Civil war ingenuity treasured in Kennewick

March 28, 2012 

Newspapers...not only do they deliver the news but they're so handy for multiple uses...packing dishes when you move, wrapping garbage, starting campfires, training puppies, lining birdcages. I've heard of folks in the past who wallpapered the inside of their home with old newspapers to help keep out the drafts. But what does the newspaper do when it runs out of paper?

These are tough times for newspapers, but we've never had to print on wallpaper.

Wallpaper used by paper when newsprint ran out

By Charles Lamb, Herald staff writer
Published on March 16, 1959

Few newspapers have published under handicaps like the Vicksburg, Miss. Daily Citizen faced during the Civil War when Mrs. Don B. Ferguson's grandmother was a girl.

Mrs. Ferguson, 824 S. Vine St., Pasco, probably has the only copy still in existence of the Citizen's final "wallpaper edition," published July 2, 1863. It was preserved and handed down to Mrs. Ferguson by her grandmother, Mrs. Samella Knox, also an aunt of Former Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

A resident of the Tri-Cities since 1910, Mrs. Ferguson's Southern forebears have also handed down to her an Aug. 9, 1862 copy of the Chattanooga, Tenn. Rebel, a Confederate organ published by Franc M. Paul.

If a newspaper had wallpaper design on one side and printing on the other today, it would be construed as a "circulation gimmick" intended to sell copies to illiterate interior decorators. But in 1863, it was a matter of necessity, according to Mrs. Ferguson.

She has it on good authority the Citizen's last few issues were printed on wallpaper because the paper on its editorial office walls was the last it had left to use. Historians recall the Great Battle of Vicksburg was raging near the town throughout both 1862 and '63, devastating the countryside and bringing hardship to everyone.

In its last edition, the Citizen mentions 15,000 "blue coats" (Northern troops) had been killed near Vicksburg, but points out the Union casualty list was probably greater, since the information came from the Yankees.

The Daily Rebel, which left no doubt as to which side it was on, printed a general order by Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris and Atty. Gen. W. C. Whitmere that a rendezvous encampment was established at Chattanooga where Confederate troops were being enlisted.

It appealed to people with papers -- especially Northern newspapers -- to leave them at the Rebel office as a source of news. The Rebel also printed excerpts from the Washington, D.C. papers and the London Times. One item from the Richmond Examiner said:

"One hundred fifty Yankee officers, including generals ..were taken from their quarters on 18th St., and more closely confined in the noted Libby Prison which is now nearly emptied of the Yankee wounded. The officers left their rather conformable quarters reluctantly, but the misconduct of some of them rendered the change imperative."

Also in the Rebel is a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln promising punishment of persons "Aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion, or the Government of the United States." It also lists the governing officers of the Confederacy as follows:

President Jefferson Davis, Mississippi; Vice Pres. Alex H. Stephens, Georgia; Sec. of State Judah P. Benjamin, Louisiana; Sec. of Treasury C. G. Meninger, South Carolina; Sec. of Wary George W. Randolph, VA; Sec. of Navy Stephen R. Mallory, Fla.; Attorney Gen. Thomas Watts, Alabama, and Postmaster Gen. John H. Reagan of Texas.

An optimistic note in the Citizen shows that food, at the time, was scarce as the paper sued in its pioneer hand-presses. It thanks a Maj. Gillespie for a steal of "Confederate beef -- alias meat."

"We can assure our friends that if it is rendered necessary, they need have no scruples at eating the meat. It is savory, sweet and tender and as long as we have a mule left, we are satisfied our soldiers will be content to subsist on it," the Citizen declares.

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