Discussion Language of Orders/Telegrams/Communiques/etc

weasel

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As I'm sure everyone here is aware, frequently orders/telegrams/etc were ended with 'Your obedient servant' or some shortened form thereof. Does anyone know (even colloquially) where this pattern originated?

It's somewhat surreal to see communications between, for example, Maj. Robert Anderson and P.G.T negotiating the surrender of Sumter with language like that. Personally, I love reading the old speech mannerisms in the OR and diaries; there's an almost dry wit to some of the stories they convey.
 

jackt62

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There was a certain type of polite etiquette observed in the 19th century, particularly when it came to written letters and communications. It was all part of the veneer of chivalry and gentility that was to be observed by "gentlemen" regardless of whether they were sworn enemies. While it may seem quaint and old fashioned, it did have the effect of tamping down raw emotions when it came to military matters between foes.
 

weasel

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While it may seem quaint and old fashioned, it did have the effect of tamping down raw emotions when it came to military matters between foes.

Beyond that, there's also the similarly-flavored stories about troops cheering for their enemy's gallantry (Marye's Heights first came to mind) and I came across one this morning that I hadn't been aware of. It comes after the fall of Sumter and P.G.T. is sending a report to the Confederate Secretary of War:

"...whenever the guns of Fort Sumter would fire upon Fort Moultrie the men...at each shot would cheer Anderson for his gallantry, although themselves still firing upon him, and when....he left the harbor on the steamer Isabel the soldiers of the batteries on Cummings Point lines the beach, silent, and with heads uncovered, while Anderson and his command passed before them, and expressions of scorn at the apparent cowardice of the fleet in not even attempting to rescue so gallant an officer and his command were upon the lips of all."

(I have no idea how to properly cite the OR, but it's on page 28 of Series I, Volume I).
 

Ole Miss

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Ole Miss

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My pleasure any time. Have questions? Just ask as there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Regards
David
 

Ole Miss

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Just for example here are 2 letter closings from opposing generals. General Beauregard wrote to General Grant the day after the Battle of Shiloh inquiring about the burial of Confederate dead. These men just spent 2 days doing their best to destroy each other's army but by all means the proprieties must be observed!
Regards
David

Respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD,

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Major-General, Commanding.
 

Tennis

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The Union developed a Cipher for Telegraph messages, and the Cipher was highly effective
 

Tennis

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In addition the Union did develop Mobile Telegraph, which was effective in the Field.
 

weasel

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When I went digging into non-military ("Citizen") prisoners who were held at Andersonville, there were a couple of telegraph operators held there, one of whom, an AT&T employee, is buried in the prison cemetery.

Any idea how he ended up there? Traveling with the army? Spying for the Union?
 

weasel

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These men just spent 2 days doing their best to destroy each other's army but by all means the proprieties must be observed!

At Sumter (the messages I've been reading) something that appears in multiple accounts is the Confederates shelling the Samuel out of the fort and apparently knocking the flag down. They weren't sure they were the one who did that and, since they could also see a fire from the barracks (there were a few dozen rounds of hot shot fired, so perhaps that caused it) they rowed out to see if the garrison needed help and whether they were trying to surrender or needed any help.

"No, we're doing okay, the flag just got hit, we'll put it back up momentarily. Thanks, though."

"Ah, very well then. Cheers, we'll head back to the batteries."

The compartmentalization powers they possessed was amazing.
 
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Any idea how he ended up there? Traveling with the army? Spying for the Union?


I've identified 104 citizen prisoners who died at Andersonville and 179 who survived. I'm working on a book of stories from Andersonville that don't generally get told, and there's a chapter in their on the non-military prisoners who were held there. Most of them were teamsters, who were contracted by the military to move supplies. The sad part is, if these guys died at Andersonville, there was "no provision" for their families, and they were not entitled to any pension or compensation because they were technically not in the military.
 

Llewellyn

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As I'm sure everyone here is aware, frequently orders/telegrams/etc were ended with 'Your obedient servant' or some shortened form thereof. Does anyone know (even colloquially) where this pattern originated?

It's somewhat surreal to see communications between, for example, Maj. Robert Anderson and P.G.T negotiating the surrender of Sumter with language like that. Personally, I love reading the old speech mannerisms in the OR and diaries; there's an almost dry wit to some of the stories they convey.

If you love reading the old speech mannerisms, can I quote for you a letter written during the Civil War, between commanders of opposing armies. I am referring to the English Civil War though ! But the letter deserves to be remembered.

In June 1643, Sir Ralph Hopton, commanding for the King in the west of England, wrote to Sir William Waller, the opposing Parliamentary commander. The two men had been firm friends before the war, and remained so despite their subsequent affiliations. Hopton's forces were located at the small cathedral city of Wells in Somerset, and Waller was about 30 miles away, besieging Royalist cavalry under Prince Rupert in the town of Devizes in Wiltshire. Hopton suggested a meeting but Waller (despite his obvious affection for his old friend) decided that his honour could not allow him to agree.

This is what he wrote (the 17th century spellings have been updated):


To my noble friend Sir Ralph Hopton at Wells

Sir,

The experience I have of your worth and the happiness I have enjoyed in your friendship are wounding considerations when I look at this present distance between us. Certainly my affection to you is so unchangeable that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship, but I must be true wherein the cause I serve. That great God, which is the searcher of my heart, knows with what a sad sense I go about this service, and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as an Opus Domini and that is enough to silence all passion in me. The God of peace in his good time will send us peace. In the meantime, we are upon the stage and must act those parts that are assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do so in a way of honour and without personal animosities.

Whatever the outcome I will never willingly relinquish the title of Your most affectionate friend.

William Waller



I suppose that identical feelings must have been experienced by individuals on your side of the Atlantic two hundred years later.

Anyway, a few weeks after Waller wrote his letter, the two armies met in battle on Roundway Down, Devizes, the result being a victory for the Royalists.
Jumping forward three centuries almost exactly, the Americans came to Roundway, in the form of the US Army 803rd Central Hospital. After WW2 when the Yanks went home the camp was handed to the British Army. It was such a large establishment that the Brits divided it up into three separate camps, naming each for a commander in the 1643 battle, viz. Hopton Barracks, Waller Barracks and Prince Maurice Barracks. Fifty-two years ago I found myself living and working in those old US hospital huts whilst stationed with a medium artillery regiment. They have all gone now, and a light industrial park known as Roundway occupies the site.

The wheels of history roll on.
 
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