Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard in the National Tribune

O. O. Howard

General Oliver O. Howard

I’m doing a lot of reading in the National Tribune, “the premier newspaper published for Union veterans” in Washington, 1877-1943. This is thanks to 1) its availability online and 2) Dr. Richard A. Sauers’ comprehensive index to all of its articles (Savas Beatie, 2018)–I quote Rick above.

There’s tons of material here: the newspaper published eight big pages weekly. Particularly, I’m focusing on the hundreds of articles that Northern soldiers sent to the National Tribune about the Atlanta Campaign. They range from long narratives of big battles to short vignettes about a veteran’s remembered experiences.

I notice that the National Tribune published serial excerpts of General O. O. Howard’s Autobiography more than a decade before it was published in 1907.

Between Oct. 25, 1894 and April 18, 1895, the National Tribune published a twenty-four-part narrative, “Atlanta Campaign,” by Howard that covered Sherman/Johnston/Hood from Dalton to Jonesboro. Then, beginning on Dec. 12, 1895, the newspaper started publishing Howard’s series, “Marching through Georgia” in sixteen parts, concluding on March 26, 1896.

For instance, I zoomed in on the General’s writing about the battle of Pickett’s Mill, May 27, 1864, about which I wrote in America’s Civil War (May 2019). Comparing the newspaper text with Autobiography, I noticed almost identical wording. Future biographers of General Howard should note that he had composed his memoir years before its publication date.

To be sure, Howard’s history is not infallible. He states in his National Tribune article that 700 Union soldiers lay dead at the end of the battle. In his book he declared that Thomas Wood’s division, which led the Federal attack, “had in a few minutes over 800 killed.” The recent chronicler of Pickett’s Mill, Brad Butkovich, places Northern casualties in the entire battle as 230 killed. But no matter. We’ve all learned to read generals’ memoirs cum grano salis.

So in this era of COVID-19, I remind my fellow enthusiasts that there’s great reading to be had from your home computer. I also remember the repeated advice given by Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) in those morning briefings at the precinct station (Hill Street Blues, 1981-87): “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

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2 Responses to Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard in the National Tribune

  1. Matthew J. Waters says:

    “Old Prayer Book”… Hooker should have gotten that promotion outside Atlanta… I love browsing through online newspaper archives. So much easier than microfilm. Lots of great stories to be read and a great tool for genealogist.

  2. John Foskett says:

    Steve:

    Thanks for this illuminating post. This is the sort of “forensic” approach that good historians apply to their work.

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