An extraordinary Chapter in the War.
Col. Morgan, in his into tour through Kentucky, was accompanied by a telegraph operator named G. A. Ellsworth, whose feate in intercepting Federal messages seem to be more brilliant than any yet recorded.
They show that, with a bold, active foe, the telegraph can be made urlous rather than beneficial to those who employ it. The Louisville and Nashville line was first tapped by the operator near Bowling Green; thus:
I took down the telegraph wire and connected my pocket instrument, for the purpose of taking off all dispatches as they passed through.
Owing to a heavy storm prevailing South, the atmospheric electricity prevented me from communicating with Bowling Green or Nashville.
The first I heard was Louisville calling Bowling Green.
I immediately put on my ground wire southward, noticing particularly at the same time what change it would make in the circuit.
It did make it stronger; but the storm mentioned affecting telegraphs more or leas, Louisville did not suspicion anything wrong, and I answered for Bowling Green, when I received the following message:
brilliant telegraph Feat.
Louisville,July, 10. "To S. D. Brows, Bowling Green? "You and Col. Houghton move together. I fear the force of Col. H. is too small to venture to Glasgow. The whole force should move together, as the enemy are mounted. We cannot venture to leave the road too far, us they may pass round and ruin it. J. T. Boyle, ‘"Brigadier-General Comd'g."’
I returned the usual signal, ‘"O. K.,"’ after receiving the message. Louisville immediately called Nashville; and I answered for Nashville, receiving business for two hours. This business was mostly of a private nature, and I took no copies. It could be plainly perceived from the tenor of the messages that Morgan was in the country, and all orders to send money and valuables by railroad, were countermanded.--as they supposed. Little did the operator at Louisville think all his work would have to be repeated the next day. Louisville also sent the news of the day, and thus we were furnished with New York and Washington dates of that day. During the whole of this time it was raining heavily, and my situation was anything but an agreeable one--sitting in the mud with my feet in the water up to my knees. At 11 o'clock P. M, the General being satisfied that we had drained Louisville of news, concluded to close for the night, and gave me the following message to send, dating and signing as below: "Nashville, July 10.
"To Henry Dent, Provost Marshal, Louisville: "Gen. Forrest, commanding a brigade, attacked Murfreesboro', routed our forces, and is now moving on Nashville. Morgan is reported to be between Scottsville and Gallatin, and will act in concert with Forrest, it is believed. Inform the General commanding.
‘"Stanley Mathews, Provost Marshal"’ I am not aware that Gen Morgan claims to be a prophet, or the son of a prophet, but Forrest did attack Murfreesboro', and rout the enemy. On arriving at Lebanon, July 12th, I accompanied the advance guard into town, and took possession of the telegraph office immediately. This, as you know, was 3:30 A. M. I adjusted the instrument and examined the circuit. No other operator on the line appeared to be on hand this early. I then examined all the dispatches of the day previous. Among them I found the following:
"Lebanon, July 11, 1862. "Gen. J. T. Boyle, Louisville, Ky.: "I have positive information that there are 400 marauders in 20 miles of this place, on the old Lexington road, approaching Lebanon. Send rein forcemeat immediately. A. Y. Johnson, ‘"Lieut. Col. Commanding."’
At 780 an operator, signing ‘"Z,"’ commenced calling ‘"B,"’ which I had ascertained by the books in the office, was the signal for the Lebanon office, I answered the call, when the following conversation between ‘"Z"’ and myself ensued: ‘"To Lebanon: What news; any more skirmishing after your last message? Z."’ ‘"To Z: No, We drove what little cavalry there was away. B."’ ‘"To B, Has the train arrived yet? Z."’ ‘"To Z, No About how many troops on the train? B,"’ ‘"To B. 500 — 6th Indians commanded by Col. Owens. Z."’ My curiosity being exited as to what station ‘"Z"’ was, and to ascertain without creating any suspicious, I adopted the following plan: ‘"To 'Z:' A gentleman here in the office bets me the cigars you cannot spell the name of your station correctly."’ ‘"To 'B:' Take the bet: L-e-b-a-n-o-n J-u-n-c-t-i-o-n. Is that not right? How did he think I would spell it?"’ ‘"To 'Z:' He gives it up. He thought you would put two B's in Lebanon."’ ‘"To 'B:' Ha! Ha! He is a green."’ ‘"Z."’ ‘"To 'Z:' Yes; that's so."’ ‘"B."’ "To 'Z.' What time did the train with soldiers pass, ‘"Z?"’ ‘"B."’ "To 'B:' 8.30 last night." ‘"Z."’ "To 'Z:' Very singular where the train is! ‘"B."’ ‘"To 'B:' Yes, it is: let me know when it arrives. "’ ‘"Z."’ At 8.20 Lebanon Junction called me up and said: ‘"To 'B:' The train has returned. They had a fight with the rebels at New Hope. The commanding officer awaits orders here."’ ‘"Z."’ ‘"To 'Z:' Give us the particulars of the fight.--Colonel Johnson is anxious to know all about it."’ ‘"B."’ "To 'B:' Here is Moore's message to General Boyle: This message, sent by the confiding operator, was of no importance, merely describing a skirmish — The next day the party moved on to Midway, on the Louisville and Lexington road. The operator says: ‘ At this place I surprised the operator, who was quietly sitting on the platform of the depot, enjoying himself hugely. Little did he suspicion that the much dreaded Morgan was in his vicinity. I demanded of him to call Lexington and inquire the time of day, which he did. This I did for the purpose of getting his style of handling the ‘"key"’ in writing dispatches. My first impressions of his style, from noticing the paper in the instrument, were, confirmed. He was, to use a telegraphic term, a ‘"plug"’ operator. I adopted his style of writing, and commenced operations. In this office I found a signal book, which proved to be very useful. It contained the calls for all the offices. Dispatch after dispatch was going to and from Lexington, Georgetown, Paris, and Frankfort, all containing something in reference to Morgan. On commencing operations at this place, I discovered that there were two wires on the line along this railroad. One was what we term a ‘"through wire,"’ running direct from Lexington to Frank fort, and not entering any of the way offices. I found that all military business was sent over that wire. As it did not enter the Midway office, I ordered it to be cut, thus forcing Lexington on to the wire that did run through the office. ’ I tested the line and found that, by applying my ground wire, it made no difference with the circuit, and as Lexington was headquarters, I cut Frankfort off. Midway was called. I answered and received the following: "Lexington, July 15. "To J. W. Woolums, Operator Midway: ‘"Will there be any danger in coming to Midway? Is everything right? Taylor, Conductor."’ I inquired of my prisoner (the operator) if he knew a man by the name of Taylor. He said Taylor was conductor. I immediately gave Taylor the following reply: "Midway, July 15. "To Taylor, Lexington: "All right — come on — no signs of any rebels here. ‘"Woolums,"’ The operator in Cincinnati then called Frankfort. I answered, and received about a dozen unimportant dispatches. He had no sooner finished, when Lexington called Frankfort. Again I answered and received the following message:
"Lexington, July 15, "To Gen. Finnell, Frankfort: "I wish you to move the forces at Frankfort on the line of the Lexington railroad immediately, and have the cars follow and take them up as soon as possible. Further orders will await them at Midway. I will, in three or four hours, move forward on the Georgetown Pike; will have most of my men mounted. Morgan left Versailles this morning at 8 o'clock, with 850 men, on the Midway road, moving in the direction of Georgetown. ‘"Brigadier General Ward."’
This being our position and intention exactly, it was thought proper to throw Gen. Ward on some other track. So, in the course of half an hour, I manufactured and sent the following dispatch, which was approved by Gen. Morgan: "Midway, July 15, 1862. "To Brig. Gen. Ward, Lexington: "Morgan, with upwards of 1,000 men, came within a mile of here and took the old Frankfort road, bound, as we suppose, for Frankfort. This is reliable. ‘"Woolums Operator."’ In about ten minutes Lexington again called Frankfort, when I received the following:
"Lexington, July 15. "To Gen. Finnell, Frankfort: ‘"Morgan, with more than 1,000 men, came within a mile of here and took the old Frankfort road."’ "The dispatch received from Midway, and is reliable. The regiment from Frankfort had better be recalled. Gen. Ward," I receipted for this message, and again manufactured a message to confirm the information General Ward had received from Midway, and not knowing The taking of Murfreesboro' by Forrest was three days afterwards — on the 18th--EDs. Confed, the tariff from Frankfort to Lexington, I could not send a format message; so appearing greatly agitated, I waited until the circuit was occupied and broke in, telling them to wait a minute, and commenced calling Luxington. He answered with as much gusto as I called him. I telegraphed as follows: "Frankfort to Lexington: Tell Gen. Ward our pickets are just driven in great excitement — pickets say the force of enemy must be two thousand. ‘"operator."’ It was now 2 o'clock P. M., and Gen. Morgan wished to be off for Georgetown. I run a secret ground connection and opened the circuit on the Lexington end. This was to leave the impression that the Frankfort operator was skedaddling, or that Morgan's men had destroyed the telegraph. We arrived at Georgetown about the setting of the sun. I went to the telegraph office, found it looked, inquired for the operator, who was pointed out to me on the street. I hauled him and demanded admission into his office. He very courteously showed me in Discovering that his instruments had been removed. I asked where they were. He said he had sent them to Lexington. I asked what time he had Lexington last? He said ‘"nine o'clock, and since that time the line had been down."’ I remarked that it must be an extraordinary line to be in working condition when it was down, as I heard him sending messages to Lexington when I was at Midway at 1 o'clock. This was a stunner; he had nothing to say. I immediately tested the line by applying the end of the wires to my tongue, and found the line. ‘"Ok"’ I nothing to him, but called for a guard of two men to take care of Mr. Smith until I got ready to leave town. I did not interrupt the line till after tea. when I put in my own instrument, and after listening an hour or two at the Yankees talking, I opened the conversation as followed, signing myself ‘"Federal Operator:"’ "To Lexington: Keep mum; I am in the office reading by the sound of my magnet in the dark. I crawled in when no one saw me. Morgans men are here, camped on Dr. Gano's place. ‘"Georgetown."’ "To Georgetown: Keep cool; don't be discovered, About how many rebels are there ! ‘"Lexington,"’ "To Lexington: I don't know; I did not notice As Morgan's operator was asking me about my instruments, I told him I sent them to Lexington. He said d — n the luck, and went cut. ‘"Georgetown"’ "To Georgetown: Be on hand and keep us posted. ‘"Lexington."’ "To Lexington: I will do so, Tell Gen. Ward I'll stay up all night if he wishes. ‘"Georgetown."’ "To Georgetown Mr. Fulton wishes to know if the rebels are there. ‘" Cincinnati"’ "To Cincinnati: Yes, Morgan's men are here. ‘"Georgetown."’ "To Georgetown: How can you be in the office and not be arrested? ‘" Cincinnati."’ "To Cincinnati: Oh! I am in the dark, and am reading by sound of the magnet. ‘"Georgetown."’ This settled Cincinnati Question after question was asked me about the rebels, and I answered to suit myself. Things had been going on this way about two hours, when Lexington asked me where my assistant was. I replied, ‘"Don't know,"’ He then asked me, ‘"Have you seen him to day?"’ I replied, ‘"No."’ This was the last telegraphing I could do in Georgetown. On arriving at Somerset, Ky., another operator was captured, and after some Yankee messages were received the following dispatches were sent; "Somerset, July 22.
"George D. Prentice, Louisville. "Good morning, George D. I am quietly watching the complete destruction of all of Uncle Saur's property in this little burg. I regret exceedingly that this is the last that comes under my supervision on this route. I expect in a short time to pay you a visit, and wish to know if you will be at home. All well in Dixie. John H. Morgan, Commanding Brigade."
"Gen. J. T. Boyle, Louisville: "Good morning, Jerry. This telegraph is a great institution. You should destroy it, as it keeps you too well posted. My friend, Ellsworth, has all of your dispatches since the 10th of July on file. Do you wish copies? John H. Morgan, ‘"Commanding Brigade."’
"Hon. Geo. W. Dunlop, Washington City: "Just completed my tour through Kentucky--captured seventeen cities, destroyed millions of dollars worth of U. S. property — passed through your county, but regret not seeing you. We paroled fifteen hundred Federal prisoners. "Your old friend, John H. Morgan, ‘"Commanding "’ The foregoing dispatches were well calculated to dumfound these Yankee dignitaries — who, no doubt, were half inclined to pronounce them some spiritual freak; but for concentrated city the following is unequalled.
"Headq'rs T L. Depart., of Ky., C. S. A., "Georgetown, Ky., July 16, 1862. "General Order, No. 1. "When an operator is positively informed that the enemy is marching on his station; he will immediately proceed to destroy the telegraph instruments and all material in his charge. Such in stances of carelessness as were exhibited on the part of the operators at Midway and Georgetown will be severely dealt with.