War of the Rebellion: Serial 125 Page 0821 UNION AUTHORITIES.

Search Civil War Official Records

proposed, with the permission of the Secretary of War, to organize a telegraph is or signal train to accompany the Army on the march, the wagons of this train to carry all articles need for temporary telegraphic uses in the field; that is, apparatus and supplies for the use of both electric and aerial telegraphs, rockets, and composition night signals, carefully prepared, packed, numbered, and arranged for instant use. Four flying field telegraphs were to be carried in the train, which was to be accompanied by and be in charge of suitable officers and men, to each of whom his duties should be assigned, and of whom a proper proportion should be selected electric telegraphists, fully instructed in the use of the telescope and aerial signals, and who, employed for the war, should be sworn to be faithful discharge of their duties.

In the report of the Signal Officer of the Army and chief signal officer Army of the Potomac, rendered to the commanding general of that army October 21, 1862, is found the following allusion to this subject:

It was from the beginning the intention to place in charge of this corps the flying or field electric telegraphs for use upon the field of battle, or in the immediate presence of the enemy. These were to be similar in their general construction to those telegraphic trains at a later day brought into use on the Peninsula.

The efforts to procure these trains were thwarted, to some extent, by the action of persons who seemed to greatly desire that all the duties of electric telegraphy should be in the hands of civilians, and in part, perhaps, by the hesitation of officers in authority to become responsible, by favoring it, for the success of what was then an experiment in our service. I did all I could to obtain authority and the means to properly fit such trains to accompany the army on the march. In the early days of the war I could not obtain the asked permission to organize a party, nor to draw on the Department for supplies. Later,her requests on this subject, they were either not answered or received non-committal replies. Estimates accompanying my annual report of November 10, 1861 (paper M), were no acted upon. With embarrassment of this nature the work could not the successfully carried on. It was only when the army was fairly in the field that the plans began to receive some favorable attention and some support.

One train was, however, partially completed, and the officers of the corps were familiarized with its use. This was the first movable telegraphic train of which there is record, as made for the United States.

The incomplete train referred to above was used by the Signal Corps with satisfactory results in the campaign upon the Peninsula in Virginia.

This induced general commanding to order the purchase of three trains of improved construction, each bearing two instruments and five miles of insulated wire. These trains were equipped with instruments invented by Mr. G. W. Beardslee, of New York. They work without batteries, and can be used by any one who can read and write after a day's practice. This obviated the difficulties experienced in using the electric telegraphs, which required skilled operators and were difficult of transportation. During the year ending June, 1863, the field trains became generally introduced, and were acknowledged as a part of the corps equipment.

The services of these trains have also been acknowledge by the generals benefitted, as will be seen by the accompanying papers (Appendix B). Special Orders, Numbers 499, War Department, Adjutant-General's Office, November 10, 1863, directed these trains to be turned over to the U. S. Military Telegraph Company, which was promptly done; but when the emergency has seemed to demand it, some of the department commanders have directed them to be returned to the corps for temporary use.