Secretary of State William Howard Taft awards a Certificate of Honorable
Service to an "Operator in the Military Telegraph Corps of the Army of the
United States, during the late Civil War".
Partly Printed DS: "Wm H Taft" as Secretary of State. 1p,
Washington 24 April 1908. Full 2¼-inch blue War
Department seal at lower left. Engraved vignette of Union field
telegraph operators with illustration of the telegraph machine at top center. In
part: "Know Ye; that it appearing from the records
of the War Department that B.W. Flack served as an Operator in the Military
Telegraph Corps of the Army of the United States, during the late Civil War, to
wit: from April 14 1863, to January 17 1864...the Secretary of War hereby issues
this Certificate of Honorable Service as authorized and directed by the Act of
Congress approved January 26, 1897 as follows: 'Be it enacted...Congress
assembled, that the Secretary of War is hereby authorized and directed to
prepare a roll of all persons who served not less than ninety days in the
operation of military telegraph lines during the late Civil War, and to issue to
each...suitable certificates of honorable service...Provided that this law shall not
be construed to entitle the persons herein mentioned to any pay, pension,
bounty, or rights not herein specifically provided for.'" The
Military Telegraph Service is a title that plays on its words--as the service
came under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of War, became a civilian bureau
attached to the Quartermaster's Department. As a result, the telegraph operator
in the field was a civilian. He was poorly paid, barely protected and often
found himself at odds with military commanders whose orders often contradicted
those from his own commander. As a consequence, he had a thankless, life
endangering job and was not eligible for any government benefits (as was a
soldier) after the war. The effort put forth in this document marginally
tries to correct the status of the operators. While it recognizes the operator's
service, it does not award any pension or disability benefits. The use of the
telegraph in the Civil War was revolutionary to warfare. The telegraph was a
valuable field instrument as well as essential to long-distance communication.
Authorities in Washington often held "talks" of telegraph with commanders in the
West and hastily strung wires often carried battlefield orders and information.
A lack of operators and equipment handicapped the South, but the North was able
to put the telegraph to full use. The United States Military Telegraph grew
to 15,389 miles of line constructed during the war, plus all the existing lines.
The Telegraph Office of the War Department in Washington became the nerve center
of the war. The telegraph had seen active service in
the Crimea, but in the American Civil War it proliferated and gained an impetus
in its wartime use that carried over into civilian development in the postwar
years. Uniformly browned. Lightly stained at blank left and lower margins.
½-inch vertical tear at mid-upper blank margin (all paper intact). Fine
For more documents by these signers click the names below:
PRESIDENT WILLIAM H. TAFT
This website image contains our company watermark. The actual document does not contain this watermark.