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Signal Corps at Shiloh?

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In my studies of Gettysburg, I know the Signal Corps played a part on Little Round Top for the Union Army. In fact, there is a plaque there commemorating their participation.

Did the Signal Corps play a role at Shiloh? If so, were they ever recognized with a plaque or monument?

Belle

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There has never been any mention of a signal corps unit from either army being at Shiloh. Observation was by men on horseback.

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Ron.....

I've never seen it mentioned either. If I'm not mistaken, though, I think the signaling form of communications had its beginnings in the late 1850s. Perhaps the "new technology" didn't catch on in time for Shiloh.

I suppose the area was too remote for even the telegraph to reach there.

Belle

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Belle;

E. Porter Alexander, the noted artillerist in Lee's army in Virginia entered confederate service as a signal officer at the start of the war. So, flag signals were known and available to be used. After all, they were used by the navies of the world for several centuries. The difficulty of land signals was obstrutions in the terrain that limited the field of vision, both to see and to relay the information of what you see. At sea, the navies did not have this problem except in stormy weather.

Signaling was known and used in Virginia by the eastern armies in 1861 at Bull Run, I believe, but the western confederates were again, far behind the Virginia army.

Ron

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Ron.....

You are quite right about Manassas and the signal stations. Having volunteered and given tours there for a number of years, I know of at least two signal station sites.

I wonder what the civil war signal men would think of our modern communicaitons technology.

Belle

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Apparently, there were some members of a signal corps at Shiloh but they did not perform the traditional signal corps duties. They are mentioned in an Southern Historical Society papers at the following link

http://www.civilwarhome.com/confedsignalcorps.htm

It appears from this article that the "signal corps" was basically refugees from Island Number 10 that managed to escape to Cornith after the Island and New Madrid fell. It does not appear that there was any organized signal corps on either side.

Assuming that there had been I doubt that they would have been effective. The battle was so fast and chaotic that most units did not know where their counterparts were most of the time. This fact along with wooded terrain would have made it impossible for them to operate

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Guest Joseph Rose

At least one of the three armies apparently had a signal corps:

HDQRS.SIGNAL CORPS, DISTRICT OF THE OHIO, April 24, 1862.* SAMUEL T. CUSHING, First Lieutenant, Acting Signal Officer: SIR: I have the honor to report the state of the Signal Corps for the week ending to-day. The officers accompanying the Fourth Division [General Nelson] have sent to these headquarters a report, from which I make the following abstract: "We arrived at the scene of battle [Pittsburg Landing] on Sunday, the 6th instant, while the fight was raging fiercely, with the day to all appearances against the Union forces. We were an hour in advance of our column, and General Nelson, wishing to communicate with General Buell, I immediately crossed the river with Lieutenant Hart and our flag-man, leaving Lieutenants Butler and Leonard at the first station. I established my station, and in a few minutes General Nelson and General Buell were communicating with each other. We kept our stations working from about 4 o'clock on Sunday evening until Monday morning, when we were ordered to report on the field for duty. We were soon on the field with General Nelson, but owing to the fight being entirely in the woods and the woods being very thick, it was impossible for us to operate to any advantage. We remained on the field during the entire engagement, until our forces were completely victorious and the rebel foe was routed."

Joseph

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Welcome to the board Joseph, and thanks for the post. It seems to confirm what most of us probably thought, that the terrain and woods around Shiloh simply did not lend themselves to visual signaling. It must have been pretty frustrating for those guys who were there for that purpose. Thanks again.

Perry

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A Signal Corps at Shiloh?

Upon a close reading of that April 24th report (submitted to Lieutenant Samuel Tobey Cushing, leading Signal Corps instructor, then attached to the District of the Ohio) it appears that flag signals were used during the Battle of Shiloh, Day One, in the following way: Major General Buell steamed to Pittsburg Landing from Savannah, arriving just before 2 p.m. on April 6th. Following a brief meeting aboard Tigress with U. S. Grant, the Commanding General disappeared up the bluff, riding west; and General Buell was left behind in vicinity of the steamboat Landing (not knowing how long it would take Bull Nelson to forge his way across the swamp, to reach the eastern bank of the Tennessee River.) On horseback with a force of cavalry and "other essential staff officers," General Nelson rushed ahead of his marching 4th Division, and gained the bank of the Tennessee River before 5 p.m. And using the first available steamer, sent a team of Signal Corps Officers across to Pittsburg Landing, to set up a Signal Station (allowing General Buell to communicate directly via Signal Flags with General Nelson... and any other commanders attached to Army of the Ohio who struggled through the swamp.)

What information could Buell have passed to Nelson? He had met General Grant. Grant told him Lew Wallace was expected on the battlefield "momentarily." Grant had sent Captain Hillyer with "a fleet" of steamboats to Savannah to bring up Crittenden's Division, by transport. Most importantly, Buell could have advised Bull Nelson that it was safe to bring his division across the river. (The first elements of Ammen's Brigade arrived at Pittsburg Landing in vicinity of 5:30 p.m.)

The Army of the Ohio signal stations were maintained until Monday morning (probably to be ready, in case any further elements belonging to Buell found their way through the swamp.) Once it was determined that all subsequent arrivals were coming by steamer, the Signal Station on the East Bank (manned by Lieutenants Butler and Leonard) was shut down. And the Station on the Bluff overlooking Pittsburg Landing (Lieutenants Merrill and Hart) was shut down, and the personnel assigned to other duties.

Of course, the loss of light following sunset would have put a halt to use of signal flags until dawn, next day. But "flag men" were also trained in use of "flashing lights." Would be interesting to find out if "burning torches" substituted for signal flags... or something else (similar to the nighttime lights used by Beauregard and Jordan when communicating with their spies at Washington, D.C. in 1861.)

As for "trees being a problem," trees were common everywhere. And Signal Towers were erected... or heights occupied... or balloons put to use "back East." In the West, Henry Halleck put all his faith in the Telegraph, and the mounted courier.

Short answer: "Yes. There was a Signal Corps, attached to the Army of the Ohio. And it found limited application at Shiloh."

Ozzy

 

References:  OR 11 pages 295-6.

 http://www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/cushing.html  The Acting Signal Corps (with bio of Samuel T. Cushing and J. B. Ludwick).

 

N.B.  Thanks to Manassas1 for introducing this topic. It helps explain "what Buell was doing" during those hours that Grant left him alone, Sunday afternoon.

[And although there is no monument, the Signal Corps Association recognizes the contribution of the "flag-men."]

 

 

 

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Tim

As you suggest, Northern intelligence collection and the use of secure communications was evolving at the time of Battle of Shiloh, the Union having experimented with Hungarian as a coded language, and the Jessie Scouts as an instrument of intell collection. By the time of the Vicksburg Siege, the North had caught up to the South in this arena: Grenville Dodge was in place as "intelligence coordinator" in the West; and the "black arts" (along with their gray cousins) continued to evolve and improve over the course of the Civil War.

Regards

Ozzy

 

References:  http://shilohdiscussiongroup.com/topic/1711-grenville-dodge-spy-master/?tab=comments#comment-11492  Grenville Dodge

http://www.civilwarsignals.org/pages/spy/pages/dodge.html   Grenville Dodge at Signal Corps Association

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY9afJ3moxg   Civil War Signals, produced by NSA, runs for eight minutes and provides an introduction to the importance of the telegraph, signal flags (and nighttime lights), signal codes and cipher wheels, used in various forms by both sides during the Civil War.

Setting up (2).jpg

"and if the trees are in the way..."

[Above image taken from The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion, J. W. Brown (1896).]

 

 

Edited by Ozzy
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Even though the Signal Corps played only a minor role at Shiloh, it must be asked: "How did Buell's Army of the Ohio acquire their signallers?"

The Civil War service of the U. S. Army Signal Corps may be said to have begun with General Orders No.32 of 15 June 1861; the ability to perform the roles required was further enhanced by General Orders No.21 of 26 February 1862 (which appropriated funds for training and equipment.) The Signal Corps originated "back East," and began work with the Army of the Potomac (with its own HQ at Georgetown, near Washington, D.C.) and Major Albert J. Myer -- who devised the flag system, including use of a turpentine torch for communicating at night -- acted as Senior Signal Officer of the organization.

In December 1861, Don Carlos Buell, already alert to the practical uses of the telegraph and mounted couriers, sent a communication to Major Myer, requesting a detail of signallers be sent to him. A few weeks after Fort Donelson, five officers and ten men (under command of Lieutenant Jesse Merrill) arrived at Union-occupied Nashville for employment by the Army of the Ohio.

Early on, it was envisioned that the Signal Corps would expand into an organization that controlled flag signals, light signals, coded messages, and the development of cryptographic keys. As well, there was talk of incorporating "artillery direction" (gunfire spotters)... and the balloon service. So, why did U. S. Grant not have a Signal Corps detachment assigned to the Army of the Tennessee? 

On March 10th 1862 it was decided to send two parties of trainers west: one went to General Benjamin Butler, Department of the Gulf, then at Ship Island Mississippi; the other party of three officers and six men went to Henry Halleck at St. Louis. This detachment, under Lieutenant J. B. Ludwick, was directed to set up a Signals School at Paducah; and orders went out to Halleck's District commanders to identify suitable candidates from across their commands for Signals Training. On April 6th, Lieutenant Ludwick and Signals-Sergeant James H. Kelly arrived aboard a steamer at Pittsburg Landing. [James Kelly later wrote a paper IRT  his experience at Battle of Shiloh, and it is on file with University of North Carolina, Special Collections.] At some point, shortly after arrival, General Grant was informed of Halleck's orders; and Grant responded as quickly as the situation allowed. On April 8th, Ludwick and Kelly departed aboard a steamer, in company with two dozen officers and men who would spend the next five weeks in training at Paducah.

Cheers

Ozzy

 

References:  http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05406/#d1e201  Papers of James H. Kelly at UNC Special Collections

http://archive.org/stream/signalcorpsusain00brow#page/818/mode/2up  The Signal Corps USA in the War of the Rebellion, J.W. Brown (1896).

http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH2000MyDuty.pdf  Private Thomas Keen, 1st Nebraska (one of the men selected for Signals)

OR 5 pages 69-76: Report of Signal Corps Major A. J. Myer, detailing operations from June 1861 to October 1862.

 

 

 

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The Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Shiloh - 6-7 April, 1862 has

The Army of the Ohio had better communications support than the Army of the Tennessee.  In January, 1862, it activated a signal detachment , something the Army of the Tennessee would not do until November. As the first of Buell's troops, Nelson's Division, arrived at Pittsburg Landing, they brought part of the signal detachment with them, and soon Nelson could communicate with Buell via signal flags.  While sending messages, Lieutenant HInson, the officer in charge of the detachment, noticed a mounted officer blocking the view.  Hinson told the officer, "Git out of the way there; ain't you got no sense!  Don't you see you're in the way?"  The mounted officer quietly apologized and moved out of the way.  The mounted officer was Grant.

Make of the anecdote what you will.

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Transylvania

Thanks for sharing that anecdote IRT the Signal Corps at Pittsburg Landing...

According to The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion, pages 460-1, Lieutenant Ludwick, Sergeant Kelly "and their party" arrived at Pittsburg Landing on April 6th, "and found General Grant was too much occupied to give them much attention. They made earnest efforts to open communication with General Buell, but without success. In the afternoon, General Nelson's [signal] officers came over and Lieutenant Ludwick offered them the assistance of his party." [Underline is mine -- Ozzy.]

We know Tigress arrived at Pittsburg Landing after 8:30 a.m. and General Buell arrived at Pittsburg Landing at, or just before 2 p.m. Without knowing how long it would take for General Nelson to complete his march through the swamp, or where along the East bank Nelson's 4th Division would strike the river, U. S. Grant may have attempted to use Ludwick's party of signallers to find out where to send transport to carry Nelson's men across. 

Based on Lieutenant Ludwick's recollection, his party, "was without success" ...and must have abandoned their efforts with the arrival of Buell. This is unfortunate, and illustrates the teething problems encountered by the Signal Corps in the West, this early in the war. 

General Nelson, meanwhile, led a party of mounted men ahead of his marching troops, and appears to have reached the East bank of the Tennessee River between 4 - 4:30 p.m. Using the first available steamer, the Signal Corps was sent across (recorded as Lieutenants Hinson and Hart, and flagmen Henry Baker, Joseph Rush, John Stains and George Zecher.) "And in a few minutes, General Nelson and General Buell were communicating with each other." [See info at bottom of page.]

In summary, both the Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Tennessee had access to a Signal Corps on April 6th ...but it was too early in the war for either army to make efficient use of their teams of signalmen.

Ozzy

http://archive.org/stream/signalcorpsusain00brow#page/460/mode/2up  The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion, JW Brown (1896) pages 460-1.

New information: In Jacob Ammen's Diary, entry for 6 April 1862 (found in OR 10 page 332, four lines from bottom of page) is the message sent from the Army of the Ohio Signal Corps at Pittsburg Landing (most likely communicating Major General Buell's directive) to General Bull Nelson (on the opposite bank of the Tennessee River); and relayed by mounted courier to Colonel Ammen, commanding 10th Brigade (about 1 1/2 miles from the river, struggling through the swamp): "Hurry up or all will be lost; the enemy is driving our men."

[The above brief message is possibly the first sent by Signal Flags during a battle in the Western Theatre. (The Signal Corps had been operating in the Eastern Theatre for some time).]

 

 

 

 

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On pages 465-6 of The Signal Corp in the War of the Rebellion, JW Brown (1896), is recorded the following: "While the army was encamped between Pittsburg Landing and Corinth, General George H. Thomas had occasion to visit the HQ of General William Tecumseh Sherman, near Monterey. A portion of the command occupied a prominent hill three or four miles in the advance. As it was desirable to maintain close communications with this exposed force, General Thomas inquired of General Sherman, 'Where is your Signal Corps? Why do you not have it working from here to the troops before Monterey?'

'A Signal Corps?' asked Sherman. 'What is that?'

'Well,' said General Thomas, 'I have one, and will send it to you to-morrow to work from here to there.'

True to his promise, General Thomas sent Lieutenants Taylor, Kelly, Bachtell and Hollopeter to establish the desired line. A clump of trees was found to interfere with the view. A detail of men soon cut through the woods and enabled the officers to open communications. The working of the system brought together a large body of officers and men to watch this novel method of [flag] telegraphing, the crowd ultimately becoming so large that a fence had to be constructed to prevent interference with the operators. This line continued in operation while the troops remained in vicinity."

However, in a 28 May 1862 letter of Private Thomas Keen (1st Nebraska Infantry, on detached duty at Paducah for Signal training), he writes: "We have our horses now, but no saddles. I do not know when we will leave [Paducah]."

Corinth was entered two days later (before the newly- trained signallers had opportunity to join the Army of the Tennessee.) And Henry Halleck disbanded the Signal Corps in the West in June, claiming "the nature of the terrain made use of that organization ineffective." The trained signallers from Paducah, upon arrival at Corinth, were ordered: "Return to your units."

What was really going on?

During the creation of the Signal Corps, it was determined that a "signal station" would consist of three members: an officer (to code and decode the messages); a flag-man (to send coded messages; and acknowledge receipt of messages from other stations); and an assistant (to help in sending messages; and identify/interpret signals sent from other stations.) Unfortunately, a team of three signallers usually came from three different regiments. And when their services were not immediately required, these men were physically with their regiments, performing whatever duties they were there assigned. The time required to gather up parties of signallers and send them where they were required was found to be excessive.

Then, there is the claim, "the nature of the terrain prevented effective use of the Signal Corps" (which many interpret as, "the trees were too thick.") Yet, towers, and "crow's nest" in tree tops had always been possible (and considering the slow nature of Halleck's advance, plenty of time was available for constructing towers.)

Unknown to many, Henry Halleck extended a telegraph line with him during the Crawl to Corinth. Most often, U. S. Grant's headquarters were close by the southern end of that line (see Papers of US Grant vol.5, pages 110-1, 117 and 125. As early as 6 May 1862, General Grant sent a telegram "from near Monterey" to McClernand, regarding Captain Hawkins needing to "come forward and provide Commissary support.") It is my belief that Halleck, "couldn't be bothered" with Flagmen, when mounted couriers and the telegraph line "suited his needs, just fine."

[Although Halleck ordered the Signal Corps disbanded, Buell continued to use his trained signallers after he departed Corinth, heading east.]

Always more to the story...

Ozzy

 

Referenceshttp://archive.org/stream/signalcorpsusain00brow#page/468/mode/2up  (see pages 460-466.)

http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH2000MyDuty.pdf  Letters of Thomas Keen (see page 12)

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Journals/MOLLUS/Kansas_Commandery/The_Acting_Signal_Corps*.html  Signal Corps operation

http://www.civilwarsignals.org/lessons/sigmethod/cushing.html  Signal Corps lessons

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17896/rec/1 Papers of US Grant (see pages 110, 117, 125 & 112.)

 

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Just a bit of trivia to round out this topic: William B. Hazen (USMA Class of 1855) who was Colonel in command of 19th Brigade (Bull Nelson's 4th Division) at Battle of Shiloh, Day 2 went on to become "Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army," from 1880- 1887.

Ozzy

 

References:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiloh_Union_order_of_battle 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Babcock_Hazen 

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/1704*.html Hazen at West Point

 

stevenson_screen (2).jpg  What's this?

Stevenson Screen (from wikipedia).

Another little-known endeavor assigned to the expanding Signal Corps: collection of meteorological information. As we know, the weather played a significant role in the lead-up to Battle of Shiloh: rain produced muddy roads that affected Albert Sidney Johnston's march from Corinth. Heavy rain, sudden cold snaps, ice and snow affected other battles as well (think Fort Donelson and Nashville.) After the war, it was believed that widely-dispersed "collection stations" could accumulate observations IRT rainfall, temperature, wind direction and strength, pass that data along via the telegraph, and facilitate prediction of the weather (to enable delay of a Military Operation, or its expedition) in order to minimize the weather's effect on that operation. 

In 1870, President Grant signed into law the requirement that the Signal Corps collect weather information; and General Albert J. Myer was tasked with carrying out that assignment. Upon the death of Myer in 1880, General Hazen continued with improvements to the collection, standardization and dissemination of meteorological information. The Weather Service remained a Military responsibility until 1890, when Congress transferred responsibility to the Department of Agriculture.

Reference:  http://www.weather.gov/timeline  Brief History of U.S. Weather Service 

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