We get all kinds of requests for old editions of the Insider, links to stories and questions of, “Have you ever covered this?”
And usually it doesn’t take long to get things squared away, considering the Insider is only a little over a decade old.
But this latest one required a little more investigation – it dated back over 150 years. A faithful reader named William was curious as to whether or not we had any information about Civil War-era Concord newspapers.
He’s a big fan of the This Week in Concord History page and his Thursday men’s group has been studying the local history of the Civil War for some time.
Unfortunately, the Monitor archives don’t go back that far at the office, so this would require a phone call or two. Our first thought was the New Hampshire State Library, because really, if anyone would have really old newspapers, it was going to be them.
A phone call to our state library confidant Shelly Angers led us to Charles Shipman, supervisor of reference and information services.
Shipman informed me that he could help out with this piece, the answer we were greatly hoping for.
Turns out, the state library is full of old newspapers, most of which have been catalogued and put on microfilm. It’s not a perfect science of finding information – you can’t enter search terms and get a list of results. You really need to know what you’re looking for and when it appeared in print. It’s a good thing that the Civil War has a pretty exact beginning and end.
The state library has newspaper editions dating back to the New Hampshire Gazette in 1756, which, if you remember from history class, is more than 100 years before the start of the war.
The New Hampshire Patriot was a weekly that was printed for much of the 1800s. After the war began on April 12, 1861, the paper had a story with a headline “The War Begun” about the attack on Fort Sumter.
Each week, the majority of page two of the four-page paper (because page one back then was mostly advertisements), would be a roundup of war news. There would be a section on New Hampshire troops, war items and a summary of the happenings.
Since this is a time-consuming process, scanning from one edition to the next, we only got through a couple months’ worth, but we sure did find some interesting stuff.
The Concord Daily Monitor actually began May 23, 1864, with less than a year to go in the war. There wasn’t a whole lot in the early editions, but we did find a story about the virtual end of the war in the May 9, 1865, edition (which was actually the day the war ended). The funny part was that it was a report from the London Times. Seems a bit odd to get information about a war in America from a newspaper across the pond, but maybe that was the best way back then?
The state library also has a bunch of New Hampshire regimental history books in its collection that will surely shed some light on the Granite State in the Civil War.