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Mobile Telegraph Unit

Here’s another interesting Civil War innovation from the book More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison.
During wartime, communication needed to be swift, especially on the battlefield. As a result, a mobile telegraph unit was perfected by George W. Beardslee. The chief signal officer of the Union Army, Albert J. Meyer, quickly adopted the new system for use on the field.

Packed in a wooden box, the unit became the heart of the Federal “flying telegraph train.” This portable military telegraph contained about five miles of insulated wire and was transported in two wagons. By 1864, Beardslee’s invention was so successful, Federal commanders dispensed with the formerly used courier riders. Most communications, from that point on, were in the form of telegrams.

The Southern army was unable to use the mobile telegraph systems, at least on par with the Federals. It’s speculated this was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Confederate army, but no one knows for sure. However, this mobile telegraph unit was the direct predecessor of the portable two-way radio.


  1. That’s fascinating, Susan. Yes, I can understand how that would have eventually become the portable two-way radio. And I suspect it would have helped the Confederate Army to have it as well.

  2. It’s really interesting how the Union Army used the new techologies of the times to their advantage. And the aftermath was not only the defeat of the Confederate Army, but newer innovations that continued to develop right into the 20th century.

  3. I had never heard of this before. What is the quote about invention is brought about by need? And to think we all carry phones on us now… How would that have changed the Civil War??

    You always find such interesting topics, Susan.

  4. With the help of this book. LOL. It’s packed full of interesting facts, all concerning the Civil War.

    And I believe all the wars in our past brought forth new inventions out of necessity. And now, it’s the space program that fuels all our new techie toys.

  5. Susan, you and the other Vics write such interesting posts. Really makes me stretch to keep up! Thanks foer sharing.

  6. Thanks, Caroline! The Victorian period is chock full of interesting subjects.

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