4. Report of Captain Lemuel B. Norton, U. S. Army, Chief Signal Officer, Department of Virginia and North Carolina, including operations April 19-June 14.
HDQRS. DEPT. VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA,
OFFICER OF THE CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER,
September 2, 1864.
MAJOR:I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the signal detachment in this department from the 19th of April to the 31st of August, 1864, including the late active campaign on the James River:
On the 19th of April, in obedience to Special Orders, 143 paragraph 51, War Department, Adjutant-General's Office, current series, I assumed command of this detachment as chief signal officer of the department. Upon reporting to the chief of staff I was informed that active operations would soon be commenced, and directed at to once prepare my corps for important service. On reviewing the work then being performed by the detachment I discovered that eight signal stations were in operation in the District of North Carolina and six in the District Virginia. Those of the former gave to general commanding our forces at New Berne communication with all parts of his picket-line and with three forts defending the town. Whenever the enemy threatened or attacked our lines in the vicinity of New Berne the signal communication established was found to be of the utmost importance, enabling the commanding officer to speedily concentrate his force at the point of attack, and thus rendering the line defensible by a less number of men than it would otherwise have required. Four of the stations in the District of Virginia constituted a line of signals which connected the left and center of our entrenchments worth and west of Portsmouth with the headquarters of Brigadier- General Heckman, who commanded that position. In case of an assault the signal communication thus obtained should have materially assisted in the defense. There was also a station at Yorktown and one at Gloucester Point communicating with each other, and by means of which during an attack upon either place the fire of the batteries located at other could have been directed against the enemy. The same two stations were extensively employed each day in the transmission of official dispatches, particularly after the concentration of the Eighteenth Army Corps at Yorktown and the Tenth at Gloucester Point. In order that the detachment might be rendered in the highest degree serviceable during the anticipated active campaign, more officers, signal stores, horses, and equipments, transportation, clothing, camp and garrison equipage, and quartermaster's stores were needed and at once. Six officers (second lieutenants) were procured from regiments by the assistance of Circular Orders, of April 21, 1864, headquarters Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and placed under instruction in signal duty. Two signal officers, who had been on detached service, were directed to report to me (one by the commanding general and the other by the War Department), and 9 signal officers, who had arrived within the limits of this department with the Tenth Army Corps, were placed under my command. The signal supplies were promptly forwarded from the Bureau of Signal Corps at