After the capture of the Parsons and the raid upon St. Albans, the Canadian authorities sent a strong force of militia to watch the frontier. A battalion of British regulars was stationed at Windsor, opposite Detroit, early in 1864, but was removed to the interior before the raids occurred. The authorities assigned as a reason for this removal, the desire to concentrate their forces at some central point. The real reason was the rapid desertion of their men, allured by the high pay and opportunity of active service in our army. In two months the battalion at Windsor was reduced fifteen per cent, by desertions alone.
Shortly after the St. Albans raid, a paper in Rochester announced a visit to that city by a cricket-club from Toronto. The paragraph was written somewhat obscurely, and jestingly spoke of the Toronto men as “raiders.” The paper reached New York, and so alarmed the authorities that troops were at once ordered to Rochester and other points on the frontier. The misapprehension was discovered in season to prevent the actual moving of the troops.
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With the suppression of the Rebellion the mission of the war correspondent was ended. Let us all hope that his services will not again be required, in this country, at least, during the present century. The publication of the reports of battles, written on the field, and frequently during the heat of an engagement, was a marked feature of the late war. “Our Special Correspondent” is not, however, an invention belonging to this important era of our history.
His existence dates from the days of the Greeks and Romans. If Homer had witnessed the battles which he described, he would, doubtless, be recognized as the earliest war correspondent. Xenophon was the first regular correspondent of which we have any record. He achieved an enduring fame, which is a just tribute to the man and his profession.
During the Middle Ages, the Crusades afforded fine opportunities for the war correspondents to display their abilities. The prevailing ignorance of those times is shown in the absence of any reliable accounts of the Holy Wars, written by journalists on the field. There was no daily press, and the mail communications were very unreliable. Down to the nineteenth century, Xenophon had no formidable competitors for the honors which attached to his name.
The elder Napoleon always acted as his own “Special.” His bulletins, by rapid post to Paris, were generally the first tidings of his brilliant marches and victories. His example was thought worthy of imitation by several military officials during the late Rebellion. Rear-Admiral Porter essayed to excel Napoleon in sending early reports of battles for public perusal. “I have the honor to inform the Department,” is a formula with which most editors and printers became intimately acquainted. The admiral’s veracity was not as conspicuous as his eagerness to push his reports in print.