Sometimes a correspondent reached the end of a long ride so exhausted as to be unable to hold a pen for ten consecutive minutes. In such case a short-hand writer was employed, when accessible, to take down from rapid dictation the story of our victory or defeat.
Under all the disadvantages of time, place, and circumstances, of physical exhaustion and mental anxiety, it is greatly to the correspondents’ credit that they wrote so well. Battle-accounts were frequently published that would be no mean comparison to the studied pen-pictures of the famous writers of this or any other age. They were extensively copied by the press of England and the Continent, and received high praise for their vivid portrayal of the battle-field and its scenes. Apart from the graphic accounts of great battles, they furnished materials from which the historians will write the enduring records of the war. With files of the New York dailies at his side, an industrious writer could compile a history of the Rebellion, complete in all its details.
It was a general complaint of the correspondents that their profession was never officially recognized so as to give them an established position in the army. They received passes from head-quarters, and could generally go where they willed, but there were many officers who chose to throw petty but annoying restrictions around them. As they were generally situated throughout the army, they were, to some extent, dependent upon official courtesies. Of course, this dependence was injurious to free narration or criticism when any officer had conducted improperly.
If there is ever another occasion for the services of the war correspondent on our soil, it is to be hoped Congress will pass a law establishing a position for the journalists, fixing their status in the field, surrounding them with all necessary restrictions, and authorizing them to purchase supplies and forage from the proper departments. During the Crimean war, the correspondents of the French and English papers had a recognized position, where they were subject to the same rules, and entitled to the same privileges, as the officers they accompanied. When Sir George Brown, at Eupatoria, forbade any officer appearing in public with unshaven chin, he made no distinction in favor of the members of the Press.