ADDRESS ON PRESENTATION OF THE MEMORIAL
To me this is a very great honor to have been selected to make the presentation of this beautiful memorial of the first Chief Signal Officer of the Army on behalf of his gracious daughter, who has just unveiled it.
The presence of such a distinguished gathering makes this occasion particularly conspicuous. I know Miss Myer appreciates their presence, especially the Aide to the President of the United States, representing him, as well as General Scriven, General Squier, and General Saltzman.
It is regretted that illness prevented the attendance of General Greely and General Allen, who were intimate friends of General Myer. Pressure of business also prevented the presence of General Gibbs.
This post was named for General Myer - and it was on this spot - this old original Signal Corps post - that he continued his great work of organization and training of the nucleus of the present day Army Signal Corps and the United States Weather Bureau, both of which he created.
It seems to me to be a wonderful method of familiarizing our people, both old and young, with the achievements and sacrifices of our outstanding Americans who have contributed so much to the upbuilding of our nation and the world in general, as well as serving as an example of character, of courage, of perseverance, and inspiring high ideals, national pride and patriotism.
Albert James Myer was born at Newburgh, New York, September 20, 1829 , of Holland Dutch ancestry. At the age of 16, he learned telegraphy, when it was still experimental, while a student at Hobert College from which he graduated in 1847. Four years later he graduated from the Buffalo Medical College, where he made a special study of sign language for deaf mutes.
1854 found him an assistant surgeon in the United States Army in New Mexico, and it was there he worked out the system of signals which was the basis of methods of visual communication employed during our Civil War. It was there that he put his original inspiration into concrete form in the Myer Code of Signalling and later the adaptation of the telegraph for military use in the field.
In 1858 a Board was appointed to examine his principles and plans of signalling, modes of using it in the field and the course to be pursued in introducing it into the Army. A year later Congress established the Signal Corps as a branch of the service, with Major Myer, its creator, as Chief Signal Officer.
He had won; and the outbreak of the Civil War found him using and developing his methods in a campaign against the Indians in the Southwest. As the war developed, the plains of the Southwest became very far away. The men whom he trained were with the armies of the North and South, for one of his first assistants had introduced signalling into the Confederate Army; but his own real field conflict was Washington. His system was a novelty in military practice; there was not a line about the duties of the Signal Officer in any text on the art of war. The unknown system was nowhere welcomed; at best it was tolerated. The scout for observation and the orderly for communication were still supreme, but Major Myer was diligent in grasping at every means that might even remotely assist him, and was pertinacious in returning to his purpose with unabated vigor after each rebuff.
In the meanwhile, in the field in every campaign, the men of the Signal Service were risking their lives in the forefront of battle, speeding orders of advance, warning of impending danger or undismayed admissions of defeat. They wore on the advanced lines of Yorktown, and the saps and trenches at Charleston, Vicksburg and Fort Hudson, the battle lines at Chickamauga and the crest of Fredericksburg, amid the carnage of Antietam, and with Grant's victorious army at Appomattox and at Richmond. They signalled to Porter, clearing the central Mississippi River, and aided Farragut when forcing the passage of Mobile Bay. They were often in advance of the lines and they held on when lines fell back; seeing, reporting and transmitting. Their casualties prove how greatly they dared.
That desperate moment at Allatoona Pass when Sherman's supplies were about to be captured on his advance to Atlanta, stands out as one of the most brilliant uses of signalling in the Civil War. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of a hill. At this moment, an officer caught sight of a white signal flag far away across the valley, 15 miles distant, upon the top of Kenesaw Mountain. The signal was answered and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: "Hold the Fort; I am coming. Sherman." Cheers went up. Every man was nerved to the full appreciation of his position, and, under murderous fire, they held until the advanced guard of Sherman's army came up. This event had such national significance that the inspiration for the old hymn was taken from that event: "Hold the Fort, for I Am Coming."
I shall read General Orders No. 63, Headquarters of the Army, Agust 24, 1880, issued by command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. It is a succinct sketch of the life of General Myer, issued by men who knew him and who realized and appreciated his accomplishments.
In 1891 General Greely, our third Chief Signal Officer, wrote to Mrs. Myer and said; "It was a great thought which came from General Myer's brain and which now finds the sincerest tribute in the unconscious homage of the civilized countries of the world, which have adopted, with slight modifications, the system that came full-fledged from the General's brain."
With the passage of time, this post has been assigned to other Army purposes, but the name remains and should endure as long as this post and our government endure. This monument will recall to all who may see it the name of that able and forceful man, who, out of the void, called three new methods, really new things, into being. It is much for one life.
Colonel Cootes, on behalf of General Myer's daughter, Gertrude Myer, I present to the War Department this memorial in honor of Brigadier General Albert J. Myer, the first Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army.
~ Copy of this address made courtesy of
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