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Posted By: t on: 04/21/2010 14:52:52 EDT
Subject: RE: Breaking the SC code

Message Detail:
Dave, the most significant SC-related event that I am aware of is what took place in Northern Virginia during Lee's invasion of the North in June 1863. At the time, Lee gave Jeb Stuart permission to pass though the Union army that was sitting stationary in an arc protecting Washington. Lee also ordered Hill and Longstreet' corps to cross the Potomac and move into Maryland and Pennsylvania. However, the Union army occupied Maryland Heights across the river from Harper's Ferry, and a Signal Corps station atop MH spotted Hill and Longstreet's crossing, and reported this activity by a combination of flag and wire to Hooker's HQ in Fairfax some 50 miles away. The route of these comms was MH to Point of Rocks to Sugar Loaf Mountain to Guilford Station near Leesburg by flag, and from there to Fairfax by field wire. At the same time, BMI agent John Babcock, operating in the vicinity of Frederick and South Mountain with a SC team learned that Hill and Longstreet were crossing the river, and he telegraphed this info to Hooker.
The timing could not have been better, because Hooker ordered his army to move northward across th Potomac to track Lee's movements. In so doing, the previous stationary Union army posed a hazard to Jeb Stuart's safe passage through their positions. As a result, Stuart decided to move south and east around the Union army, which delayed his brigades' arrival in Gettysburg until after the battle was well underway.
Some historians have written that this separation of Stuart and the cavalry from Lee was a key, if not the key, factor in the ANV defeat at Gettysburg.
While most historians tend to focus on what the Rebels did wrong that caused this separation, my contenton is that the primary reason for the failure of Stuart to pass through the Union army successfully was the timely intelligence gathered by SC and BMI personnel, and the even more timely transmission of this info to Hooker. If that information had been delayed for any reason for a few hours, Stuart likely would have had sufficient time to make his passage without hindrance. If the messages had to travel by courier, they would not have reached Fairfax in time given the distance involved. Only with the availabiltiy of flag supplemented by wire comms could that intel have reached Hooker in time for him to decide to start his army northward -- which was the action that blocked Stuart.
IMO we should chalk one up for the Signal Corps and the intel guys. Regards, Tom
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