Tag Archive | thomasteckert

Surrender of Johnston

april 26 - mssEC_13_235 - johnston surrenders.jpg

910 am 28th  Raleigh Apl 26th 1865
Raleigh 730 pm 26th Maj Eckert Sherman & Johnston
had another interview today and Johnston has
surrendered on same terms Lee accepted .
I think the great bulk of the army will
start for Washn over-land in few days
I will be guided by circumstances in the
absence of any instruction from you . I
think we will hold on here some time
R. O’Brien Chf Opr

After the original terms that Sherman offered to Johnston were rejected, the two opposing generals met again, and on this day in 1865 Johnston surrendered all of the Confederate troops in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This time the terms were approved (Sherman stuck exclusively to military matters).

Following the surrender, Sherman prepared to return to Washington with his troops. They would participate, with other Union Troops, in a Grand Review, which was held on the 23rd and 24th of May. Sherman and Johnston were friends following the war, and both served as pallbearers in U.S. Grant’s funeral in 1885. In fact, Johnston died of pneumonia in 1891, caught while serving as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral.

421255 p 45 - The_pallbearers.jpg

Seven mile funeral cortege of Genl. Grant in New York Aug. 8, 1885, U.S. Instantaneous Photographic Co., 1886, p. 45. (Huntington Digital Library, UDID 397202)

Pressed by the Press

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5.30 P.M. Chattanooga, Oct. 11, 1863
9 A.M. Oct 11th to Eckert
the dispatch disclosed was the first
one of Sept 20th Gen R.S. Granger explains
that being very anxious for news
he went with Gen’l Gillen to
the telegraph office. as my dispatch
was passing through ” some portions
of which were guessed out by
the operator ” the person
who guessed out the dispatch was
Mr. Smith who informed us at
the time it was mere surmise
as he had no Key to
the Cipher It is rather curious
however that the agent of the Assd Press
at Louisville in a private printed circular
quoted me as authority for reporting
the battle was a total defeat while
Horace Maynard repeated in Cincin.
the entire second sentence of the
dispatch. If practicable send
me a cipher whose meaning no
operator can guess out.
CA Dana

The media, as it’s now called generically, has been accused of many sins, especially in recent months. Telegrams were always at risk of interception and deception. Sometimes, though, the enemy didn’t intercept the messages, but rather, the press — in the case of this telegram, the Associated Press. The AP, which had been founded in 1846 by five daily newspapers in New York City to share the cost of sending news about the Mexican-American War, soon found itself reporting on another, larger conflict, and was hungry for news. After revealing that the AP had attempted to decipher an intercepted missive (and garbled it in the process, “guessing it out” the original sender incorrectly), Charles A Dana asked Thomas Eckert to “send me a cipher whose meaning no operator can guess out.”

Pictures Please! Telegraph Operators


Telegraph operators, June 1865, James E. Taylor Collection

Ever wonder what the telegraph operators of the United States Military Telegraph looked like? In earlier posts we have shown the men who ran the USMT,  Anson Stager and Thomas T. Eckert, and even one of the few women operators, Louisa Volker. But what of the other operators? The above image is a popular photograph of the men in the USMT, taken in June of 1865. It was reproduced in the 1911 edition of The Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume 8, Page 363, which provides the following identifications:

“…The members of the group are, from left to right: 1, Dennis Doren, Superintendent of Construction; 2, L.D. McCandless; 3, Charles Bart; 4, Thomas Morrison: 5, James B. Norris; 6, James Caldwell; 7, A. Harper Caldwell, chief cipher operator, and in charge; 8, Maynard A. Huyck; 9, Dennis Palmer; 10, J.H. Emerick; 11, James H. Nichols. …”

There is a variant of this image at the Library of Congress:


Richmond, Virginia. Military telegraph operators

Identification is, from left to right: James Caldwell, J.H. Emerick, Charles Bart, L.D. McCandless, Thomas Morrison, James B. Norris, A. Harper Caldwell, Dennis Doren, Dennis Palmer, Maynard A. Huyck, James H. Nichols.

Pulling from these two images we get these close up of the operators:

Charles Bart

A. Harper Caldwell

James Caldwell

Dennis Doren

J.H. Emerick

Maynard A. Huyck

L.D. McCandless

Thomas Morrison

James H. Nichols

James B. Norris

Dennis Palmer

Finally, there is this image, which we have used in several posts, of Thomas T. Eckert with a few of his operators in 1864:


There is no identification given, save for Eckert. But now some of the other men are identifiable, including A. Harper Caldwell immediately behind Eckert, and Dennis Doren to Eckert’s left, staring at the camera. Behind Doren, in profile, is J.H. Emerick. But the other three men? Time and others will possibly identify them.


Thanks to Zooniverse users OlEnglish and absoluteforth for the idea of connecting a few faces to a few names.


The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens: Telegraph operators, June 1865, James E. Taylor Collection : Scrapbook One, page 90: Top (photCL 300, vol. 1, UDID 49337)

The Library of Congress: Richmond, Virginia. Military telegraph operators, Digital ID: (digital file from original neg.) cwpb 03642 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.03642 Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens: Col. Thomas Eckert and telegraph assistants, 1864, James E. Taylor Collection : Scrapbook Two, page 55: Top (photCL 300, vol. 2, UDID 49424)

The Cook’s Deserted!

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Hd Qurs A Potomac
Nov 3.
Maj Eckert.
The Cook I hired in place of
Henry Bowman discharged has
deserted us. Will you please
send some one (1) to see
George Taylor Colored No 11.
Four & half st. between Md
avenue and C. St & ask him
if he can send a good cook
here We need one (1) badly.
Please answer.
A.H. Caldwell

It’s bad enough when one of your comrade-in-arms goes AWOL, but when it’s the cook?! Tragedy!

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.

photCL_301_019 cropped

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.

Election Day, 1864!

As Mario has shown in the last few posts, Eckert and other telegraph men were preparing their staff and equipment to receive updates on the presidential race of 1864. Reports poured in from across the country, from Indiana to Maine, and in honor of our own election, we would like to present you with a glimpse of what kind of news was received in the Washington USMT office.


New York
Maj Eckert
all seems quiet &
serene I was at
polls before they
opened & found 100
to 200 voters in line
waiting their turn.
I gave them an hour
& a half of my valuable
time before I could
get my vote in. It was
as good natured a
crowd as I <unclear>


mssEC_30_449 - heavy voting yet all quiet.jpg

Maj Eckert
Very heavy voting
but as yet all
quiet & serene as a
May sunday morning


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8 Nov 8
Cleveland  Nov 8
Indianapolis 8″ Election progressing
quietly here and Generally throughout State
Slight disturbance at Brownstown. Lincoln
will have not less than thousand more
than Morton majority in City
A Stager


mssEC_31_056 - new jersey to lincoln maybe.jpg

N York
Are you waiting
for more news or
have you got enough
to retire upon. It is
possible that New Jersey
has voted for Lincoln
in which case it is
proposed to take her
back into the union
E S Sanford

(Sanford is being quite sarcastic here in regards to New Jersey! and wrong–it went for McClellan. They stayed with their local boy, Little Mac.)

Man all Stations!

530 Nov 7
Cleveland Nov 7

Maj Eckert
Stevens will be on hand
and if feasible Ward via Parkersburg
If weather is fair shall do as
well or better tomorrow night
for you than at State Elections
Horner will furnish NY State
returns Brooks will give Penna
I will send all west of NY
& Penna
Anson Stager


The evening before the Election of 1864 Stager wires Eckert to let him know which telegraphers are in place to forward election results to him. This was all part of Eckert’s efforts to have all the results and news sent to him speedily and efficiently. As noted earlier, in the message between Sanford and Eckert, it was important to get these pieces in place. It is interesting that Stager appears to be hand picking certain operators for the task. Were these Lincoln men, or were they simply fast and competent? Those answers are for others to ferret out. However, it is clear that by dawn of November 8, 1864, Eckert, along with Stager and Sanford, had all hands on deck. The tension of that contentious election season was about to snap and all were at their stations ready to relay the news: Lincoln or McClellan.