Albert Chandler had inside view of Lincoln’s war

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Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Oct 25, 2017
Albert Chandler is remembered, when he is remembered at all, as being a prosperous telegraph executive who amassed a sizable fortune and in a fit of largesse donated a music hall to his hometown of Randolph. But to historians Chandler is appreciated for a job he held early in his career. In June 1863, at the height of the Civil War, when he was just 22 years old, Chandler became a telegraph operator for the U.S. War Department.

The position might sound like little more than a clerk’s job, but in reality Chandler was the last link between battlefield commanders and President Lincoln, with whom he spent countless hours. To historians’ great relief, Chandler had the presence of mind to keep a journal. (A collection of Chandler’s journals, minus the particularly valuable 1863 volume, sold seven years ago for $15,000.) Also, later in life, Chandler shared memories of Lincoln in an article for the Sunday Magazine, a now-defunct publication.

The telegraph office was the nerve center of the federal battle against the Confederates since the telegraph was the fastest way to learn the news from the front. If Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted to feel the pulse of the war effort, they had to rely on Chandler and two other telegraph operators — nicknamed the “Sacred Three” — to record and decipher the coded dots and dashes coming across the wires.

The telegraph office was located in the War Department’s former library, a block from the White House. Lincoln visited regularly, particularly while large battles were raging. He couldn’t bear to wait for messages to be delivered to the White House. Lincoln frequently walked to the office alone, but was accompanied by bodyguards later in the war as word of assassination plots emerged.



Apr 4, 2017
Denver, CO
The most important telegraph operator was Samuel Beckwith. These guys were not quite the Secret Service and the CIA, but they were not that far from it.