Sunday, August 28, 2005

Privlideged spies of the enemy

Why do Journalists feel they have the right to know everything that's going on in the army? why do newspapers feel they can print anything they want, even though it may very well lead to the deaths of troops? wherever they get it from, it didn't start anytime recently, as this excerpt from Grant's memoirs shows:

'There was a certain incident connected with the wilderness caampaign of which it may not be out of place to speak; and to avoid a digression further on I will mention it here.

a few days before my departure from culpepper the honorable E. B. Washburne visited me there, and remained with my headquarters for some distance to the wilderness and, I think, to spottsylvania. He was accompinied by a Mr. Swinton, whom he presented as a literary gentleman who wished to accompany the army with a view of writing a history of the war when it was over. He assured me -and I have no doubt Swinton gave him the assurance-that he was not present as a correspondent of the press. I expressed an entire unwillingness to have him (swinton) accompany the army, and would have allowed him to do so as a correspondent, restricted. however, in the character of the information he could give. We recieved Richmond Papers with about as much as regularity as if there had been no war, and knew that our papers were recieved with equal regularity by the confederates. It was desirable, therefore, that correspondents should not be privelidged spies of the enemy within our lines.

Probably Mr. Swinton expected be an invited guesy at my headquarters, and was disappointed that he was not asked to become so. At all events he was not invited, and soon I found that he was corresponding with some paper (I have now forgotten which one), thus violating his word either expressed or implied. He knew of the assurance Washburne had given as to the character of his mission. I never saw the man from the day of our introduction to the present that I recollect. He accompanied us, however, for a time at least.

The second night after crossing the rapidan (the night of the 5th of may) Colonel W. R. Rowley, of my staff, was acting as night officer at mt headquarters. a short time before midnight I gave him verbal instructions for the night. Three days later I read in a Richmond paper a verbatim report of these instructions.

A few nights still later (after the first, and possibly after the second day's fighting at the wilderness) General Meade came to my tent for consultation, bringing with him some of his staff officers. both his staff and mine retired to the camp-fire some yards in front of my tent, thinking our conversationshould be pivate. One of my Staff, Colonel T. S. Bowers, saw what he took to be a man seated on the ground and leaning against a stump, listening to the conversation between Meade and myself. He called the attention of Colonel Rowley to it. The latter immediately took the man by the shoulder and asked him, in language more forceful than polite, what he was doing there. The man proved to be Swinton the "historian," and his replies to the question were evasive and unsatisfactory, and he wa warned against further eaves-dropping.

The next I heard of Mr. Swinton was at Cold Harbor. General Meade came to my headquarters saying that General Burnside had arrested Swinton, who at some previous time had given great offence, and had ordered him to be shot that afternoon. I promptly ordered the prisoner to be released, but that he must be expelled from the lines of the army not to return again on pain of punishment.'

How this mania for 'Freedom of the Press' even in army headquarters started, I don't know. But it is a great problem that will have to be dealt with.

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