War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 0153 Chapter XXXIII. BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

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steeple, to keep open the communication so successfully maintained on the day previous.

On December 15, the fire of the enemy, which had been for the two days preceding directed at the court-house steeple, became more accurate, striking it several times, and rendering that position wholly untenable as a signal station. It was abandoned at night, when no more important communications were likely to be sent, and the officers instructed to locate themselves in another steeple close at hand, and from which their movements would be less exposed to the sight and consequent fire of the enemy. No new stations were this day established, but those which were in communication on the previous day were retained in good working order. During the night our force were withdrawn to this side of the river, the signal officers who were on the other side returning with the rear with the rear of the troops.

On the morning of the 16th, all the stations were withdrawn, with the exception of that at the Phillips house (which was continued as before the commencement of the above operations) and the station on the Corn Bluff, both acting as stations of observation and report. Lieutenant Hebrew and Barrett were posted at the Lacy house, to observe and report the movements of the enemy in town.


It is claimed for the signal corps of the Army of the Potomac that it was the first to introduce on this continent, as a medium of communication upon the field of battle, the magnetic telegraph.

At 3 a.m. of the 11th instant, communication was successfully opened by it from the Phillips house, which station was under charge of Captain Frederick E. Beardslee, to a point on the extreme left of our line, where Lieutenant A. M. Wright had established his station. When General Franklin's advance reached this point, the position of the instrument was reported to him, and the line was used by him during the succeeding days. As the forces crossed the river, the wire was extended and the station worked, with but few interruptions, until the recrossing, when the wire was rolled up and the station re-established in its former position, near this end of the bridge.

On December 12, the wire was extended to the Lacy house, occupied by General Sumner as his headquarters, and remained in good working order, under charge of Lieutenant D. Wonderly, with but few breakages, until the 16th instant, when this line was taken up. From the Lacy House the wire had been extended across the bridge near that place, and into the town, ready at any moment for use; but as it was the wish of General Sumner, made known to me by Colonel Taylor, his assistant adjutant-general, that the station should not be removed from the Lacy house, and as there were not instruments enough at my disposal to establish an independent line, the wire was unused. It is lines were instructed as to the construction of the line and the working of the instruments during the movements. With what would, under ordinary circumstances, have been but sufficient to work three stations, lines were operated from Belle Plain to general headquarters; from general headquarters to the Phillips house, and from the Phillips house to General Franklin's headquarters, and to the Lacy house. The stations at General Franklin's headquarters and the Lacy house were exposed at times to an artillery fire.

Such were the duties performed by the corps during the operations