The newspaper

Natchitoches Union Extra, April 1, 1864

The rare Civil War newspaper Natchitoches Union Extra sent in 1864 by Union soldier Frank Brown to his sister Martha in Boston. The same edition in lesser condition sold at auction in 2005 for $1,610.

The newspaper was printed on tissue paper because little else was available. "Scarcity of the paper normally used for newspapers forced the editors to use other kinds of paper if they wanted to publish an edition,' writes R.J. Brown on

"The South was almost entirely dependent on the North for its paper supply.

"Of the 555 paper making factories in the United States in 1860, only 24 of them were located in the South, and even most of these became incapacitated by the war.

"The only ones left in the South were located along the Eastern seaboard and Tennessee. "

Brown adds: "Newspaper editors in the South during the Civil War had to become very resourceful if they wished to print another edition.

"Other substitutes besides wallpaper were used at times. The Opelousas Courier of August 30, 1862, and the July 14, 1863 edition of the Port Hudson Freeman were printed on brown wrapping paper. The Natchitoches Union extra of April 1, 1864 was printed on blue ledger paper, while the April 4, 1863 edition of that title was printed on tissue paper. "

The historic newspaper tells its own story

"We present this morning to the Union Army and the people of Natchitoches an extra issue of the Natchitoches Union," reads an editorial on the front page -- the only page -- of this edition. "We arrived in town late last night and on learning that the former editor had absconded with the Confederate forces, Gen. Lee desired us to publish the paper. We called on the Third Mass. Cavalry for printers -- five at once reported, and two hours after we entered the town the Press was running."

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Early letters

"A holly cause"

"A few more victorys gained by us like the last one will make the Southern confederacy totter and be among the things that were." From Camp Hale, Sept. 5, 1861

A heart grown fonder

"The next time you write me please give me Mary Ann's last name and address for I have forgotten it. I think I will write her a letter one of these days, just to see how it seems to write a letter to a female besides you.... Your affectionate brother, Frank" From Camp Andrews, Sept. 26, 1861

"That damned Merrimac"

"Also the Congress when all in flames was a sight never seen probably by one third of the troops here and I assure it was a melancholy one indeed to see that damned Merrimac destroying to of our best frigates. Besides the loss of life, her magasin exploded at 1/2 past 12 and such a noise your humble servent never before heard." From White Gate Station, three miles from Fortress Monroe, March 13, 1862

A ship of men and horses

"Guard duty here is rough. To be down in the hold two hours and sniff the beautiful odor that always floats not saying anything about the heat that is caused by so many horses being stowed in such a stable. Although we have been very fortunate so far in regard to our horses having only lost four. And if nothing but heat and bad air kill any of we shall carry a larger number than any other trasnport that has sailed for Ship Island." Aboard the DeWitt Clinton, May 13, 1862

Trenchful of dead

"Our small force was attacked on the morning of the 5th Aug a 4 o'clock. The heaviest of the fighting then was on the right and left but being repulsed there they tried to make a break in the center where we sere stationed . Had orders to fire and we did so. We used between two and three hundred shell and they made many a Rebel turn up their toes. I saw 63 buried in one trech besides many others laying on the battlefield. It was a most horrid sight I assure you." From New Orleans, Sept. 7, 1862

Bodies black as ink

"The next day I was on the battlefield and saw that which I never wish to see again, the features of the dead were much disfigured by laying in the hot sun. Some were black as ink, and such a stink..." From New Orleans, Sept. 18, 1862, describing the Battle of Baton Rouge

Later letters

Pessimism prevails

"I see a New York paper says that we and Farragutt Fleet is at Vicksburg but we don't see it in that light. According to Southern reports our army has been badly beaten above Vicksburg. I believe as much as I am alive that the North will have to cave in less than one year. We never can lick them out in the way we are going on." From Baton Rouge, La., Jan. 12, 1863

Flying artillery

"We are now horse Artillery every man has a horse we belong to the Cavalry Division we are what is sometimes called flying Artillery and you can bet we do fly sometimes." From New Orleans, Dec. 13, 1863

Tales from the front

"A week ago two of them came upon about 80 infantry before they knew it, and instead of trying to capture them they fired a whole volley at them killing both their horses and wounding one in the wrist and foot the other escaped without injury. The other ran as far as he could they still firing on him, he became weak from the great loss of blood and took to the woods and there remained until he got strong enough to proceed on and feeling assured they had abandoned their pursuit further." From Baton Rouge, Dec. 29, 1863

No interest in re-upping

"Twelve out of the battery have re-enlisted. I don't think there will be many more. I have no idea of enlisting. I don't think my health is good enough in this climate. I have not been right tough since I first went to the hospital. I can't say what success I may have getting work but I hope I may find something to get a living. It is only a short time now five months and nine days." From Franklin, La., Feb. 20, 1864

No trouble falling asleep

"We have been on the march nearly every day for three weeks making thirty miles per day. I assure we are not at all troubled about going to sleep. Some nights we get into camp about 12 o'clock and turn out at 4 so you see we have but little time for sleep." From Natchitoches, La., April 5, 1864

Almost tasting home

"We expect to leave here for home about the 10th of July and I assure you Sis it is with great pleasure that I look forward to the time for I have seen enough of this cruel war to make me long for an easier life. ... We have a pet in the shape of a La. raccoon which we intend to take home he is now sleeping on my lap as I write." From Carleton, La, June 10, 1864