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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 11/15/2015 20:51:19 EDT
Subject: Telegraph From Poolesville to DC to Points Beyond

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I never knew the small rise was ever referred to as Guilford Heights at the time. Even today, most of the locals refer to it as Little Pony Mountain.

To reach the line of telegraph poles erected along the unfinished right-of-way (no railroad had been laid to Guilford yet) back into Alexandria in the late spring and into June of 1863, one would have traipsed down the hill, cross over the Vestal pike and out to the telegraph office, which may have only been a tent, lean-to or a shack from what Reston neighborhood historian, the late Steve Meserve (d. 2014)and the folks at nearby Claude Moore Park came up with from what they said were extant diaries some time back.

To the best of their research, the wire they said had been not run up the hill from the point along the unfinished right-of-way designated as Guilford.

No wire between MH and Poolesville excepting the line running up into Frederick in sight of Sugar Loaf Mtn. (SL). On good days there was a direct line of sight for flag comms from HF to SL. The station platform floor at SL was just above the treeline on the western-most hump.

In less-than ideal weather (haze and certain locations of the sun) an intermediate station was used on a high point near the town of Barnesville from SL to reach Poolesville.

As stated above SL could also communicate out to the north toward a station in Frederick where a wire telegraph line connected with the main stem of the B&O's main stem (today called the Old Main Line). With but a pony line paid out, MH could send electric wire msgs down into HF thence to DC over the B&O's pole system. The line would travel over the Manor to the Monocacy river then following Bush creek up to the west side of Parr's Ridge (which is east of Frederick) thence east of Mount Airy at the summit, back down the ridge along the Patapsco river to the Relay House thence south again into Washington City... stall traveling on the pole wires of the B&ORR.

Back to flags --- SL is in perfect view of Maryland Heights during good weather conditions. Otherwise, flag comms would be sent from MH, either to Point of Rocks (Upper Rocks that is) and then on to the heights behind Berlin (current-day Brunswick), thence to South Mtn's southern tip, known as MH's. The better the weather conditions the sooner the message got though.

Four Beardslee electro-magneto telegraphs were pressed into service as early as Geo. McClellan's Spring 1862 campaign with insulated wire. The signal corps may have had a Beardslee set up which connected it to HF. Then again, this may have been an USMT line but I haven't researched that. I have seen a rough map showing the dotted line from MH down into HF.

I don't remember if all personnel at the High Germany signal station, a.k.a. Fairview, were taken prisoner on that foggy day, but I suspect a few actually slipped away to flop another day.

As to your question: "Could these msgs have traveled via a combination of wire, signal flag, and courier?" the answer is a definite 'yes'.

You may wish to look into the papers of William Prescott Smith. B&ORR Master of Transportation Smith provided us with a battery of saved telegraphic despatches which is included via the work "The B&O in the Civil War"? The books doesn't include everything Smith drew on though. Many wires have never been published but are in the WP Smith collection at Evergreen House in Baltimore.

It is my contention that messages were coming in both by wire and flag. There was a flag station atop the Fairfax C/H/ to Vienna and Peach Grove (see Brown map: pg 652).

Don't forget that the Potomac line of signals into DC was in operation. Never putting your eggs in one basket was the order of the day back then too.

Also your line stating that: "Brown (p.358) states that wire was run from D.C. to Fairfax (Hooker's HQ), and from there to Reynold's HQ at "Guilford station." This sounds like a RR station along the line between Leesburg and points east." Steve Meserve and the folks at Claude Moore have indicated that, at this time, the telegraph extended no further than Guilford.

Also see text in Brown, pgs 649-650.

Hope this helps. Sorry I couldn't be more exact on some points as I am without my research files on this; they having been relocated some time ago from Marley to Nabb's creek.


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