Civil War Field Printing
A few of the army and navy unit commanders known to have used tabletop printing presses include Confederate Brig. Gen. Albert Pike, Union Adm. David Farragut, and Union Maj. Gen. John Gibbon.
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Rear admiral David Farragut, 1863
Courtesy Library of Congress
Maj. Gen. John Gibbon (right) and other Union generals W. S. Hancock, F. C. Barlow, and William Birney at Petersburg, Virginia.
Gibbon later wrote:
“My corps press was at once set to work to print off the requisite number of blank paroles but it soon became apparent that our few printers would speedily break down at the task, some 30,000 blanks being required. The Adjutant General reported that the press would have to be run all night and probably all the next day. I, therefore, directed him to send out and make a detail of the necessary numbers of printers to supply relays for the press until the job was finished. This was done; we obtained all the printers we wanted and the next day the paroles were ready for distribution.”
An 1865 advertisement for the Lowe printing press discusses the ability to print some 300 to 500 documents in one hour. The Cincinnati Type Foundry’s Army printing press was advertised as being able to print between 200 and 300 impressions in an hour.
The paroles were likely printed in groups, using the text for three or more paroles to a page, which would allow for the total to be completed in about 24 hours.