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[153]

Through the same officer (Captain Alexander), General Beauregard had also succeeded in establishing a signal telegraph between Mason's and Munson's Hills and Washington. A piece of new tin, made to perform certain turns in the sunlight, by a friendly hand, from the window of an elevated mansion in the Federal capital, informed him of McClellan's movements. True, the information was only of a general character, and, uncorroborated, could not have been of much assistance. But it served to arouse his attention, and what with the secret service of his underground railroad and the news culled from Northern journals, which were regularly procured, he arrived at a fairly correct knowledge of the enemy's intentions. To render this communication more efficient, an alphabet was afterwards established and messages were sent by moving the shades on the several windows of the mansion alluded to, which, at night, was well lighted up, to make the signs visible. From Mason's and Munson's Hills answers were given by the usual system, that is to say, flags in the daytime, and lanterns as soon as it grew dark. From Washington, lights were resorted to for night signals, and, for the day, the shifting of window curtains, right and left of an imaginary central line. As to General Beauregard's headquarters and his different outposts, they were put in communication by means of wire telegraph.

The inability of the President to aid in the execution of the aggressive campaign so urgently pressed upon him had left no other course open but to take a defensive position and ‘await the winter and its results.’ We were to take no initiatory steps, and fight only if attacked. Believing that a period of enforced inactivity would now ensue, General Beauregard's thoughts were turned to the dangers which might threaten the Southern ports—especially New Orleans; and on the 5th of October, in a letter addressed to the Secretary of War, he expressed his desire to be sent there during the probable suspension of hostilities in Virginia. He gave it as his opinion that New Orleans, Mobile, Galveston, and Berwick Bay, along the Gulf of Mexico, would undoubtedly be assailed, and should be protected by field defences proper to withstand attack, until reinforcements could come to the rescue. He also called attention to the exposure of Port Royal, South Carolina, as a harbor of safety on the Atlantic, for the Federals, and as leading directly to the railroad communication between Charleston and Savannah.

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