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Posted By: Mark Hageman on: 08/21/2013 13:51:06 EDT
Subject: RE: Q & A Thread to Ponder

Message Detail:
Hi Bob,

Let me see if I can explain in simple terms, as from your last post it seems you may be confusing certain terminology.

Signals method or elements vs. signal code vs. encryption or cipher

All three are distinctly different in nature and shouldn’t be confused.

First- Signal Method or elements before and during the Civil War, where of 1, 2, 3 or 4 elements.

Elements are motions which comprise a message which can be interpreted by a code that each party agree upon.

SIGNALS OF ONE ELEMENT:
Basically, the presence or non-presence of a signal to indicate a message.
Example 1: The Bright Star of David that appeared to signal the presence of Christ.
Example 2: Paul Revere’s “Oneth by Land Twoeth by sea” lights to indicate the British position.
Example 3: Cannon Fire to indicate the beginning of a battle reenactment.

SIGNALS OF TWO ELEMENTS:

Basically, Two Motions or combination of these two motions (signals) to indicate a message.
This is similar to “computer speak” a combination of 0 & 1’s or, + & -‘s.

In our terms it’s the dot and dash or the telegraph or 1 & 2’s of flag
(lower to left and back up = 1, and lower to right and back up = 2)

Note: in this case each distinct signal is separated by a “pause”, each word a dip to the front, each sentence two fronts, and end of message three fronts (Fronts also known a 3’s in this case)

Also incorporated are certain one-element flag motions to indicate Address and Signature along with error, and getting and confirming attention of a party.

THIS IS THE SIMPLEST OF THE CODE USED DURING THE WAR AS DEVELOPED BY MYER AND IS THE STANDARD METHOD USED DURING BATTLE REENACTMENTS FOR THAT REASON.

The actual “Code(s)” used are: the 1) Alphabetical Code adopted from Myer’s original code 2) A Pre-Concerted Code of which SCARD and reenactors have universally adopted for coordinating battles 3) a Stutter Code for specific orders or messages which change upon mutual agreement between parties agreement for a specific time or battle 4) Medical Emergency Code created to provide Medical information at a reenactment by signal when needed.

YOU SHOULD NEVER TAKE THE FIELD OR OFFER ANY FUNCTIONAL SIGNAL ASSISTANCE AT A REENACTMENT UNLESS YOU ARE TOTALLY CAPIBLE OF UNDERSTANDING FULLY HOW AND WHEN THESE SIGNALS SHOULD BE EMPLOYED. ONE MISTAKE OR ONE SIGNAL THAT DOES NOT GO THROUGH, IS MISINTERPRETED, OR NOT EMPLOYED PROPERLY WILL LEAVE A BAD TASTE IN THE COMANDERS MOUTHS FOR ALL FUTURE SIGNALIST OFFERING FUNCTIONAL SIGNALS ON THE FIELD.

What we do is real- we are not playing shootem-up, and cannot be functional without being informed and supported by the commanders and their staff. Mistakes create apprehension of utilization of what we strive for.
GET A FEW YEARS OF EXPERIENCE WITH FUNCTIONAL AND EXPERIENCED UNITS BEFORE GOING ON YOUR OWN- And by all means- Don’t try and take the field along.

SIGNALS OF THREE ELEMENTS

Not often used now or during the Civil War incorporates an alphabetical code utilizing the front or “3” as an element, as well as a “break” in a message, separated by a “pause”.

The pro to this, is in the actual alphabetical code employed in a “grid” system, allowing the signalist without a code sheet to construct a code himself, laid out in a grid, and transmit or receive a message.

(ie. 111=A, 112=B, 113=C, 121=D, Etc.)

SIGNALS OF FOUR ELEMENTS

This was in use during the later part of the war, and was preferred by signalist primarily because it reduced the number of motions required to send the same message. The con is that it is more complicated, harder to learn, and harder to read, especially for us who are not drilling and signaling on a daily basis.

Here is the beauty of it: with signals of two elements 1= lower the flag to the left then raise back up.

Essentially this is two flag movements (lower and raise).
So, with the four element code- lowering to the left is a “1” raising back up is a “3”. Hence, lowering to the right is a “2” and raising back up a “4”. With this method the Front was called a “5” and was still used for end of word, sentence and message as in the two element code.

You may even see “5” used in place of the “3” when reading accounts even if the two element code was employed, and this is why.

The actual codes employed using a four element code is based upon the Myer four element alphabetical code and transcribed over for preconcerted, stutter, and medical emergency.

(ie two element code for “BOB” would be “1221- 12 -1221” - indicating pause)

( Four element for “BOB” would be “1423-14-1423)

The four element method is rarely if ever used for functional battle reenactment purposes- but for the Living historian or demonstration purposes for those in the 401 coarse category who have mastered the two element code, it’s another level and both interesting and fun.
Lastly- and an important piece of information to remember is signaling in Cipher or sending a message encrypted.
THIS IS NOT A CODE – But a way to hide the message from intercept and understanding.

It is important to understand that the cipher or encryption to be of use must be simple and stay encrypted (unbroken)by an intercept for an amount of time needed for the importance of the message being transmitted. (ie your bank account number being transmitted over the internet better have a high encryption value, while an order number may only need to stay encrypted for a short period of time- its relevance to the sender and value to the interceptor) see Signal in cipher:
“www.civilwarsignals.org/pages/crypto/cipherdisk.html”

During battle reenactments we want the message to go through fast, and messages are only of importance for a short period of time. No encryption is employed for this reason. But for the living historian it make a great discussion on how the messages were kept out of enemy hands.

MY ADVICE FOR THE NEWBIE:

Stick with signals of two element (Most commonly used anyways)

Drill, then drill some more…

Find experienced signalists to work with
(you are always welcome to fall in with our group for drill if you ever attend a reenactment we are at)

Work on the technical aspects and techniques required for accurately sending and receiving messages.
(both short and long distances)

Learn the use of all for codes employed: (alphabetical, pre-concerted, stutter, and medical)

Know when and how to convert between the codes when required to “hack” the code to its lowest common denominator and not loose the intent or meaning of the message, making it as clear as possible to its meaning

(An ART within itself, and essential for functionality)
Also learn to send and receive utilizing all the various signal apparatus

(ie. Flags – 2, 4 & 6, Hand or Homographic signals, practice wands, torches, lanterns, or other makeshift devices)

Once this is mastered- the other levels of elements and encryption can be explored with much better understanding and employment.

My response is a bit longer than I intended…lol, But hope it helps you……

Suggested reading:
“www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/oneelement.html”
“www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/twoelement.html”
“www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/threeelement.html”
“www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/fourelement.html”

Mark Hageman

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