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THE CONTINUING WAR by Robert Dykstra June's issue featured an article on Nordiern writers of Civil War novels during the Reconstruction years. One of those who wrote during the war itself was Charles Wesley Alexander. The self-styled audior of the conflict's very first Union propaganda fiction, Alexander turned late in the war to producing a periodical designed specifically for servicemen , and after Appomattox attempted to employ his literary talents in a grand mobilization of Union veterans. He is thus one of the most interesting , though unknown, popular writers of the period. Beyond the fact that he was born in 1837 and lived until 1927, the standard sources reveal few clues about Alexander. We know that he was a Philadelphian, however, and it is tempting to speculate that he might have been closely related to the Charles Alexander who helped found the Saturday Evening Post in 1821. (The latter does not really owe its existence, as its publishers claim, to Benjamin Franklin. ) C. W. Alexander usually wrote under the pseudonym "Wesley Bradshaw," although quite late in his career he evidently soughta measure ofincreased gentility by calling himself "Wellesley Bradshaw." In 1864 it was Alexander's boast that he "had already become well known previous to the breaking out of the present war." His first published work of record, however, was a slim paperback entitled Washington 's Vision, produced when its author was twenty-three or twenty-four years old. The pamphlet emerged from the press in the early part of 1861 —"the First Union Story ever written," he was fond of claiming. Alexander later managed to obtain for it an endorsement by the famous statesman and orator Edward Everett, then stumping the North on behalf of the war effort. Apparently few copies of the original work have survived, but an 1889 edition possesses a title which reveals the subject matter: The History of a Remarkable Vision which Appeared to General George Washington, at Valley Forge, on the Birth, Progress and Destiny of the United States, as Related by Him to a Confidential Officer. Whether factual or not, the supposed incident appeared as a "strangebut -true" feature on a national television program a few years ago. Soon after the publication of Washington's Vision, Alexander hit his stride as a producer of the "pseudo-documentary"—fiction lightly mas317 318CIVIL WAR HISTORY querading as topical nonfiction. In 1862 his second book appeared: Pauline of the Potomac, or, General McClelhn's Spy. This work pretended to be a factual account of the "beautiful and accomplished" secret agent, Pauline D'Estraye. A German-language edition of the book appeared in 1863, apparently an attempt to capitalize on German-American readers; indeed, Alexander produced German translations of his works, no matter what the subject, throughout his writing career. By 1863, of course, McClellan's star was no longer in the ascendancy, and for readers of Teutonic origin Miss D'Estraye's employer became General "Seigel"—that is, the well-known German immigrant officer, Franz Sigel. Like many another fiction writer of the period, Alexander continued to exploit the female spy racket for all it was worth, but at the same time carefully conformed his commanders to those of the moment. General Grant's Daring Spy appeared in 1864, and General Sherman's Indian Spy in 1864 or 1865, the latter embracing a heady combination of the March to the Sea, Indians, espionage, and embattled femininity. Alexander published at least three other works in the last two years of the war: General McClellan's Promise (apparently Democratic literature for the 1864 presidential campaign), The Angel of the RattleField , and The Picket Shyer (advertised as a "strangely thrilling book [which] explains how so many unfortunate Pickets mysteriously disappeared from the Army at the beginning of the War"). In late 1863 or 1864 Alexander talked his publisher, Barclay and Company, into sponsoring for "Wesley Bradshaw" a twenty-page mondily entitled The Volunteers' Role of Honor. The little publication included bodi Bradshaw fiction and nonfiction summaries of heroic batdefield exploits performed by Federal soldiers and sailors. In this the magazine represented a unique contribution to wartime periodical journalism. Only five issues of the Volunteers' Role actually appeared...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 317-321
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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