The War, September 5, 1812
Before the Internet, television, radio, telephones, and even before the electric telegraph, there were newspapers. Almost anyone with a printing press and a flair for the written word could publish a newspaper in the early 19th century. Weeklies, semi-weeklies, and dailies flooded large cities, while local papers kept smaller communities informed.
One newspaper especially defined by its era was The War, a New York-based publication that ran from 1812 to 1815. The newspaper’s very existence was precipitated by the War of 1812, and the description in the masthead proclaimed it as “being a faithful record of the transactions of the war.” The editor, Samuel Woodworth, declared that not only would the paper “support a love of country, and excite a contempt of danger” and “hand down to posterity the names of those heroes of America,” it would also educate its readers in “the art of war.”
The War preached to pro-war followers, and to the opposition Woodworth pledged to “detect and hold up to contempt or punishment every effort of internal enemies” of the “just cause.” Regardless of its editorial bias, the newspaper also provided firm information to digest. Transcriptions of presidential addresses, correspondence between diplomats, descriptions of military battles, and other official business were printed weekly. Families of soldiers and sailors probably found the most current news in publications like The War, which offered a broad overview of the conflict, including laws and negotiations, military movements, and descriptions of armaments and types of sea-going vessels. Those seeking moral support found it in impassioned editorials, songs, tales of “female patriotism,” and personal accounts of action witnessed.
This issue, printed on Saturday, September 9, 1812, includes an article on page 2, column 1, titled “Brilliant Naval Victory,” which recounts Captain Isaac Hull and USS Constitution‘s defeat of HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. A subsequent opinion piece, titled “American Naval Victory,” goes on to discuss the impact of that victory and Captain Hull’s “redemption” of his country just days after his uncle, General William Hull, surrendered Fort Detroit to British troops.