Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Rene Tyree and I am a graduate student in Military History with a focus on the American Civil War. I am very pleased to say that most of my fellow students are active members of the military and include men and women of both enlisted and officer ranks. Some are on duty stateside but many are stationed in Middle East and Europe. As you might imagine, their participation adds incredibly to the richness of discussion.
I chose the name “wig-wags” because of the term’s relationship to “communications” during the Civil War. I work in telecommunications so find fascinating the introduction during the Civil War of “emerging” communication techniques like the Myer signaling system known as Wig-Wag.
“An essential supplement of telegraphic communication in supporting the movement of armies during the Civil War was a system of “wig-wag” signaling developed in 1856 by then Lieutenant Albert J. Myer. Patented by Myer in 1858, his system used a single flag – or, at night, a torch – which, when moved to the left or right, expressed a four-element code. In 1859, Myer formally presented the system to a military board chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee who thought it might be usefully employed in the field and ordered trials and further evaluation.”
—The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference by Margaret E. Wagner, Gary W. Gallagher, James M. McPherson, 358-359.
The good folks over at the Signal Corps Association website have done a nice job documenting communication during the American Civil War including use of the “wig wag” system. I highly recommend it.