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Signal Service

By Mark C. Hageman E-mail

The following is a compilation of information gathered from various sources including: Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Signals; for the use of signal officers in the field., J. Willard Brown, The Signal Corps, USA, in the war of the Rebellion., David Homer Bates, Lincoln in the telegraph office., William Plum, The Military Telegraph during the Civil War., Various Official Records (OR’s) from the national archives., and last but not least the doctoral dissertation of Paul J. Scheips from the office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, who’s work was invaluable in completing this project. (See: Paul Scheips Video Interview)

The origin of Union signal communications is the origin of two organizations; the United States Signal Corps and the United States Military Telegraph. By 1860 several European nations had made some use of an electric telegraph, most notably in the Crimean War, but how well this European experience worked or how much of it was known in the United States at that time is not evident.[1]

The American Civil War, being the first in many military innovations, was also first in the extensive use of the electric telegraph for all possible wartime purposes, although there was no military telegraph organization in the nation at the outbreak of the war. Its army did have, one signal officer, Albert James Myer, who had introduced his visual system into service. From this extent, the United States Army was ahead of its time from other countries.

At Fort Duncan, Texas, where Myer was an assistant surgeon, he inquired in 1856 if the government might be interested in his signaling system, which, he explained, grew out of an interest in military communications that went back to 1851. No action was taken by the government until 1859, when a board headed by none other than U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, who gave the qualified endorsement to Myer's scheme. From this, followed field testing of the aerial signaling method, conducted by Myer and Second Lieutenant Edward Porter Alexander[2].

The positive results of these tests led to an act, on June 21, 1860, which authorized the appoint of one signal officer with the rank of major, over the objections of then Senator Jefferson Davis, and authorized $2,000.00 for signaling equipment expenditures. Myer's assignment to the post quickly followed, and he made his way to New Mexico to utilize his system. There he earned the friendship of Major E.R.S. Canby, who while approving of Myer's system, questioned his ideas of have all army officers instructed in signaling. Instead, he suggested, in practical matter signal operations in large commands "should be confided to officers and men especially selected" for this type of duty.[3] Sometime later, Myer essentially adopted this same view.

It was while in New Mexico in 1861 that Myer, who was unable to secure Alexander's services, had assigned to him Second Lieutenants William J. L. Nicodemus and Samuel T. Cushing. Both men, especially Nicodemus, would later gain prominent positions in the Signal Corps. One interesting note, after the war, when Confederate archives were reviewed, it would come to light that a Baltimore resident had written Jefferson Davis in March of 1861, to the effect that Nicodemus desired a commission in the Confederacy. Because of this letter, the War Department would later refuse to assign Nicodemus to a regiment and he would request and receive a discharge, perhaps never knowing where the trouble lay.[4]

Pictured above are reproduction signal torches used by the 1st Section, US Signal Corps, Dept. of N.Y. Civil War reenactors. And are shown here as referance to their design and "look". The left picture is the foot torch, used as a reference point. The picture on the right, being attached to the staff, was used for sending the signals.

(see authentic torches here)

Upon orders in May of 1861, Myer was sent back East, where his system would first be used in combat. The equipment commonly used in Myer's visual system consisted of flags for daytime and torches burning turpentine at night (see signal equipment). There was a red, a white, and a black flag, with a white center in both the red and black flags and a red center in the white flag. With green, dark, or any earth-colored back grounds, the white flag was be used. With a sky exposure, the black flag was to be used. With broken, or mixed back grounds, the red flag was be used. The red flag, or signal, is that to be generally used at sea, as on vessels where, in part of its motion, the flag exposes against the wood work, or rigging, or sails, of the vessel; and in part against the sky or water. It is well also to use the red flag when snow may form part of the background. For general uses, the white flag, or signal, was found to be best, and was used in nine instances out of ten. The staffs, to which the flags were attached, were made of hickory with four tapering joints fitted together by brass ferrules. The joint having a six-inch brass guard at its upper end to protect it from the flames of the flying torch, which was attached to this joint for night signaling. A foot torch served at night as a point of reference. These messages were read from great distances by the use of a glass (telescope).[5]

In this system a single flag was used at a time, the natural background against which the flag was to be displayed determining the color used. Particular swings of the flag or torch represented numerals and they in turn, in different combinations, signified letters of the alphabet (see alphabetical code). Thus, messages were spelled out, appreviations were used to increase the speed of transmissions, which were sent over an average distance of ten miles between stations on a clear day (see abbreviations). Rockets and colored lights were also employed for special communication purposes.[6] Homographic or hand signals were used for short range signals.

Myer reported for duty at Fortress Monroe in June of 1861. He failed in an effort to obtain Cushing's services, but Commanding General Ben Butler ordered details of men for signal duty and Myer proceeded to instruct them. Immediate results were the opening, in late june of 1861, of a signal line connecting Monroe and Newport News, as well as, the directing, by signal, of an Artillery battery on the Rip Raps.[7] This direction of gunfire would be a common service provided by the Signal Corps throughout the war.

Hampton Roads

This first employment of the Signal Corps was in directing the fire of the battery at Fort Wool on the Rip Raps in Hampton Roads, upon the enemy's works at Sewell's Point, one detail consisting of Lieuts. Maynadier, Quackenbush, and Prescott being stationed with the battery, while Maj. Myer, with Lieuts. Thomas, Hepburn, and Dumont, was conveyed in a tug boat to a point where the effect of the firing could be observed and immediately reported, by flag, to the battery officers.

In reply to a suggestion from General Butler, that selected officers of the navy be instructed in the use of day and night signals, Major Myer said it would afford him much pleasure to give any information in his power to any two commissioned officiers of the navy who might be selected to report to him for instruction by the flag officer commanding on the station at Fort Monroe.

On June 26th, 1861, the fort and the detached post of Newport News were placed in communications. This was the first permanent line of communication by flag and torch that was established in the War of the Rebellion.

While still assigned to Butler, Myer sought orders by which he could secure and control all military telegraphy, asserting that the law under which he held his commission gave him "general charge of the telegraphic duty of the army, whether...by means of signals transmitted by...electricity or by aerial signals." Although Myer obtained no War Department help, Butler ordered all telegraphic duty in his department, in which the now budding U.S. Military Telegraph was already at work, placed under Myer's control. Myer implied that the immedediate results were quite satisfactory, but a historian (William Plum) of the Military Telegraph later revealed that word went out "sub rosa" to all telegraph operators to ignore Myer while seeming to comply with his orders, and that the Secretary of War soon instructed Butler not to interfere with the operations.[8]

Shortly thereafter, Myer vistited Washington, probably because of the difficulty he was then having with the telegraphy. On the very eve of Bull Run he sought help in obtaining Congressional support for his view of the matter. At this time he obtained permission to command the balloon party that he learned would make reconnaissance for McDowell's army. On the morning of July 21st, Myer set out with a party which had an inflated balloon in tow, but through hurry and Myer's hast the balloon was damaged and Myer had to go on without it. Myer reached the Bull Run battlefield after the fighting had begun and there served only as an aide.[9]
(see army balloon)

On the Confederate side, things were a bit different, for E.P. Alexander had left the Federal service for a captaincy in the Rebel cause, he reported to P.G.T. Beauregard in early June and trained several men in what he knew of Myer's signaling system. In the fighting he was able to use signals to such good effort that Beauregard was prompted to call them "seasonable and material."[10] Alexander later relates these actions as follows:

I went to Manassas about the first of July, selected a set of clever young fellows, drilled them, and put the system into operation.

Very early in the morning of the 21st, from my main station on the hill by Willcoxen’s house, in the rear of our right near Union Mills Ford, I was watching the flag of our station at Stone Bridge, when in the distant edge of the field of view of my glass, a gleam caught my eye. It was the reflection of the sun (which was low in the east behind me), from a polished brass field piece, one of Ayres’s Battery. Observing attentively, I discovered McDowell’s column in the open field north of Sudley’s Ford crossing Bull Run and turning our left flank, fully eight miles away, I think. I signalled Evans at once:

“ Look out for your left. Your position is turned. ”

At the same time I sent a message of what I had seen to Johnston and Beauregard, who were at Mitchell’s Ford, on receipt of which Bee, Hampton, and Stonewall Jackson were all hurried in that direction. The history of the battle tells how they successfully delayed McDowell’s progress, till finally the tide was turned by the arrival of troops in the afternoon.

Although military telegraph operators accompanied McDowell's army as far as Fairfax Courthouse, the Bull Run fighting was ten miles from the telegraph office, so McDowell used couriers to carry reports from the field to Fairfax for transmission to Washington.[11]

The Military Telegraph was strictly an expedient. Back on April 12, 1861, News of the attack on Fort Sumter sped throughout the nation via the three principle private telegraph companies in operation; The American Telegraph Company (ATC), Western Union, and The Southwestern Telegraph Company. In the emergency the nation had fallen into in April of 1861, then Secretary of War Simon Cameron sought the aid of Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who drew men from Pennsylvania for railroad and telegraphic duties with the government. The first of these being Andrew Carnegie, followed shortly thereafter by David Strouse and others.[12]

The U.S. Military Telegraph did not obtain formal sanction until October 1861, when President Lincoln authorized Cameron to act on recommendations that had been made to him by Anson Stager, a Western Union official, who had been invited to Washington. On February 26, 1862, under permissive legislation of the preceeding month, the President took control of all telegraph lines in the United States, which meant that the Military Telegraph could use them as circumstances demanded.[13],[14]

It is important to note that the operators of the Military Telegraph were mostly civilians, who used the commercial equipment of the day or adaptations of it. Edwin Stanton, the then new Secretary of War, opposed military status for the civilian operators so that they could avoid being ordered about by every ranking officer, although this lack of military status later made them ineligible for government pensions[15]. Supervisory personel, however, such as Stager, Eckert, and others (a mere dozen altogether) were commissioned in the Quartermaster's Department in order to receive the needed disbursment of funds and property. All were made captains, except Stager, who became a colonel, and Eckert, a major. At the end of the war the officers still serving received brevet ranks.[16] Although Stager and the Military Telegraph were technically under Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs command, in practice the organization came immediately under the control of the Secretary of War, which was one of its the most remarkable characteristics. In keeping with the proper channels, Stager always addressed his formal reports to Meigs, while Myer and the succeeding heads of the Signal Corps reported directly to the Secretary of War. (see: telegraphing in battle)

As was the case in the Signal Corps, the Military Telegraph transmitted important dispatches in cipher. (see: cyrptography) Access to the cipher system was rigidly controlled, with youthful operators finding themselves in the difficult position of having to deny access even to army commanders, who themselves were left in an embarrassing position. It is needless to say, controversy with this proceedure resulted.[17]

Published figures on Military Telegraph strength range from Plum's incomplete roster of 1,079 operators, through Woodring's figures of 1,200 and Bate's 1,500. Besides operators, the Military Telegraph required the services of foremen, wagonmakers, teamsters, messengers, battery keepers, linesmen, watchmen, and various other workmen. Plum estimated that one in twelve was killed, wounded, captured, or died from exposure, but this did not take into account the casualties suffered by construction and repair personnel, who were often at greater risk.[18]

A short time after the battle at Bull Run, Myer sought for approval of a then proposed legislation for a formal organization of a signal service whose officers would be "thorough" telegraphers, "practised in the use of both aerial and electric signals." He sought $50,000.00 for telegraphic purposes and explained his plans for "a telegraphic and signal train." He proposed to instruct detailed regimental officers in signaling, "all or nearly all" of whom would then be returned to their respective regiments after training. As an alternative, he thought these instructed officers could be combined into parties responsible for signal duty during engagements.[19]

Myer's recommendation concerning regimental duty is especially interesting in light of later developments, for as the concept of a separate branch that would perform all signaling that was at last finally accepted, the recall of detailed officers by commanders became such an evil that in mid-1862 orders had to be issued forbidding such action without permission of the Adjutant General of the Army.[20] It is also interesting to note, that Myer's original concept, also may have delayed the Federals from acting upon a formal Signal Corps organization earlier on in the war.

In August of 1861, instructions required Myer to "establish a system of signals along the line of the potomac" to Washington through Maryland. In order to appease him, if he found it necessary, he could "purchase a small telegraphic train" for communicating where ordinary signals could not be used, which was "to be paid for out of the telegraphic fund." All necessary officers and enlisted men were to be detailed.[21]

Officers and enlisted men were then assembled at several small camps in Maryland where they were instructed in signaling by officers Myer had previously trained at Fortress Monroe. These men then soon gathered together in a new Signal Camp of Instruction near Georgetown, D.C., where Cushing, once again on signal duty, was placed in charge. The installation became the signal school for officers detailed from the Army of the Potomac. For a short time, until late 1861, it was also in effect Signal Corps Headquarters. After training, detailed officers were transferred from the Army of the Potomac to other military jurisdictions, where they in turn had officers and enlisted men detailed to them and opened their own small camps of instruction. In May of 1862, the Georgtown facility was discontinued, but soon re-opened again the following year with Nicodemus placed in charge, who returned to signal duty by that time.[22]

The line of signals ordered in August was completed before the end of November 1862, and ran from Maryland Heights, overlooking Harpers Ferry, to Fort Washington, on the Potomac opposite Mount Vernon. From its stations the Signal Corps was able to keep the upper Potomac under surveillance and to maintain communications with the forces surrounding Washington. The famous phrase "All quite on the Potomac" supposedly originated from this signal line.[23]

Soon after assuming command of the Army of the Potomac, General George McClellan named Myer the signal officer on his staff. Myer accompanied McClellan during the Peninsular Campaign and remained with him until the fall of 1862, when he asked to be releived in order to look after Corps affairs in the Washingtion office. In his 1863 report, McClellan expressed appreciation for the services of both the Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph, speaking warmly of both Myer and Eckert. Later, however, perhaps thinking of its reconnaissance work, he saw in the Corps the weakness that its officers were not experienced soldiers, with the result that their judgements could not always be reled upon.[24]

Although McClellan found the services of the Corps largely good in retrospect, Myer was by no means pleased. The fact that he had only one partly equipped telegraph train at his disposal nagged him. "The duties of the corps were novel," he complained, "and were understood by but a few generals in the service. The acting signal officers were...volunteers, without any experience in military usage. They had been hastily instructed and equipped, and were thrown upon their first campaign in a country very difficult for their duties..." Concluded Myer: "There were few...who aided them" and "it was often difficult to obtain official information of contemplated movements."[25]

At the begining of the 1862 campaign the signal parties, freash out of the Georgetown camp, had been assigned first to divisions of the Army of the Potomac, but parties later were reassigned to army corps and divided "so that four officers should be on duty with each divison." Meanwhile, as has been previously stated, a number of signal officers were sent out to other armies. In June of 1862, the detatchments in the Army of the Potomac were consolidated in on camp, and details were made from there as necessary.[26]

Early in 1862, Myer was still promoting an unsuccessful scheme for a special wartime corps. The officers of this corp would train regimental signalmen, who would be detailed to signal duty temporarily and would serve in such capacity with "every army." Myer's thinking however, soon changed. The experience of 1862, especially the continued demand upon a small force for instructed signal officers, finally led Myer to favor a permanent organization that would perform all signaling service and give officers a corps to call their own.[27] Finally, he won authorizing legislation, which was offically approved on March 3, 1863.

Under this law there was to be for the Signal Corps (which lasted for the duration of the war) a Chief Signal Officer with the rank of colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, two majors, a captian for each army corp or military department, and as many lieutenants- at first not exceeding eight- as the President deemed necessary. For each officer there was to be one sergeant and six privates. Both the officers and enlisted men were to be examined and approved by military boards before appointment.[28]

To implement this act examining bodies were set up, the central one being known as the principal board. Myer received the principal board's unanimous recommendation for appointment as the Colonel and Chief Signal Officer and the lieutenant-colonelcy went to Nicodemus. Much dissatisfaction resulted from the actions of the examining boards, as hopes for advancement were frustrated as some officers even found themselves reduced in rank.[29]

A total of 146 officers were "commissioned in the Corps" during the war. Twenty "declined the appointments offered them, and some ten or twelve resigned from the army soon after the reorganization was effected." In addition approx. 297 acting signal officers served in the wartime Corps, but some of them for only very brief periods. The total number of enlisted men who served at one time or another was about 2,500. In October of 1863, 198 officers, besides Myer, and 814 enlisted men graced the rolls of the Signal Corps.[30]

An outgrowth of the examining proceedures in 1863 was the Felt court of inquiry, and both it and its sequel deserve some attention as part of the origins of the Corps history. Myer's objections to a Signal Corps commission for George H. Felt, whom was a first lieutenant and acting signal officer, on the grounds of inefficiency and bad character. The court held hearings over several days on the matter and cleared Felt of the charges raised. It was a remarkable thing, that during the hearings, two signal officers sought to throw doubt on Myer's veracity. Their testimony, however, was of a hearsay quality. Two other signal officers claimed that a code issued by Myer was about the same as a rocket code devised by Felt.[31]

Three months afterwards, Lieutenant Felt alleged he had been denied examination by the principal board, and carried formal charges against Myer to the Adjutant General of the Army, the burden of which was that Myer had made false statements; Felt also filed certain charges against Nicodemus at the same time. The War department refused to act on all these charges. Complaining to the Adjutant General on September 21 of the inactions taken, Felt also commented on the weaknesses of Myer's visual signal system. In addition to this, he stated that he had notified Myer in July of 1862, that Myer's code was unsafe and that he had offered a code of his own invention as an alternative. Although Myer denied Felt's claims, it was true that after Chancellorsville an officer had complained that "the corps is distrusted, and considered unsafe as a means of transmitting important messages. It is well known that the enemy can read our signals when regular code is used, and it is equally evident...that our cipher is unsafe and cannot be trusted..." By that time, However, Myer had a cipher disk under development. Although he claimed its use was "habitual" by late August of 1863, cheif signal officers in the field were not informed by circular until September 10th that disks would be distributed for general use. henceforth, important messages would be in cipher, said the directive, since "there is evidence, at this office, that the enemy can read our messages sent in the usual way."[32]

Meanwhile, the first telegraph train, which had been authorized in August of 1861 was built by Henry J. Rogers, a telegraph engineer, with Myers supervising. The main transmitting and receiving equipment was a "letter indicating telegraph instrument" made for Rogers by the patentees, the Chesters of New York, and powered by portable batteries. For emergency use there were conventional pocket keys and sounders, which could be used only by skilled operators. The train, using light wagons, or carriages, was also supplied with lance poles and insulated wire on reels. It was completed and delivered in January of 1862, and examined at the Georgtown camp by a board of officers composed of Cushing, Benjamin F. Fisher, and David Wonderly, who as a whole approved it for use. It was impossible however, to comply with McClellan's desire for a train to take the field in early March, since some of the problems noted had not yet been overcome. Wrote the board: "Among the chief impediments were the want of skilled operators," presumably for the sounders, "and the difficulty attendant upon the transportation of the electric batteries."[33]

To find a solution, Rogers at this point found that the magnetoelectric generator invented by George W. Beardslee could be employed in place of the cumbersome batteries. The operation of this machine could be mastered quickly by any intelligent, and literate person. As it was finally developed, the complete instrument was housed in a brass-bound walnut chest, with handles, weighing about a hundred pounds.[34] Here was a tactical instrument, the first of its kind in the United States.

It was the Rogers train, the only one in existance, that in late April of 1862, Myer ordered made ready for the field. He wanted Wonderly, "as rapidly as possible," to put "in complete working order, the whole apparatus with the two instruments...and enough acid to work them." Apparently at the last minute, Beardslee came forward with the offer of two of his instruments, which, along with two miles of wire, accompanied the train when it left for the Army of the Potomac on May 6th. The next day Myer saw his first trial of the Beardslee machine. Although he had not yet "sufficiently tested the instrument to be perfectly assured of its strength and reliability," it appeared to Myer "so far superior" for the purposes of a military telegraph that he wanted the Army of the Potomac to have a portable lance line equipped with it, since he had "no doubt that on many occasions it might be used with valuable results."[35]
The Beardslee
The Beardslee Machine
see: Working The Beardslee

Three additional trains "of improved construction," each with two Beardslee instruments and five miles of insulated wire, and costing $2,500.00 each, reached the field later in 1862, thanks to McClellan's interest in their use. One Signal Corps evaluation of its field telegraph in the first battle of Fredericksburg, where it was under fire, was quite restrained, while yet another was enthusiastic. As for the manufacturer, he made the most of its use in that battle. He published a letter from his son, Captian Frederick E. Beardslee, who served there with the field telegraph and wrote that it "could not have worked better, and has been of great service to the country." Beardslee also employed a cut showing "Geo. W. Beardslee's Military Telegraph at the battle of Fredericksburg" and used it on his company's letterhead. Years afterwards, far from complimentary views on the use of the Beardslee at such places as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Port Hudson emerged. Some at the time did call it an "expensive failure," although the hostility could have been colored by bitterness toward Myer for ignoring the battlefield labors of the competing civilian telegraphers. At the peak of their use in 1863, thirty Signal Corps telegraph trains were scattered through the various armies and at the Georgetown camp as well as West Point.[36]

The Beardslee instrument was experimental, of course, so that maintenance problems soon arose and changes had to be made. A common difficulty was the tendency of the sending and receiving instruments to get out of synchronization, with the result that the the receiving pointer would stop at the wrong letter; moreover, the instrument was a short-range device, good for a distance of only five to eight miles. Plans were therefore made to improve the range of the instrument and also equip the trains with a sounder Beardslee had invented that would work from Magnetoelectric current.[37] This latter development would require trained operators, however, and Myer set about to obtain them.

In September of 1863, Myer published in The Army and Navy Official Gazette a call for "expert telegraphers" who were also "good English scholars," to apply for commissions in the Signal Corps. They would, he wrote, "have...charge of the...light field telegraph lines which are under...the Signal Corps, and which, in battle or at sieges, are run out and worked on the field or in trenches under fire."[38]

This advertisement soon came to the attention of Secretary Stanton, and he summarily asked the officer to explain. Myer's action was then formally disapproved with the advice that he "bear in mind that the Signal Corps is not an independent organization, but a branch of the service under direction of the War Department." Although the stated grounds for the disapproval was a possible loss of Military Telegraph operators to the Corps, Myer claimed that from September 8th to the 22nd only two telegraphers had applied and neither was accepted. This however was misleading, for John C. Van Duzer, one of Stager's most valuable men, but one not yet commissioned in the Military telegraph, applied for a Signal Corps position on September 12th, revealing that he could secure for the Signal Corps most of the thirty-five operators and sixty-five repairers and laborers under him if they would not have to take a pay cut.[39]

Events now moved rapidly. Stager could not let Myer's preceived challenge to the Military Telegraph go unanswered. To Stanton, he wrote of "the emarrassment already experienced and the complications likely to arise from the organizing of Field Telegraphs by the Signal Corps." and advised "the propriety of placing the Field Telegraphs under the...Military Telegraph Department, and thus avoid...two organizations in the same grade of service." He explained that the Signal Corps "is now making efforts to secure the best electricians in the service by offers of rank and increased pay, which it is enabled to do through its military organization, an advantage not possessed by the Military Telegraph...." He recommended that either the Military Telegraph should have all telegraphic responsibility or it should be abolished and the entire responsibility given to the Corps.[40]

Stanton's decision was swift and imparted to Myer in a difficult interview at the War Department. On November 10th, 1863, Myer was ordered to surrender his responsibilities to the next ranking Signal Corps officer (Nicodemus) and to leave for Memphis, Tennessee. At the same time, all magnetoelectric telegraph equipment was to be turned over to Stager.[41]

In a February 1864 circular, Stager explained that "the object in changing the supervision of the Field Telegraph from the Signal Corps" to the Military Telegraph was to make it "a more efficient and useful branch of the military service, by placing it in the hands of expert telegraphers." He charged his officers to organize the field trains "in the best possible manner for spring operations." The Caton field instrument would be used, "together with number fourteen wire," and mules would carry both wire and batteries. The batteries, indeed, would be worked from the backs of the mules.[42]

Notable use of the field telegraph by the Military Telegraph was made under Grant and Meade in Virginia, Sherman in Georgia, and Banks in the Red River Expedition. Grant himself providing an admiring description of the Military Telegraph's erection of field lines in the Army of the Potomac when in camp, relating that divisions, corps, and his own headquarters would be connected once the army came to a halt "in a few minutes longer time than it took a mule to walk the lengh of" the wire it carried. Eckert, too, was enthusiastic about his field telegraph lines, saying that not only were the various headquarters of the army connected "during every engagement," but that "every reconnaissance...in force has had telegraphic connection with headquarters..." One operator recalled that at Spotsylvania both the field wire and its operators were at one time within the enemy's lines.[43]

Captain Samuel Bruch of the Military Telegraph reported that "the new instruments and materials" furnished by Stager seemed "to be much better adapted to field service than those formerly used by the Signal Corps." The Beardslee machines taken from the Signal Corps were never employed by the Military Telegraph. Eckert says he "gave them a thorough trial" in the Army of the Potomac and, finding them "to be of very little practical use," they were sent to the rear before the army moved in the spring of 1864. When Myer was with Canby in the Division of West Mississippi that same year, Canby ordered the telegraph trains in New Orleans sent to Myer, but this was an exception to existing policy.[44]

It appears from the Military Telegraph's own figures that its field lines, at least quantitatively, were by no means as important as other lines. Out of a total of 15,389 miles of lines constructed by the Military Telegraph from May 1, 1861, to June 30, 1866, only one thousand miles were officially characterized as "temporary field lines." Stager believed, however, that there were possibilities for the field telegraph, in 1865 he expressed an opinion that "the Field Telegraph which we have operated, independently, as well as in connection with the Signal Corps, could be so perfected and operated, as to...supplant the use of a signal corps for military operations."[45]

Despite the rivalry and friction between the Military Telegraph and the Signal Corps, Stager testified in 1865 to their cooperation. He observed that the Military Telegraph had operated frequently in the field with the Signal Corps, and had "rendered efficient aid in this respect, by diffusing information from advanced signal stations simultaneously" to the headquarters of the commanding general and the different corps headquarters. In September, 1863, for example, operators Lonergan and Forbes, in the Department of the Cumberland, were stationed at a signal post where they forwarded reports from six connecting signal stations. The history of Chancellorsville, Port Hudson, the approach to Atlanta, and Altoona offers varying examples of interaction between the two organizations on the operational level.[46]

William Nicodemus
William Nicodemus

When Myer, a colonel by recess appointment, turned over Signal Corps headquarters to his junior, Nicodemus, in November of 1863 and departed circuitously for Memphis, his personal Siberia, he was an unhappy man. This was understandable, especially since the Corps was peculiarly his own creation. He went to New York to consult his old friend Canby and then from Pittsburgh, en route to Memphis, he wrote his wife Kate that the "more deliberately I reflect upon the matter the more certain I am that I am right and History will show it so...."[47]

Myer's complaints were against Stanton and against the telegraph companies-especially, it seems, the American Telegraph Company (ATC). As he looked back after the the war in a report he must have written, at least in part, he was convinced that "the powerful and despotic sway of the corporations," together with "the citizen" (probably Stanton, although possibly Stager), had spelled death to the Signal Corps field telegraph. But timid army opinions, skeptics, and the uninterested also got their knocks. Edwin Stanton appeared to have viewed the law empowering the President to take possesion of the telegraphs as a dark, sinister plot to gain control of the country. One can almost imagine the Myer children, who watched the Secretary as he went by their house in Washington, being cautioned that if they were not good, "old Mars" would get them (Kate Myer to Albert Myer, Jan. 15, 1864).[48]

Kate Myer
A.J. Myer's Wife

Myer no sooner reached Memphis than he obtained a ten-day leave of absence from local military authorities and journeyed to Cleveland to see Stager, who had moved his office there. The two devised an agreement on combining the Military Telegraph and the Signal Corps at the various headquarters. As Stager understood it, the combined facilities were to be under "experts from the Military Telegraph, commissioned in the Signal Corps," the former organization to control the lines above those headquarters and the latter the field lines. Stager agreed to take the idea up with Stanton, but Myer soon asked hime to keep the matter confidential for the time being. Probably deciding that Stager would not be his best advocate. When he was asked officially to explain why he had gone to Cleveland, Myer replied that he had gone to see his father and confer with Stager. Myer also emphasized the importance of having field lines under military organization, and had regretted the lack of formal liaison between the Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph. With this reply the matter seems to have rested.[49]

Early in December, 1863, Myer received instructions to report upon the desirability of establishing a line of signal stations between Memphis and Cairo. He wrote his wife kate in very high spirits about the great possibilities of this project, but Grant unfavorably endorsed Myer's enthusiastic "preliminary reconnaissance" report and that was the end of the that project.[50]

While in Cairo in January of 1864, Myer completed A Manual of Signals: For the Use of Signal Officers in the Field, which he had begun before his dismissal from Washington because of the need for "a signal text-book of some kind." Simeon White, one of the civilian clerks in the Washington headquarters, saw to its printing on a press the Corps had aquired, and helped Myer send complimentary copies to important persons.[51] In 1866 Myer produced a large edition, which was basically unchanged in still later editions, the last of them published in 1879. The 1864 edition, a paperback booklet, delt with subjects such as signal codes, the use of the telescope and marine glasses, the care of apparatus, the working of the signals in the field (including how to select a signal station), cipher disks, field telegraphs, the duties of a signal officer, and the early history of signals.[52]

[The 1866, 1868, and 1871 editions were published by D. Van Nostrand, New York; the last two added material, respectively, on compass and drill. Van Nostrand issues of 1872 and 1874 were reprints. In 1877 Myer brought out another new addition which included coverage of the heliographic and permanent telegraph lines; the last edition, in 1879, included material on the telephone. These editions were produced by the U.S. Govt. Printing Office.]

Publication of the handbook was doubtlessly a source of extreme satisfaction to Myer in this period of his exile, marked otherwise by a refusal to grant his request for a court of inquiry; by Signal Corps Captain Henry S. Tafft's repeated complaint that Nicodemus was ambitious and not to be trusted, together with Kate's announced distrust of Tafft (she thought he looked too pleasant) and her suggestion that, excepting Nicodemus, Myer's officers might prefer NOT having him in Washington; and by a report that Assitant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana thought the Signal Corps ought to be abolished.[53] But there were some bright spots too, besides the Manual of Signals, including a petition that the signal officers of the Army of the Potomac addressed to the Secretary of War in Myer's favor. The happiest turn of official events, however, came in May of 1864, when Canby selected Myer to be the signalofficer in his new command, the Military Division of West Mississippi.[54]

Edward Canby
Edward Canby

With Canby, Myer added a new duty to the tasks of the Signal Corps by working out a system for interrogating deserters and refugees who came into Union lines. He also secured the adoption and issuance of a "General Service Code" for use in transmitting routine messages between land and sea forces. Finally, he organized signalling plans for the operations in the Mobile area (during which he spent a memorable stormy night under a palmetto on Dauphin Island), and he participated, with Farragut's fleet captian, Drayton, in the surrender of Fort Gaines.[55]

While Myer prepared for the Mobile campaign the final blow to his wartime career was delivered, although it was sometime before he word reached him. When it finally arrived he learned that his recess appointment as Colonel and Chief Signal Officer, which had been made before his dismissal in 1863, had not been confirmed by the Senate and was revoked. he still retained his rank of major, but would see no further active duty until his restoration in late 1866. Kate, who was quickly informed about the whole thing by Tafft, hastily wrote Myer, expalining that his name had not been on the list of nominations sent to the Senate. Tafft was outraged and said he was going to resign, which he soon did. As for Myer, Kate said both she and her mother hoped he would now resign and devote his thoughts to domestic life back in Buffalo.[56]

Myer's staunch determaination to secure restoration, however, never wavered. He hired lawyers and enlisted the support of influential politicians, and in January of 1865, completed a memorial to the Senate of about a dozen pages which he printed and distributed. Early in January he wrote Senator Ira Harris that he had taken his advice and gone alone to see President Lincoln, who promised not to appoint another Cheif Signal Officer without first satisfying himself that the appointment was just. Myer feared, however, that Lincoln was so busy he might sign an appointment without looking fully at it. Subsequently he wrote Lincoln, enclosing some of the papers pertaining to his case, but waited rather too long, for the letter was dated April 14, 1865.[57]

Victory, when it came on October 30, 1866, was especially sweet for Myer because it was Stanton who had to notify him that he had been appointed Colonel and Chief Signal Officer under an act of July 28. He was not confirmed in the position, however until February, 1867, and was not ordered to active duty until August of 1867.[58] Once back in office he set to work and almost immediately won acceptance for, and publication of, orders looking toward instruction in signalling and equipping the army with signaling apparatus. Significantly, the Chief Signal Officer's responsibility henceforth would embrace the electric field telegraph.[59]

When Nicodemus had assumed charge of Signal Corps headquarters in November of 1863, the personnel reorganization under legislation of that year was still proceeding. As a result, in subsequent months some of his time was taken up with the principal examining board and related matters. In general, he sees to have administered the Corps essentially within the pattern that Myer had set.

As 1864 moved to its close, Nicodemus prepared his annual report for the preceding fiscal year. In it he observed that signaling instruction had been discontinued at West Point, but that it had been "quite satisfactory" at the Navel Academy. he reported on the year's operations in the field, listing the losses- six killed, one drowned, five dead from wounds and twenty-two from disease, eleven wounded, two missing in action, and thirty-one taken prisoner, for aggregate casualties of seventy-eight. He also mentioned, in at least five different places, the reading of enemy signals. In a section on field telegraphs he quoted Myer on the opposition to the Signal Corps field telegraph as well as on its importance, and recommended return of the telegraph trains to the Corps.

This report immediately aroused Stanton, who seized all undistributed copies and also the manuscript. Orders of December 26, 1864, dismissed Nicidemus from the army "forthwith" for having "contrary to the regulations, and disregarding his duty as an officer, published, without authority and without the knowledge or saction of the Secretary of War, a document relating to the branch of service under his charge, purporting to be the annual report of the Signal Corps, which contains information useful to the enemy and prejudicial to the service of the United States".

As it happened, Nicodemus's dismissal came the day before his wedding, which prompted a gleeful Myer to remark in a letter to Kate: "Alas poor Yorhick...Just married and dismissed- I hope his wife will comfort him- but if the poor woman has married the coat and buttons!" In another letter he said he "could be sorry" for Nicodemus "if I were not of the impression that he has done all he could in his feeble way to hurt me".

Nicodemus twice unsuccessfully asked for an investigation. He defended himself by saying that he was innocent of any attempt to publish his report without the secretary's knowledge. He said he had sent the Secretary a copy at the end of October amd then printed it for signal officers as had been done previously. He said he understood "from rumor on the street" that his report aided the Confederates by informing them that the Union Army could read their signals. It was hardly possible that this should aid the enemy, he thought, since the system that E. P. Alexander had introduced into the Rebel army was the same as that used by the Union, except that the former was unimproved whereas the later was improved (by the use of cipher disk) so as to make it impossible for the enemy "ever to decipher it". "To the enemy that we can read the system of signals which he stole from us can be no information to him," he maintained, "nor that we have so improved this system that he can't read our signals."

Apparently with the help of a letter from Canby, Nicodemus was restored in March of 1865, to his rank of Signal Corps lieutenant colonel "in consideration of his former services and proper acknowledgement of his error," although Canby had recommended his return to the infantry. He was assigned to duty as a Signal Corps inspector. When mustered out of the Signal Corps in August of 1865, he returned to the line and his former rank of captian, in which rank he remained until he left the service in 1870.

Benjamin F. Fisher
Benjamin F. Fisher

When Nicodemus was summarily removed from office he was suceeded by Benjamin F. Fisher, who had come into the Signal Corps from a Pennsylvania volunteer regiment. Fisher had been captured near Aldie, Virginia in June of 1863, and confined in Libby Prison, from which he escaped in early 1864. Upon his return to service Fisher was reassigned to his old position as the chief signal officer of Meade's army.

Myer, at least for a time, evidently believed that Fisher worked unfairly against him, although in his 1865 memorial to the Senate he claimed that he had "none other than kind relations" with Fisher. Fisher, however, did actively seek the position of Chief Signal officer and won appointment vice Myer in early December of 1863, before Nicodemus' dismissal that month. With Myer laboring against him, Fisher's appointment fell by constitutional limitation in March, 1865, but he immediately received another appointment, which also fell upon the adjournment of the Senate in July of 1866. In Taking leave of Stanton four months later, Fisher asked that his military conduct be endorsed with brevet rank of brigadier general, which he and Myer both subsequently received. He then turned the records and office over to Captain L. B. Norton and left.

When Fisher became Chief Signal Officer the war had about run its course, and it was Fisher's destiny to preside over the dissolution of the wartime corps, the all-but-final mustering out of which was ordered in August of 1865. In his final report, which covered the end of the war Fisher said that "the duties of the corp during the past year were better understood than in previous years, which gave to it more tone and character, and enabled it to approximate [its real function] in most of the military departments..." He was especially pleased about the Department of the Gulf. In citing especially remarkable service during the year he mentioned Allatoona and Fort Fisher. He commented upon the value of the cipher disk, by the use of which messages could be sent that would be valueless to the enemy, even if they fell into his hands, because of the time it would take him to decipher them-"if they did not absolutely defy deciphering..." Finally, Fisher observed the need for a small, permanent signal organization and suggested the appointment of a board "to define, as far as practicable, the specific duties to be assigned it, to avoid in the future the great stumbling-block which...in the past...crippled the usefulness of the corps by its not being properly understood..." He did not, however, spring to the advocacy of the electric telegraph.

Nobody knows how many messages were sent by flag and torch and by the Beardslee machine during the Civil War. The historian of the Military Telegraph estimates that the messages sent by that organization probably aggregated 6,500,000 by the end of fiscal year 1865, by which time direct cost to the government was $2,655,500.00, or about forty cents a message. The direct cost of the Signal Corps for the same period was substantially less- $1,595,257.00.

When the war ended the Military Telegraph supervised the restoration of commercial telegraph lines in the South, but its control was soon relinquished. Meanwhile, operators and Stager's commissioned assistants remained at their posts until November 30, 1865, when all operators not at work on strictly military lines or at assigned posts as cipherers in major cities were discharged, paid, and, as one operator put it, "in most cases given transportation to their homes." In 1866 the Military Telegraph lines south of the Ohio River were turned over to commercial companies in relinquishment of claims against the United States, while military lines north of the Ohio River were sold. The line from Wilmington, Delaware to Richmond, however, was retained to be operated for the government by the American Telegraph Company. Of the officers, only Stager and Eckert, both whom received the brevet rank of brigadier general, remained on duty by the end of fiscal year 1866. One operator, Charles Almarin Tinker, remained in the War Department telegraph office until 1869.

Among the Civil War leaders who thought highly of the Military Telegraph were McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Meigs, and, of course Stanton. On the other hand, we know that Schofield and Grant had difficulties with the organization, and none other than Roscoe Pound has criticized severely both the operators' monopoly of the cipher and their independance. We know too, Myer and the Signal Corps did not look kindly upon their rival. Indeed, the largely civilian character and independance of the Military Telegraph made it a military anomaly. Nevertheless, in one degree or another, the organization served the administrative, logistic, strategic, and even tactical needs of the War Department and the army.

The Signal Corps, also had its detractors as well as supporters. The military telegraphers were critical of what they regarded as Signal Corps pretensions in the field of electric telegraphy. Secretary Stanton was not its advocate and neither was Assistant Secretary of War Dana who charged in 1865 that "we should have been better of without it".

Actually, despite solicited testimonials, the Signal Corps and Myer received many warm expressions of commendation. These were not always unqualified, but nevertheless such army leaders as McCellan, Thomas, Grant, Sherman, Granger, and even Sheridan (despite the fact he once called Myer an "old wire-puller"), and Farragut and Porter of the navy, are numbered among those who looked upon the Corps with favor varying from mild to enthusiastic. Although Myer was without a "signal service" at Bull Run in 1861, this was soon remedied. By Gettysburg, two years later, when Meade called upon all staff corps, including the Signal Corps, to aid him in the coming battle, the Corps had won a secure place for itself.

During the Civil War the Signal Corps stood guard at innumerable high observation posts and signaled by flag and torch from hills, high buildings, specially constructed twers, tree platforms, and even the mastheads of ships. The service excited the curiosity of soldiers who had never seen anything like it before. But signals by flag and torch had the obvious weakness of all visual signals; They were dependent upon Line-of-Sight and they were obscured by bad weather and by the smoke and fog of battle. Even as they were given their first real test in war the electric telegraph was rendering them old-fashioned.

Myer was aware of the weakness of visual signaling and, as he had been familiar with the electric telegraph since his student days, he early introduced the latter into the Corps. He was unfortunate in the choice of the apparatus adopted, but even with more dependable equipment than the Beardslee machine he would have had difficulty because of a strong rival organization. Nevertheless, that the Beardslee was a short range instrument, that it often got out of synchronization, that it was slow, and that a single man could not easily carry it- these things are all besides the point, which is that the concept of ruggedm front-line, portable, electric communications an ordinary soldier could employ was something new in the U.S. Army.

The Military Telegraph, while it had to develop its organization from the ground up and had to develop its own logistal system, never encountered some of the problems the Signal Corps faced. The latter not only had to pioneer a new military organization, but, coping with the difficult detail system, had to change its personnel procurement in the midst of war with resultant morale problems. While the Military telegraph possessed stability in its top command after an initial period of organization and enjoyed the unflagging support of the secretary of War, the Corps had three different wartime chiefs and considerable interference from the Secretary. Whereas the Military Telegraph was able to take trained telegraphers from the commercial system, the Corps had to instruct all of its enlisted men and all but three of its officers.[77]

It is clear in retrospect, as it surely appeared to the leading participants at the time, that a division of signal communications between two separate organizations was far from satisfactory. Certainly it does not appear wise to have invested an essentially civillian organization with such heavy responsibilities. The newness of the signal communications function, however, and the constant lack of experience and planning, together with the hurly-burly of war, produced almost inevitable overlap and conflict. Under the circumstances, Stanton's separation of the field telegraph from the Signal Corps in 1863 was probably administratively sensible, but it was not a permanent solution. In the end, as the war passed, the essentailly civilian Military Telegraph was dissolved, while the Signal Corps survives to this present day.

1 See Senate Exec. Doc No. 59, 36 Cong., 1 sess (Serial 1036), p. 110, and Senate Exec. Doc. No. 60 ibid. (Serial 1037), p. 87.

2 Myer to Secy. of War, Oct 1, 1856, Albert J. Myer Papers, Signal Corps Museum, Ft. Monmouth, N.J.;"Report of a board of Officers for the Examination of the System of Military Signals Devised by Assistant Surgeon A.J.Myer[sic]," Mar. 12, 1859, 53-L (1859), Records Group 94, National Archives; encl. (Alexander's reports) with Myer to Adj. Gen., June 16, 1860, Myer Papers. (Archives record groups are hereafter cited as RG.)

3 Congressional Globe, LIV (June 2,1860), 2558-2559; U.S. Statutes at Large, XII,66;[Albert J. Myer] Report of the Operations and Duties of the Signal Department of the Army, 1860-1865 (n.p.,n.d.),p.2;Canby to Myer, Apr. 10,19 (two letters), 1861, Myer Papers.

4 Myer, Report, p.8;Hqs Dept. of N. Mex., Spec. Ord 26 Mar 10, 1861, Myer Papers; John T. Mason to Davis, Mar. 26, 1861, C.S. Citizens File, RG 109, and in N-31 CB (1870), RG 94,the following; Nicodemus to Townsend, Apr. 12, Dec. 24, 1870; Memo, Adj. Gen. Off., Sept. 3 1890.

5 J. Willard Brown, The Signal Corps, USA in the War of the Rebellion (Boston, 1896), pp 35, 115-118, 120-122; US War Department (comp), The War of the Rebellion; A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1880-1901), Ser. III, I, 694 (Hereafter cited as OR, with all references to Ser. III unless otherwise specified).

6 Brown, Signal Corps, pp.63, 91-104; Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Signals; For the use of Signal Officers in the Field (Washington, 1864), pp. 54-57d.

7 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 39-42.

8 Myer, report, p.30; William R. Plum, The Military Telegraph During the Civil War (Chicago, 1882), I, 71-73.

9 Myer to Callan, July 20, 1861, Myer Papers; F. Stansbury Haydon, Aeronautics in the Union and Confederate Armies (Baltimore, 1941), pp 45-46, 64-65, 68-72: Brown, Signal Corps, p. 43.

10 Ibid., p.45.

11 Plum, Military Telegraph, I, 75-78.

12 Ibid., 63, 66-67.

13 Ibid., David Homer Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office; recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps (New York, 1907), pp. 35-36.

14 Plum, Military Telegraph, I, 128; Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office, pp. 31-32; OR, II, 12-13. The order seizing rail and telegraph lines named Stager the "supervisor/military superintendant of all telegraphic lines and offices in the United States." OR, I, 899.

15 For post war efforts to gain pension relief for veteran operators see Soc. of the US Military Telegraph Corps, Annual Report, 1915, pp. 11-12, 41. In 1897 certificates were authorized to reconize honorable service "in the military telegraph corps of the Army." This was the only official basis, long after is had ceased to exist, for teaming the Military Telegraph organization a "Corps." U.S. Statutes at Large XXXIX, 497.

16 See biographical sketches in Plum, Military Telegraph, I and II, passim.

17 Ibid., I, 34-61, II, 170-174, 264-266; Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office, pp. 49-85; Roscoe Pound, "The Military Telegraph in the Civil War." Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, LXVI (1942), 193, 196, 200-201.

18 Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 352, 376-380; William H. Woodring, 'The Military Telegraphers," telegraph and Telephone Age, June 16, 1914, p. 359; Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office, pp. 26-27; OR, III, 977.

19 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 46-50; OR, I, 695.

20 Ibid., II, 162-163

21 Brown, Signal Corps, p. 50. See also penciled notation on [Myer] to Cameron, Aug. 6, 1861, Misc. Papers (1860-1869), No. 72, Box 50, RG 111.

22 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 50-60, 65-80; Myer, Report, pp. 17-19, 28-29, 140.

23 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 50, 65, 228-229.

24 OR, Ser. I, V, 575; Williams to Myer, Oct. 21, 1862, Myer Papers; Myer to Williams, Oct. 22, 1862, Myer Papers; Myer to Williams, Oct 22, 1862, ibid; Adj Gen. Off., Spec. Ord. 331, Nov. 6, 1862, ibid. For McClellan's evaluations see OR, Ser. I, V, 31-32, and his McClellan's Own Story (New York, 1887), p. 135.

25 OR, Ser. I, XI, pt. 1, 264.

26 Myer, Report, pp. 37-38, 67; OR, II, 754.

27 Brown, Signal Corps. p. 142; Myer, Report, p. 138.

28 U.S. Statutes at Large, XII, 753; OR, III, 94-95; Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 145-146.

29 Ibid, pp. 146 ff.; OR, III, 172-174.

30 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 160-161, 713-902; Norton to Spring, Nov. 21, 1867, LS, VII (1865-1868), RG 111.

31 "Proceedings of Court of Inquiry Convened by Special Order No. 85", MM-306 (Felt), RG 153, printed as George H. Felt (ed.). Preceedings of a Court of Inquiry, Convened by Special Order No. 85. (New York, 1863)

32 Felt to Thomas, Aug. 14 (two letters encl. charges), 28, Sept. 21, 1863, LR, 152-F (1863), RG 94; Myer to Stanton, Feb 8, 1864, Misc. Papers (1860-69),No. 165, Box 51, RG 111; OR, Ser. I, XXV, pt. 1, 228; Myer to Condict, May 7, 1863, LS, IV (Jan.-Aug., 1863), RG 111; Myer to Cushing, Aug. 25, 1863, ibid.; Off. Sig. Officer Circs., Sept. 10, 16, 1863, "General Orders and Circulars, for 1861-1865," ibid. Felt patented a balloon or parachute rocket signal and a signal code for rockets in 1863. Myer patented his disk in 1865.

33 Myer, Report, pp. 33-34; Rogers to Myer, Nov. 14, 27, Dec. 16, 1861, and "Proceedings of a Board of Examination on the Field Telegraph Train," Feb. 25, 1862, LR, 11-R, 13-R, 14-R, 18-R (1861), 28-C 91862), RG 111.

34 Beardslee took out two patents on a magnetoelectric machine as early as 1859; a later patent of 1863 was on the magnetoelectric telegraph. The Smithsonian Institution has three such instruments, all "revised models which contain a number of modifications." Another is in the Signal Corps Museum. Among the Beardslee Accession Papers in the Smithsonian is a copy of Directions for the Practical Working of Beardslee's Magneto-Electric Signal Telegraph (New York, 1863).

35 Myer to Cushing, Apr. 25, May 7, 1862, LS, III (Mar.-Dec., 1862), RG 111; Cushing to Myer, May 6, 1862, ibid.; Myer, report, pp. 53-54; Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 176-177.

36 OR, II, 759, III, 959; Myer, Report, p. 109; Beardslee Magneto-Electric Co., Beardslee's Military Telegraph (New York, 1863), p. 14; Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 96 ff. The Fredericksburg illustration was from Harper's Weekly, Jan. 24, 1863, p. 53.

37 George Raynor Thompson, "Development of the Signal Corps Field Telegraph 1861-1863," Signal, XII (1958), 28-29, 31, 34; OR, III, 958-961.

38 Army and Navy Official Gazette, Sept. 8 (p.146), 15 (p. 162), 22 (p. 178), 1863; Off. Sig. Officer Circ., Aug. 31, 1863, "General Orders and Circulars."

39 Gathering of pages bound with Albert J. Myer, Memorial (Washington 1865), and his Memorial Supplement and appendix, Myer Papers. Van Duzer's application in Reg., LR, XI (1863), V-7, RD 111. Besides Van Duzer, at least three other Military Telegraph operators applied before sept 22, and at least four more operators, later identified with the Military Telegraph, applied in October. For an interesting correspondence on this see Kellogg to Stanton, Dec. 21, 1863, encl. with Thomas to Kellogg, Dec. 15, 1863, Myer Papers.

40 Plum, Military telegraph, II, 100-101.

41 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 163, 181; OR, III, 1043; Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 102.

42 Ibid., 102-103

43 U.S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (New York, 1885-86), II, 205-207; Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 141; OR, Ser.1, LI, pt. 1, 200; John Emmet O'Brien, Telegraphing in Battle (Scranton, Pa., 1910), p. 143.

44 OR, IV, 821, 854-855; Eckert to Meigs, Dec. 8, 1864, Off. Q.M. gen. Rpts. (1864), RG 92; Myer, report, p. 227.

45 Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 349; Stager to Meigs, Sept. 15, 1865, Off. Q.M. Gen. Rpts. (1865), RG 92.

46 Ibid.; Plum, Military Telegraph, I, 363-364, II, 66, 97-99, 178-179, 182, 232; Scheips, "Signaling at Port Hudson," 106-113; OR IV, 865; Fred E. Brown, "The Battle of Allatoona," Civil war History, VI (1960), 280, 297.

47 Myer, report, pp. 152-153; Myer to Kate Myer, Nov. 20, 1863, Albert J. Myer Collection, library of Congress.

48 Myer, report, pp. 32, 226; memos, apparently all to Tafft, Sept., 1863 Myer papers; Off. Sig. Officer Circ., sept. 18, 1863, "General Orders and Circulars"; "The Government and the Telegraph" (draft MS), Myer papers; Kate Myer to Myer, Jan. 15, 1864, ibid.

49 Myer to Adj. Gen., Nov. 26, 1863, April 16,1864, ibid; Hqs. Sixteenth Corps, Spec. Ord. 300, Nov. 28, 1863, ibid.; Myer to Stager, Nov. 28, Dec. 15, 1863,ibid.; Stager to Myer, dec. 9, 1863, April 14, 1864, ibid,; Canby to Myer, March 21, 1864, ibid.

50 Hardie to Myer, Dec. 5, 1863, ibid,; Myer to Kate Myer, Dec. 24, 1863, Myer Collection; Grant to War Department, Feb. 14, 1864, Myer Papers; Myer to Stanton, dec. 26, 1863, ibid.

51 Myer, Manual of Signals (1864 ed.), Preface; White to Myer, Feb 1, May 10, June 11, 1864, Myer Papers.

52 The 1866, 1868 and 1871 editions were published by D. Van Nostrand, New York; the last two added material, respectively, on compasses and drill. Van Nostrand issues of 1872 and 1874 were reprints. In 1877 Myer brought out another new addition which included civerage of the heliograph and permanent telegraph lines; the last edition, 1879, included material on the telephone. These editions were produced by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

53 Myer to Adj. gen., Feb. 22, 1864, Myer Papers; Myer memorial, p. 5; Tafft to Myer, Dec. 27, 1863, feb 7, 28, June 14, 1864, Myer Papers; Kate Myer to Myer, Nov. 28, Dec. 8, 1863, ibid.

54 Myer to Norton, April 12, 1864, Myer Papers; Hq. Mil. Div. of W. Miss., Spec order 32, June 7, 1864, ibid,;Myer to Kate Myer, May 15, 1864, Myer Collection.

55 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 593-594, 596, 611; Hqs,. Mil. Div. of W. Miss., "General Service Code," July 11, 1864, Myer Papers; Myer to Canby, July 22, 1864, ibid.

56 Adj. Gen. to Myer, July 21, 1864, ibid.; Hqs. Mil. Div.of W. Miss., Spec. Order 88, Aug. 5, 1864, ibid.; Kate Myer to Myer, July 30, 1864, ibid.; Brown, Signal Corps, p.881; "Statement of the Military Service og Albert J. Myer," Service Records, Signal Corps Hist. Sect. File, Department of the Army; Grant to Adj.Gen., Nov. 30, 1867, Myer Papers.

57 Kate Myer to Myer, Jan 12, 1865, ibid.; Fenton to Stanton, Nov.26, 1864, ibid.; Myer to Harris, Jan. 2, 1865, ibid.; Myer to Lincoln, Apr.14,1865,2563 ACP (1873), RG 94, See also n. 39 above.

58 Stanton to Myer, October 30, 1866, Myer Papers; Exec. 508 (Confid.), 39 Cong., 2 sess., Feb. 8, 1867,ibid.; Kelton to Myer, Mar. 14, 1867, ibid.; Adj. Gen Off., Spec. Ord, 419. Aug. 19, 1867, ibid.; Norton to Myer, Aug. 13, 1867, ibid.; White to Myer, Aug. 13, 1867, ibid.; "Statement of Military Service, Myer"; U.S. Statutes at Large, XIV, 335-336.

59 Myer remained Chief Signal Officer until his death in 1880.

60 Nicodemus to Myer, Nov. 23, Dec. 9, 26, 31, 1863, Jan. 15 (two letters), 30, Feb. 5, 12, 13,19, 25, Mar. 5, 1864, Mayer Papers; Myer to Nicodemus, Jan. 11, Feb. 16, ibid.

61 OR, IV, 818-814.

62 Tyerell to Ingraham, Dec. 28, 1864, LR, 802-T (1864), RG 94; Brown, Signal Corps, p. 87. Stanton's original MS order of Dec. 26 which dismissed Micodemus (N-31 CB [1870], RG 94) omitted the words "contains information useful to the enemy and prejudicial to the service of the United States."

63 C.W. Butterfield, History of the University of Wisconsin (Madison, 1879), p. 145; Brown, Signal Corps, p. 37; pension file WC-294, 349, RG 15B; Myer to Kate Myer, Jan. 2, 9, 1865, Myer Collection.

64 Nicodemus to Thomas, Jan. 9, 1865, N-31 CB (1870), RG 94; Nicodemus to Stanton, Mar. 9, 1865, ibid.

65 Brown, Signal Corps, p. 842; Canby to Stanton, Jan. 27, 1865, N-31 CB (1870), RG 94; Eaton to Myer, July 18, 1865, Myer Papers, Nicodemus was mustered out of the corps in Aug., 1865. Unable to secure a regimental command in 1869, for reasons already noted, he requested and received his discharge in 1870. The following year he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, at which post he died in 1879. "Statement of the Military Service of William J.L. Nicodemus"; Butterfield, History, pp. 140-146.

66 Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 77, 160, 164, 358, 371, 769-770; pension file SC-502, 666, RG 15B; "Statement of the Military Service of Benjamin F. Fisher."

67 Fisher to Myer, Nov. 11, 1864, with Myer's notation, Myer Papers; Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 166-167; Fisher to Stanton, Oct. 13, 1864, F-466 CB (1864), RG 94; Fisher to Adj. Gen., Dec. 7, 1864, ibid.

68 Theophilus F. Rodenbaugh (ed.), The Army of the United States (New York, 1896), p. 136; Fisher to Thomas, Mar. 14, 1865, F-466 CB (1864), RG 94; Kelton memo of Nov. 10, 1866, F-466 CB (1866), ibid,; Kelton to Fisher, Nov. 12, 1866, Myer Papers.

69 Fisher to Stanton, Nov. 15, 1866, F-466 CB (1866), RG 94; Grant to Myer, Nov. 20, 1867, Myer Papers; Fisher to Kelton, Nov. 15, 1866, F-466 CB (1866), RG 94; White to Myer, Nov. 16, 20, 1866, Myer Papers. Fisher subsequently practiced law in Philadelphia, dying in 1915. Pension file SC-502, 666, RG 15B.

70 Adj. gen Off., Spec. Ord. 417, Aug. 3, 1865, ordered the immediate mustering out of all Signal Corps officers and men east of the Mississippi, excepting Fisher (although Norton managed to stay on); Adj. Gen. Off. Circ. 40, ug. 11, 1865, set forth the proceedures. See copies in Myer Papers; See also OR, V, 152-156, and House Exec. Doc. No. 1, 39 Cong., 2 sess. (serial 1285), p. 702.

71 On the cost of the Military Telegraph see Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 337. Signal Corps expenditures totalled $1,586,720.00 for fiscal years 1862-64, and 8,537.00 for the year ending Sept. 30, 1865. OR, IV, 838, V, 154. The figure $2,040,265.00 for the four years ending Dec. 31, 1865, appraers to incl. 1 to LS, N. 110, Feb 4, 1865, Misc. Papers (1860-69), Box 52, RG 111.

72 Plum, Military Telegraph, II, 346 ff., Woodring, "Military Telegraphers." 357; Eckert to Meigs, July 23, 1866, Off. Q.M. Gen. Rpts. (1866), RG 92; Van Duzer to Meigs, June 30, 1866, ibid,; Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office, p. 393; Soc. of the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps, Annual Report, 1915, p. 35.

73 Plum, Military Telegraph, I, 231, II, 252-255, 355-356; Grant, Memoirs, II, 205-207; William T. Sherman, Memoirs (New York, 1875), II, 398; Nates, Lincoln in the Telegraph office, p. 12: John M. Schofield, Forty-Six Years in the Army (New York, 1897), pp. 168-169, 204, 206, 211-212, 232-233; Roscoe Pound, "Military Telegraph," 185-203; Pound, "Bureaus and Bureau Methods in the Civil War Era," Massachusetts historical Society Prodeedings, LXVII (1945), 420-435; Francis T. Miller (ed.), The Photographic History of the Civil War (New York, 1911), VIII, 368. See also n. 24 above.

74 A.J.M., "The Cipher of the Signal Corps," Army and Navy Journal, Mar. 3, 1866, p. 26.

75 See Myer to Norton, cited in n. 54 above, and the correspondence about testimonials in Myer Papers. See also OR, IV, 839-841; Gearge B. McClellan, The Complete Report on the Organization and Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac (rev. ed.; n. p. [1864?]), pp. 14-15; Brown, Signal Corps, pp. 168, 195-203; Grant, Memoirs, II, 207-208; statements of Grant, Thomas, Granger, Sheridan, Farragut, and David D. Porter in Myer Papers; Rodenbaugh, Army of the United States, p. 140.

76 John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee (Boston 1887), p. 404; OR, Ser. I, XI, pt. 1,226 ff.; Brown, Signal Corps, passim.

77 Paul J. Scheips, Union Signal Communications, Civil War History, Vol. IX, No. 4 (December, 1963)

Signal Corps Association 1860 ~ 1865