At the outbreak of the war, there were approximately fifty-two separate telegraph companies in existence. The largest being WU and American Telegraph. The president ordered that all of them be combined into an organization called the United States Military Telegraph. Chosen to head it was Anson Stager, Chief Supt. of Western Union and Thomas Thompson Eckert, Supt. of the AT company. Several others were given the rank of Capt. of Major, however, all of the operators were civilians and not considered part of the military. They were under the control of the U.S. Govt at the time using the existing telegraph lines and circuits established plus those that were run up to the front(s) for military use. I believe I read that military traffic obviously had priority over civilian traffic and that most military traffic was passed early in the morning or upon receipt of priority traffic. So the answer is , they were employees of the USMT using established facilities of the 52 existing companies plus any expansions of the system due to military necessity. |
Many circuits were terminated in the War Dept. in a room next to the office of Sec. of War, William M. Stanton "Old Mars" who kept tight control of this communications system and knew daily what was happening up front with Willie and Joe. I hope this answers your question.
73 de Ray