The Wild Goose: A Collection of Ocean Waifs (AUS, 1867)

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The Wild Goose: A Collection of Ocean Waifs (AUS, 1867)

The Wild Goose: A Collection of Ocean Waifs (AUS, 1867)

Publication History:

Place of Publication: Shipboard the Hougoumont, the last ship to transport convicts from England to Fremantle, Australia

Frequency:  Seven issues of the newspaper were produced, each issue carefully laid out and decorated by hand. Only one copy of each issue was made, which was then read to the convicts aloud.

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, no. 1-7, 9 Nov. – 21 Dec. 1867

Size and Format:  Ledger (7 3/4 x 12+)

Editor/Publisher:  Irish “Fenian prisoners:” John Flood, John Boyle O’Reilly and John Casey

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

The Wild Goose was, according to a Wikipedia article, a

“handwritten newspaper created in late 1867 by Fenian prisoners aboard the Hougoumont, the last ship to transport convicts to Australia.

“Seven issues of the newspaper were produced, each issue carefully laid out and decorated by hand. Only one copy of each issue was made, which was then read to the convicts aloud. The aim was to provide entertainment and encouragement aboard the ship during its long and arduous voyage to Fremantle. The title refers to the Wild Geese: the Irish soldiers who had left to serve in continental European armies since the 16th century.

“The major contributors were John Flood, John Boyle O’Reilly and John Casey.

Irish Fenian Volunteer Poster (re. Wild Goose [AUS, 1867])

Irish Fenian Volunteer Poster (re. Wild Goose [AUS, 1867])

The documents provide a fascinating insight into life aboard ship. The documents contain songs, stories, articles, advice, poems, and even comedy. In addition to the diaries of Denis Cashman and the journals of John Casey and Thomas McCarthy Fennell, the journey of the Hougoumont was well recorded.

“One passage describes Australia and its history with more than a little sarcasm:

“This great continent of the south, having been discovered by some Dutch skipper and his crew, somewhere between the 1st and 9th centuries of the Christian era, was, in consequence taken possession of by the government of Great Britain, in accordance with that just and equitable maxim, “What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is my own.” That magnanimous government in the kindly exuberance of their feelings, have placed a large portion of that immense tract of country called Australia at our disposal. Generously defraying all expenses incurred on our way to it, and providing retreats for us there to secure us from the inclemency of the seasons…

“All seven issues survive, and were passed on by John Flood’s granddaughter to the Mitchell Library in 1967. The papers are bound into one book and are now part of the State Library of New South Wales collection.”John Boyle O’Reilly penned several poems for the paper, including The Flying Dutchman and The Old School Clock.

“On 9 September 2005, a memorial was unveiled at Rockingham beach to commemorate the Catalpa rescue. The memorial is a large statue of six Wild Geese.”

According to the Freemantle (Australia) Prison historical website,

“The Fenian movement, or Irish Republican Brotherhood, was a secret society that flourished during the 1860s. Its activities included an armed rebellion against British rule in Ireland, which failed for a number of reasons. In 1865 hundreds of men were arrested in Ireland on suspicion of complicity. There were two elements amongst the men charged and convicted: those who were civilians, and those who were currently serving in the British military services. The civilian element were treated as political prisoners, whilst the military element were treated as ordinary criminals. In 1869 the civilian element were granted clemency and freed, whilst such consideration was denied the military element (Erickson pp.115-156).

John Boyle O’Reilly [emphasis added] was an NCO in the 10th Hussars (the prestigious regiment of the Prince of Wales) when arrested in 1866 for assisting fellow soldiers to join the rebellious Fenian movement. Found guilty at his court martial, his death sentence was commuted to one of 20 year’s penal servitude which automatically meant transportation (anyone sentenced to seven years or more was transported).

“He sailed, along with 280 other convicts — 62 of them Fenians — on board the Hougoumont from Portland in October 1867. They arrived at Fremantle in January 1868, the last convicts to be sent to Western Australia. Their arrival also signalled the end of the convict era in Australia.”

Information Sources:                            

Bibliography:  Wikipedia:;  Laubenstein, William J. The Emerald Whaler London: Deutsch, 1961; Stevens, Peter F., The Voyage of the Catalpa (ISBN 1-84212-651-2); Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1969, volume LXXIV;

Locations:  Wikipedia: “All seven issues survive, and were passed on by John Flood’s granddaughter to the Mitchell Library in 1967. The papers are bound into one book and are now part of the State Library of New South Wales collection.”


The True Blue (MX, 1842)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication: Mexico City, Mexico; Castle Perote Prison, Santiago, Mexico

Frequency:  Weekly (for six weeks)

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, No. 4, April 21, 1842

Size and Format:  Variable; 9 x 13 inches; two columns; written in cursive

Editor/Publisher:  “Simon Pure”

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:         

The True Blue was handwritten by Texan soldiers imprisoned in Mexico City.  According to a Texas State archivist, the newspaper was published as a “literary journal” by the 1842 Texan Santa Fe Expedition prisoners while in the Castle Santiago in Mexico City.  The prisoners were later moved to the Castle Perote near the coast.  At least six issues appeared.  The fourth issue, April 21, 1842, announced a “Ball” to be held in celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto, “a day ever to be remembered by Texans.”

The paper’s name appears in large, bold capital letters.

Information Sources:                               

Bibliography:  Bob Karolevitz, “Pen and Ink Newspapers of the Old West,” Frontier Times, 44:2 (Feb.-Mar., 1970), 31, 62; Robert F. Karolevitz, Newspapering in the Old West:  A Pictorial History of Journalism and Printing on the Frontier (New York:  Bonanza Books, 1969), p. 140; Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration, Texas:  A Guide to the Lone Star State (New York:  Hastings House, 1940), 121.

Locations:  Vol. 1, Nos. 1 and 6 (original); Vol. 1, Nos. 1, 5 and 6 (photocopy) Texas State Library Archives, Austin, Texas

The Stonewall Register (DE, 1865)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication: Fort Delaware, DE

Frequency:  Unknown, one extant issue

Volume and Issue Data:  April 1, 1865

Size and Format: Unknown

Editor/Publisher: Unknown

Title Changes and Continuation:  See The Prison Times

General Description and Notes:

First issue of a manuscript newspaper by Confederate prisoners of war of what is likely the U.S. prison at Fort Delaware.  Drawing of “Stonewall” Jackson flanked by Confederate flags heads the papers.  The paper contains salutatory; editorial; letter to the editor; camp news; advertisements; poetry; financial and Savannah commercial column; roll and rules of the Stonewall Chess Club.

The following notes are from the Georgia Historical Society records of The Stonewall Register:

“This collection contains the first issue, April 1, 1865, of The Stonewall Register. This handwritten newspaper was produced by prisoners held at the Fort Delaware prison during the Civil War and sold for fifty cents. The decorative masthead includes an illustration of Stonewall Jackson, for whom the paper is named. It includes letters to the paper, poetry, a description of the “Rebel Yell” and advertisements for tobacco, jewelry, engravings, laundry services, and hair cuts. It also gives financial and commercial news and a list of members and rules of the Stonewall Chess Club.

“Fort Delaware is located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. An earthwork fort was built on the island in 1813 and was replaced by a masonry fort in 1819. This fort was destroyed by fire in 1832 and construction of the present structure was completed in 1859. During the Civil War the fort was used as a prison with 250 of Stonewall Jackson’s soldiers being the first prisoners following the Battle of Kernstown in 1862. The fort was not intended for prisoners and modifications were made in order to house 10,000 captured Confederates. About 2,700 soldiers died at Fort Delaware with 2,400 of these being buried in a national cemetery at Finn’s Point, New Jersey. Fort Delaware was closed in 1944.”

Information Sources:


Link: Georgia Historical Society, Stonewall Register catalog entry

Locations:  The Stonewall Register, MS 766, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia

The Right Flanker (NY, 1863-1864)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Fort-La-Fayette, Union Prison Camp at the Narrows of New York Bay, New York

Frequency:  Unknown; possibly weekly

Volume and Issue Data:  1863-1864

Size and Format:  Pen and ink

Editor/Publisher:  Unknown; Confederate officers

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

The Right Flanker is the only known manuscript newspaper published by Confederate prisoners confined in the North during the Civil War.  The paper was written in pen and ink, and after its staff was released, copies were taken to England and printed in book form (1865).

The introductory issue said the purpose of the paper was “to relieve the monotony of prison life, by calling into action the taste and faculties of those who are capable of contributing to its columns; instructing and amusing those who cannot, and to furnish to all who are to share the spice of excitement, which the risk of such a contraband undertaking affords, something of which it is hoped, reference can be pleasantly made by them in after years.”  The editors then introduced themselves and their personal histories prior to imprisonment, but used no names, apparently to avoid punishment for the production of “contraband.”

The printed “transcript” of The Right Flanker runs 90 pages, but it unclear how faithful the printed version is to the handwritten originals.

The printed version depicts a paper devoted largely to an analysis of the war (based on New York newspaper reports), life in the prison camp, and the arrival of new prisoners.  Humor or light features are infrequent.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  “Fort-La-Fayette Life, 1863-1864:  In extracts from the ‘Right Flanker,’ a manuscript sheet circulating among the Southern Prisoners in Fort-La-Fayette,” The Magazine of History, Extra No. 13, 197-246.

Locations:  Fort-La-Fayette Life, 1863-1864:  In extracts from the “Right Flanker,” a manuscript sheet circulating among the Southern Prisoners in Fort-La-Fayette (London:  Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1865; New York:  William Abbatt, 1911) [reprinted in The Magazine of History, Extra No. 13]

The Prisoner Vidette (IL, 1864)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Camp Douglas (Prisoner of War Camp), Cook County, IL

Frequency:  Unknown

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, No. 1, after January 1864

Size and Format:  Four pages

Editor/Publisher:  Confederate Prisoners of War

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

Camp Douglas, named after Stephen Douglas who owned the property, was located on the west side of Cottage Grove Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets in Chicago. In 1861, it was designed for recruiting and training Union soldiers, but after the capture of Fort Donelson in 1862, it became a prison camp for approximately 7,000 Confederate prisoners. The manuscript paper contains camp gossip, editorials, news from home, poetry, and advertisements. The “Prospectus” (page 1) states, “Feeling the want of a literary sheet of some discription [sic], in our midst, we have at length concluded to place before the public of Camp Douglas a spicy little paper, The Prisoner Vidette.”

The extant manuscript the Chicago Public Library Collection was restored at the Document Conservation Center, Atlanta, in 1976.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Mabel McIlvaine, ed., “History of Camp Douglas” in Reminiscenes of Chicago During the Civil War (Chicago, 1914), pp. 161-194; Thomas A. Orlando and Marie Gecik, compilers, Treasures of the Chicago Public Library (Chicago, 1977), Item 154, pp. 77-78

Locations: Grand Army Hall and Memorial Association Collection, Chicago Public Library.

The Prison Times (DE, 1865)


Prison Times, DE, 1865; Image Source: Library of Congress; images of four pages at the New York Historical Society website

Place of Publication:  Fort Delaware, a Union prison camp holding Confederate officer prisoners, located on Pea Patch Island where the Delaware River merges into Delaware Bay, just south of New Castle, DE

Frequency:  Four extant copies (according to the NY Historical Society [with thanks to Joseph Ditta; see comments below; updated 9-24-12)

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol.  1, No. 1, April  8, 1865

Size and Format:  See image below

Editor/Publisher:  J.W. Hibbs, Capt. 13th Va. Inf.was the publisher.  Proprietors and editors were George S. Thomas, Capt. 6thGa., Div. 24; W.H. Bennett, Capt. & A.C.S., Div. 24; and A. Harris, Lt. 3rdFla., Div. 28.

Title Changes and Continuation:  See The Stonewall Register

General Description and Notes:

Evidently there are three extant copies of the same issue, one in Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, and the other in Buffalo, NY.  The paper contains editorials, announcements, advertisements, poetry, barracks directory, Christian Association Directory, notices of clubs, and prison news notes.  The NY letter says, “As General Lee surrendered to General Grant on the 9th, this [April 8] issue may well have been the sole issue.”

In a letter from William H. Loos, Curator, Rare Book Room, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY, dated July 14, 1993, Loos states that he found an extant copy of The Prison Times in “an old portfolio of loose single issues of early American newspapers that we have had for many years and which I had not had occasion to consult in nearly twenty years.” Two representatives from the New York State Library, who were working on the state’s portion of the national newspaper project, came to the Buffalo library to research their collection. “When I reviewed this portfolio before one of the researchers recorded its contents,” Loos wrote, “I was surprised to find a handwritten newspaper.”

According to Loos,

“The newspaper is vol. 1, no. 1 of the Prison Times issued at Fort Delaware in 1865. On page two, the date April 8th appears. As General Lee surrendered to General Grant on the 9th, this may well have been the sole issue. Fort Delaware was a prison camp for Confederate officers. The fort was located on Pea Patch Island where the Delaware River merges into Delaware Bay, just south of New Castle, Delaware.”

According to the South Carolina Historical Society records, P.A. McMichael raised a Confederate volunteer company that became Company G of the Twentieth South Carolina Infantry. He served in the Charleston, South Carolina area (1861-1863) mainly around Sullivan’s Island, and in Virginia, where he participated in the battle of Cold Harbor and was promoted to Lt. Col of the 20th Regiment. He was captured at Cedar Creek and taken to Fort Delaware.  His collection includes the handwritten newspaper, Prison Times (vol. 1, no. 1) for prisoners at Fort Delaware, Del. The South Carolina Historical Society catalog says the paper contains “advertisements for tailoring, barbering, music, religious assistance, debate and chess clubs with poetry, barracks directory, and descriptions and comments on prison life.”

Information Sources:


Links: New York Historical SocetyGeorgia Historical Society catalog entry for The Prison Times;  South Carolina Historical Society, Paul A. McMichael holdings; see also

Locations:  Prison Times, Misc. Fort Delaware: NYUGB12021269-A, New York Historical Society, with images of four pages; Prison Times, MS 638, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia; and Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY; and Prison Times in Paul Agalus McMichael (1820-1869),  correspondence and diary, 1861-1865 (1073.00),  South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, SC.

The Old Flag (TX, 1864)

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The Old Flag (TX, 1864)

Publication History:

Place of Publication: Camp Ford, Tyler, Smith County, Texas

Frequency:  Bi-weekly, irregular

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, No. 1, Feb. 17, 1864-No.3, March 13, 1864

Size and Format: 8 1/2 x 11; four pages per issue; three columns; pen and ink

Editor/Publisher:  Capt. William H. May (and J.P. Robens?); a 12-page facsimile edition was published by J.P. Robens and William H. May entitled, The Old Flag: First Publication by Union Prisoners at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas, V. 1, No. 1-3; Feb. 17-March 13, 1864: Preface includes history of the manuscript plus some items and advertisements from the Ford City Herald

Title Changes and Continuation:  Some references to advertisements from the Ford City Herald  in the Library of Virginia’s Civil War 150 Legacy Project (thanks to Renee M. Savits, of the CW 150 Legacy Project). According to the Herald, “This branch of our imense (sic) establishment is now complete. The new Type and Materials of The Herald, in addition to the well stocked Office of the “OLD FLAG,” removed and refitted, enables us to give notice that we are fully prepared to execute all kinds of Plain and Fancy Job Printing with neatness and dispatch. Terms, CASH.”

General Description and Notes:

The Old Flag was published by a Union soldier during an imprisonment of 13 months in the Confederate prison at Tyler, Texas.  Each issue was read aloud in the various cabins by some member of the “Mess.”  When all had read or heard it read, the paper was returned by the “subscriber” to the “office publication.”

The paper’s primary goal was to relieve the almost unbearably eventless and monotonous life of Camp Ford.  Contributions commented on local news and camp issues, displayed poetry and art, and played with satire, jokes and chess problems.  Advertisements, which appeared in every issue, were genuine.  Most offered the services of skilled prisoners for the benefit of the others.  For example, pipe makers, barbers, cigar makers, shoe shines and “job printing” (by the editor) were all available in the prison city.

The Old Flag (TX, 1864)

The Old Flag was one of two and possibly three handwritten Civil War newspapers published at Camp Ford, a Confederate prison complex in Tyler and Hempstead, Texas.  Camp Ford was the largest Confederate military prison in Texas.  The prison held both officers and enlisted men from 1863 to the end of war.  The prison held as many as 4,900 prisoners by July 1864.  Living conditions in the tented enclosure were generally good.  Fresh water, adequate shelter and plentiful food supplies made the prison a relatively healthy place; during its 21-month existence, roughly 250 soldiers died in the camp.  Most soldiers were allowed to keep many of their possessions, to manufacture items for sale and to purchase food and supplies from local farmers and merchants.[1]  To facilitate these economic transactions, The Old Flag published a “REVIEW OF THE TEXAS MARKET-for the Month of February, 1864” in its March 1 edition.

Capt. William H. May, of the 23rd Connecticut Volunteers, with the assistance of other Union soldiers, published and edited at least three issues of The Old Flag between February 17 and March 13, 1864,[2] during their 13-month confinement in the Confederate prison camp.  According to J.P. Robens, one of the prisoners, the paper was published on sheets of “unruled letter paper, in imitation of print, a steel pen being employed in the absence of a Hoe Press.”[3]  The three-column, four-page paper made liberal use of large headlines and graphic elements.

The paper’s primary goal was “to contribute as far as possible towards enlivening the monotonous, and at times almost unbearably eventless life of Camp Ford–and to cultivate a mutual good feeling between all.”  Contributions were solicited on matters of local news and camp issues.  The Old Flag published poetry and art, and included satire, jokes and chess problems.  Display advertisements appeared in every issue, and “most of them bona fide, genuine.”  Most of the ads promoted the services of skilled prisoners for the benefit of the others.  For example, pipe makers, barbers, cigar makers, shoe shines and “job printing” (by the editor) were all available in the prison city.[4]


Summary of Contents of The Old Flag, 1:1, February 17, 1864

(Measured in column inches; 33 column inches per page)



The Old Flag (TX, 1864)

The first number announced that the next issue would be in “an entire new dress, we having received new Types from the Foundry of J. Connor & Son, of N.Y.!  This number is printed with ‘secesh’ ink, which does not appear to ‘take’ well upon Yankee paper.”[5]  Only one copy was published of each number, which was then read aloud in the various cabins by some member of the “Mess.”  When all the prisoners had read or heard it read, the paper was returned by the “Subscriber” to the “Office of Publication.”[6]

In the third number, March 15, 1864, the editor published his intentions to preserve The Old Flag after his release from Camp Ford.


We shall make it our first object on our arrival at New York City–which will probably be within a few week after our Exchange–to learn the practicability of getting the three numbers of the “Old Flag” Lithographed.  Should the expense be too great to warrant our adopting this means of securing fac simile [sic] copies, we shall print with types as nearly as similar to the letter penned by us as can be procured, with heading and illustrations engraved.  We shall endeavor to make the copies close imitations of the original papers.  In addition we propose to publish a few accurate pictures, delineating life at Camp Ford, Camp Groce, &c, printed on sheets inserted in each number of the “Old Flag” with a Title Page, and complete List of the Officers Prisoners [sic] at this place, neatly bound.

The editor kept his promise.  The lithographed reproduction of The Old Flag was published in New York in 1864 and included a “List of officers, prisoners of war at Camp Ford . . . giving rank, regiment, where and when captured.”

After prisoners were released from Camp Ford, the editor published a lithographed reproduction of the handwritten.

According to Mary Witkowski, of the Bridgeport Public Library, Bridgeport, CT, Captain May was a newspaper man in civilian life.

Information Sources:                                                         

The Old Flag (TX, 1864)

Bibliography:  Roy Alden Atwood, “Captive Audiences: Handwritten Prisoner-of-War Newspapers of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition and the War Between the States,” Annual Convention of the American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA), Salt Lake City, UT, Oct. 1993;  F. Lee Lawrence and Robert W. Glover, Camp Ford, C.S.A.:  The Story of Union Prisoners in Texas(Austin:  Texas Civil War Centennial Advisory Committee, 1964), 36-37;  The Old Flag (privately published, 1914).

Locations:  Barnum Museum, Bridgeport, CT; The Old Flag, lithographed reproduction:  DLC

[1].  Patricia L. Faust, editor, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, p. 110.

[2].  The date on The Old Flag, 1:3, isMarch 13, 1864, but a poem on p. 3, “To Mrs. Col R.T.P. Allen,” is dated March 14.  The poem was likely a day-late insertion.

[3].  J.P. Robens, “Preface,” The Old Flag, lithograph reproduction (New York:  W.H. May, [1864]), n.p.

[4].  The Old Flag, 1:3 (March 13, 1864), p. 2:  “Statistic–There have been manufactured by knife in this camp, since last September, over forty setts [sic]of Chessmen, of which Lt. John Woodward has himself completed eight of the best!

“The number of Pipes turned out, as near as can be arrived at, is not less than Five Hundred–both of wood and clay.”

[5].  The Old Flag, 1:1 (Feb. 17, 1864), p. 2.

[6].  J.P. Robens, “Preface,” n.p.

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