Discussion Communication Impact on Civil War Outcome

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Even in war scenarios where recipient's location nor their live status was known for sure by those who delivered messages? That's the hole in this whole ball of wax that I see. Lack of simultaneous or instantaneous transmissibility. In fact, the more I think on it, the greater mystery seems how any war has ever been fought - much less won - by anyone. At least, not until 1st portable walkie-talkie was born.
Well the telegraph could work very much like a linear cell phone network. The query could be sent up the wire until it was received by a station that knew the location of the intended recipient. These could signal receipt and then the message in full could be transmitted. Obviously in a lot of cases the messages would then have to be carried on foot or by mounted messenger for a portion of the distance. That however still holds true in an age of wireless communications.
 

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Thanks for clarifying.
Your Welcome. Very interesting story, the raider CSS Shenandoah. Seems Waddell was planning to capture a port ( San Francisco I think) when he found out the war had ended. Sailed south and east so as to surrender in England. Amazing journey several good books on it.
 

CLuckJD

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Well the telegraph could work very much like a linear cell phone network (where) a query could be sent until received by a station that knew the location of the intended recipient. (Then), signal receipt and the full message could be transmitted. In a lot of cases messages would then be carried on foot or by mounted messenger... . That however still holds true in an age of wireless communications.
But I thought wireless transmission got messages directly to recipients with no need for so many 3rd party intermediaries who read contents that may be classified and delay final delivery by physical methods. Do they have some way to communicate during combat today that can eliminate or significantly mitigate these drawbacks? If so, what's the net difference in speed?
 

CLuckJD

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There were other ways of communications too. Edward Porter Alexander made history with the use of signal flags and would be a major factor in who won at the 1st Mannassas.
Yes, I did some cursory research on this issue prompted by feedback from you and others. Wig-wag flag signals seem very complicated, as messages were communicated thru a series of movements from left to right and up or down performed by a human being. Also, ambient conditions had to be "right," such as sufficient light that was often generated by an attached kerosene lamp at nighttime. What if the sky were cloudy or starless? Not to mention close attention from enemies that mandated constant change in various "signals" communicated to your allies. In fact, how could this frequent switch made known in secret so that only your own side would comprehend new codes?
 

CLuckJD

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Very interesting story, the raider CSS Shenandoah. Waddell was planning to capture a port in (San Francisco(?) when he found out the war had ended. Sailed south and east ...to surrender in England. Amazing journey.
So I gather from cursory research that suggested Waddell fully expected court-martial or death at fellow American hands. But he most likely did not know of another ex-rebel naval commander's release (as I recall the stated reason why his voyage was circuitous). No matter how we view it now, it all blame can fall on slow or absent communication. Thanks again for some new enlightenment :wink:
 
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So I gather from cursory research that suggested Waddell fully expected court-martial or death at fellow American hands. But he most likely did not know of another ex-rebel naval commander's release (as I recall the stated reason why his voyage was circuitous). No matter how we view it now, it all blame can fall on slow or absent communication. Thanks again for some new enlightenment :wink:
Thanks for your reply, looks like you've done your homework. Waddell was in a bad place, having sent many ships ($$$$$) to the oceans bottom not knowing the war was over. As far as I know his were the last shots fired in the war. The only news he could get once the CSS Shenandoah went to sea would be from ports many miles from home while getting resupplied, or other ships that would have been at sea a while also, and have outdated news papers.
 
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Yes, I did some cursory research on this issue prompted by feedback from you and others. Wig-wag flag signals seem very complicated, as messages were communicated thru a series of movements from left to right and up or down performed by a human being. Also, ambient conditions had to be "right," such as sufficient light that was often generated by an attached kerosene lamp at nighttime. What if the sky were cloudy or starless? Not to mention close attention from enemies that mandated constant change in various "signals" communicated to your allies. In fact, how could this frequent switch made known in secret so that only your own side would comprehend new codes?
Good points. I hadn't even thought about them using lamps, as armies rarely move at night. In many ways flags were the very best way to communicate. Before Sharpsburg Jackson when surrounds Harpers Ferry. I'm thinking he must be using flags to communicate with Loudon and Maryland heights. But I don't know if he did, it would sure wear out cavalry or staff members.
 
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But I thought wireless transmission got messages directly to recipients with no need for so many 3rd party intermediaries who read contents that may be classified and delay final delivery by physical methods. Do they have some way to communicate during combat today that can eliminate or significantly mitigate these drawbacks? If so, what's the net difference in speed?
Today you can manpack a multi-net radio, the downside is that any broadcasting radio will potentially be detected and position fixed. Thus on the move and in other situations where a signals element cannot run a landline to the headquarters element it is supporting they will still use messengers if some level of operational surprise is being sought.

In a rapid moving tactical engagement when in contact with the enemy your radio signals being detected becomes a bit less of a concern.
 

USS ALASKA

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Ma'am, perhaps this thread would be of interest...

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HTHs,
USS ALASKA
 

CLuckJD

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But I don't know if he did, it would sure wear out cavalry or staff members.
And God help them all if He saw fit to perform His own show by a storm that lit the sky with fast lightning bolts and hard wind to blast in heavy rain or snow. See what I mean? But far more important is if this one asset by ability to communicate efficiently could make a difference between victory or defeat for either side in the War? For instance, try to imagine a scenario where Rebels could share info by cellphone, but no Union spy even knew such hi-tech existed, much less had access thereto. Would this one strategic edge by itself have won victory for confederates and thus altered the course of US history? Although just a neophyte, I must say YES! despite all other overwhelming odds against rebels.
 
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And God help them all if He saw fit to perform His own show by a storm that lit the sky with fast lightning bolts and hard wind to blast in heavy rain or snow. See what I mean? But far more important is if this one asset by ability to communicate efficiently could make a difference between victory or defeat for either side in the War? For instance, try to imagine a scenario where Rebels could share info by cellphone, but no Union spy even knew such hi-tech existed, much less had access thereto. Would this one strategic edge by itself have won victory for confederates and thus altered the course of US history? Although just a neophyte, I must say YES! despite all other overwhelming odds against rebels.

The issue is though that having cellphone tech is one point of difference (POD) from our timeline but then having the infrastructure to support those cell phones is a whole order of magnitude more difficult and probably requires multiple PODs. It might be an additional advantage on the defensive but how many base station masts are the Confederates going to have beyond the secessionist states?

In our timeline the Union had far more resources to roll out telegraph wires behind their advancing armies which is why they made far more use of the technology than the rebels.
 
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And God help them all if He saw fit to perform His own show by a storm that lit the sky with fast lightning bolts and hard wind to blast in heavy rain or snow. See what I mean? But far more important is if this one asset by ability to communicate efficiently could make a difference between victory or defeat for either side in the War? For instance, try to imagine a scenario where Rebels could share info by cellphone, but no Union spy even knew such hi-tech existed, much less had access thereto. Would this one strategic edge by itself have won victory for confederates and thus altered the course of US history? Although just a neophyte, I must say YES! despite all other overwhelming odds against rebels.
You and RodentRevolution both have good points. I'm going into the "What if?" world here. Cell phones or radios will work sometimes, both have dead zones. Am radios (CBs ect) kind of work like flags (line of sight). Where I work used to be called "Between the Hills" and its not far from Harpers Ferry. I can only get a few FM radio stations, and up to a few years ago very few cells would work there. YEs wireless probably would have changed the out come.
 

CLuckJD

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the Union had far more resources to roll out telegraph wires behind their advancing armies which is why they made far more use of the technology than rebels.
So, I guess this just goes to show how irrational rebels' thought process must have been to believe they could win a war against far superior Union resources. :banghead:
 
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So, I guess this just goes to show how irrational rebels' thought process must have been to believe they could win a war against far superior Union resources. :banghead:
"iirrational rebels' " must have that same thought process in 1775.:rolleyes:
Well the strategy in many ways was the same. Use time and distance to mitigate the resource advantage of the larger power, win the propaganda war and entice foreign intervention to further dissipate the assets of the former governing authority. The problem for the southern states was that they only really achieved the first.

Now it is interesting to wonder how much the telegraph contributed to the propaganda war domestically and internationally? By controlling the access of reporters to the army telegraphs they could perhaps trade the advantage of getting copy out to head office in speedier fashion in return for a certain shading of defeats and embellishment of victories. Not sure how much investigation there has been into that aspect of the conflict?
 

USS ALASKA

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But I thought wireless transmission got messages directly to recipients with no need for so many 3rd party intermediaries who read contents that may be classified and delay final delivery by physical methods.
Ma'am, hope I'm not going to 'nerd out' here and lose everyone...

MF transmissions - radio transmissions between the frequencies of 300 kHz and 3000 kHz (AM radio is its most well known use) is Line-of-sight (LOS), via ground waves, until sunset creates different temperature levels in the ionosphere (skywaves) that can 'bounce' broadcasts Over-the-Horizion (OTH).

HF transmissions - radio transmissions between the frequencies of 3000 kHz and 30MHz (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Moscow) not only works LOS but also 24/7 use of different zones in the ionosphere to 'skip' broadcasts OTH - around the world.

VHF / UHF transmissions - radio transmissions between the frequencies of 30 MHz to 3 GHz (FM, analog TV, Command and Control radios - both Civilian and Military, cell phones, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, walkie-talkies, cordless phones) are LOS and on rare occasions, OTH.

The issue is the MF / HF transceivers are big heavy things compared to VHF / UHF. Having to man-pack those items around can be detrimental. 3rd parties are often used to reformat and rebroadcast information on the proper freqs and modulation system the final end-user can receive.

SatCom changed all - as long as you could afford the infrastructure...
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USS ALASKA
 

redbob

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A small but important point, the development of insulated iron wire to replace copper wire aided in the improvement of the Union telegraph systems as it was stronger, cheaper and insulated to protect against the effects of the weather. Confederates also appreciated the improved wire as they could use captured supplies of it to set off electrically detonated underwater torpedoes (mines) in the James River.
 

USS ALASKA

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Do they have some way to communicate during combat today that can eliminate or significantly mitigate these drawbacks? If so, what's the net difference in speed?
Not really sure we want to get into a LPI or FH-CDMA discussion here... :wink:

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 


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