Newsprint Shortage Causes Confederate Newspapers to be Printed on Wallpaper
December 1, 1863. “As the war progressed, newsprint grew scarce in the South because of a Union Navy blockade. [A] Newseum [in Washington, DC] exhibit featured two Confederate newspapers that were printed on wallpaper that was still available, using the blank reverse side. The Confederate State, which looks blotchy because the wallpaper pattern shows through from the back, was published in New Iberia, Parish of St. Martin, Louisiana on September 20, 1862. Its motto was a quotation of Davis: “Resistance to Tyrants in Obedience to God.” Stars and Stripes published in Jacksonport, Arkansas, printed its December 1, 1863 issue with a vivid wallpaper border showing alongside the front page.”
Statue Placed Atop New, Larger Capitol Building’s Dome in Washington; Ironically, Jefferson Davis Had Designed the Building
December 2, 1863. With a desperate civil war raging, the fact that construction continued on the US Capitol Building’s major expansion was an inspiring symbol of national confidence in the perpetuation of the Union. Ironically, in the decade before the War, the ambitious plan to expand the Capitol from a modest statehouse-like building into a large, stately seat of government with separate, marble wings for the House and Senate, and a massive new dome was led by none other than the Senator from Mississippi, Jefferson Davis.
As author Guy Gugliotta explains, the future president of the Confederacy had practical and philosophical reasons for promoting the project. First, the enormous amount of land acquired in 1848 through the Mexican War meant that more states were sure to join the Union before long. That would mean more Senators and Congressmen. Congress would need more space. In addition, the House and Senate chambers were both woefully inadequate. The acoustics in the House were so poor that members literally had to scream at each other to be heard. The Senate was too cold in winter and too hot in summer, and it lacked sufficient gallery seating for the public to watch the towering, silver-tongued senators of the day at work.
Moreover, this future Mississippi loyalist and leader of the Confederacy’s weak central government argued, ironically, that, as Gugiliotta writes, “a great nation needed a great seat of government, not a glorified statehouse.” Surprisingly, in those days, Davis supported a strong nation: a larger army, a Smithsonian that would be a national center for learning, and greater emphasis on liberal arts education at West Point because, he wrote, “Leadership to maintain the honor of our flag requires a man above sectional prejudices, and intellectually superior to fanaticism.” Davis was, in short, “a national citizen long before he became a Mississippian.”
Only once, Gugliotta asserts, did parochialism affect Davis’s plans: the initial design for the statue to stand atop the Capitol dome called for a female figure wearing a brimless felt “liberty cap,” which was the symbol of a freed slave in ancient Greece and Rome. Davis objected, arguing that “we” (meaning, of course, white Americans) weren’t slaves who’d been released; we had always been free. The sculpture was changed to a figure without a liberty cap. She is entitled Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace.
On December 2, 1863, nearly three years after Davis resigned his Senate seat and headed south, the figure was placed atop the dome.
When the war was over, Davis was jailed in a military prison, indicted for treason, but never tried. He was released after two years. He never returned to Washington and never saw the magnificent building he did so much to build or the seat of government he strived so hard to bring down.
“The Other Jefferson Davis,” by Guy Gugliotta in HUMANITIES September/October 2012, Volume 33, Number 5. See also Guy Gugliotta’s Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War (2012)
Editor’s note: All entries were submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council, executive director