Historical Reference for Permanent Organization

       Before the close of the year 1861 it was discovered that one requirement for efficiency in the signal service was wanting. There was no real organization of the Corps. During its short period of life its vitality was crippled by the unfriendly actions of those who should have been its most earnest supporters.

- Page 141- J. Willard Brown (sound familiar-?)

       The officers and men under instruction were detailed by various general officers; and in many instances they claimed and used the right to recall the detachments at will. A stable organization or efficient service was not possible when it was in the power of regimental or brigade commanders to recall the detailed officiers and men ant any moment. Another weakness was the inability of commanders to reward the meritorius actions of men detatched from their own organizations. When a lieutenant or enlisted man entered the unorganized Signal Corps he almost necessarily gave up all hope of promotion, as officers serving with their regiments were unwilling to see detached officers promoted over their own heads unless absentees were willing to return to their regiments and assume the duties of the advanced position. Many officers became restive under this condition of things. A number returned to their regiments to accept positions as field officers. Most of the detailed officers, however, to their honor be it said, stood by Myer, having faith in the ultimate and perchance, speedy recognition and appreciation of the Corps.

       Under the date of Aug. 1, 1861, the Signal Officer proposed a plan for the formation of a Signal Corps as an independent branch of the service. It will be noted that the plan differed very materially from that which was ultimately adopted by congress. This first plan embodied the following features:

       As the design was to operate electric as well as aerial signals, every officer was required to be a practical telegrapher. The created officers were to be two assistants with the rank of captain, and five assistants with the rank of 1st lieutenant.In addition to these, forty warrent officers were to be selected, with the rank of cadet, the monthly allowance being $50.00 and one ration. Three of the warrent officers were to be telegraph operators, and were also to receive instruction in aerial signals. There were also to be forty signal artificers to enlist for the war, the monthly allowance being $20.00 and one ration. At the same time a request was made for the appropriation of $30,000 to purchase telegraphic apparatus. This estimate was based on a supposed force of a half million men, and was intended to supply every division of the army.

General Orders No. 106 ~ April 28, 1863

  1.        A board of five officers (the Signal Officer anda medical officer of the army being members) will be assembled in the city [Washington] for the examination of officers now on signal duty in the Army of the Potomac, the Middle Department, and the Departments of Washington and Virginia; and thereafter, such persons as may be authorized by the Secretary of War to report to the board for examination as candidates for commissions in this Corps. The same board will examine emlisted men of the signal parties on duty in the Department of Washington, and such other candidates for enlistment in, or transfer to, the Corps, as may be brought before it.

  2.        As soon as practicable, the colonel and the two majors authorized by the Act of March 3, 1863, shall be appointed.

  3.        Immediately after the appointment of the majors of the Signal Corps, auxiliary examination boards, in each of which one of the majors and a medical officer of the army shall be members, will be appointed for the examination of the officers now on signal duty in the army corps, Departments of the South and West; and thereafter, such other persons as may be authorized by the Secretary of War to report for examination as candidates for commission.

  4.        The commander of each army corps or department in which the employment of signal parties is now, or may be, authorized, will immediately appoint a board of their officers, two of whom shall be officers now on signal duty, and a third, a medical officer, for the examination of enlisted men now on signal duty who are candidates for transfer to, or enlistment in, the Signal Corps; and, if necessary to complete the organization of the signal parties in their command, such other persons as they may authorize to report for examination as candidates for enlistment. If the army corps form part of an army, then orders will be subject to the approval of the commanding general of that army.

  5.        The board instituted by the 1st section will hold its session in the city of Washington; will adjourn from time to time according to the business before it; and be re-assembled by the order of its president. It will call before it the officers to be examined by requisitions upon the commanding generals of the armies or departments in which they are serving; but in order that no inconvenience to the service shall result, these requisitions shall be subject to the discretion of the commanding general as to the time and order in which the officers called for shall report, care being taken that the officers to be withdrawn shall be replaced in advance, as far as practicable, by others who have passed satisfactory examinations.

  6.        The boards instituted by section 3 will report in succession at the headquarters of the army, army corps, or departments in the districts to which they may be assigned, and will be subject to the discretion of the commanding generals as to the time and place of meeting, and the order in which candidates are to be examined.

  7.        Examining boards will be governed by the following rules:

        FIRST~ Candidates for commissions shall be examined upon reading, writting, composition, and arithmetic; elementary chemistry, and the elementary branches of natural philosophy, surveying, and topography; the use and management of field signals and field telegraphs; and those who have served in the acting Corps, upon the mode of conducting signal parties in the field, and in the presence of the enemy, and upon rendering the proper papers and reports.

        SECOND~ Candidates for warrents shall be examined upon reading, writing, geography, and arithmetic.

        THIRD~ No person shall be recommended for appointment or enlistment in the Signal Corps who is not of good moral character, and physically competent for the duties.

        FOURTH~ The several examining boards will adopt such forms of proceeding in questions upon different branches of education enumerated above, or may employ such other methods of ascerting the merits of the different candidates as may seem expedient, having due reference to thier mental and physical qualifications.

  8.        The principal and auxiliary examining boards will make to the Secretary of War, through the Signal Officer, weekly reports of the examinations made by them, designating by name, regiment, age, nativity, etc., of the persons examined, the grade for which they are recommended, and their recent standing as determined by the examination, and by their record of service. In the case of the auxiliary boards directed by sections 3 and 4, these reports will be transmitted through the commanding generals of the army or department in which the examinations were made.

  9.        As soon as the examinations of the auxiliary boards have been compiled, a revising board, constituted as directed in the first section, with the addition of the majors who were members of the boards directed by the third section, will assenble in this city [Washington] for the purpose of reviewing the action of the several examining boards; determining the relative standing of the officers of each grade; the rules to be observed in the appointments to the grade of 1st and 2nd lieutenants; the classification of enlisted men; and making such other recommendations as may have been suggested by observation and experience as essential to a perfect organization of the Corps.

  10.        Until the reports of the revising board have been approved by the Secretary of War, the appointments in the Signal Corps will be limited to the colonel and the two majors, one Captian, two 1st lieutenants, and four 2nd lieutenants for each army corps or department in which signal parties have been or may be authorized, and the enlistments or transfers, to one sergeant, two privates of the first class, and four privates of the second class. The appointments thus made to be temporary, and the permanent standing of the officers to be determained by the action of the President, upon the recommendation of the reviewing board.

  11.        In order to facilitate as much as possible the organization of the Corps, the commanders of the army corps and departments are authorized to transfer enlisted men now employed on signal duty who have passed satisfactory examinations, to the Signal Corps, copies of the muster and discriptive rolls of the men so transferred being sent to the headquarters of the Corps in this city [Washington], and the Chief Signal Officers in each army corps or department are authorized to complete the signal parties under thier charge by the enlistment of a sufficient number of approved candidates; Provided, that all officers and men now on signal duty, who fail to pass satisfactory examinations, shall be returned to their regiments, and any officers and men retained in the service under the provisions of War Department General Order No. 92, who in like manner, fail to pass satisfactory examinations, shall at once be discharged from the service of the United States by the commander of the army or department in which they are serving.

  12.        The Chief Signal Officer in an army corps or department is authorized to appoint, upon the recommendation of the Examining Board, and subject to the approval of the colonel of the corps, the sergeants authorized for the parties under his charge, and, upon a like recomendation and approval, to designate the privates of the first and second class.

  13.        Recruiting for the Signal Corps will be conducted under the rules prescribed for the regimental recruiting service. Enlistments will be made for the period of three years, or during the war, but enlisted men now on duty in the Signal Corps may re-enlist for the period of one or two years, and will be entitled to the benefit provided by the 18th section of the Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1863.

By order of the Secretary of War,              
Assistant Adjutant-General

Memorandum for General Order

  1.        The duties of the signal officers in the army will be performed only by members of the Signal Corps, and under instructions transmitted through Chief Signal Officers of Departments, who will be held responsible for their proper discharge. Inexperienced and incompetent persons, or officers not regularly detailed as signal officers will not be permitted by any authority to transmit official messages.

  2.        Signal Officers, when on duty, will report to their immediate commander and to the Chief Signal Officer of the Army with which they may be serving, for the information of the general commanding, all movements of the enemy, or other facts relating to the general interest of the service coming within their knowledge.

  3.        Communications transmitted by signals are always confidential; they will not be revealed by officers on stations to others than those officially entitled to receive them.

  4.        The senior officer present for duty with the army will be the Chief Signal Officer of the Army.
           He will have charge of all signal duty, and will keep himself well informed of the position of the army and of the enemy, and will, under the instructions of the general commanding, so establish stations that they may be most advantageously posted. He will take care by inspections and timely requisistions that his party is well supplied with all equipments necessary to render it effective. He will make from time to time the proper reports of his operations in the field to the general commanding, and will, with the assent of the general, forward certified copies of the reports to the offic of the Signal Officer. He will make the usual returns and semi-monthly statements, and, at the end of each month, a report to the Signal Officer of the Army, as to the condition of his party, and of such matters as pertain to its particular duties.

~ A. J. Myer       
May 5, 1863   

Oct. 21, 1863
Roll of the Federal Signal Corps
Major............................ 1
Captains............................... 45  Sergeants..............................47
First Lieutenants................... 88  Privates.................................767
Second Lieutenants............... 65  Total Number Enlisted Men...814
 ____ ____
Total commissioned officers...199  Grand Total..........................1013

Roll of the Confederate Signal Corps of that time period
Major............................ 1
Captains............................... 10  Sergeants..............................30
First Lieutenants................... 10  Privates.................................--
Second Lieutenants............... 10  Total Number Enlisted Men...--
 ____ ____
Total commissioned officers...31  Grand Total..........................--