Communication during the Civil War

New methods of communication were emerging at the time of the Civil War. Photography allowed people to see the war without being there on the battlefront. The telegraph allowed messages to be sent electrically over telegraph wires. This was much faster and more reliable than sending messages by horse messenger. Other means of communication, such as signal towers, provided communication over short distances.

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Photography

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Photography was relatively new at the time of the Civil War. Cameras were much larger than they are today. Taking pictures was a slow and complex process (Source: Library of Congress).
Photographers would travel by horse and wagon to different locations. This picture shows the wagons and camera of Sam A. Cooley, Department of the South (Source: Library of Congress).

 

Newspapers and Artist Sketches

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Newspaper reporters travelled by horse and wagon to cover the war. Stories of the war were sent back to their newspaper to be published (Source: Library of Congress).
Newspapers not only took news of the war back to the rest of the country, but also brought news from home to the soldiers. This picture shows a newspaper vendor and cart selling newspapers in a camp (Source: Library of Congress).
Prior to photography, artists would sketch pictures of battlefield. This picture shows Alfred R. Wood, an artist of Harper's Weekly, sketching on the battlefield (Source: Library of Congress).

 

Telegraph and Signal Towers

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The telegraph was emerging as a means of sending messages electronically. Telegraph corps followed troops and erected telegraph poles and wires to provide communication from the battle front. This photograph shows a group of military telegraph operators. Poles carrying the telegraph wires can be seen leading into the distance (Source: Library of Congress).
Tall signal towers were used to send messages short distances. This photograph shows the Butler's signal tower, Bermuda Hundred, Virginia (Source: Library of Congress).
Airplanes were not yet invented. Observation balloons in the sky were used to report on troop movements and battles.
 

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