Alexander Maxwell Gorman (1814-1865) published the first issue of the Daily Confederate of Raleigh, North Carolina on January 27, 1864. The newspaper succeeded the Weekly State Journal and Daily State Journal, both of Raleigh, which Gorman bought from John Spelman (1821-1889). In the Confederate‘s debut issue, Gorman assured Journal subscribers that the new title was “but a continuation of the same paper under another title.” Gorman was a veteran of the newspaper business, having worked for the Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette and served as editor and publisher of the Family Visiter and Spirit of the Age, both of Raleigh. For a brief period, he owned both the Confederate and Spirit of the Age, but he sold the latter by June 1864.
The Daily Confederate published a two-page issue every day except Sunday. The newspaper included the text of Confederate military orders; dispatches from the battlefield; reports of state and Confederate government meetings; columns on such topics as habeas corpus and deserters; and runaway slave advertisements.
Gorman also issued a weekly edition of the newspaper every Wednesday. The Weekly Confederate was four pages and featured many of the longer stories and columns that had run in the daily editions the previous week. The weekly edition included little news from the battlefront.
Gorman had help with his editorial duties. He announced in the February 1, 1864 issue the addition of Duncan Kirkland McRae (1820-1888) to the staff, noting that McRae would “make his debut in the Editorial columns of the Confederate” in the next day’s issue. McRae was an accomplished attorney in North Carolina, had spent one term in the state legislature. During the Civil War, he commanded North Carolina troops as a colonel, though he was injured after just a year and a half of service. He then served North Carolina’s governor as a special envoy to find markets for the state’s cotton and purchased supplies in southern Europe.
Although the Daily Confederate nominally rejected political party affiliation, Gorman and McRae admired Zebulon B. Vance, North Carolina’s governor. The Confederate fiercely engaged Vance’s 1864 challenger, William Woods Holden (1818-1892), editor of a rival Raleigh newspaper, the Semi-Weekly Standard. In a March 5, 1864, column entitled “Dying Notes,” the Confederate denounced the Standard for using “extracts from the Confederate … garbled for the purpose” of intimating partisan hackery by the Confederate. The Confederate retorted that its “helm is steady and its prow” focused on National Independence, noting that Vance was a welcomed passenger while Holden was better off “throw[n] overboard.”
The Confederate devoted substantial coverage to reporting successful engagements by Confederate regiments and the valor of its men. A column that followed the Confederacy’s successful defense of the North Carolina port at Wilmington pleaded, “The individual who is not stirred up to action in view of the dangers gathering over his country must surely be destitute of any elements of true manhood.” A January 5, 1865, report boasts that in the defense of Wilmington, “North Carolina has given another token of her prowess, and Confederate hearts are glad.” On February 29, 1864, Gorman and McRae published an excerpt from purportedly private correspondence, dubbed, “An Inspiring Letter from a Lady.” In it, the author laments on behalf of her eldest brother, a Confederate veteran: “His negroes are gone, his provisions, horses and carts taken; his crockery and cooking utensils broken; his hogs, sheep, cattle, and poultry killed.”
The Confederate also voiced contempt for Federal forces and Union sympathizers, particularly George Mills Joy (1829-1880) and the New Bern Daily Progress. Joy was a printer and a corporal in the 23rd Massachusetts infantry regiment. After the 23rd Massachusetts and other Union forces occupied New Bern in March 1862, troops seized the offices and equipment of the New Bern Progress and began publishing a newspaper under Joy’s leadership. In early 1864, Joy ceased publication of the Daily Progress and introduced the North Carolina Times, also printed in New Bern. That title, too, reflected a pro-Union editorial stance. On March 4, 1864, the Confederate criticized Joy for publishing “insulting, aggrieving advertisements” for the sale of the property of southerners who had been driven from their homes during the Federal occupation.
The Confederate‘s run was short. Gorman died of an undisclosed illness on January 24, 1865. McRae mourned the death of his colleague in the newspaper January 30, 1865 issue, asking readers to forgive the paper for lacking the “neatness of appearance which has hitherto characterized [it.]” On February 9, 1865, following an unsuccessful plea to the Confederate Joint Stock Publishing Company to help find a replacement for Gorman, McRae began issuing a daily call for an “associate Editor and general business manager and superintendent.”
The Confederate suffered frustrations wrought by war, as well. On March 9, 1865, McRae announced that the paper would suspend shipment of its weekly and tri-weekly subscriptions until further notice, citing “derangement of the mails, brought about by the impressment of trains for Government transportation.” The paper remained in press under McRae’s leadership (though the A. M. Gorman & Co. proprietary name still adorned the masthead) until spring of 1865.