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U.S. Military Construction Corps

U.S. Military Construction Corps

Publisher: Alexander Gardner

Medium: Photographic print

Shelfmark: 1784.a.13.2_f026r

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photographer: Timothy H. O'Sullivan

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This image of the U.S. Military Construction Corps was captured by O’Sullivan in April 1864. It shows men positioning telegraph poles into the ground by precariously balancing on tree logs. Communication links between generals, military units and Washington, D.C., were crucial during the Civil War as the conflict covered vast geographical distances and the need for fast information was vital.

Gardner notes in the description of this image that the Telegraph Construction Corps of the Army of the Potomac would be assigned to Union military headquarters in the field to provide and maintain communication links. The telegraph poles themselves were 'only intended for temporary use' and the Corps were 'always in readiness to put up new lines or remove those already up at a moment’s notice' as campaigns progressed.

Gardner also notes that many of the communications from the field went directly to the War Department in Washington, D.C., where the Central Telegraph Office was based. He comments that President Lincoln 'frequently visited this office, and spent many an evening sitting at the instruments reading the reports as they came in and were recorded by the operators'.

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