Walter N. Haldeman - founder of the CJ - editor in exile
(November 27, 2012) - On this date in 1862, John H. Harney, owner-editor of the pro-Union Louisville Daily Democrat, might have been bragging to friends about a printing plant he got on the cheap.
The equipment had been used to publish the state's leading pro-Confederate newspaper to boot.
On Nov. 25, Harney showed up for an auction of the Louisville Daily Courier’s “printing establishment...in the absence of its proprietor in the South,” according to Lewis and Richard Collins’ History of Kentucky.
Harney's winning bid was $6,150, the old history book says.
The missing "proprietor" was Walter N. Haldeman, the Courier's editor-owner.
Haldeman represented the Confederate side in a fierce 1861 newspaper war of words in Louisville. Harney's ally was editor-owner George D. Prentice of the Louisville Daily Journal,
Kentucky's leading pro-Union paper.
Haldeman exchanged withering verbal broadsides with Harney and Prentice until shortly after Yankee troops marched into Louisville in early September, 1861.
Most Falls City residents welcomed the blueclad soldiers as liberators. Haldeman scorned them as "abolition invaders" sent by President Abraham Lincoln and the "Black Republicans."
Federal authorities could hardly wait to put Haldeman in jail and out of business. They got their chance on Sept. 18, 1861.
Haldeman had urged Kentucky to join the Confederacy throughout 1861. In May, the legislature spurned secession for neutrality within the Union. Haldeman called neutrality cowardly.
The editor changed his tune in early September, 1861, after both armies invaded Kentucky and the Unionist General Assembly embraced the Yankee war effort.
On Sept. 18, the Courier came out for “an honest and manly neutrality,” but declaring “this can be done only by separating from the Northern Union.”
That tore it.
Within hours, Secretary of State William H. Seward learned of Haldeman’s neutrality-through-secession editorial.
He suggested to Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, a Kentucky-born Marylander, that the Courier should be banned from the mails because the paper advocated “treasonable hostility to the Government and authorities of the United States.” Blair agreed.
On the 19th, a U.S. marshal stopped the Courier's presses. At the same time, Union authorities arrested Haldeman’s friend Reuben T. Durrett, a Southern sympathizer who had been part owner and editor of the Courier until 1859.
Durrett was charged with disloyalty.
Probably figuring he'd soon be behind bars, too, Haldeman wrote a letter to the Journal promising his loyalty “so long as Kentucky shall remain in the United States.”
He didn't wait for a response. Haldeman sneaked out of Louisville and made a bee line for Bowling Green and the Confederate army. The Louisville Courier became the Bowling Green Courier, but not for long.
When the Rebels abandoned Bowling Green and the rest of Kentucky in early 1862, Haldeman went with them. He published the Courier in Nashville until Union forces captured Tennessee's capital, also in early 1862.
He remained an editor-in-exile for the rest of the war, ever-retreating with the Rebel army and putting out the Courier from time to time in various Confederate-held cities.
Though scored as a traitor during the war, Haldeman returned to Louisville in 1865 and made the Courier the most popular paper in Kentucky's largest city.
Three years later, he got even with his old enemies Harney and Prentice. He bought out the Democrat and the Journal and started the Louisville Courier-Journal. A Maysville native, Haldeman died in 1902 at age 80.
-- Berry Craig is a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and is the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. The books are being sold to raise money for scholarships at WKCTC. They are available by contacting Craig by phone at (270) 534-3270 or by email at email@example.com.