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Posted By: Tom Ryan on: 05/26/2010 21:13:02 EDT
Subject: RE: Mission accomplished

Message Detail:
Dave, just back today from grandchildren graduation and birthday celebrations in Georgia and North Carolina. To respond to your last question first, this exercise in learning more about the Signal Corps was directly related to my book on intel ops during the Gettysburg Campaign. I felt a need to understand better the organization and operations of both the Union and Confederate SC in order to interpret their role in the Gettysburg Campaign with a certain amount of specificity. No better way to do this than to volunteer to give a talk on the subject for our CWRT. Otherwise, I have written a substantial portion of all 17 chapters outlined for the book, but plan to do more research concerning the cavalry especially, and how they engaged in the intelligence and counterintelligence process, This will require a survey of as many cavalry regimentals as I can get hold of (many of which are already in hand awaiting analysis and incorporation into the chapters.) The SC talk required a substantial part of six months to prepare, with the greater weight of that time coming in the latter two months. Regarding the talk itself, a few people mentioned to me beforehand their considerable anticipation of this presentation. During the talk, I sensed that the room was particularly attentive. Fortunately, I had prepared approprate and apparently entertaining PowerPoint slides that the audience evidently absorbed with interest. Early on in the preparation, I surveyed some of the CWRT board members for areas of interst, and received a number of responses, such as: I would like to know how they determined where to set up operations. Especially, if they had to contend with smoke from the battle or terrain already occupied. Who was responsible for moving them from their position? Cavalry? Infantry? Artillery? Sharpshooters? What kind of training did they have to complete? What was the life expectancy of an active signal man? Did they travel with the army or scout ahead? Others included: I would suggest if there is information available showing blunders or the wrong signals/messeges sent during a battle that may have caused more losses or swayed the outcome of a battle. Perhaps as well anything related to Delaware. A member from West Virginia asked "perhaps some of their activities on Masanutten Mountain?" I addrerssed most if not all of these with the exception of the one about blunders or wrong messages sent that swayed the outcome. Questions from the floor included "Since both sides used the same system, couldn't they read each others messages? My answer was that they changed the code, but still the other side could break the different codes by using frequency counts, etc. -- and that is why they had to employ ciphers. One person was interested in why they used different colors and sizes of flags. I explained about the different types of backgrounds and distances. Believe there was a question about the Secret Line, but I do not recall what it was. There was a question about whether the CW armies had "telegraph" capability similar to what the Europeans used during the Napoleonic era, to which I responded no but talked about the field and USMT-type telegraph capability. I believe there was a comment or question about SC support to the blockade runners, but do not remember exactly what it was. There was a question about whether they reused the wire strung out in the field, and I explained that they reeled up the wire for later use if it was not damaged too badly. Regarding my explanation about the Union comms from Maryland Heights to Hooker's HQ at Fairfax early in the Gettysburg Campaign that helped cause the separation of Stuart's cavalry from Lee's army, someone wanted to know how long it took for the message to pass along the line of flag and telegraph stations. I guessed it would have taken two to three hours -- but if it had gone by courier it would have been closer to two days or much too late to be of any use. There was some discussion about Early's ruse message to himself in the Shenandoah Valley that at least temp. fooled Sheridan that Longstreet was on his way to reinforce Early. Believe there were a few other questions which I do not recall. Afterwards a number of people wanted to chat about the SC and some of the subjects covered. I agree with your comments about the absence of knowledge on the part of historians concerning comms/intel issues. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be the interest and motivation necessary for an improvement along these lines on the part of CW experts or buffs. Nonetheless, believe it important to get everything possible about comms and intel on the record at least for consideration. Hope some of this is useful for you. Regards, Tom


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