To begin the staff ride, park in the CYCLORAMA CENTER parking lot and walk across TANEYTOWN ROAD to the NATIONAL CEMETERY. Enter the Cemetery and follow the road to the left until you are between the SOLDIERS NATIONAL MONUMENT on your right and a flag pole on your left.
This position offers the best view of the three signal station sites in the town of Gettysburg. Take your compass and sight the following stations: Lutheran Seminary cupola 325 degrees; Pennsylvania Hall, Gettysburg College 356 degrees; Gettysburg Courthouse 20 degrees. All of these structures are white and are lower on the horizon than the church steeples around them. This guide does not include these signal stations as individual stops but they are worthwhile sites to visit at your convenience. There is a plaque on Pennsylvania Hall identifying it as a Union signal station and the Lutheran Theological Seminary contains a museum which is open to the public.
All three of the Gettysburg stations were operated in direct support of Brig. Gen. Jno. Buford's First Cavalry Division. Buford's Chief Signal Officer was Lieutenant Aaron Jerome who on 30 June established a signal observation station in the cupola of the Lutheran Seminary and later in the cupola of Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College. On 1 July, the station was moved to the Gettysburg Courthouse. These stations were in flag signal contact with the station here on Cemetery Hill which will be visited next. "The station on the Seminary transmitted numerous reports as to the number and movements of the enemy, which were received by the signal officer serving with Gen. Howard, who on the death of Reynolds had assumed command and had taken position on Cemetery Hill."
[J. Willard Brown, Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion, New York, Arno Press, 1974, p. 359.]
Letter from Lieut. A. B. Jerome, Signal Officer, First Cavalry Division, to Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, Commander Second Corps:
A squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division entered Gettysburg driving the few pickets of the enemy before them. The General and staff took quarters in a hotel near the Seminary. As signal officer, I was sent back to look out for a prominent position and watch the movements of the enemy. As early as seven A.M. I reported their advance, and took my station in the steeple of the "Theological Seminary." General Buford came up and looked at them through my glass, and then formed his small cavalry force. The enemy pressed us in overwhelming numbers, and we would have been obliged to retreat but looking in the direction of Emmitsburg, I called the attention of the General, to an Army Corps advancing some two miles distant, and shortly, distinguished it as the "first" on account of their "corps flag". The Gen. held on with as stubborn a front as ever faced an enemy, for half an hour, unaided, against a whole corps of the rebels, when Gen. Reynolds and a few of his staff rode up on a gallop and hailed the Gen. who was with me in the steeple, our lines being but shortly advanced. In a familiar manner Gen. Reynolds asked Buford "how things were going on", and received the characteristic answer "let's go and see."
[A. B. Jerome, Signal Officer, First Cavalry Division, Letter to Maj.
Gen. W. S. Hancock, 18 Oct, 1865,
The following signal message from Lieut. Jerome to General Howard is credited by the Official Records as having been sent on the second of July. The date was recorded in brackets, indicating that it was added by the compiler. Based on the text of the message it appears that the message was in fact sent on the first to warn of General Rodes' approach, and it was likely sent from the College station or the Courthouse.
July 1, 1863
Over a division of the rebels is making a flank movement on our right; the line extends over a mile, and is advancing, skirmishing. There is nothing but cavalry to oppose them.
A. B. Jerome,
[O.R., XXVII, Part III, p. 488.]
Jerome's utility to the First Cavalry Division is testified to by Buford:
Lieutenant [Aaron B.] Jerome, signal corps, was ever on the alert, and through his intrepidity and fine glasses on more than one occasion kept me advised of the enemy's movements when no other means were available.
[O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 930.]
Now Walk back toward the entrance until you reach the GETTYSBURG ADDRESS (LINCOLN SPEECH) MEMORIAL.
This is the approximate site of the Cemetery Hill signal station. [Map of the Battle of Gettysburg, Office of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, Boston, John B. Bachelder, 1876, Plate 1] Take your compass and sight Meade's Headquarters at 210 degrees and the Little Round Top signal station at 195 degrees. Because this station was operated by a number of signal parties, communicating with various stations on the battlefield, it may have been located at times on other parts of Cemetery Hill.
The first signal officers to occupy this position were Captains P. Babcock Jr. and T. R. Clark of the Eleventh Army Corps. The Eleventh Corps signal station was established when Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard left a portion of his command as a reserve on Cemetery Hill. During the action of the first day, Babcock and Clark were in contact with the stations in Gettysburg which were operated by Jerome.
This site was also the initial location of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army of the Potomac, Captain Lemuel B. Norton. Captain Norton was assigned to that position after Captain B. F. Fisher was captured near Aidie on 17 June while on reconnaissance.
Report of Capt. Lemuel B. Norton, Chief Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac:
On July 1, general headquarters remained near Taneytown. A station of observation was established, first on the college and subsequently on the court-house in Gettysburg, and reports of the position, numbers, and movements of the enemy sent by signals to General Howard, on Cemetery Hill, southeast of the town. In the afternoon of this day two reconnaissances were made from Gettysburg, for the information of General W. S. Hancock, by the signal officer temporarily attached to his staff.
In the evening I was made acquainted by the general commanding with the line of defense to be occupied by the army in case the enemy made an irresistible attack upon our position, and directed by him to "examine the line thoroughly, and at once upon the commencement of the movement extend telegraphic communication from each of the following points, viz, general headquarters, near Frizellburg, Manchester, Union Mills, Middleburg, and the Taneytown road.
In order that these instructions might be promptly and successfully fulfilled, signal telegraph trains were sent to Frizellburg, and everything held in readiness to extend the wire at a moment's notice to the points desired by the commanding general. During the whole of this day, endeavors were made to open the signal line between general headquarters, Emmitsburg, and Round Top Mountain, but, on account of the smokiness of the atmosphere, the desired result was not obtained until 11 p.m., when the first message was received. These lines were kept open during the subsequent battle at Gettysburg and until July 6. In the event of the repulse and retirement of'our army, they must have been eminently useful.
[O.R., XXVII, Part I. pp. 201-202]
This station was also used by the First Corps and was maintained by First Lieutenants J. C. Wiggins and N. H. Camp.
The following messages have been documented as being transmitted from this signal station.
Cemetery Signal Station
Numerous fires, apparently from the burning of wagons, south-southeast from here. A wagon train can be seen in the same direction. I think our trains are being destroyed.
Signal Station near Wadsworth's Headquarters
One regiment rebel infantry has just come out of the woods into a field east-northeast from here. The enemy's sharpshooters are in the woods at the foot of this hill. I can see sixteen guns, not in position,- eight north-northwest and eight northeast from here.
[O.R., XXVII, Part III, pp. 488-489]
The allocation of two signal officers per corps had been ordered by the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac, Major Gen. Butterfield, on 20 June. This represents a change from having the signal assets assigned to the three army wings which was the configuration as of the 14th of June in anticipation of the move north. Capt. Norton explains.
In view of the contemplated movement of this army from thelline of the Rappahannock, in June last the following detail of signal officers was made by direction of the commanding general, viz: The right wing was supplied with 6, the left wing with 4, and the center with 4, 8 officers being held as a reserve, to be used whenever the Changes in the position of the army might render them of the greatest service .... .... On the 20th, by direction of the chief of staff, two signal officers were assigned to each army corps.
[O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 200.]
The organization of the Signal Corps was being formalized during the Gettysburg Campaign.- The leadership of the Army of the Potomac was organizing its signal assets internally. At the same time the War Department was deciding how many signal soldiers should be assigned to each corps. The Military Board of 1863 recommended the following complement of signal soldiers for each corps; one captain as Chief Signal Officer of the corps; one sergeant as clerk; and one sergeant as quartermaster and commissary sergeant of the corps party in charge of the train. In addition, it contained eight lieutenants, five sergeants, twenty first-class privates, and thirty-four second-class privates.
[Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Signals,
The Chief Signal Officer was heavily involved in recruiting officers and enlisted men for the new corps. Prior to March, 1863, all signal officers were in an acting status and most of them were on temporary duty from their regiments. With the advent of the formal organization of the corps, a board of officers was established by the War Department to examine officers for permanent acceptance into the Signal Corps. The following circular illustrates the emphasis which was being placed on recruiting soldiers for the new corps.
Chief signal officers of departments or army corps are instructed to proceed at once to enlist and re-enlist men for the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, after passing the required examination, for the period of two or three years or the war.
Enlisted men now upon duty in the corps may be transferred for the balance of their unexpired term of service.
Transfers to the corps of men now serving in it may be made in accordance with General Orders No. 106.
By order of the Signal Officer of the Army:
HENERY S. TAFFT,
[O.R., Series III, Volume III, p. 461]
Memoirs of Captain Gustavus S. Dana, U.S. Army Signal Corps:
Soon after this we were notified that the law passed Mar 3/63, organizing a Signal Corps, consisting of 1 Col, 1 Lt Col, 3 Majors, 20 Capts, 100 lst Lts, and 150 2nd Lts, all to be a part of the regular army required an examination. All not passing such ex to be returned to our reg'ts. I found out what studies would be necessary, sent North for an elementary Chemistry, Prescott's Electricity, a grammar & arithmetic & crammed. Expected college bred boys would get the cream but had the promise of soon being the Col of my old regt if I returned to it. Col Chatfield and Maj Rodman had been mortally wounded on July 18th and the Lt Col [John] Speidel was about to resign, the senior Captain did not want the Colonelcy and all the other Capts agreed to waive their rank in my favor. It was a compliment I ought to have appreciated enough to go back to the old 6th but I was young & desired more dash and freedom than could be had with infantry and concluded to not do so unless the result of the ex- reduced my rank.
[Captain G.S. Dana, "The Recollections of a Signal Officer,"
Now you should return to your automobile and drive to STOP 2. Exit the CYCLORAMA CENTER parking lot and turn right on TANEYTOWN ROAD (HWY 134). Drive SOUTH to you reach WRIGHT AVENUE. Turn Right on WRIGHT AVENUE and stop at the small parking lot on the right before you reach SEDGWICK AVENUE . Walk the top of LITTLE ROUND TOP and walk to the WARREN STATUE. Find the SIGNAL CORPS MONUMENT which is a bronz tablet located on a large rock a few feet behind the WARREN STATUE.