Civil War Press Symposium

What: 28th annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression

When: Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 12-14

Admission: Free and open to the public

Registration: Email with the following information: name, affiliation, email, cellphone number, Zoom ID (or name as it appears on a computer) and days planning to attend. A conference link will be emailed to all registered attendees 30 minutes before the first session on each day.

Information: For the event’s schedule and more, go to the symposium’s web page.


For more than a quarter of a century, Civil War researchers from across the country have annually descended upon the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus to share current research and develop a series of books as part of a formal academic conference.

A pandemic might have prevented an in-person congregation this fall, but it hasn’t slowed research pursuits.

The university’s 28th annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression will be held in a virtual format Nov. 12-14 via Zoom. The conference will feature 38 speakers from across the nation, many of whom will participate in panel discussions considering topics such as newspaper coverage of Civil War soldiers, ethnic and immigrant soldiers and the far Western press during the war.

“There has been some talk in academic circles that COVID-19 could negatively affect academic performance and that people might not do good research during this time, but as you can see from all of these papers and panels, folks coming to our conference from all over the country are doing fabulous work at the very highest level—even given these COVID-19 circumstances,” said David Sachsman, director of the conference and holder of the UTC West Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs.

Sachsman said one of the symposium’s highpoint sessions will be “Newspaper Coverage of Epidemics,” an especially timely discussion about how the country, specifically the press, handled outbreaks in the past.

The panelists—Ayendy Bonifacio (University of Toledo), Deanne Stephens (University of Southern Mississippi), Ryan Ellis (Northeastern University), Daniel Goldberg (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus) and Janice Hume (University of Georgia)—will discuss cholera epidemics in 19th century New York City, the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic, public health policy in the 19th century and the 1918 influenza pandemic.

“We think that will be the center point to the conference because we would imagine that these folks, when they begin talking to each other and when questions start coming in, will compare how America handled these past influenzas to how we’re handling the current one,” Sachsman said.

A staple of past sessions, “Presidents and the Press” returns with discussions on several Civil War generals who later became president—Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield.

Sachsman said about 400 different scholars have delivered nearly 800 papers since the symposium’s inception in 1992, resulting in eight books of readings from the conference.

“But the conference covers have produced another 20 books. So in these previous 27 years, this conference has supported the work of close to 30 different books and really created a niche field,” he said.


Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call 423-425-4363.

Chuck Wasserstrom is an executive staff writer in the UTC Office of Communications and Marketing.

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