Thursday, August 8, 2013

Charles Anderson Dana, born August 8, 1819

Charles Anderson Dana in 1864
at Grant's Headquarters in Spotsylvania, Virginia
Charles Anderson Dana was born in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, the first child of Anderson and Ann Denison Dana. His paternal grandfather was a Revolutionary War soldier and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.  His father. Anderson Dana, was a merchant who failed in business when his oldest son was a few years old. 

The family moved to the village of Gaines in western New York, where Anderson Dana had charge of a warehouse on the banks of the Erie Canal for a while, then gave it up to begin a small farm. 

Ann Dana died in 1828, leaving four young children. Anderson took the children to Ann's father's home in Guildhall, Vermont.  Charles, who was nine years old, lived with his uncle, David Denison for three years.  He stopped attending school at the age of 10.  In 1831, when he was 12 years old, he moved to Buffalo, New York to work as a clerk for his uncle, William Dana, in his general store, Staats & Dana.  He began studying to prepare himself for enrollment at Harvard College, as well as saving money for his tuition.  He was eventually self-taught in several languages besides English, including Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Danish and the Seneca dialect of the Native Peoples.

In 1833, Anderson married Mary Jane Wright of Hinsdale.  They moved to Ohio, where other members of the Dana family had settled.  They had three additional children.

The “Panic of 1837″ caused his uncle's store to fail, and Charles found himself with $200 saved but without a job.

In June 1839, he left Buffalo for Cambridge, Massachusetts in order to enter Harvard College. At the end of his first year he was 7th in a class of seventy-four. He completed two years of college work before his money ran out and his eyesight failed.  He abandoned his intention of entering the ministry and of studying in Germany.

He was 41 years old when the Civil War began.

Brook Farm
Although raised in the Congregational Church, Dana was drawn to the Unitarian faith. In September 1841, he became part of the “Brook Farm Association,” along with George and Sophia Ripley, George William Curtis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Parker, William Henry Channing, John Sullivan Dwight, and Margaret Fuller.  

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dana paid for his board by labor on the farm and by giving instruction in Greek, German and other subjects.  The association was part of the Transcendental movement and “an honest and conscientious effort to combine co-operative labor with democratic living and intellectual improvement.”  During his time at Brook Farm, he also wrote for the Transcendental publication, the Harbinger.  He became the secretary and a trustee of the Association. 

Elizur Wright
Beginning in 1844, he was hired by Elizur Wright of the Boston Daily Chronotype (a newspaper popular with Congregational ministers in Massachusetts) to read the exchanges, edit the news, and act as editor in Mr. Wright's absence. 

He remained at Brook Farm for five years, until 1846. Brook Farm was destroyed by a fire on his wedding day.  Dana married Eunice MacDaniel on March 18, in New York City New York. They eventually had four children: Zoe, Ruth, Paul and Eunice. Eunice MacDaniel's brother, Osborne MacDaniel, later married Dana's younger sister, Maria. 

Horace Greeley
In 1847, through his acquaintance Horace Greeley, a frequent visitor to Brook Farm, he was employed as city editor for the New York Tribune. During this time he traveled to Europe for eight months to report on the political scene there, including the revolutionary movements. In Cologne he visited Karl Marx and Ferdinand Freiligrath.  From 1852 to 1861, Marx was one of the writers for the New York Tribune.

Karl Marx
In 1848 he translated and published a volume of German stories and legends under the title  “The Black Ant.”   In 1849, he wrote a series of newspaper articles in defense of anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his mutual banking ideas.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Returning to New York in 1849, Dana became a proprietor of the Tribune and its managing editor.  He actively promoted the anti-slavery cause.   The extraordinary influence and circulation attained by the newspaper during the ten years preceding the Civil War was in a degree due to the development of Dana's genius for journalism, reflected not only in the making of the Tribune as a newspaper, but also in the management of its staff of writers, and in the steadiness of its policy as the leading organ of anti-slavery sentiment.

Charles Anderson Dana
In 1857 he edited an anthology, “The Household Book of Poetry.”  With George Ripley, he edited The American Cyclopaedia (1857–1863).

The American Cyclopaedia 
In 1861, Dana went to Albany to advance Greeley as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.  The caucus was about equally divided between Greeley's friends and those of  William Evarts, while Ira Harris had a few votes which held the balance of power. At the instigation of Thurlow Weed, the supporters of Evarts went over to Harris.

New York Tribune Editorial Staff
Dana is standing in the center of the back row
On June 26, 1861, Dana was responsible for one of the most powerful headlines in the campaign:

The Rebel Congress Must Not be Allowed to Meet There on the 20th of July!


The "Forward to Richmond" campaign help push Union troops into the Battle of Bull Run, and the resulting defeat pushed Greeley to the brink of a nervous breakdown.  Conflict between Greeley and Dana the two men ebbed and flowed over the next eight months — until Dana was ousted on March 27, 1862. After 15 years at the Tribune, the board of managers asked for Dana's resignation.

Charles Anderson Dana
Dana biographer Charles J. Rosebault wrote: 
"There never could have been real sympathy between these two, even though they were in agreement on many of the great problems of the day. Dana was no less anti-slavery than his chief, but he was equally firm against secession. But it was in the more personal matters that there was a subtle antagonism. The exquisite young man could not but be offended at the manners and dress of the slovenly elder. Then the one was to a degree, at least, the product of college education, and convinced that the old-fashioned classical education, with Greek and Latin as its foundation, was indispensable to the making of the cultivated man; while the other had acquired what knowledge he possessed entirely through his own efforts and, as is often the [case with] self-educated, was inclined to belittle the value of college training."
Edwin Stanton
When Dana left the Tribune, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton immediately made him a special investigating agent of the War Department. In this capacity, Dana discovered frauds of quartermasters and contractors. As the eyes and ears of the administration, he spent much time at the front, and sent Stanton frequent reports concerning the capacity and methods of various generals in the field. His first job was to "examine and report upon all unsettled claims against the War Department at Cairo, Illinois." He left for the western front and arrived in Memphis in early July, 1862 and served for several months.

Dana's lengthy dispatches to the President occupied both Lincoln and the telegraph operators.  Dana's reports by telegraph were generally full, and David Homer Bates, a cipher-operator during that period, "had occasion to consult the dictionary many times for the meaning of words new and strange to our ears. It was an education for us, particularly when errors occurred in transmission and words like 'truculent' and 'hibernating' had to be dug out of telegraphic chaos." 

Lincoln in the Telegraph Office
By David Homer Bates
In particular, the War Department was concerned about rumors of Ulysses Grant's drinking, and Dana spent considerable time with him, becoming a close friend and assuaging administration concerns.  Dana returned to the western front in the early spring of 1863 with the job of investigating pay service for the War Department. 

Ulysses S. Grant
Grant had already complained that his men were not being paid on time, so the administration thought the general might not suspect the true import of Dana's mission. Dana was quickly recognized for what he was — a spy. But Grant insisted that Dana be treated hospitably and he eventually became one of Grant's biggest boosters.  Dana reported to Stanton that he found Grant
"modest, honest, and judicial. . . . not an original or brilliant man, but sincere, thoughtful, deep, and gifted with a courage that never faltered.   Although quiet and hard to know, he loved a humorous story and the company of his friends."

General William Sherman wrote in his “Memoirs”
“One day early in April, 1863, I was up at Grant's headquarters [at Vicksburg], and we talked over all these things with absolute freedom. Charles A. Dana, assistant secretary of war, was there, and Wilson, Rawlins, Frank Blair, McPherson, etc. We all knew, what was notorious, that Gen. McClernand was intriguing against Gen. Grant, in hopes to regain command of the whole expedition, and that others were raising clamor against Grant in the newspapers of the north. Even Mr. Lincoln and Gen. Halleck seemed to be shaken; but at no instant did we (his personal friends) slacken in our loyalty to him.” 
James Harrison Wilson
General James Harrison Wilson, who was Dana's friend and biographer, wrote:
"Having met Charles A. Dana first in the spring of 1863, during the Vicksburg campaign it was my good-fortune to serve with him in the field during three of the most memorable campaigns of the Civil War, and for a short period under him as a bureau officer of the War Department. Our duties threw us much together, and of all the men I ever met he was the most delightful companion. Overflowing with the knowledge of art, science, and literature, and widely acquainted as he was with the leading men and movements of the times, his conversation was a constant delight and a constant instruction. Blessed with a vigorous constitution and an insatiable desire for information, he never once, by day or night, or in the presence of danger, however great, declined to accompany me on an expedition or an adventure." 
Battle of Chickamauga
Dana went through the Vicksburg Campaign; he was at the Battle of Chickamauga and the Third Battle of Chattanooga.  He urged the placing of General Grant in supreme command of all the armies in the field, which happened in March 1864. 

Dana was Assistant Secretary of War from 1864 to 1865.  Wilson wrote that President Lincoln "appears to have taken Dana into his inmost confidence...and to have consulted him fully about the amendment to the Constitution to legalize the abolition of slavery, about the admission of Nevada as a State, and generally about where to get necessary votes in Congress to carry through the various policies of his administration."

Dana's Recollections of the Civil War was published in 1898.  In it, Dana recalled how President Lincoln chose to deal with a difficult vote on admission of Nevada as a state in March 1864:
Late one afternoon, the president came into my office, in the third story of the War Department. He used to come there sometimes rather than send for me, because he was fond of walking and liked to get away from the crowds in the White House. He came in and shut the door. 
'Dana,' he said, 'I am very anxious about this vote. It has got to be taken next week. The time is very short. It is going to be a great deal closer than I wish it was.' 
"There are plenty of Democrats who will vote it,' I replied. There is James E. English, of Connecticut; I think he is sure, isn't he?' 
'Oh, yes; he is sure on the merits of the question.' 
'Then,' said I, 'there's 'Sunset' Cox, of Ohio. How is he?' 
'He is sure and fearless. But there are some others that I am not clear about. There are three that you can deal with better than anybody else, perhaps, as you know them all. I wish you would send for them.' 
He told me who they were; it isn't necessary to repeat the names here. One man was from New Jersey and two from New York.  'What will they be likely to want?' I asked. 
'I don't know,' said the President; 'I don't know. It makes no difference, though, what they want. Here is the alternative: that we carry this vote, or be compelled to raise another million, and I don't know how many more, men, and fight no one knows how long. It is a question of three votes or new armies. I don't know,' said he; 'but whatever promise you make to them I will perform."
I sent for the men and saw them one by one. I found that they were afraid of their party. They said that some fellows in the party would be down on them. Two of them wanted internal revenue collector's appointments. 'You shall have it,' I said. Another one wanted a very important appointment about the custom house of New York. I knew the man well whom he wanted to have appointed. He was a Republican, though the congressman was a Democrat. I had served with him in the Republican county committee of New York. The office was worth perhaps twenty thousand dollars a year. When the congressman stated the case, I asked him, 'Do you want that?'
'Yes,' said he.  'Well, I answered, 'you shall have it.' 
'I understand, of course,' said he, 'that you are not saying this on your own authority?" 
'Oh, no,' said I; "I am saying it on the authority of the President." 
"Well, these men voted that Nevada be allowed to form a State government, and thus they helped secure the vote which was required. The next October the President signed the proclamation admitting the State. In the February following Nevada was one of the States which ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, by which slavery was abolished by constitutional prohibition in all of the United States. 
I have always felt that this little piece of side politics was one of the most judicious, humane, and wise uses of executive authority that I have ever assisted in or witnessed.
Dana was an unabashed admirer of the President, later writing that Mr. Lincoln was a great military strategist and
 "a born leader of men. He knew human nature; he knew what chord to strike, and was never afraid to strike when he believed that the time had arrived."
Abraham Lincoln
Wilson, who briefly headed the Army’s Cavalry Bureau, noted:
 “I made it a rule to lay nothing over, but to take action upon every case as it arose. This I learned from Dana, who had by all odds the greatest capacity for work and was the best administrator I ever met in public office. With intense powers of concentration he disposed of one case after another exactly as a competent mason lays bricks. He hardly got one settled in place before he took another in hand. And thus is was all day long, week in and week out.” 

Grant's Council of War,
Massaponax Church, Virginia
May 21, 1864

Timothy O’Sullivan transported his equipment to an upper window in the gallery of a Baptist church that offered a useful elevated perspective from which to photograph the scene.
Ulysses S. Grant’s soldiers have removed the church pews and placed them under the trees; staff officers gather around to discuss the situation.
General Grant bends over a pew and looks over his shoulder at a large map held in the lap of General George Meade, head of the Army of the Potomac.  Assistant Secretary of War Charles Anderson Dana is also in the photograph.In the background are rows of horse-drawn baggage wagons and ambulances transporting supplies for the next day’s engagement and the wounded to field hospitals.  
Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg wrote: “Dana broke down the game of many a thieving quartermaster and contractor whose tricks and delinquencies in buying and selling fuel, forage, harness, tents, clothing, and horses might otherwise have robbed the Government of many of the hard-earned millions that went into the five-twenty bonds sold by Jay Cooke in the name of God and country.”

One task to which Dana was delegated was the collection of all Confederate records in Richmond. He left Washington on April 3, 1865, accompanied by his friend Roscoe Conkling, who had recently been re-elected to Congress. Dana arrived in Richmond a day after President Lincoln had toured the city and began the collection of Confederate records.

Roscoe Conkling
After the war, Dana edited A Campaign Life of U. S. Grant, which was published over his name and that of General James Wilson in 1868. 

In 1866, his services were sought by the proprietors of the Chicago Republican, a new daily, which failed.  
Returning to New York, in 1867 he raised money from prominent Republicans to purchase the stock company that that owned The Sun, and became its editor. The first number of The Sun appeared on January 27, 1868.  Dana remained in control of the paper until his death.  

Before the Civil War, the prime "news" function of a newspaper had been to promulgate the editor's political opinions, but the dramatic firsthand accounts of battles during the Civil War had brought the news correspondent to prominence. In the Sun this trend was reinforced. Although Dana continued to expound his political beliefs on the editorial page, the emphasis in the paper became accurate, lively news stories. This approach contrasted with that of most American newspapers, which continued to imitate the turgid, third-person, literary style of the London Times. Dana also began running "human-interest" stories, which focused on the pathos or humor in the lives of ordinary people. Because of their popularity, human-interest stories became a hallmark of modern journalism throughout much of the world.

Under Dana's control, The Sun opposed the impeachment of  President Andrew Johnson, supported Grant for the presidency in 1868 and was a sharp critic of Grant as president. Dana's criticisms of civil maladministration during Grant's terms as president led to an attempt on the part of that administration, in July 1873, to take him from New York on a charge of libel, and to be tried without a jury in a Washington, D.C. police court. The government made application to the United States District Court in New York for a warrant of removal, but Judge Samuel Blatchford, later a justice of the Supreme Court, refused the warrant, holding the proposed form of trial to be unconstitutional. 

Samuel Blatchford
Dana made The Sun a Democratic newspaper, independent and outspoken in the expression of opinions respecting the affairs of either party. The Sun also loved scandals, especially the Beecher-Tilton scandal, featuring the hypocrisy of the celebrated Protestant minister Henry Ward Beecher.
Rutherford B. Hayes 
In 1876, The Sun favored Samuel Tilden, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, opposed the Electoral Commission, and continually referred to Rutherford B. Hayes as the "fraud president". 
Charles Anderson Dana

Dana's son, Paul, joined the staff of the New York Sun in 1880. His grandson by his daughter Zoe, Walter Dana Underhill, later served as his secretary in the editorial office.

Benjamin Butler
In 1884, The Sun supported Benjamin Butler, the candidate of Greenback-Labor and Anti-Monopolist parties, for the presidency.  It opposed James Blaine, and Republican candidate, and even more bitterly, Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee.

Grover Cleveland
The Sun was New York's leading daily newspaper in 1884, with a circulation of 145,000, but its circulation dropped to 80,000 in three years. Dana's support of Butler coincided with the rise of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, which also catered to working-class Democrats. It did not have The Sun's whimsy but, at eight pages, was twice as large with a more attractive layout, more sensational news, and more earnest crusades. Dana responded with vicious anti-Semitic attacks on "Judas Pulitzer," while enlarging The Sun  improving its appearance, serializing fiction, covering sports, and appealing to a more prosperous, conservative Democratic constituency.

The Sun supported Cleveland and opposed Benjamin Harrison in 1888, although it had bitterly criticized Cleveland's first administration, and was to criticize nearly every detail of his second.
Charles Anderson Dana with a copy of The Sun
In the late 1880s,  The Sun, no longer the worker's friend, opposed strikes, the eight-hour day, and radicals. Despite his own farm background, by the 1890s Dana had sympathy for neither the plight of farmers nor their organizations. He was appalled when the Democratic Party embraced the panacea of Free Silver and nominated William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896. For the first time in 28 years, Dana supported a Republican, William McKinley. That same year, Dana's 1848 articles about Proudhon were published in collected form in as Proudhon and his Bank of the People by Benjamin Tucker, who did so partly to expose Dana's radical past.  Dana had become quite conservative, editorializing against radicals and  "reds"
Benjamin Tucker
Dana's memories were collected in a book, Recollections of the Civil War, the result of interviews with Ida Tarbell in 1896. It was published in 1898.

Ida Tarbell
The revamping and repositioning of The Sun by Dana had increased its circulation to 120,000 by 1897.
Dosoris, the Dana Estate
Glen Cove, Long Island, New York
Dana lived in New York City and spent his summers at Dosoris, an island near Glen Cove on the Long Island coast of the Sound. He died at Dosoris on October 17, 1897 at the age of 79.
Charles Anderson Dana
At Charles Dana's request, the newspaper printed a simple ten word obituary: “Charles Anderson Dana, editor of the Sun, died yesterday afternoon.”  Paul Dana succeeded his father as editor of the New York Sun.

James Harrison Wilson published a biography, The Life of Charles A. Dana in 1907.

The Life of Charles A. Dana

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