No. 9. Report of Captain Ocran H. Howard, Signal Corps, U. S. Army, Chief Signal Officer, of operations October 14-November 1, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the signal detachment under my command since the 14th of October, 1864:
On the 14th, in compliance with orders from Major-General Sheridan of that date, I assumed command of the signal detachment serving with the army in the field, and took immediate measures to acquaint myself with the position and condition of officers, men, and public property pertaining to it. I found the records of the detachments incomplete and very imperfect; little or no data could be found from which I could gather such information as was necessary, touching the past conduct and efficiency of officers or men. I could barely ascertain the names and number of the men properly belonging to the command. Some of the men whose names appeared upon the rolls could neither be found nor accounted for. An inordinately large number of men are reported sick in hospital. They have been so reported for so long a time that a doubt exists in my mind as to its correctness. On the part of officers and men there seemed to be but limited ideas of any accountability to any one for their own conduct, or the manner in which they discharged or failed to discharge their duties, or of responsibility for the public property placed in their charge. The men I found very poorly clothed, and badly supplied with camp equipage and apparatus for cooking their rations. Transportation was entirely insufficient for the wants of the command. I at once appointed a quartermaster, directed him to make requisition for such property as was needed, and dispatched him to Martinsburg and Cumberland to obtain it. He was partly successful, and the wants of the command are to a certain extent supplied. The men have been neither mustered nor paid for nearly a year. I am now mustering the detachment for payment. The facts above mentioned militate in a great degree against the efficiency of the detachment, and it will take much time and labor to make it what it should be.
During the past half mouth I have issued such orders as I deemed requisite for the proper conduct and government of the detachment. The stations in operation upon my assuming command were, one in the Nineteenth Corps front, commanding a view of the country between our lines and those of the enemy, and one at headquarters, in communication with it. From the former station the enemy's signals on Round Top south of Fisher's Hill could be read. Lieutenants Fortney and Jones, in charge, took down their numbers, and Lieutenant Halsted, by means of the rebel signal code, deciphered by Lieutenant Cross and himself some time before, translated the enemy's messages, some of which were of the greatest importance touching movements of his troops. These stations were in operation until the morning of the 19th, when the army was driven from its position by the rebels. On the morning of the 19th the officers and men of the detachment, having been compelled to fall back by the enemy, were collected together at a point two miles north of Middletown, where it was halted in readiness for duty. During the day, accompanied by Lieutenants Cross and Ireland, I visited several points along the front, with a view to rendering such service as practicable, but owing to the rapidity of the movements of the army, no duty was performed except by Lieutenant Mayell, with the Third Division