Plate 22. Signal Tower, Elk Mountain, Overlooking Battle-Field of Antietam

Description
Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
To the hero of Antietam belongs the credit of first developing and fully appreciating the value of a corps of signalists to an army throughout its active operations in the field, and especially during a great battle. His signal officers were most intelligently and advantageously posted, and seldom, even in later campaigns, has their assistance to a commanding general been more valuable, or more frankly and handsomely acknowledged, than in the momentous struggle on the Antietam. At intervals along our line of battle, and on the most prominent points in the vicinity, were stationed the Federal Signal Officers, detecting by their skill, vigilance, and powerful glasses, every movement of the enemy, reporting them instantly by a few waves of their flags to the Union Commander, and in return, transmitting by the same means the orders to the subordinate generals, which were to check or defeat the manoeuvres of the enemy. The adjoining sketch represents the most important of those signal look-outs, and was located on the summit of Elk Mountain, one of the South Mountain Range of the Blue Ridge, and overlooking the battle-field.
The Elk Mountain Signal Station was operated by Lieutenants Pierce and Jerome, and the view was taken whilst the former officer was receiving a dispatch from General McClellan, probably requesting further information in regard to some reported movement of his wary foe, or sending an important order to a Corps Commander.
A rebel correspondent of a Richmond paper, who claims to have been an eye-witness of that battle, thus writes on the succeeding day, of the part taken in it by the Signal Corps of the Union Army: "Their signal stations on the Blue Ridge commanded a view of our every movement. We could not make a maneuver in front or rear that was not instantly revealed to their keen look-outs; and as soon as the intelligence could be communicated to their batteries below, shot and shell were launched against the moving columns. It was this information, conveyed by the little flags upon the mountain-top, that no doubt enabled the enemy to concentrate his force against our weakest points, and counteract the effect of whatever similar movements may have been attempted by us."
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
1862-09
maker
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 22.6484 cm x 17.6741 cm; 8 15/16 in x 6 15/16 in
place made
United States: Maryland, Antietam
ID Number
1986.0711.0334.22
accession number
1986.0711
catalog number
1986.0711.0334.22
subject
Photography
Military
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Gardner's Sketchbook
event
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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