The War’s Over. Now What?

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2 AM 5th Gen Eckert  Nashville Tenn Mch 5 1866
Orders dated Feb 27th just recd &  will be
promptly obeyed – please say by telegraph whether
supply of teleg stationary & battery material on
hand in ware house wire & tools not
in actual use & the Beardsly instruments and
tools are to be turned over to the
companies or to Qr Mr – the president of
the So Westn Teleg Co claims all teleg property of what
ever description in my possession and says that
was understanding sig
Capt J C Van Duzer

Supplying yourself for war is a tricky proposition. You certainly don’t want to be under-stocked (running out of ammunition in the middle of a battle is both embarrassing and dangerous), but if you order too much you’ll be eating K-rations for two decades after it’s over. It’s like a life-and-death version of preparing to go on vacation – you want to clean out your fridge, but you need enough to eat to last until you leave.

For the military telegraph, the need for new parts and repairs was constant, so there could be no let-up in supplying. In fact, near the end and after the war, responsibilities and the need for supplies expanded as the USMT took over operation of southern telegraph lines to ensure constant communication. However there was an issue that need to be resolved. The USMT was a civilian, quasi-commercial outfit affiliated with Western Union and headed by a corporate executive, staffed with civilian employees, and reporting directly to the Secretary of War and the Commander-in-Chief.

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So, despite the enormous amount of labor and material that the USMT poured into updating and expanding the newly re-united nation’s telegraph system, the functioning and property of these lines was returned, or sold, to private companies. One such company was the Southwestern Telegraph Company, mentioned in this message.

In this message, Van Duzer was looking for clarity: supplies to the Quarter Master or to the company? The Southwestern Telegraph Company’s president’s claim to equipment and supplies may be confirmed or denied in a later message.  We are lucky to have ledgers in which much of the business of the military telegraph was recorded. The clarifying message had to come from Washington, from Eckert, and until then Van Duzer would have to wait.

I’m Not Sure of His Name, But He’s in Trouble

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Feb 6 62 1130 AM
Humboldt Col Amgangils conduct is very
disgraceful Remove him at once from
his command I will advise Secy
of War to drop him from
the rolls Release the young boys
on their parole send prisoners to
Camp Chase notifying Comdg officer Has
Muhlenberg started if not hold him
until I can communicate with Anthon
Andes

As far as I can tell, Amgangil is not a real name, but it’s also not one that I have come across in working with coded messages or ledgers. This appears to be in an early cipher, 6 or 7?, access to which we do not have. Equally frustrating is that this message doesn’t appear to be in the OR. A great challenge, as several of our volunteers have pointed out, in transcribing messages in cipher is that they lack the logical context that we rely on as readers. Whoever he was, Colonel Amgangil caught the attention (and ire) of his superiors, and seems to have been headed for a world of hurt.

The Pencil-Pushers Are Going To Love This

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2 PM  Richmond 130 PM May 17
1 PM 17th for Secy War = I learn
that Vance was started for Wash this
morning under guard = The rebel War
Dept records Eighty one boxes weighing ten
tons will leave this evening sig
HW Halleck

There are a lot of things about war that are more interesting than what happens to the paperwork of the defeated side, but I’m sure that there were (and probably still are!) plenty of people who would see ten tons of Confederate government documents as a treasure trove. Someone may have had to come up with an entirely new filing system to handle the sheer volume! Seriously, though, without the filers and arrangers of this world, we would all be lost. Go out and hug a records manager or an archivist today.

Thanks to Zooniverse user absoluteforth for pointing this telegram out to us!

All the Pretty Horses (Shall Be Ours)

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11 A.M.  Washington June 25th 1863-
For Berry The immense loss and
destruction of horses in your army
and the difficulty of supplying this
loss renders it necessary that you
should impress every servicable animal likely
to fall into the hands of
the enemy There are many animals
in Loudon County and the adjacent
part of Maryland These should be
seized to save them from the
enemy as well as to supply
yourself signed Applause Fight well now

The tone of this telegram is slightly less ominous that my creative title, but I suspect that the horses’ owners didn’t feel any better about having to surrender their animals just because the army was more polite.

Thanks to Zooniverse user JustStardust for pointing this message out!

Iron Clad Turtles

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230 PM 25th Memphis Apr 24th 1863
From Millikens Bend April Sixteenth 6. P.M
via Memphis twenty fourth for Secy of War
Vicksburg Batteries will be run tonight
about 9 oclock – fleet will consist of
Six Iron Clad Turtles namely “Benton”
“Mound City” “Carondelet” “Louisville” “Pittsburg” &
“Dekalb”, besides “Lafayette” Iron Clad and
“Genl Price” heavy armed ram. Adml Porter
has intended to take “Tuscumbia” Iron
Clad also, but has concluded to
leave her in Yazoo. Transports consist
of “Henry Clay” and “Forest Queen”
side Wheel Steamers and “Silver Wave”
stern Wheel having twelve barges in
over

While looking over  the consensus data I spied the phrase “Six Iron Clad Turtles.” Turns out this is the start of a three page missive from Charles A Dana (one with the telegram tail “nothing worth mentioning here”). Dana is not talking about children’s pets, red sliders, yellow bellied sliders, or box turtles, nor is he talking in code for a Monitor class vessel. No, he is using the term to describe the river gunboats that were built in Union ports along the Mississippi. It is apt as they kind of do look like snapping turtles (not a pet), albeit with heavy guns:

us_gunboat_pittsburg

James E. Taylor Collection : Scrapbook Three, p. 49, United States Civil War, Huntington Digital Library.

I should note that that “heavy armed ram” that joined the iron clad turtles, named General Price, was also not a mythical creature conjured by Dana:

us_gunboat_genl_price

James E. Taylor Collection : Scrapbook Three, p. 49, United States Civil War, Huntington Digital Library.

Definitely not a male sheep OR a turtle. Nor a pet.

Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

 

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12:40 P.M. Harrisburg July 4, 1863
For G. G. Meade The glorious success of
the army of the Potomac has
electrified all I did not believe
the army of  the Potomac could
be whipped when fought in a
body Unquestionably the rebels have fortified
the passes in south mountains such
information was given me a week
ago from Gettysburg signed D.N. Couch hot

Such was the telegram sent by General Couch on the victory by the Union Army of the Potomac when it was clear that the battle at Gettysburg was won. It did indeed electrify all, and Gettysburg became one of the defining battles of the United States Civil War. It also became the site of commemoration, beginning with the dedication and consecration of the Nation Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. It was on this date that Lincoln delivered these famous lines:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has become a touchstone in American Memory. It still has the power to evoke strong emotions of loss and hope. But Lincoln’s words, and those spoken by others on that November day in 1863, were not to be the only monument to the soldiers who fell on the fields and hills of Gettysburg.

After the Civil War, monuments began to be erected at Gettysburg in honor of the various units who had fought there. Among the images available online at the Huntimonument_honoring_the_90th_pennsylvania_infantry_2nd_brigade_2nd_division_1st_corpsngton Digital Library are a set of photographs that depict monuments at Gettysburg taken by photographer William H. Tipton. Some were elaborate, such as the one honoring the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry, is in the form of a shattered tree trunk, with a cannon ball lodged in the heart of the tree at the top, the bark peeled away. Others were very simple like that of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry which is a large puddingstone boulder on top of a carved base. These monument_honoring_the_20th_massachusetts_infantry_3rd_brigade_2nd_division_2nd_corpsphotographs were collected as keepsakes by a veteran, Lindsey M. Gould. They provided him a touchstone, no doubt, to those he fought with and those who died.

Let us take a moment, then, to reflect on this anniversary of the consecration of hallowed ground at Gettysburg. Let us reflect on Lincoln’s words. Gettysburg did electrify the Nation in 1863. Let that spark electrify you today.

Ben Franklin Sees Some Action

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H E Thayer  Washn Sept 17th 1864
For Benjamin Franklin Phila period
Let the pistols be delivered
to Smith follow him to
Virgin year and when he
reaches there seize him and
the pistols and ammunition period
Turn him over to the
military commander at Wheeling to
be put in the military
prison there and turn over
the pistols and ammunition to
the ordnance officer at Wheeling
taking his receipt period This
telegram will be received as
an order to the military
Commander at Wheeling to take
charge of Smith and by
the ordnance officer to receive
the pistols and ammunition Telegraph
when seizure is made E.M. Stanton

I realize that “Benjamin Franklin” was probably a code name, given the original Benjamin Franklin had been dead for 74 years, but I have a wonderful mental image of ol’ Ben as a secret agent. It looks something like this:

franklin as secret agent.jpg

He tries to be stealth, but everyone is like, OMG, Benjamin Franklin, what are you doing here?! How are you even alive?! So then he has to run away and his borderline-entrapment scheme is blown. All because Stanton didn’t think of sending an agent who is not immediately recognizable to the majority of Americans. Way to go, Edwin.

Have a great weekend everybody!