Author: Ted Tunnell

a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond

Newspapers in Virginia during the Civil War, Confederate

Confederate newspapers in Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865) served as vital, if often flawed, sources of reporting on the conflict, as organs of national propaganda, and as venues in which to attack or defend the administration of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. At the start of the war, nearly every town in Virginia boasted a newspaper, with four dailies in Richmond alone. (A fifth began publishing in 1863.) These papers were staunchly partisan: the Richmond Enquirer endorsed the Democratic Party, the Richmond Whig cheered on the largely defunct Whig Party, and the Staunton Vindicator endorsed secession. During the war, they updated their readers on the Confederacy’s military progress and relied on Northern papers when their own reporting failed. Along with its rivals, the Enquirer trumpeted victories and downplayed defeats, blurring the line between news and propaganda. The Richmond Examiner, meanwhile, under the editorship of John M. Daniel, became the loudest organ of dissent in the Confederate capital, its criticisms of President Davis turning more intense and more personal as the war dragged on. Propaganda from Virginia newspapers helped prop up Southern spirits early in the war, and it is likely that their political attacks eventually helped depress Confederate morale.


Edgar Allan (1842–1904)

Edgar Allan was one of Virginia’s leading Republicans from 1867 until 1902. A native of England who fought with George A. Custer’s cavalry during the American Civil War (1861–1865), Allan settled in Prince Edward County as a farmer in 1865. He then taught himself law and established a Farmville practice. The region’s African American voters elected him to the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868. Though mocked as “Yankee” Allan, he spent twelve years as Prince Edward’s commonwealth’s attorney and three years in the Senate of Virginia. In 1883 he moved to Richmond, becoming a prosperous lawyer. In 1892 he helped Bettie Thomas Lewis, daughter of a former slave and a wealthy white man, claim her inheritance. Eight years later he lost a bid for Congress, and Republicans aligned with U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt took control of the state party from Allan’s group in 1902. Sickly, in pain, and emotionally devastated by the loss of political power, Allan committed suicide in 1904.