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These quarters were established near Harrisons Landing, Virginia, in July, 1862 after the Seven Days battles during McClellans retreat. Colonel (then Lieutenant) Benjamin F. Fisher, of the Signal Corps, then in command, opened a local station on the mous Berkely mansion. The Signal Corps had proved indispensable to the success of McClellan in changing his base from York River to James River. When the vigorous Confederate attack at Malvern Hill threatened the rout of the army, McClellan was aboard the gunboatGalena, whose army signal officer informed him of the situation through messages flagged from the shore. Through information from the signal officers directing the fire of the fleet, he was aided in repelling the advances of the Confederates. The messages ran like this: Fire one mile to the right. Fire low into the woods near the shore.(See: Signalling Aboard Tug Boats)

o other arm of the military services during the Civil War excited a tithe of the curiosity and interest, which surrounded the Signal Corps. To the onlooker, the messages of its waving flags, its winking lights and its rushing rockets were always mystic in their language, while their tenor was often fraught with thrilling import and productive of r-reaching effects.

As Elk Mountain dominated the valley of the Antietam, it was occupied only to find that the dense woods on its summit cut off all view. However, energetic action soon cleared a vista, known to the soldiers as McClellans Gap, through which systematic telescopic search revealed all extended movements of the foe. The busy ax furnished materials for a rude log structure, from the summit of which messages of great importance, on which were based the general disposition of the Federal troops, were sent.

The system around Vicksburg was such as to keep Grant fully informed of th

Sheridan was then at Fort Royal, en route to Washington. The message was handed to General Wright, in temporary command, at once, and was forwarded by him to Sheridan at midnight. The importance of this information is apparent, yet Early took the Union army completely by surprise three days later, at daybreak of October 19th, although the tide of morning defeat was turned to evening victory under the inspiration of Sheridans matchless personality.

From December 11 to 13, 1862, four signal stations were engaged in observing and reporting the operations of the Confederates on the south side of the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. The flag station at headquarters kept General Burnside in constant touch with the Federal attacking force on the right, under Couch and Hooker, through their signalmen in the courthouse steeple. This is prominent in the center of the lower photograph. One station near a field hospital came under fire that killed about twenty men and wounded many others nearby. Finally the surgeons requested a suspension of flagging that the lives of the wounded might be spared.

To secure secrecy all-important messages were enciphered by various means, one being by the use of a cipher disk.(See: Cryptography)These were two concentric disks, of unequal size and revolving on a central pivot, divided along their outer edges were thirty equal compartments. The inner and smaller disk contained in its compartments letters, terminations, and word-pauses, while the outer, larger disk contained groups of signal numbers to be sent. Sometimes this arrangement was changed and letters were on the outer disks and the numbers placed on the inner. By the use of prearranged keys, and through their frequent interchange, the secrecy of messages were thus enciphered and almost absolutely ensured.

Amost important part of the Signal Corps duty was the interception and translation of messages interchanged between the Confederate signalmen. Perhaps the most notable of such achievements occurred in the Shenandoah Valley, in 1864. On Massanutten, or Three Top Mountain, was a signal station which kept Early in touch with Lees army to the southeastward, near Richmond, and which the Federals had under close watch. Late in the evening of October 15th, a keen-eyed lieutenant noted that Three-Top was swinging his signal torch with an unwonted persistency that betokened a message of urgency. The time seemed interminable to the Union officer until the message began, which he read with suppressed excitement as follows: To Lieutenant-General Early. Be ready to move as soon as my forces join you, and we will crush Sheridan. Longstreet, Lieutenant-General.

The Confederate signal service was first in the field. Beauregards report acknowledges the aid rendered his army at Bull Run by Captain(afterwards General)E. P. Alexander, a former pupil of Major A. J. Myer. McDowell was then without signalmen, and so could not communicate regularly with Washington. While Major Myer was establishing aFederal signal training-schoolat Red Hill, such towers were rising along the already beleaguered Confederate coast. This one at Charleston, South Carolina, is swarming with young Confederate volunteers gazing out to sea in anticipation of the advent of the foe. They had not long to wait. During nearly four years the Union fleet locked them in their harbor. For all that time Fort Sumter and its neighbors defied the Union power.

SIGNAL CAMP OF INSTRUCTION AT RED HILL, GEORGETOWN, 1861

After the surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863, the Signal Corps of Grants army under the command of Lieutenant John W. Deford, a recently exchanged prisoner of war. Its location was on the southern continuation of Cherry Street near the A. & V. railway. From the balcony of the house are hanging two red flags with square white centers, indicating the headquarters of the Signal Corps. many times before the ll were orders flashed by night by means of waving torches to commands widely separated; and in the daytime the signalmen standing drew on themselves the attention of the Confederate sharpshooters. A message begun by one signalman was often finished by another, who picked up the flag of his llen companion.

Valuable as was the work before Richmond, under fire, in reconnoitering and in cooperation with theMilitary Telegraph Service, it proved to be indispensable to the success of McCellan in changing his base from York River to James River- its importance culminating at Malvern Hill. It will be recalled that the Seven Days Battles ended with the bloody struggle on the banks of the James, where the use of the Signal Corps enabled McClellan to transform impending defeat into successful defense. When the vigorous Confederate attack at Malvern Hill threatened the flank of the army, McClellan was aboard theUnited States SteamshipGalena, whose army signal officer informed him of the situation through messages flagged from the army. McClellan was thus enabled not only to give general orders to the army then in action, but also to direct the fire of the fleet, which had moved up the James for cooperation, most efficiently.

The Confederates were the first in the field, for Beauregards report acknowledges the aid rendered his army at Bull Run by Captain E. P. Alexander, a former pupil of Myer. McDowell was then without signalmen, and so could neither communicate regularly with Washington nor receive word of the vitally important despatch from Patterson at Harpers Ferry telling of Johnstons departure to reinforce Beauregard at Manassas, which should have obviated the battle. Major Myer was quick, however, to establish asignal training-school at Red Hill, Georgetown, District of Columbia.

Fashionable folks from Washington have come to the signal camp to look at what seems a strange new pastime of the soldiers, playing with little sticks and flags and entertaining themselves at night with fireworks. But now the shadows lengthen, and the visitors are mounting their horses and about to take their places in the waiting barouche to depart. In the foreground the signalmen can be seen lounging comfortably, feet in the air, or drowsing against the sides of their tents. Their work is done, unless practice is ordered with rockets, lights or torches after nightll. A few months from now they will be in a place where the patronizing visitors will be loath to follow. With Confederate shells shrieking about them on the Peninsula, the men with the flags will dip and wave and dip again, conveying sure information to Little Mac more speedily than the swiftest courier. Who would grudge them these few moments of peaceful comfort at twilight when he learns that the ratio of killed to wounded in the Signal Corps was one hundred and fifty percent, as against the usual ratio of twenty percent in other branches if the service? Many found their te in Confederate prisons. Sense of duty, necessity of exposure to fire, and importance of mission were conditions frequently incompatible with personal safety - and the Signal Corps paid the price. In no other corps can be found greater devotion to duty without reward.

At Yorktown, coigns of vantage were occupied in high trees and on lofty towers, whence messages were sent to and from, especially those containing information of the position and movements of the foe, which were discerned by high power telescopes- an important duty not always known or appreciated. Often their work drew the Confederate artillery and sharpshooters fire, of unpleasant accuracy. The saving of Franklins command at West Point, after the evacuation of Yorktown, was in large part due to the efficiency of the Signal Corps.

Among these officers is General (then Captain) Charles E. Davis (leaning on peach-tree), and Captain P. A. Taylor, Captain Fountain Wilson, Lieutenant A. B. Capron (afterwards Member of Congress), and Lieutenant G. J. Clarke, all members of the Signal Corps.

When usingCoston signalsthere were more than twenty combinations of colored lights, which permitted an extended system of prearranged signals.Rocketswere also employed with their own prearranged system of signals. White flags with a square red center were most frequently employed, though when snow was on the ground a black flag with a white center square was utilized, and with varying backgrounds, the red flag with a white center square could be seen at greater distances than the white.

In the battle of Gettysburg the Confederates established their chief signal station in theCupola of the Lutheran Seminary, which commanded an extended field of operations. From here came much of Lees information about the battle which surged and thundered to and fro until the gigantic wave of Pickets charge was dashed to pieces against the immovable rock of Meades defense on the third culminating day. The Union Signal Corps was equally active in gathering information and transmitting orders. Altogether, for perhaps the first time in military history, the generals-in-chief of two large armies were kept in constant communication during active operations with their corps and division commanders. It was the Union Signal Corps with its deceptive flags that enabled General Warren to hold alone the strangely neglected eminence of Little Round Top, the key to the Federal left, until troops could be sent to occupy it.

General Warren had hastened by Meades order to Little Round Top to investigate. He says: There were no troops on it [Little Round Top] and it was used as a signal station. I saw that this was the key of the whole position, and that our troops in the woods in front of it could not see the ground in front of them, so that the enemy could come upon them unawares. A shot was fired into these woods by Warrens orders. He continues: This motion revealed to me the enemys line of battle, already formed and r outflanking our troops. . . . The discovery was intensely thrilling and almost appalling. After narrating how he asked Meade for troops, Warren continues, While I was still alone with the signal officer, the musket balls began to fly around us, and he was about to fold up his flags and withdraw, but remained, at my request, and kept them waving in defiance. This action saved the day for the Federals, as Warren declares.

Signal messages were sent by means of flag, torches, or lights by combinations of separate motions. A detailed explanation can be found atSignal Methods, aFlash Demo Pagehas also been created to show the motions using the two-element code. The tower shown in this photograph, 125 feet high, was first occupied on June 14, 1864. It commanded a view of Petersburg, sections of the Petersburg and Richmond Railway, and extended reaches of the James and Appomattox Rivers. Its importance was such that the Confederates constructed a two-gun battery within a mile of it for its destruction, but it remained in use until the ll of Petersburg.

AT THE ELK MOUNTAIN SIGNAL STATION AFTER THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM

Active protests proved unavailing and injurious. Colonel Myers circular, in 1863, describing the systematic attempts of the civilian organization to deprive the Signal Corps of such lines as an interference with a part of the Signal Corps legitimate duties, caused him to be placed on waiting orders, while all field-trains were ordered to be turned over to the civilian force. It may be added that both organizations in the field cooperated with a degree of harmony and good-fellowship that was often lacking in Washington.

The signal officer is on outlook duty near the Point of Rocks station, in Maryland. This station was opened and operated by First-Lieutenant John H. Fralick for purposes of observation. It completely dominated Pleasant Valley. On the twelfth of the month Fralick had detected and reported General J. E. B. Stuarts raiding cavalry crossing the Potomac on their way back from Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Confederate cavalry leader had crossed the Potomac at Williamsport on the 10th of October, ridden completely around the rear of the Army of the Potomac, and eluded the vigorous pursuit of General Pleasonton and his Union cavalry. Within twenty hours he had marched sixty-five miles and kept up his artillery. Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin R. Biles, with the Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania, opposed Stuarts crossing at Monocacy Ford, but was unable to detain him. This was one of the combinations of events, which finally cost McClellan the command of the Army of the Potomac. Lees invasion of Maryland in 1862 would have been a complete surprise, except for the watchful vigilance of Lieutenant Miner of the Signal Corps, who occupied Sugar Loaf, the highest point in Maryland. From this lofty station were visible the more important fords of the Potomac, with their approaches on both sides of the river. Miner detected the Confederate advance-guard, then the wagon-train movements, and finally the objective points of their march. Although unprotected, he held his station to the last and was finally captured by the Southern troops.

In view of modern knowledge and practice, it seems almost incredible to note that the Secretary of War disapproved, in 1861, the recommendation made by Major Myer, signal officer of the army, for an appropriation for field-telegraph lines. While efforts to obtain, operate, and improve such lines were measurably successful on the part of the army, they were strenuously opposed by the civilian telegraph corporations so potent at the War Department.

When General McClellan was rapidly organizing his army from the mass of troops, distinguished only by regimental numerals, into brigades, divisions, and corps, in the ll and winter of 1861. General George W. Morell was placed in command of the first brigade of the Army of the Potomac and stationed at the extreme front of Minors Hill, Virginia, just south of Washington. The city was distraught with apprehension, and the lookout, or tower, in the foreground was erected especially for the purpose of observations toward the Confederate lines, then in the direction of Manassas. At the particular moment when this picture was taken, the lookout has undoubtedly shouted some observation to General Morell, who stands with his finger pointing toward the south, the Confederate position. That the army has not yet advanced is made evident by the ct that a lady is present, dressed in the shion of the day.

The tower at Jacksonville, Florida, over a hundred feet high, kept in communication with the signal tower at Yellow Bluff, at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Note the two men with the Signal Corps flag on its summit. Just below them is an enclosure to which they could retire when the efforts of the Confederate sharpshooters became too threatening.

A QUIT EVENING, BEFORE THE DANGEROUS WORK BEGAN

Myer is distinguishable, in the center, sitting and leaning against the table, by the double row of buttons on his field-officers coat. The group comprises Lieutenant Samuel T. Cushing, Second United States Inntry, with seventeen officers selected for signal duty from the noted Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Most of the enlisted men were from the same volunteer organization. It is interesting to examine the field paraphernalia with which the corps was provided. Every man has a collapsible telescope, or a powerful field-glass. Leaning against the table is a bunch of staffs, to which the flags were attached. One of the signal flags is lying in front of the group, and another is extended in the breeze behind. White flags with a red center were most frequent. In the case of snow, a black flag could be used. Against a variegated background the red color was seen rther. In every important campaign and on every bloody ground, these men risked their lives at the forefront of the battle, speeding stirring orders of advance, warning of impending danger, and sullen admissions of defeat. They were on the advanced lines of Yorktown, and the saps and trenches at Charleston,Vickburg, and Port Hudson, near the battle-lines at Chickamauga and Chancellorsville, before the fort-crowned crest of Fredricksburg, amid the frightful carnage of Antietam, on Kenesaw Mountain deciding the te of Allatoona, in Shermans march to the sea, and with Grants victorious army at Appomattox and Richmond. They signaled to Porter clearing the central Mississippi River, and aided Farragut when forcing the passage of Mobile Bay.

After Grant arrived and occupied Chattanooga, Bragg retired up the Cumberland Mountains and took up two strong positions- one upon the top of lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga from the south, and the other on Missionary Ridge, a somewhat lower elevation to the east. His object was to hold the passes of the mountain against any advance upon his base at Dalton, Georgia, at which point supplies arrived from Atlanta. Grant, about the middle of November, 1863, advanced with 80,000 men for the purpose of dislodging the Confederates from these positions. At the very summit of lookout Mountain, The Hawks nest of Cherokees, the Confederates had established a signal station from which every movement of the Federal Army was flashed to the Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge. The Federals had possessed themselves of this signal code, and could read all of Braggs messages. Hence an attempt to surprise hooker when he advanced, on November 23rd, iled.

At Fredericksburg flag-work and telescopic reconnoitering were supplemented by the establishment of a field-telegraph line connecting army headquarters with Franklins Grand Division on the extreme left. The flag station at headquarters kept Burnside in constant touch with the Federal attacking force on the right, under Couch and Hooker, through their signalmen in the court-house steeple. One station near a field-hospital was under fire, which killed about twenty men and wounded many others near by, until the surgeons asked suspension of flagging to save the lives of the wounded.

WHERE THE CONFEDERATE INVASION OF MARYLAND WAS DISCOVERED

Lees invasion of Maryland in 1862 would have been a complete surprise, except for the watchful vigilance of an officer of the Signal Corps, Lieutenant Miner, who occupied Sugar Loaf, the highest point in Maryland. From this lofty station were visible the more important fords of the Potomac, with their approaches on both sides of the river. Miner detected the Confederate advance guard, the train movements, and noted the objective points of their march. Notifying Washington of the invasion, although unprotected he held his station to the last and was finally captured by the Southern troops. The re-occupancy of Sugar Loaf a week later enabled McClellan to establish a network of stations, whose activities contributed to the victory of South Mountain.

In every important campaign and on every bloody ground, the flags of the Signal Corps flaunted defiantly at the forefront, speeding stirring orders of advance, conveying warnings of impending danger, and sending sullen suggestions of defeat. They were seen on the advanced lines of Yorktown, Petersburg, and Richmond, in the saps and trenches at Charleston, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, at the fierce battles of Chickamauga and Chancerllorsville, before the fort-crowned crest of Fredericksburg, amid the frightful carnage of Antietam, on Kenesaw Mountain deciding the te of Allatoona, in Shermans march to the sea, and with Grants victorious army at Appomattox and Richmond. They spoke silently to DuPont along the dunes and sounds of the Carolinas, sent word to Porter clearing the central Mississippi River, and aided Farragut when forcing the passage of Mobile Bay.

The signal system, an American device, was tested first in border ware against hostile Navajos; afterward the quick-witted soldiers of both the Federal and Confederate armies developed portable signaling to great advantage. The invention of a non-combatant, SurgeonA. J. Myer, it met with indifferent reception and evoked hostility in its early stages. When the stern actualities of war were realized, its evolution proceeded in the federal army in ce of corporation and departmental opposition, yet despite all adverse attacks it ultimately demonstrated its intrinsic merits. Denied a separate organization until the war neared its end, the corps suffered constantly from strife and dissension in Washington, its misfortunes culminating in the arbitrary removal of its first two chiefs. Thus its very existence was threatened. Nevertheless, the gallant, efficient services of its patriotic men and officers in the ce of the foe were of such striking military value as to gain the confidence and win commendation of the most distinguished generals.(See: Origin of the Corps)

he most important Union signal station, on the second day of this titanic struggle, was at Little Round Top on the Federal left flank, which commanded a view of the country occupied by the right of Lees army. Heavy was the price paid for flag-work at this point, where the men were exposed to the fierce shrapnel of artillery and the deadly bullet of Confederate sharpshooters in Devils Den. On or beside this signal station, on a bare rock about ten feet square, seven men were killed or seriously wounded. With rash gallantry, captain James A. Hall held his ground, and on July 2nd, at the most critical phase of the struggle signaled to Meades headquarters. A heavy column of enemys inntry, about ten thousand, is moving from opposite our extreme left toward our right.

Did a non-combatant corps ever before suffer such disproportionate casualties- killed, wounded, and captured? Sense of duty, necessity of exposure to fire, and importance of mission were conditions incompatible with personal safety -and the Signal Corps paid the price. While many found their te in Confederate prisons, the extreme danger of signal work, when conjoined with stubborn adherence to outposts of duty, is forcefully evidenced by the ct that the killed of the Signal Corps were on hundred and fifty percent of the wounded, as against the usual ratio of twenty percent.

In the battles at Gettysburg the Confederates established their chief signal station in theCupola of the Lutheran Seminary, which commanded an extended field of operations. The Union Signal Corps was extremely active in gathering information and transmitting orders, and for perhaps the first time in military history the commanding general of a large army was kept in communication during active operations with his corps and division commanders.

Skilled parties were thus available for the Peninsula campaign of 1862, where McClellan utilized them, strictly army work being supplemented by placing signal officers with the navy, and thus ensuring that cooperation vitally essential to success.(See: Signalling aboard a Tug)Not only was military information efficiently collected and distributed, but also at critical junctures, McClellan was able to control the fire-direction of both field-artillery of the army and the heavy guns of the navy.

Elk Mountain is in the South Mountain Range of the Blue Ridge; its summit here shown commanded a view of almost the entire Antietam battlefield during September 17th 1862, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. The Elk Mountain Signal Station was operated after the battle by Lieutenants Pierce and Jerome. As the first photograph above was taken, the former officier was receiving a dispatch from General McClellan, presumably requesting further information in regard to some reported movement of General Lee. The Union loss in this terrific battle was twelve thousand five hundred, and the Confederate loss over ten thousand. The correspondent of a Richmond , describing his part as an eye-witness of the engagement, wrote on the succeeding day Their signal stations on the Blue Ridge commanded a view of every movement. We could not make a maneuver in front or rear that was not instantly revealed by keen lookouts; and as soon as the intelligence could be communicated to their batteries below, shot and shell were launched against the moving columns. It was this information, conveyed by the flags upon the mountain tops, that no doubt enabled the enemy to concentrate his force against our weakest points and counteract the effect of whatever similar movements may have been attempted by us. Captain Joseph Gloskoski, who had received commendation for bravery at Gaines Mill sent many important messages to Burnside as a result of the telescope reconnoitering of Lieutenants N. H. Camp and C. Herzog. It was the message received from this station, Look well to your left, which enabled Burnside to guard his left against A. P. Hills advance from Harpers Ferry.

ajor Myer began work in 1861, at Georgetown, District of Columbia, with small details from the volunteers, though the corps eventually numbered about three hundred officers and twenty-five hundred men. Authorized as a separate corps by the act of Congress, approved March 8, 1863, its organization was not completed until August, 1864. The outcome was an embodiment of the army aphorism that one campaign in Washington is worth two in the field. More than two thousand signalmen served at the front, of which only nine were commissioned in the new corps, while seventeen were appointed from civil life. As a result of degradation in rank, eleven detailed officers declined commissions or resigned after acceptance. Colonel Myer, the inventor and organizer of the service, had his commission vacated in July, 1864, and his successor, ColonelNicodemus, was summarily dismissed six months later, the command then devolving on Colonel B. F. Fisher, who was never confirmed by the Senate. That a corps so harassed should constantly distinguish itself in the field is one of the many marvels of patriotism displayed by the American soldier.

GENERAL MORELLS LOOKOUT TOWARDS THE CONFEDERATE LINES - 1861

Skilled Union signal parties were available for the Peninsular campaign of 1862, where they rendered invaluable service to McClellan. Work strickly for the army was supplemented by placing signal officiers with the navy, and thus ensuring that cooperation so vitally essential to success. The victory of Franklins command at West Point, after the evacuation of Yorktown, was largely due to the efficiency of the Signal Corps. Vigorously attacked by an unknown force, Franklin ordered his signal officer to call up the fleet just appearing down the river. A keen-sighted signal officer was alert on the gunboat, and in a few minutes Franklins request that the woods be shelled was thoroughly carried out. This photograph shows the location of Union battery No. 1 on the left, in the peach orchard, at Yorktown, and the York River lies at hand, to the right of the house.

Signal messages were sent by means of flags, torches, or lights, by combinations of separate motions. The flag (or torch) was initially held upright: one was indicated by waving the flag to the left and returning it from the ground to the upright position; two by a similar motion to the right, and three by a wave (or dip) to the front. Where a letter was composed of several figures, the motions were made in rapid succession without any pause or delay. Letters were separated by a brief but definite pause, and words or sentences were distinguished by one or more threes (or dips motions) to the front. A detailed explanation can be found atSignal Methods, aFlash Demo Pagehas also been created to show the motions using the two-element code.

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