March 22, 1862: The propaganda war

Lincoln with a newspaper

A New York Times editorial promotes using captured Southern newspapers as propaganda organs for the Union. The Stars and Stripes got its start that way in Bloomfield, Missouri.


TheUnion army, in its occupation of the rebel territory, has initiated a practice full of useful suggestion. Wherever it seizes upon the newspapers, it has at once converted them into organs of loyalty, and sent them forth into the astounded community where they have taught treason, transformed into heralds of fealty and peace.

Thus far this action has been spontaneous on the part of individuals, and utterly unregulated by system and uninspired by policy. This should no longer be the case.

These newspapers are property, and as such are liable to confiscation. They have been wholly in the interest of the arch-traitors from the first, and have teemed continually with the most atrocious and mischievous falsehoods. It is not too much to say that with an independent Press, the Southern States could never have been seduced or driven into the madness of secession. These journals should now be made to undo their own work, and we suggest to the Government that here it should assume the responsibility of securing this result.

Nothing can be easier. The presses and type are at hand; every regiment can furnish practical printers, and even judicious editors. Let the Government appoint some suitable person, whose duty it shall be to supervise this labor; to provide paper and ink, and select able and judicious editors, who shall continue regularly the publication of each journal as it is seized, avoiding all comment calculated only to irritate the misguided people among whom it will circulate, and using all means to explain the real causes of the war and the true object of the Government. So far as possible, these journals should be sent to the same subscribers who have habitually read them, and who, even in their changed character, will read them in preference to Northern papers.

Nor need this policy involve the Government in expense, for persons will soon appear who will gladly become the purchasers of the the journals thus reserved from destruction, at prices that will pay.

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