nations the true character of a people who boast of their superior refinement and elevated morality.” (c1)

Enforcing the Conscription.

            “We understand that there has been a good deal of activity displayed lately by the military authorities here, in enforcing the Conscription Act.—This we regard as eminently necessary, and we have long wondered that a measure so essentially vital to the successful defense of the country, has not been put in vigorous execution long before, when it might, and no doubt would have greatly strengthened the army of the Confederacy.” (c2)

            “We are glad to see that the Democrat still urges the condign punishment of the most conspicuous ringleaders, among the negro mutineers in the late raid, although we are much surprised that any such remained to be punished. We suppose, however, they thought they had a dead sure thing of it, could do as they pleased the rest of their lives, and therefore did not make tracks until it was too late to do so. We also have heard of several instances of the most outrageous insolence—one of which was a negro on a plantation on Bayou Boeuf, ordering his master off his horse, and mounting it himself, boasting that it was the nigger’s turn to rid now, and white men must walk. We hope therefore, with the Democrat, that the Commandant of the Post, if has the authority, and it seems that he has, to act Alcalde Criminal Judge or any thing else he pleases, will take up the matter in earnest, and if he has not, that some other officer will. It will not do to be squeamish in such a matter, and a strong rope and short shrift is the best way of disposing of it.” (c2)

The Late Gen. Van Dorn—A Card from his Staff.

            “We the undersigned members of the late Gen. Van Dorn’s staff, having seen with pain and regret the various rumors afloat in the public press, in relation to the circumstances attending that officer’s death, deem it our duty to make a plain statement of the facts in the case.

            “Gen. Van Dorn was shot in his own room, at Spring Hill, Tenn., by Dr. Peters, a citizen of that neighborhood. He was shot in the back of the head, while engaged in writing at his table, and entirely unconscious of any mediated hostility on the part of Dr. Peters, who had been left in the room with him apparently in friendly conversation, scarcely fifteen minutes previously, by Maj. Kimmel.... [Van Dorn’s] acquaintance with Mrs. Peters was such as to convince us, his staff officers, who had every opportunity of knowing, that there was no improper intimacy between them; and for our own part, we are led to believe that there were other and darker motives, from the fact that Dr. Peters had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government, while in Nashville....” (c5)[1]

The ‘Wilderness’ and Chancellorsville.

            “Gen. Jackson made his great flank movement against the right and rear of the enemy on Saturday. Getting into position he attacked with his corps about an hour before sunset, and driving the eleventh corps nearly to Chancellorsville. His assault was made at the well known locality of the Wilderness, and this contest will be known in history as ‘The Battle of the Wilderness.’

            “Soon after nine o’clock at night, Gen. Jackson received the wounds which caused his death, and about the same time Gen. A. P. Hill, the ranking Major-General of his corps, was also disabled.” (c5)[2]

Historical Background

During the Civil War, at least thirteen newspapers, all in Louisiana and Mississippi, published at least some issues on wallpaper. In the March 21, 1863, issue of The Southern Sentinel, the editor lamented, “Even the apology for paper which we are forced to use to print one page on, and which we will change for the better as soon as possible, costs four or five times as much as a full sheet of four pages would have done two years since.”

From May 4, 1863, to sometime in June 1863, and again from March 15 to May 14, 1864, the Union army and navy occupied Alexandria, Louisiana. After the disasters of the Red River Campaign in April 1864, Union troops set fire to the city as they withdrew in mid-May, despite General Nathaniel P. Banks’ orders to the contrary. Most of the city was destroyed, including the Ice House Hotel, where Compton edited The Southern Sentinel.

The Southern Sentinel (1863-1867) was published weekly by Tilghman G. Compton in Alexandria, Louisiana, located on the Red River, approximately half way between Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Most issues published from March to September 1863 were printed on wallpaper. In the summer of 1863, single copies cost 50 cents and an annual subscription was $8, in “Confederate, Louisiana, or Rapides money” only.

Tilghman G. Compton (1814-1874) was born in Maryland and moved to Mississippi in 1837, and to Alexandria, Louisiana in 1839. In 1860, he was a farmer in Alexandria and owned a dozen slaves. In 1853, while acting as a traveling agent and correspondent of the New Orleans Delta newspaper, Compton was shot and severely wounded in Alexandria by L. B. Compton. In the late 1850s, he served as an assistant editor of the Red River American, an anti-secessionist newspaper. Compton established The Southern Sentinel in 1863. Compton also served briefly as postmaster in the late 1860s at Shreveport, Alexandria, and Opelousas. He became the second editor of the Rapides Gazette, founded in 1869 as a radical Republican newspaper, and Compton expressed more moderate Republican views.

Condition

Fold creases are weak with some minor paper loss and tearing; some of the text is obscured. Edges are chipped; tear in the top margin along the vertical crease.


[1] Earl Van Dorn (1820-1863), great-nephew of Andrew Jackson and Confederate general, was killed by Dr. George Peters (1812-1889), a physician and member of the Tennessee legislature, for improper intimacy with Peters’ wife, Jessie Helen McKissick Peters (1838-1921), who was substantially younger. A year later, George Peters obtained a divorce from his wife but they later remarried.

[2] At the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) was shot by his own troops while returning from reconnoitering the Union lines after a successful flank attack. Confederate corps commander A. P. Hill was also wounded in the legs but recovered to fight on until killed at Petersburg in April 1865.

Despite Compton’s prediction, this battle became the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of the Wilderness became the name for a battle fought in May 1864 in the same general area.


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