When it comes to my research, I’m a real newspaper junkie. I’ve found some of the best material in period newspapers, such as those from Richmond, Washington, New York, Baltimore, etc. As many know, the post-war National Tribune is indispensible for the writings of Union veterans – with the Richmond Times-Dispatch its equally valuable counterpart. Several papers have been digitized and are online, and the latest is the digitization of the war years of The Richmond Daily Dispatch. Previously available only to researchers who perused the microfilms or originals – or paid others to do it – the paper is now available to everyone. It will prove to be a great resource.
I’ve long been suspect of any books that come out without a healthy dose of newspaper sources, when warranted by the subject, in the bibliography. They’re just too valuable and revealing. Even those that aren’t digitized are relatively easily obtainable at the National Archives reading room and other depositories. If I don’t see some newspapers in a bibliography (besides other primary sources) I wonder if the author did only half-hearted research.
For example, for the recent book on Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg I co-authored with Eric Wittenberg, we used a wealth of newspapers – in fact, the list of them takes up the entire first page of the book’s bibliography. We used dozens of them. A Baltimore newspaper from July 1863 gave us the contents of a dispatch written by one of Stuart’s brigade commanders – Fitz Lee – that was captured by Union scouts. Lee sent the dispatch to Stuart warning of the presence of Federal cavalry in Hanover Pa just an hour or so before the all-day battle there broke out on June 30. Had Stuart received that dispatch, the battle may never have happened at all. The dispatch has never been used in any book or article on the battle, and was a real discovery. It changes the interpretation of the movements and battle, and appears for the first and only time in our book.
If anyone hasn’t examined period newspapers and those veterans writings in post-war papers in depth before, check them out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the world they open up.