FORT McHENRY
AFTER ACTION
REPORT






HD-QTRS. SIGNAL DETACHMENT
Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland
April 30th, 1864.

To: Colonel Thom. Downes, 8th. OVI
Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbor
Commanding

Colonel Downes:

I have the honor to hand you herewith a report of the operations of that portion of the Signal Corps Association Re-enactors' Division (SCARD), which was placed on active service upon the various forts and encampments within Baltimore Harbor during April 26th through the 28th. instant.

In accordance with Special Order No. 238 dated April 16th., 1864, Signal Bureau, Washington, DC, I reported for duty as directed. The signal detachment raised for service was comprised of the First Section, New York Signal department and the Head-Quarters Signal Detachment from Georgetown, District of Columbia. The composite detachment, once formed, had an opportunity to test its efficiency and make itself useful, to some extent, in the following manner:

  • Upon the detachment's arrival at Whetstone Point, Friday the 26th. instant, an electric telegraph wire was constructed from the Baltimore and Ohio's railhead at Locust Point into Fort McHenry's interior. A few days prior to constructing the telegraph line, parties were sent out in advance of reporting to reconnoiter various prominent locations. This was pursued in order to ensure that wire and aerial communications could connect the head-quarters of the commandant at Fort McHenry with those of Captain Bopp, USN, commanding USS Constellation, now situated at the Pratt and Light










Street dock and also with our forces currently occupying Fort Federal Hill and Camp Patterson Park.
  • Two parties of three flagmen each were sent by steam launch early on the morning of April 27th in to Baltimore for the purpose of establishing stations both at Fort Federal Hill and from the stern of the Sloop-of-War Constellation. This portion of the operation was placed under the command of Captain M. C. Williams, 1st Section, New York Signal Detachment, SCARD.

  • By 9 am on the 27th six telegraph operators had reported as ordered to Fort McHenry and the B & O R.R. Locust Point Station and were placed in such offices and picket posts as prescribed by Superintendent J. L. Wilson in his circular of the 31st ultimo.

  • Under the suggestion and guidance of the Colonel commanding Fort McHenry, two signal parties were placed on the parade grounds and "at the ready" to serve any communication needs required during the tactical demonstrations commencing at one o'clock on the afternoon of the 27th. The signals for this demonstrations were relay'd under the direction of Head-Quarters Signal Detachment Cheif, 2nd Lieutenant Douglas Oakes, and insomuch as whatever orders for troop maneouvering was required during the public presentation, it was provided by Lieut. Oakes and his two signal settees.

  • Immediately upon the conclusion of the public tactical demonstration, a party of five signallists at Fort McHenry was gotten underway orders to occupy the position high atop Hempstead Hill and near Camp Patterson Park.

  • At approximately the same time that the Fort McHenry signal party embarked from Whetstone Point, both parties of Captain










Williams had reached the Ann Street Wharf in Fells Point. Captain Williams once more ordered his detachment split into two halves, he returning to Fort McHenry by launch while the other portion proceeded on foot to Camp Patterson Park.
  • Lieutenant Oakes' party, coming from Fort McHenry, reached Camp Patterson Park in advance of the party ordered to march there from the warf at Fells Point by Captian Williams. Upon arrival, Captian Oakes arranged his party at the highest position and trained his telescope to the south-west in the direction of Fort McHenry. During the time the two signal parties occupied the hights at Hempstead Hill artillery practice ranging was conducted between that point and Fort McHenry. The entire affair lasted just under three hours.

  • The parties from Camp Patterson Park rejoined the main body of signal troops at Fort McHenry a short time following the sounding of retreat on the evening of the 27th. The combined signal detachments were precluded from conducting night torch operations due to the onset of inclement weather.

  • Operations on Sunday, April 30th., were hampered by strong winds, heavy seas and intermittent rain squalls, thus curtailing additional visual signal operations. Likewise, thunderstorms in the area hampered the effectual working of the telegraph lines into the Fort and its evirons. The signal detachment subsequently boarded cars of the B&O R. R. for Washington City on the following day and arrived at Signal Camp of Instruction, Georgetown, D. C. on the afternoon of the 29th.

I wish to personally place upon the record that the signalmen lately attached to the Fort McHenry Garrison are worthy of commendations as they were constantly employed with travelling to and fro and mounting their distant stations that the various commands not want for communications at










any time such could be offer'd. This may indeed have been the first time that aerial telegraphy was occurring simultaneously throughout Baltimore Harbour.

I have the honour to be, Sir, very respectfully, your obedient servent,

Walter F. Mathers
Act'g Chief Signal Officer
Middle Military District