The Telegraph

Today, our world is teeming with technology.  From smart phones and appliances to computers and VoIP phones, it seems as if new technology is being invented daily.  If you own a business, just look online for computer support Birmingham AL and you’ll find hundreds of technology companies offering a wide range of services.

People who lived during the Civil War period were not that fortunate.  The ease of spreading communication was much more difficult due to the lack of the advanced technology that we have today.  One invention that did occur during the mid-1800’s, though, was the telegraph.  The invention of the telegraph improved the way people communicated during the Civil War.

Samuel Morse is credited for creating the first functioning telegraph in the United States.  Although there were other telegraphs invented prior to Morse’s telegraph of 1837, he created the one that actually sent the first telegram in the U.S., which was on January 11, 1838.  Morse and his partner, Alfred Vail, also developed the Morse Code, which is a series of dots and dashes that symbolizes specific letters of the alphabet in order to create words and phrases.  The telegraph became more and more popular throughout the country.

During the years of the Civil War, more than 15,000 miles of telegraph wire was placed up and down the East coast of the U.S.  The sole purpose of the telegraph wire was for military use, and the North was far more advanced than the South in terms of telegraph use and production. 

President Abraham Lincoln was the very first President that could communicate with military personnel who were actually on the battlefield, thanks to the use of the telegraph.  A White House telegraph office was created so that the President could send and receive telegraphs pertaining to Civil War battles, military meetings, and strategic planning.  Although the invention of the telegraph allowed for more open, easier communication, it also gave the government officials something new to manage.  They had to learn how to deal with the media.  People from many walks of life were interested in the information that was passing over the telegraph wires.  Learning to manage that information became a top priority to government officials.

In 1861, Andrew Carnegie, who was a pioneer in the railroad industry, established the United States Military Telegraph Corps.  Throughout a short amount of time, this group was responsible for installing telegraph wires and training and managing over 1,000 telegraph operators.  During the next few years, more than one million messages were transmitted to and from the Civil War battlefields.

Many of the telegrams that were sent across the telegraph wires were from President Lincoln himself.  The use of the telegraph gave the President the ability to connect with his officers who were in the battlefields unlike at any other time in history prior to this invention.  President Lincoln was able to communicate his visions and directives to military officers, which gave them the knowledge and courage they needed to lead troops into battle.  On some occasions, that was all the officers needed in order to win the battle.  Many historians believe that the invention of the telegraph helped President Lincoln win the Civil War.  Now, that is an impressive invention.