of Capt. William B. Roe, Sixteenth Michigan Infantry, Chief
COLONEL: I have the
honor to submit the following report, accompanied by the individual
reports of each acting signal officer, of the operations of the signal
detachment serving with the army in this department, from April 9, 1863,
to the time of the surrender of Port Hudson to the United States forces
under Major-General Banks, July 8, 1863:
As Captain Rowley (who
was in command of the corps until Apri1 29) did not make a report of the
operations of the corps in the Teche campaign, I will submit the report of
the detachment under my charge at Baton Rouge during the time that Captain
Rowley and party were operating with the army on the Teche; also the
official reports of each officer in his detachment, which will show the
amount of duty performed by the corps, and by each officer, during the
On the 8th of April, I
received orders from General Augur, commanding at Baton Rouge, to report
to Captain Alden, of the U. S. S. Richmond, for temporary duty.
Accordingly, on the 9th, I proceeded with a party, consisting of Lieut.
George R. Herbert, of the signal corps, and Lieutenants Tenney and Dean,
of the Thirtieth Massachusetts Volunteers, to the point opposite Port
Hudson, and, with the help of a party from the U.S. S. Genesee, we
succeeded by the use of small boats (as the country was flooded by a
crevasse) to so far penetrate the swamp as to convince ourselves that we
could communicate with the admiral, who was to be down on the 15th, by
means of boats, if signals should fail.
In the meantime the
masts of the Richmond were raised to such a height that, on the 15th, we
were able to signal over the trees with the admiral's ship above the
batteries of Port Hudson. We also sent a party across the point with mail,
dispatches, &c. (See Captain Alden's report, a copy of which is
inclosed;* also reports of Lieut. S. M. Eaton,
who was on duty on the Hartford, and Lieut. John C. Abbott, who was on
duty on the Richmond.) Much valuable information was transmitted by
signals between the two ships, which it would have been almost impossible
to have obtained in any other way.
From the 15th of April
until the fall of Port Hudson, constant communication was held between the
two ships by signals.
On the 29th of April,
Capt. William W. Rowley's term of service having expired, I was placed in
command of the corps by special orders from headquarters Department of the
Gulf, and immediately entered upon the discharge of my duties. Lieut.
Joseph L. Hallett was placed in charge of the detachment at Baton Rouge,
which consisted of 6 officers, one of whom was in charge of the signal
On the 19th of May, in
obedience to orders from Major-General Banks, I accompanied him to the
headquarters of the army, then at Simsport, La., and ordered the remainder
of the party to proceed by first train to same point.
Immediately on my
arrival, May 21, I received orders from yourself to place an officer on
the U. S. S. Hartford. Accordingly, Lieut. Roswell C. Harris was sent on
board, and Lieut. Thomas S. Hall reported for duty to General Grover, who
was then on the move toward Bayou Sara.
On the morning of the
23d, headquarters moved to Bayou Sara, and on 24th received orders from
yourself to place an efficient officer on board the Hartford, in place of
Lieut. R. C. Harris (who was unable to work the station, it being so
elevated), in obedience to which Lieut. S. M. Eaton was ordered to her.
The same day, Lieut. Thomas S. Hall was relieved from duty with General
Grover, and Lieuts. John C. Abbott and R. C. Harris were ordered on duty
with him. I found that communication with the Hartford, Richmond, and
thence to General Augur, could be obtained by establishing a station at
Bayou Sara. Accordingly, Lieutenant Hall was placed upon the Episcopal
church, and communication was established. Lieutenant Hallett and his
party were at this time with General Augur in the rear of Port Hudson, and
had communication from Springfield Landing to the Richmond by signals, and
from same point to General Augur's headquarters by means of signal
May 23, headquarters
moved to a point near Port Hudson, and on the 24th I had verbal
communication with Lieutenant Hallett, who was with General Augur.
On the 26th, Lieuts. E.
H. Russell and John W. Dana were ordered to report to General Weitzel for
duty, and my attention was directed to establishing stations, so as to
have communication between the different headquarters--a task which I
found to be very difficult, as the country was very thickly wooded, and
our lines were not far enough advanced to warrant me in establishing
stations very near the batteries. Consequently the corps did not prove of
much service during the first assault; still, the officers acted as aides
to the different generals with whom they were attached, and communication
was held with the fleet above and below the batteries by means of signal
telegraph train to Springfield Landing, and thence by signals to the
May 30, communication
was opened with the Richmond from the tree-tops on the right and left of
our lines. On the 31st, I ordered Lieut. John C. Abbott to the Richmond,
to assist Lieut. A.M. Jackson, there being four stations to communicate
with from that ship.
At this time
communication was established from the commanding general's headquarters
direct to the Richmond, Hartford, and Springfield Landing, it being so
arranged that the stations were at or near the headquarters of Generals
Grover and Dwight.
Many official messages
were sent from the headquarters to the Richmond and Hartford. (Please see
reports of Lieutenants Eaton, Abbott, and Jackson.)
On the day of the
second assault, signal communication was held between the headquarters of
Major-general Banks in the center, and General Dwight on the left of our
line, by which the commanding general could be informed at any time of the
progress of General Dwight. (For a copy of messages, see reports of
Lieutenants Hall and Rundlett.) The line from the general's headquarters
to the ships was kept in working order until Port Hudson surrendered.
On the 29th of June,
Lieutenant Dana was ordered to the left, to communicate with Lieutenant
Eaton (whose station was in a barn, from which could be seen most of the
enemy's guns on the river front), for the purpose of directing the shots
from our guns on the left upon those of the enemy. (Please see report of
Lieutenant Dana on directing shots.) The signal telegraph train proved of
great service, and from May 28 to the time that I was ordered to deliver
the wire to Captain Bulkley, June 5, two hundred and fifty-five official
messages were sent, many of which were sent from Springfield Landing to
the fleet by Lieutenant Jencks, signal officer at that point. The country
being so level and thickly wooded, it was almost impossible to establish
stations; still, in our main line there were ten stations, eight of which
were in tree-tops or on masts of vessels. Three stations of observation,
which were also in tree-tops, and three stations which are not described,
were likewise built in trees, and were abandoned for the reason of their
being in range of the enemy's sharpshooters. In fact, all the main
stations were within range of the enemy's guns. Some officers were driven
from their stations, but in every case returned again as soon as the
firing was over.
All the officers and
men in the detachment have shown a willingness to comply in every
particular with the orders given them, and, in many instances, have shown
a determination to do all in their power to promote the efficiency of the
I inclose the reports
of each officer, also a map showing the stations, the dotted lines showing
over which points the signals were worked.*
My desire and
determination is to have the corps in this department as good as any in
the service, and know if we have the countenance and confidence of the
commanding generals we shall be of great service in the army and to the
I have the honor to be,
colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
and Chief of Signal Corps, Department of the Gulf.
Lieut. Col. RICHARD B. IRWIN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the Gulf.
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