valuable by night as in daylight; but, as the flags could not then talk understandingly, Talking Torches
were substituted for them.
As a “point of reference” was needful, by which to interpret the torch signals made, the flagman lighted a “foot torch,” at which he stood firmly while he signalled with the “flying torch.”
This latter was attached to a staff of the same length as the flagstaff, in fact, usually the flagstaff itself.
These torches were of copper, and filled with turpentine.
At the end of a message the flying torch was extinguished.
The rapidity with which messages were sent by experienced operators was something wonderful to the uneducated looker-on.
An ordinary message of a few lines can be sent in ten minutes, and the rate of speed is much increased where officers have worked long together, and understand each other's methods and abbreviations.
Signal messages have been sent twenty-eight miles; but that is exceptional.
The conditions of the atmosphere and the location of stations were seldom favorable to such longdistance signalling.
Ordinarily, messages were not sent more than six or seven miles, but there were exceptions.
Here is a familiar but noted one:--
In the latter part of September, 1864, the Rebel
army under Hood
set out to destroy the railroad communications of Sherman
, who was then at Atlanta
The latter soon learned that Allatoona
was the objective point of the enemy.
As it was only held by a small brigade, whereas the enemy was seen advancing upon it in much superior numbers, Sherman
signalled a despatch from Vining's Station to Kenesaw
, and from Kenesaw
, whence it was again signalled to Rome
It requested General Corse
, who was at the latter place, to hurry back to the assistance of Allatoona
was propelling the main body of his army in the same direction.
On reaching Kenesaw
, “the signal officer reported,” says Sherman
, in his Memoirs
, “that since daylight he had failed to obtain any answer to his call ”