Lincoln in The Telegraph Office

Title:                      Lincoln in The Telegraph Office

Author:                 David Homer Bates

Bates, David Homer (1907, 1939, 1995). Lincoln in The Telegraph Office: Recollections of The U.S. Military Telegraph Corps During The Civil War. Lincoln, NE : University of Nebraska Lincoln

LCCN:    95010908

E608 .B28 1995


Date Updated:  April 4, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Richard Rowan in The Story of Secret Service[2] calls to our attention the fact that the invention of telegraphic wire tapping occurred in the American Civil War, making it an American development in military intelligence. The author of this book, first published in 1907, was manager of the U.S. War Department Telegraph Office and a cipher-operator during the years 1861-1866. He was one of the first four operators in this office, involved in both cryptographic and cryptanalytic duties. Unfortunately only some four chapters are devoted to codes, ciphers, and cryptologic matters and to Union counterintelligence—using deciphered messages against Confederate agents. What Bates reveals only whets the appetite for more. Still, we learn that the Confederates failed to break higher-level Union cryptographic systems while the Union had greater success. A historical gem is his description of President Lincoln’s personal interest in the breaking of enciphered Confederate messages.

In David Kahn’s monumental The Codebreakers[3], a chapter is partly based on this work. Taylor’s The Signal and Secret Service of the Confederate States[4] tells a little of what has come down to us about the Confederate cryptologic effort.

[1] George C. Constantinides in Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (1983), pp. 75-76

[2] Rowan, Richard Wilmer (1967) with Robert G. Deindorfer. Secret Service: Thirty-Three Centuries of Espionage. New York, Hawthorn Books

[3] Kahn, David (1967). The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing. New York: Macmillan

[4] Taylor, Charles E. (1903, 1986). The Signal And Secret Service of The Confederate States. Harmans, MD: Toomey Press


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One Response to Lincoln in The Telegraph Office

  1. Pingback: The Signal And Secret Service of The Confederate States | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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