Newspaper Maps

"Press on the field," 1864. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Rare Books Department.

During the Civil War, more than 2,000 maps appeared in Northern daily newspapers. In contrast to previous journalistic practices, this production represented a remarkable increase in number and variety. Prior to the war, maps rarely appeared in American newspapers, and those that did tended to be small and diagrammatic. The expansion of railroad and telegraph networks and advances in printing technologies during the 1850s facilitated this revolution in journalistic cartography.

To broaden their coverage of the war, newspapers greatly expanded their press corps by adding correspondents to their payrolls. Consequently, an important component of army camps was the press, or as Harper’s Weekly referred to them, the “newspaper brigade.”  In Thomas Nast’s 1864 engraving for the magazine, correspondents were depicted in numerous vignettes obtaining news from contrabands, embedded with soldiers on the field, and skeptically listening to "reliable information." For those reading Harper's Weekly back home, this view depicts the journalist’s life at the front, and overall is a comprehensive representation of how the popular media covered the war.