SIGNALLING ABOARD TUG BOATS
On December 13th, 1864 at 4:00 A.M., Lieut. George A. Fisher boarded the tug Dandelion and preceeded up the Ogeechee river, in Georgia, all the while scanning closely the horizon in every direction for signals. The tug stopping just outside the range of Fort McAllister, the Lieutenant obtained a smaller boat, and accompanied by Sergt. George C. Hardy and Private C. H. Smedes, with four oarsmen, proceeded along the shore to a point nearly opposite the fort. Here, he entered a small creek, where he was consealed from the enemy by the high grass of the marsh. His attention being attracted by the firing of General Hazen's command in its assault upon the fort, he discovered a signal flag upon the old rice mill, about three miles distant from the position he occupied.
At once he returned to the tug Dandelion, he had it moved up past on opening in the woods, through which the guns of Fort McAllister ranged, and succeeded in running the gauntlet in safety. The rice mill now being distinctly visible, the general call for attention was made, and immediately answered from the hill. The following correspondance, by signal, the took place:
- Who are you?
- McClintock, General Howard's signal officer.
- How can I get to you?
What troops are in Fort McAllister?
- We are ivesting Fort McAllister with General Hazen's division.
- Gen. Howard, What can we do for you?
We are ready to render you any assistance.
- Gen Foster, Can you assist us with your heavy guns?
- Being only a tugboat, we have no heavy guns.
This was about 5 P.M., and during the whole time the musketry firing about the fort became more and more distinct and rapid. The bugle sounding charge was heard, and in a few moments our troops were swarming over the parapet. Then the following message was received by signals:
- General Foster, Fort McAllister is ours. Look for a boat. Gen. Sherman will come down to-night.
It being now too dark to work, and having no torches on the tug, Lieut. Fisher made his way to the gunboat "Flag", whence he sent his dispatches to Gen. Foster, and then returned to the obstructions immediately below the fort. In a short time a small boat was seen approaching and was hailed "What boat is that?" The answer in response came back, "Sherman," and the boat came along side the gunboat. Generals Sherman and Howard immediately came on board, the air being resonant with cheers of the enthusiatic crew.
- (The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion by J. Willard Brown, pages 283-284)
The first employment of the Signal Corps was in directing the fire of the battery at Fort Wool on the Rip Raps in Hampton Roads, upon the enemy's works at Sewell's Point, one detail consisting of Lieuts. Maynadier, Quackenbush, and Prescott being stationed with the battery, while Maj. Myer, with Lieuts. Thomas, Hepburn, and Dumont, was conveyed in a tug boat to a point where the effect of the firing could be observed and immediately reported, by flag, to the battery officers.
In reply to a suggestion from General Butler, that selected officers of the navy be instructed in the use of day and night signals, Major Myer said it would afford him much pleasure to give any information in his power to any two commissioned officiers of the navy who might be selected to report to him for instruction by the flag officer commanding on the station at Fort Monroe.
On June 26th, 1861, the fort and the detached post of Newport News were placed in communications. This was the first permanent line of communication by flag and torch that was established in the War of the Rebellion.
- (The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion by J. Willard Brown, pages 41-42)
BALTIMORE & CHESAPEAKE STEAMBOAT COMPANY
For the Preservation and Interpretation of the Steam Tug Baltimore
The Baltimore and Chesapeake Steamboat Company is a company determined to preserve and interpret the tug Baltimore, the last steamboat out of Baltimore harbor. This tug, built in 1906, is representative of tugboats that worked America’s ports from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century. Very few remain; of those, the tug Baltimore is the only one known to be still under steam.
Learn more about TUG BALTIMORE
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