4 PM New York 7. Nov 1862
Genl H W Halleck Genl-in-chf
there appears to be some mistake
in transmitting or translating your message
I dont understand whether there ten
thousand troops or transports at Ft Monroe
or the troops only or merely
transports for ten thousand the message
says the latter do you wish
me to come to Wash or
to go direct from here to
Ft Monroe N P Banks Maj General
Answer to Astor House
If you’ve ever suffered through reading an incoherent text message because of some ham-fisted correspondent, you’ll relate to General Banks’ frustrations in making sense of one telegram in the Fall of 1862. The shorthand used in telegrams was sometimes insufficient to clearly convey a message. “There appears to be some mistake in transmitting or translating your message,” Banks wrote to Captain Halleck. At issue was whether there were 10,000 troops at Fort Monroe, or simply sufficient transportation for 10,000 troops — a big logistical difference.
Thanks to Zooniverse user SaratheEntwife for pointing this telegram out.