Ohio History Journal

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The atrocity propaganda issued in the North during the

Civil War flowered in bewildering abundance from a variety of

persons   and   agencies.    Heads    of governmental departments,

semi-official bodies, editors, members of Congress, and private

individuals devoted their efforts to the dissemination of tales of

cruelties and barbarisms practiced by the Confederate Govern-

ment and its soldiery.1 Although these multitudinous produc-

tions were often amateurish and unrelated, the greater number

took their information and inspiration from a common source,

the reports of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of

the War.

The Committee, a joint body of both houses, had been

established at the insistence of the Radical Republican faction

in December, 1861. The Radical chieftains, disturbed by the

inaction of the armies, Abraham Lincoln's failure to adopt a

vigorous anti-slavery policy, and the prevalence of Democratic

generals in important posts, secured the creation of an investiga-

tive committee endowed with broad powers to inquire into all

phases of "the conduct of the war." The Committee, function-

ing for the duration of the war, furnished Congress with infor-

mation concerning military movements and the administration of

the army, strove to replace conservative generals with officers de-

voted to the tenets of radicalism, and pressed the Radical policy


1 Stories of southern atrocities found ready and eager acceptance in the North.

Thirty years of sectional controversy had fixed in the popular mind a stereotype of

the slaveholding southerner: cruel, treacherous, animated by savage feelings of hatred

toward the people of the North. At the outbreak of war, editors and clergymen warned

that the South would wage a struggle characterized by barbarism and savagery. Rev.

W. H. Furness, A Discourse Delivered on the Occasion of the National Fast (Phila-

delphia, 1861), 12, 13; New York Tribune, September 30, 1861, excerpts from sermons

of fifteen New York and Boston ministers; New York Tribune, December 14, editor-

ial; New York Times, May 1, Grant Goodrich to Lyman Trumbull, July 29, Lyman

Trumbull MSS. (in Library of Congress). For an account of some of the agencies

engaged in propaganda work, see W. B. Hesseltine, "The Propaganda Literature of

Confederate Prisons," in The Journal of Southern History, I, (1935), 57-67.