Ferdinand Hilgard was born in Bavaria, Germany on 10th April, 1835. After studying at Munich and Wurzburg, he emigrated to the United States in 1853. Soon after arriving he adopted the name, Henry Villard. He later recalled: "My landing upon American soil took place under anything but auspicious circumstances. I was utterly destitute of money, had but a limited supply of wearing apparel, and that not suited to the approaching cold season, and I literally did not know a single person in New York or elsewhere in the Eastern States to whom I could not apply for help and counsel. To crown all, I could not speak a word of English."
Villard became a journalist in Milwaukee and after moving to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1856, began editing the German language Volksblatt. An opponent of slavery, he reported on the Abraham Lincoln - Stephen A. Douglas debates in Illinois for the New York Herald Tribune.
A member of the Republican Party, the conservative New York Herald Tribune surprisingly published Villard's radical articles. Villard supported the nomination of William H. Seward in 1860. He was disappointed that Abraham Lincoln got the nomination: "I had not got over the prejudice against Lincoln with which my personal contact with him in 1858 imbued me. It seemed to me incomprehensible and outrageous that the uncouth, common Illinois politician, whose only experience in public life had been service as a member of the State legislature and in Congress for one term, should carry the day over the eminent and tried statesman, the foremost figure, indeed, in the country." Dispite these comments he gave Lincoln his full support after his election as president.
During the American Civil War Villard began writing for the the New York Tribune. Over the next few years Villard reported several of the major battles including Bull Run (July, 1861), Perryville (October, 1862), Fredericksburg (December, 1862), Murfreesboro (January, 1863) and the Wilderness (June, 1864).
Slavery in the United States (£1.29)
On 3rd January, 1866, Villard married Helen Frances Garrison, the daughter of the anti-slavery campaigner, William Lloyd Garrison. Employed by the New York Tribune, six months later he was sent to Europe to report on the Franco-Prussian War.
An early supporter of the railways, his successes with the Oregon Railway and the Northern Pacific Railroad enabled him in 1881 to acquire a controlling influence in the New York Evening Post and The Nation.
Villard also helped to finance the early ventures of the American inventor Thomas Edison. and in 1889 helped establish Edison General Electric. When Henry Villard died in November, 1900, his son, Oswald Garrison Villard, took over his business interests.
My landing upon American soil took place under anything but auspicious circumstances. I was utterly destitute of money, had but a limited supply of wearing apparel, and that not suited to the approaching cold season, and I literally did not know a single person in New York or elsewhere in the Eastern States to whom I could not apply for help and counsel. To crown all, I could not speak a word of English.
A travelling companion who had tried to persuade me to accompany him to California noticed my depression, and guessed its cause from what he had drawn out of me on the voyage about my antecedents and plans. He generously offered to lend me twenty dollars, which I accepted, of course, with joy.
Milwaukee has always been an almost German city. In 1856, the preponderance of the German element was even greater than at present; in fact, its Americanization, which has in the meantime progressed very rapidly, had then hardly begun. It was known among German-Americans as "Deutsch-Athen" and comparatively speaking, deserved the name. There was a large number of educated and accomplish men among my countrymen, and in them the love of music and art was very marked.
The first joint debate between Douglas and Lincoln, which I attended, took place on the afternoon of August 21, 1858, at Ottawa, Illinois. It was the great event of the day, and attracted an immense concourse of people from all parts of the State.
Senator Douglas was very small, not over four and a half feet height, and there was a noticeable disproportion between the long trunk of his body and his short legs. His chest was broad and indicated great strength of lungs. It took but a glance at his face and head to convince one that they belonged to no ordinary man. No beard hid any part of his remarkable, swarthy features. His mouth, nose, and chin were all large and clearly expressive of much boldness and power of will. The broad, high forehead proclaimed itself the shield of a great brain. The head, covered with an abundance of flowing black hair just beginning to show a tinge of grey, impressed one with its massiveness and leonine expression. His brows were shaggy, his eyes a brilliant black.
Douglas spoke first for an hour, followed by Lincoln for an hour and a half; upon which the former closed in another half hour. The Democratic spokesman commanded a strong, sonorous voice, a rapid, vigorous utterance, a telling play of countenance, impressive gestures, and all the other arts of the practiced speaker.
As far as all external conditions were concerned, there was nothing in favour of Lincoln. He had a lean, lank, indescribably gawky figure, an odd-featured, wrinkled, inexpressive, and altogether uncomely face. He used singularly awkward, almost absurd, up-and-down and sidewise movements of his body to give emphasis to his arguments. His voice was naturally good, but he frequently raised it to an unnatural pitch.
Yet the unprejudiced mind felt at once that, while there was on the one side a skillful dialectician and debater arguing a wrong and weak cause, there was on the other a thoroughly earnest and truthful man, inspired by sound convictions in consonance with the true spirit of American institutions. There was nothing in all Douglas's powerful effort that appealed to the higher instincts of human nature, while Lincoln always touched sympathetic cords. Lincoln's speech excited and sustained the enthusiasm of his audience to the end.
I was enthusiastically for the nomination of William H. Seward, who seemed to me the proper and natural leader of the Republican Party ever since his great "irrepressible conflict" speech in 1858. The noisy demonstrations of his followers, and especially of the New York delegation in his favour, had made me sure, too, that his candidacy would be irresistible. I therefore shared fully the intense chagrin of the New York and other State delegations when, on the third ballot, Abraham Lincoln received a larger vote than Seward.
I had not got over the prejudice against Lincoln with which my personal contact with him in 1858 imbued me. It seemed to me incomprehensible and outrageous that the uncouth, common Illinois politician, whose only experience in public life had been service as a member of the State legislature and in Congress for one term, should carry the day over the eminent and tried statesman, the foremost figure, indeed, in the country.
Cameron was the typical American politician with a well-defined purpose in all he said and did. He also held himself a little too freely at the disposal of newspapers men, to whom he was by far the most cordial and talkative of all the secretaries. He made them feel at once as though they had met an old acquaintance and friend. He was certainly the cleverest political manager in the Cabinet, and, though unquestionably as ambitious as any member of it, he never was guilty of the indiscretions which the political records of Seward and Chase reveal. He had a very shrewd way of tempting journalists by implications and insinuations into publishing things about others that he wished to have said without becoming responsible for them.
When the Unionists resumed their advance, the rebels successfully resisted their rather desultory attacks at different points. With every unsuccessful onward attempt there was a rapid melting away of the assailants. Fewer and fewer officers and men could be rallied for another advance. Towards four o'clock, the rebels felt strong enough to take the offensive. A brigade with a battery under Earle managed to strike the Federal right on the flank and rear and throw it into utter confusion, which spread rapidly along the whole front. Now came the disastrous end. Without any formal orders to retreat, what was left of the several organizations yielded to a general impulse to abandon the field. Officers and men became controlled by the one thought of getting as far as possible from the enemy.
General Sherman looked upon journalists as a nuisance and a danger at headquarters and in the field, and acted toward them accordingly, then as throughout his great war career. I did not, of course, agree with him at that time as to my own calling, but candor constrains me to say that I had to admit in the end that he was entirely right. For what I then observed, on the one hand, of the natural eagerness of volunteer officers of all grades (of whom so many were aspiring politicians at home) to get themselves favorably noticed in the press, even at the cost of indiscretions, and, on the other hand, of the publishing army news, must lead any unprejudiced mind to the conclusion that the harm certain to be done by war correspondents far outweighs any good they can possibly do. If I were a commanding general I would not tolerate any of the tribe within my army lines.
Under the circumstances, it was perfectly useless to approach General Sherman formally as a news-gatherer. I was, however, brought into contact with him in another more satisfactory way. He appeared every night, like myself, at about nine o'clock, in the office of Mr. Tyler, to learn the news brought in the night Associated Press report. He knew me from the Bull Run campaign as a correspondent of the press. As we met on neutral ground and I asked him no questions, we were son on very good terms. He was a great talker, and he liked nothing better than to express his mind upon the news as it came. There he sat, smoking a cigar (I hardly ever saw him without one), leaning back in a chair, with his thumbs in the armholes of his vest. Or he was pacing up and down in the room, puffing away, with his head bent forward and his arm crossed behind his back. Every piece of military intelligence drew some comment from him, and it was easy to lead him into a long talk if the subject interested him.