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Re: CS Signals at Harpers Ferry

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  • flagflop
    Tks, Gerry, Probabably bad choice of words on my part: I had not meant to imply that Jax did not comprehend the value and the general concept behind the
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 27, 2006
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      Tks, Gerry,

      Probabably bad choice of words on my part: I had not meant to imply that
      Jax did not comprehend the value and the general concept behind the
      Myer-Alexander system. Rather, the mechanics of the system as used in
      the CS army were possibly not appreciated. The abbreviations and
      conventions did not lend themselves to a formatted, multi-paragraph
      order of fair length. (Quite different from "Look to your left-you are
      being turned" fourteen months earlier.)

      I agree that this was a prime example of Jax improvising--note that the
      order is unnumbered and appears not to have gone through AAG processing.



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      --- In TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com, "NJ Rebel" <gerry1952@...> wrote:
      >
      > Excellent post, bringing out some details I did not know about.
      >
      > Also, McLaws was one of the few officers in either army during the ACW
      > who truly understood the potential and how efficient the wigwag system
      > could truly be. As for the remark about Jax sending that long message,
      > I do not think the case can be made of Jax not being familiar with the
      > wigwag system. I would tend to support the other thought, that Jax had
      > to improvise on the fly and therefore was transmitting detailed
      > instructions.
      >
      > Yr. Obt. Svt.
      > G E "Gerry" Mayers
      >
      > "....the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the
      > people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whenever the same
      > shall be perverted to their injury or oppression;.."
      > Act of State of Virginia adopting the Federal Constitution, 26 June
      > 1788
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "flagflop" flagflop@...
      > To: TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Monday, February 27, 2006 7:00 AM
      > Subject: [TalkAntietam] CS Signals at Harpers Ferry
      >
      >
      > > Here's a final--perhaps the key--consideration in arguing that the
      > > HF
      > > op, as it unfolded, was improvised on the spot, not planned or
      > > ordered.
      > >
      > > Given the terrain of HF (familiar to Lee, Jackson, and Stuart),
      > > dominated by heights, separated by rivers, and distance, a plan of
      > > operation against it that would have involved three
      > > converging "columns" should have provided for telecommunication to
      > > coordinate the action. That was not done. On arrival, Jax took steps
      > > to improvise. His chief signal officer (CSO), Wilbourn, was hors de
      > > combat from wounds sustained at Groveton, in the run-up to Second
      > > Manassas. Jax sent Jed Hotchkiss (who, altho not a trained signal
      > > officer had picked up the skill) and a couple of trained signalmen
      > > to
      > > LHgts. "Captain" Bartlett (actually, as Brian has posted on AotW, a
      > > detailed private) was ordered by Jax to contact the two Hgts,
      > > Loudoun
      > > and Md. (I suspect his "station" was on Schoolhouse Ridge.)
      > >
      > > Meanwhile--perhaps on his own authority--Powell Hill, on the right
      > > flank, sent his own CSO, Capt. RHT Adams, to LHgts, where he
      > > displaced
      > > Jed Hotchkiss. Adams opened comms with Bartlett.
      > >
      > > McLaws had approached without a commissioned signal officer--
      > > Longstreet's CSO, Manning, who was assigned, was ill, but McLaws was
      > > also able to improvise with "second string" (no aspersions meant)
      > > and
      > > to maintain coordinating contact with Anderson on S Mt and Kershaw
      > > on
      > > Elk Ridge from his approach march down the Pleasant Valley. But he
      > > had
      > > no one in a position to "see" Bartlett and quickly became
      > > preoccupied
      > > with looking back over his shoulder at what was happening at the
      > > Gaps
      > > and wrestling some guns into place on MdHgts. He did get a "sight-
      > > line" on Adams (LHgts), but was evidently not in a position to "see"
      > > Bartlett to the west.
      > >
      > > Jax' lack of appreciation of the Myer-Alexander visual signal system
      > > is illustrated by the lengthy order he sought to have transmitted in
      > > that manner--but it also shows that he had not anticipted what was
      > > taking place. He was "making do with what he had"--a field
      > > expedient.
      > > Bartlett got the message to Adams, who relayed to McLaws across the
      > > Potomac.
      > >
      > > What has obscured all of this is the mis-identification of Bartlett
      > > as
      > > a captain, as a commissioned signal officer, and Jax' signal
      > > officer.
      > > This was compounded by H.K. Douglas and Imboden using (hence
      > > endorsing)
      > > that implied authority (B&L), unquestioned by Freeman (Lee's Lts)
      > > and
      > > others to date. All one has to do is to read Bartlett's report (OR
      > > Vol
      > > 19). He states very clearly that he was but one of the CS signal men
      > > present in the operation, and that Capt. Adams (as the only
      > > commissioned signal corps officer participating, but not in
      > > Bartlett's-
      > > -Jackson's--unit) probably had all messages passed, for that was his
      > > job).
      > >
      > > Finally, the late completion of Jax' report (or the one issued under
      > > his signature) and the ex post facto review of what happened--rather
      > > than what was originally intended or ordered) may help to explain
      > > Lee's sensitivity to the overall subject. (See Freeman, LL, Vol 2,
      > > Appendix 1, and the Gordon-Allan memoranda. While discussing Harvey
      > > Hill and the lost order, Lee "looses his cool" but also stoutly
      > > defends what Jax did in the event, as if it were well within his
      > > discretionary "orders" or contingency planning.) What transpired was
      > > remarkably successful--better to let history dwell on that than the
      > > poorly thought-out, poorly worded, poorly understood, and poorly
      > > prepared dividing and dispatching of a major portion of his command
      > > that ran even greater risk than history has thought.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > SPONSORED LINKS Civil war history Civil war battles Civil war
      > >
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