Civil War Era

Telegraph Images



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Photo subtitled: "Title Cutting telegraph wire and connecting the ends, so that the point at which the connection is broken cannot be seen from the ground."

More than likely a "posed" photo.  Man appears to be a line-repairmen.  Note the different design of insulators.  Also note the top line is not perpendicular to the bottom three.  The line appears to cross at an angle to the other lines.

National Archives  NWDNS-77-F-194(6)(62), ca.1862-ca.1863
Photographer, Russell, Capt. Andrew J.
Photo subtitled:  "US Military Telegraph Operators, Headquarters, Army of the Potomac"

This photo is probably typical of a field telegraph setup.  The tent appears to be a large 'A' frame tent with a large fly in front.  Note how the fly is erected.  It's not erected as you see at reenactments.  It's set up to function as a shelter and not just a fly to keep the sun off.  Additionally, if you look very carefully under the fly in the rear near the tent, you can see a small table with a telegraph relay.  Also, note the telegraph "poles" in the middle and right of the photo.  You can make out the wire as well.  These aren't poles in the sense of what we think of poles today.  These are small trees with the limbs stripped off...note, there's no visible insulator.  A pole of this size probably had the wire fastened to the side of the pole.  Also, note the pole on the far right.  It's in the ground right next to the wagon...this is a battery wagon.  Also, a historical note here.  William Plum mentions that black men served with the USMT.  In the left hand side of this photo sits a black man.  Jobs in the USMT were paying jobs.  They were some of the more well paid men of the time.  This would have been a prime job for a black man in the 1860's.  Notice how well he's dressed.

National Archives NWDNS-111-B-7208, July 1863.
Photographer, Mathew Brady Studio
Photo subtitled:  "US Military Telegraph Station at Wilcox's Landing"

This is a good photo showing a field setup.  Appears to be less "cozy" than most photos of the USMT.  Items of note are the clearly visible relay on top of the box and the reel of wire on the wagon in the right side of the photo.  Supposedly, this photo was taken in the vicinity of Charles City Court House, Va. according to the records at the Library of Congress.  This is part of Grant's Wilderness Campaign.

National Archives NWDNS-111-B-7207, May-June 1864
Photographer, Mathew Brady Studio

Close-up of pole
and wire

This is an interesting photograph and one we are having reproduced for presentation purposes.  Remember the time frame this picture was taken.  This would have been during the time the USMT had already taken over the field telegraph.  This would explain why MOST of the photos of their field operations (what little does exist) were taken after 1863.  What interest to the photographer is a civilian telegrapher sitting in a telegraph office?  None.  The photographers were in the field, that's where the action was and that's where the interest was for their photographs.  That's why we don't see earlier photos of them.  Something to note in this photograph is the pole.  This is something you need to look at very carefully.  This pole is similar to the second photo [above] in this list.  This is probably a temporary pole or it could be a lance similar to what was used by the Signal Corps with the Beardslee.  Common sense tells you they didn't have time to manufacture poles.  Why would you in the field?  Cut down a small straight tree and fasten your wire.  Was there a notch in this pole as described by J. Willard Brown and William Plum?  Maybe.  If the pole is a lance, there could have been a notch.  But, again, common sense must prevail.  A notch cut into wood of any kind would subject the pole to stress which would eventually break the pole.  A notch makes it faster and easier to put up, but was it practical?  Or, did they just try to fasten the wire to the pole in the manner which was the standard operation of the day?

We got an archive quality photo from the Library of Congress.  They also enhanced the top of the pole for us.  The second photo is a close-up cropping of the photograph we received.  You can clearly see the telegraph wire running in the two different directions.  The wire in the physical photograph is clearer and you can see that the wire was running over the heads of the photographers when they took this photograph.  The enhancement did not allow us to determine if there is a notch made in the pole.  However, the close-up does indicate something.  Because we cannot see the backside of that pole, the notch will remain a mystery.  The wire in the close-up appears to run behind (around) the pole.  There clearly is no insulator.  Because of the position of the wire (it does not appear to run into the pole but around the back side of it) it appears as though the wire was attached in some other manner than a notch.

Library of Congress LC-B811-0409 <P&P>,  May-June 1864
Photographer, Timothy H. O'Sullivan
This photo is undoubtedly taken after the photo above.  Look at the photograph in relation to the pole on the ground.  Proportionally it is similar in the above photograph in relation to the location of the court house building.  It appears that the pole laying on the ground is the same pole which is erect in the photo above.
National Archives NWDNS-165-SB-68, June 1864
Photographer, Timothy H. O'Sullivan
1904 Signal Corps Unit Medal This photograph of a Unit Medal was found on Ebay in March of 2004.  One item to note that is exciting is the use of DOT code.  Remember, the new DOT code in 1864 was reversed based on the new standard that Myer implemented in the western theatre.  Even though Myer was not CSO, his version of the DOT code or two element code was adopted.  Here, we find evidence that even as late as 1904, this two element code was still used.  Note, caption "Duty 100%".  Dot at the bottom 22122 which designates READY.  The number 2 at the bottom is a unit designation, most likely represents "2nd Regiment". 

Information provided by Dave Bock, "This award was most likely a local or state award for participation in drills 100% of the time. What we [regular army] called a breathing award--in this case, a heavy breather. In the Militia (not National Guard until the Dick Act created it in 1913--which, by the way, also consolidated the signal codes and dropped the used of the dot code on telegraph lines) getting folks to attend drill was always an issue. Hence the 100% duty awards. So, this is, again, most likely 2nd Regiment of something in some unknown state militia. ... Not very likely it is US 2nd. They had no need of such awards."