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Posted By: Ray Wemple on: 07/19/2006 21:19:53 EDT
Subject: RE: Telegraph Questions

Message Detail:
Hi Margaret,
You probably know many of the answers to your questions already, however, I will respond to some of them using information that I have acquired during recent research on the USMT.

My first suggestion is that you may wish to read:
"Telegraphing in Battle" by John Emmet O'Brien,
"The Military Telegraph During the Civil War in the United States" by William Rattle Plum, and "Lincoln in the Telegraph Room" by Homer Bates.

Comment: (Source is "Connected Earth , The telegraphic age dawns")-By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, many inventors had built simple electric telegraphs-but no one had managed to construct a working commercial system". In 1832, having been told about electromagnetics, the American inventor Samuel F.B. Morse had spent three years trying to develop a telegraph based on electromagnetism. In 1835 Morse built his first device, an electromagnetic pendulum carrying a pencil in constant contact with a moving strip of paper. His partner, Alfred Vail, the son of a wealthy industrialist , had a more practical(and cheaper)suggestion - a lever at the transmitting end, operating an armature at the other. Vail, according to the article is the true inventor of the Morse Code as we know it today. He devised a code using dots and dashes as letters which was a predecessor to Morse's code.

On May 24, 1844 Samuel Morse sent the messaage "What Hath GOD Wrought? at about 8.45 A:M from the old Supreme Court Room which is now the Law Library in the Capitol(Washington, DC). Msg sent to Baltimore some 40 miles distant.

Regarding your questiong concerning women operators, there is another article "Women Telegraphers in the Civil War" which can be found at (Written by Thos. J. Jepsen in 1992). He mentions a woman operator in Arkansas that is also written about by Plum in his book. Her name was Louisa T. Volker and you can read about her on Page 345 of W.R.Plum's " The MT during the Civl War in the U.S." The articles that I have looked at concerning female operators during the CW were all posted at stations along the lines and were not operating in the field. That is not to say there were none in the field as I dont know that, but I would say it was highly unlikely. When I say "In the Field" , I mean "Up Front with Willie & Joe". Epsen's article estimated that there were between fifty and one hundred female operators working in the system during the CW. There were no uniforms for USMT telegraphers as they were all CIVILIANS, with the exception of Anson Stager, Thomas T. Eckert and a cadre of about 15 or so others who were given military rank. Stager was a Colonel and in charge of the USMT under the QM Corps and more directly under the iron fist of Edwin M. Stanton, Sec. of War. Eckert was a Major and essentially in charge of the DC Office in the War Dept. but did venture into field in the peninsula campaign. One of the woman operator stayed on the job I think with the Pennsy RR and retired from the RR on that job. She passed away in 1922.

The telegraph was used during battles as you asked and every effort was made by the USMT to keep up with the advancing army so there was communications from the field to Hqrs and many times back to DC through circuits to Ft. Monroe including submarine circuits in some areas. The telegraph system was transported from place to place as you ask by telegraph wagon train with operators, lineman, battery wagons, etc.

At Fredericksburg, telegraph operators were up in balloons (T.S.C.Lowe's Balloon Corps) and telegraphing observations to the ground and providing commanders with up to date information on battles and troop movements, etc.

A question you did not ask was if any USMT operators were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The answer is that unfortunately, there were. Some were prisoners in Andersonville and survived. After the war, they were cashiered and if disabled in some way, it was their tough luck. There were no pensions for the operators as there were not in the military. Andrew Carnegie, who had worked for the Penn. RR and was one of the initial USMT operators in Wash., DC became wealthy by investment. When he attended reunions of USMT operators each year, if he found out about an operator who was disabled and fallen on hard times, he would create a little fund for them so they had a small monthly stipend coming in.

I haven't answered all of your questions, but hope my comments have given you more insight on the matter. Again, my answers are based on my reseach and reading of the aforementioned books and articles.

Ray Wemple

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