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Posted By: Tom Ryan on: 09/15/2005 14:08:21 EDT|
Subject: Clothesline signal
This is a little off-beat, but thought it worth a mention. Recently came across a message in the National |
Archives from John Babcock, the civilian analyst for the Bureau of Military Information (AoP intelligence) to Gen. Butterfield, AoP chief of staff, that mentions a spy (possibly a Negro woman) in Fredericksburg using articles on a clothesline to signal across the Rappahannock River to the Union army in Falmouth. The signals included: one piece = the Rebels are moving, two pieces = they are in force, three = they are being reinforced, and none = they have gone away.
I checked Ed Fishel's "The Secret War for the Union" and he inlcudes this message in his book (p.314), but does not mention a sketch in the message that shows the clothesline with one piece on it. The piece is oblong shaped and, given the proportions, is long enough to almost touch the ground. Suggesting the possibility of a quilt. So, this may be a Negro woman spy (a slave?) using a quilt to signal. It conjures up thoughts about the stories published from time to time about slaves using quilts as signals related to the underground railroad.