Tag Archive | telegrams

(Second) Battle of Corinth

mssEC_05_170 - battle of corinth - oct 4.jpg

10 PM  Oct 4th
Jackson Tenn 1130 AM
To Halleck The Rebels are now
massing on Corinth in the north
West angle of the rail road
there was some fighting yesterday Rosecrans
informs me that his troops occupy
from College Hill to Pittsburg road
on the Enemies old works Genl
McPherson has gone with (crossed out) five
brigade raised from troops here &
Trenton to his relief probably reached
Corinth by seven this morning Hurlbut
is moving on the Enemies flank
from Bolivar I have given every
aid possible signed U S Grant look out

Today marked the second day of the Second Battle of Corinth, when Union forces under General William Rosecrans overcame Confederate forces under Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price. The reinforcements led by McPherson that Grant talks about sending arrived considerably later in the day than he projected, well after the Confederate army retreated, but Rosecrans failed to send any troops after Van Dorn that day, eliciting irritation from Grant.

The Road to (the Second Battle of) Corinth

mssEC_05_168 - lead up to 2nd corinth - oct 1.jpg

Grants H’d Qrs
1 am 2nd  Near Corinth Miss Oct 1st 1862
For Halleck For several days there
has been a movement of the
Rebels south of my front which
left it in doubt wheather Corinth
or Bolivar was to be the
point of attach it is now
clear that Corinth is the point
& that from the west or
north west Price Van Dorn Villipigue &
Rust are together Rust commands Breckenridge
forces the latter having gone to
Kentucky by Mobile & Chattanoga taking
three regiments with him my position
is precarious but hope to get
out of it all right signed
U S Grant look out for big fight

On October 3rd, 1862, the Second Battle of Corinth began, pitting Confederate forces under Van Dorn and Price against Union forces under Rosecrans. This telegram from Grant to Halleck was sent two days earlier, apprising him of the most recent developments, particularly the site of the coming battle. Clearly the operator knew what was coming, as the telegram tail he added to the message reads “look out for big fight”.

“Folks Considered Him Blockhead”

mssEC_05_154 - folks consider him blockhead.jpg

Stager  Cincinnati Sept 19 ’62
Our friend has not changed his
base but Keeps on the even
tenor of his way. tell me
distinctly what proportion of rebel army
McClellan is fighting or is it
the whole of main body everybody
here is McClellan man nor is
Wright much of man no confidence
felt in him how he assembled
all troops in whole Northwest to
fight Enemy whose strength he took
no steps to find out &
of whom from first to last
has Knew less about than anybody
else did folks considered him blockhead

The accumulative nature of this collection allows us to see some events from various points of view. Most of the telegrams from Cincinnati around this date are sent by General Wright himself (like yesterday’s), but this message comes from a far more obscure individual. Thanks to the memo book of operators and their locations (which is available in the Huntington Digital Library), we are able to identify “Davenport” as Charles Davenport, a superintendent for Western Union, and know that he was in possession of codebook 9. It’s messages like this one, which does not seem to be in the The War of the Rebellion (previously the primary source of Union Civil War telegrams), that offer us insight into the lives and opinions of everyday people.

General Nelson Returns to Action – But Not For Long

mssEC_05_148 - gen nelson returns to duty shortly before being shot.jpg

Cincinnati Sept 16th 1862 310 PM
Halleck General Nelson is sufficiently recovered
to resume his command to relieve
me from embarrassment I urgently request
that Lewis Wallace be ordered by telegraph
to some duty outside this Dept
please take actions at once H
G Wright Major General Commanding 3 PM

This rather short telegram by Major General Write is rife with the difficulties of work and personal relationships. General Nelson was injured in August and was forced to retreat to Louisville. He recovered quickly, but Wright seems dismissive of General Nelson’s return to service. On a fateful note, this return would put Nelson on a collision course with fellow Union General Jefferson C. Davis. Thirteen days after this telegram was sent (#OTD 1862), Davis shot Nelson at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville over a matter of a personal insult.

Wright also appears to have serious complaints about his fellow general, Lewis Wallace, and wants him gone. All of this while the Confederates were threatening to invade Ohio. Work relationships have never been easy!

For an illustrated depiction of General Davis – as well as other images from the Huntington Digital Library – visit our Instagram account.

Telegram Tails Round-Up

The Decoding the Civil War volunteers are great, in case you hadn’t noticed. They’ve powered through almost 43,000 transcriptions in three months and identified 100s of telegrams that are interesting for their content and form. In addition to tagging messages with their sender or whether the telegram is in code, some of our Zooniverse users have taken up the challenge of finding “telegram tails“, the little phrases and notes that operators added to the end of telegrams to fill out the final lines. These are some of our favorites – let us know if you’ve come across any other striking examples! (Zooniverse username in italics after each telegram tail)

First, let’s check some updates on the weather

mssEC_04_260 - clear and warm - mistyfriday.jpg“clear and warm” mistyfriday

mssEC_08_390 - cold day - LimaZulu.jpg “cold day” LimaZulu

mssEC_15_105 - quite wet - SarahTheEntwife.jpg

“quite wet” SarahTheEntwife

mssEC_16_234 - cloudy cool - LimaZulu.jpg “cloudy cool” LimaZulu

mssEC_16_317 - cold windy - hungmung.jpg “cold windy” hungmung

mssEC_16_317 - fine weather here today - hungmung.jpg “fine weather here today ” hungmung

mssEC_19_282 - fine weather for skeeters - woodrose46.jpg “fine weather this for skeeters & bugs” woodrose46

mssEC_25_135 - prospects of rain - ColleenMcC.jpg “prospects of rain” ColleenMcC

mssEC_25_135 - very hot down here - ColleenMcC.jpg “very hot down here” ColleenMcC


Next, here’s some chit-chat between telegraphers and comments on the news

USED - mssEC_07_344 - badly frightened - LimaZulu.jpg “badly frightened” LimaZulu

mssEC_07_348 - how is old abe - SarahTheEntwife.jpg “How is old Abe” SarahTheEntwife

mssEC_09_339 - like new cipher much - absoluteforth.jpg “like new cipher much” absoluteforth

mssEC_16_023 - things are working - SarahTheEntwife.jpg “things are working” SarahTheEntwife

mssEC_16_062 - how about that - SarahTheEntwife.jpg “How about that” SarahTheEntwife

mssEC_16_098 - how is that - LimaZulu.jpg “How is that” LimaZulu

mssEC_16_236 - Bully for you - JustStardust.jpg “Bully for you” JustStardust

mssEC_16_317 - take em - hungmung.jpg “take em” hungmung

mssEC_17_010 - how are you mac - SarahTheEntwife.jpg “How are you Mac” SarahTheEntwife

mssEC_17_298 - anything for me - JustStardust.jpg “Anything for me” JustStardust

mssEC_18_140 - getting lively again - Electora.jpg “getting to be lively again” Electora

mssEC_22_209 - telegraphers thick here - JustStardust.jpg “telegraphers thick here” JustStardust


Finally, some of the most interesting telegram tails integrate the last word of the message, which was often a woman’s name (used to indicate time)

mssEC_16_273 - martha kissed the saviors feet - JustStardust.jpg “Martha kissed the Saviors feet” JustStardust

mssEC_18_012 - night in a gale oh - LimaZulu.jpg “Florence night-in-a-gale oh” LimaZulu

Desperate for Artillery

mssEC_07_344 - in desperate need of artillery - LimaZulu.jpg

1030 P.M.  Baltimore June 20 1863
General Barry (Chf of Artillery) Have you not a
spare battery or rather two of
them from your Camp of instruction
or elsewhere that you can send
me immediately General Ripley Cannot fill
the requisitions made and I need
guns Even field batteries if nothing
heavier for defensive works I am
Constructing Signed R.C. Schenck 10 P.M. badly frightened

Things must have been dire for Union General Robert C. Schenck if he was willing to settle for a field battery or artillery from the camp of instruction. I imagine that’s kind of like being so desperate for a car that you ask to borrow one from a driving school! The next telegraph on the page is a nearly identical request that Schenck sent to the General Ripley mentioned in this message making another plea for some artillery, any artillery that could be spared.

Thanks to Zooniverse user LimaZulu for bringing this message to our attention!

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Cump

mssEC_10_280 - shermans thoughts on forrest - suzanneny.jpg

12 pm 15th  Big Shanty Ga June 15 1864
Near Kenesaw June 15th 630 pm for Halleck Washn I will
have the matter of Sturgis critically examined and if he
be at fault he shall have no mercy at my
hands – I cannot but believe he had troops enough
I know I would have been willing to attempt the
same task with that force but Forrest is the very
devil and I think he has got some of our
troops under cow – I have two Officers at Memphis
that will fight all the time – A J Smith
and Mower – The latter is a young Br Genl of
fine promise & I commend him to your notice –
I will order them to make up a force &
go out & follow Forrest to the death if it
cost ten thousand lives & breaks the treasury – there
never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead
– We Killed Bishop Polk yesterday & have made good
progress today of which I will make a full report
as soon as one of my aids come from the extreme right
flank Gen Grant may rest easy that Johnston will not
trouble him if I can
help it by labor or
thought sig W T Sherman

In spite of his fierce reputation, William Tecumseh Sherman was generally on fairly cordial terms with Confederate generals – see for example his later relationship with Joe Johnston – but he had nothing but bile and invective for Nathan Bedford Forrest. Although he was prone to hyperbole, Sherman seems to have despised Forrest with a particular intensity.

This telegram was sent only a few days after Samuel Sturgis’s forces were defeated by a Confederate force that they outnumbered more than 2 to 1 in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. This disastrous outcome marked the end of Sturgis’s involvement in the Civil War, though Sherman must have softened towards him at least partially, for he returned to service in the Indian Wars of the late 1860s and 1870s.

Thanks to Zooniverse user SuzanneNY for bringing this message to our attention!