Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MacGAHAN, Januarius Aloysius, journalist, born near New Lexington, Perry County, Ohio, 12 June, 1844; died in Constantinople, Turkey, 9 June, 1878. His father died when the son was seven years old, leaving a farm on which the latter worked till the age of sixteen, attending school during the winter months. He went to Huntington, Illinois, in 1860, taught for two terms, then became a book-keeper, and, removing to St. Louis in 1864, followed the same calling after first passing through the course of instruction in a business college. He also wrote newsletters to the Huntington "Democrat," gave public readings from Charles Dickens's works, and during his spare hours read law, which he intended to make his profession. In January, 1869, he went to Europe, visited London, Paris, and other places, and then spent many months in Brussels, where he devoted himself to the study of civil and international law, and perfected his knowledge of French and German. When about to embark for home he was engaged in the autumn of 1870 as special correspondent of the New York "Herald." He overtook the retreating army of General Charles D. S. Bourbaki, and then went to Lyons and next to Bordeaux, whence he despatched a series of interviews with the leaders of the Republican and the Monarchical and Clerical parties that attracted much attention, and on the removal of the seat of the National government to Versailles hastened to Paris, and remained there from the beginning to the end of the Commune, describing the events of the period in graphic letters. He was the only correspondent in the city, and established an intimacy with Dombrovsky and other communist leaders that was the cause of his arrest by the National troops, from whose custody he was delivered through the intercession of the United States minister, Elihu B. Washburne. His published conversations with Leon Gambetta, Archbishop Dupanloup, and others introduced into Europe the practice of newspaper interviewing. After the Commune he visited Bucharest, Odessa, and then Yalta, where he formed many friendships with members of the czar's household and officers of the guards. Accompanying the court to St. Petersburg, he was appointed regular correspondent of the "Herald" in that capital, and through his exceptional social relations with high officials was able to obtain interesting political news. He accompanied General William T. Sherman to the Caucasus in 1872, then reported the proceedings of the "Alabama" conference in Genew, gathered news in London, Paris, Lyons, and other places, and after marrying, in January, 1873, a Russian lady whose acquaintance he had first made at Yalta, was unexpectedly ordered to join the expedition against Khiva. After vainly seeking permission for the journey from the Russian government, he set out alone on his adventurous trip, riding unhindered through the desert, and overtaking the Russian column before Khiva just as the bombardment began. While he was there a close intimacy sprang up between him and Colonel Skobeleff On his return to Europe he published his "Campaigning on the Oxus, and the Fall of Khiva" (London, 1874), which has passed through many editions. In July, 1874, he went to the Pyrenees to report the Carlist war, and remained with Don Carlos for the next ten months, acquiring in a short time a perfect command of the Spanish tongue. During the campaign he lived in the saddle and was frequently under fire. In his letters to the "Herald" he tried to gain for the Carlists the sympathies of the civilized world. In June, 1875, he sailed from Southampton on the "Pandora" for the Polar seas. This voyage he described in newspaper letters, and in a volume entitled "Under the Northern Lights" (London, 1876). In June, 1876, he received a special commission from the editor of the London " Daily News" to investigate the truth of despatches describing Turkish barbarities in Bulgaria, which had been called in question by the premier, Benjamin Disraeli, in the House of commons. Accompanied by Eugene Schuyler, who had been commissioned by the United States government to prosecute a similar inquiry, MacGahan went over the desolated districts, questioned the people in Russian, of which language he had gained a limited knowledge, and presented in brilliant descriptive style a mass of detailed evidence of the reality of the Bulgarian horrors that enlisted on behalf of the Christians of Turkey the sympathies of the British public, and removed the hindrances to the armed intervention of Russia. His letters were reprinted in a pamphlet entitled" Turkish Atrocities in Bulgaria" (London, 1876). In the following winter he reported the conference of the ambassadors in Constantinople, then went to St. Petersburg to watch the war preparations. Notwithstanding a painful accident, he accompanied the Russian army, was present at the first battle with the Turks, and witnessed the passage of the advanced guard over the Danube. Though crippled by a broken leg and bruised in the fall of an ammunition-cart, he accompanied Gem Gourko's column, and was with General Skobeleff at the front, where he often went without food, and four times lay ill in the trenches with malarial fever. His letters described the course of operations and vividly pictured the scenes of battle from the fight at Shipka Pass to the fall of Plevna. While the negotiations of San Stefano were proceeding he remained at Pera during an epidemic of spotted typhus, and at last fell a victim to the disease. MacGahan combined in a remarkable degree descriptive powers and facility of composition, acute military and political perceptions, and physical energy and decisiveness in action. His fearlessness in exposing himself to fire enabled him to describe battles with great fidelity. He had planned a work on the eastern question, but left it in no form for publication.
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