MOUNT VERNON — Readers of the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner in July 1861 had to be puzzled, and maybe even upset.
To begin with, the first battle of Bull Run took place on July 21, yet in its July 23 edition the Banner reported only on preliminary skirmishes leading up to the battle. And even in the July 30 newspaper, the Banner led with a story outlining a successful fight against the Confederate forces. Then, right below that, is another report from the battlefield telling how the tide had changed and victory had turned into a great defeat.
Wouldn’t you think that by the time this issue was published — nine days after the battle — more current assessments of the situation would hold the lead story positions? We don’t know what the local Republican paper reported about the battle, but the out-of-town papers coming to town from Columbus, Newark, Zanesville and Mansfield, for instance, would have provided extensive reports by this time.
At the top of the page in the left-hand column, “A GREAT BATTLE!” is the lead headline, followed by “Eleven Hours Hard Fighting on Sunday!” “Secession Batteries Taken” “Rebels Driven Back!” and “Dreadful Slaughter on Both Sides.”
Nine days had passed since the battle and the best the Banner could do was place report on the change in fortunes next in line. Other stories on the page also reflect the actual outcome, but are dated only a day or two after the battle.