Walk back toward the entrance until you reach the
GETTYSBURG ADDRESS MEMORIAL.
STOP 1, POSITION B. CEMETERY HILL SIGNAL STATION This is the approximate site of the Cemetery Hill
signal station. [Map of the Battle of Gettysburg, Office of
the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, Boston, John B.
Bachelder, 1876, Plate 1] Take your compass and sight
Meade's Headquarters at 210 degrees and the Little Round Top
signal station at 195 degrees. Because this station was
operated by a number of signal parties, communicating with
various stations on the battlefield, it may have been
located at times on other parts of Cemetery Hill.
The first signal officers to occupy this position were
Captains P. Babcock Jr. and T. R. Clark of the Eleventh Army
Corps. The Eleventh Corps signal station was established
when Maj. Gen. O. 0. Howard left a portion of his command as
a reserve on Cemetery Hill. During the action of the first
day, Babcock and Clark were in contact with the stations in
Gettysburg which were operated by Jerome.
This site was also the initial location of the Chief
Signal Officer of the Army of the Potomac, Captain Lemuel B.
Norton. Captain Norton was assigned to that position after
Captain B. F. Fisher was captured near Aidie on 17 June
while on reconnaissance.
Report of Capt. Lemuel B. Norton, Chief Signal Officer,
Army of the Potomac
On July 1, general headquarters remained near
Taneytown. A station of observation was established,
first on the college and subsequently on the
court-house in Gettysburg, and reports of the position,
numbers, and movements of the enemy sent by signals to
General Howard, on Cemetery Hill, southeast of the
town. In the afternoon of this day two reconnaissances
were made from Gettysburg, for the information of
General W. S. Hancock, by the signal officer temporarily
attached to his staff.
In the evening I was made acquainted by the general
commanding with the line of defense to be occupied by
the army in case the enemy made an irresistible attack
upon our position, and directed by him to "examine the
line thoroughly, and at once upon the commencement of
the movement extend telegraphic communication from each
of the following points, viz, general headquarters,
near Frizellburg, Manchester, Union Mills, Middleburg,
and the Taneytown road."
In order that these instructions might be promptly
and successfully fulfilled, signal telegraph trains
were sent to Frizellburg, and everything held in
readiness to extend the wire at a moment's notice to
the points desired by the commanding general. During
the whole of this day, endeavors were made to open the
signal line between general headquarters, Emmitsburg,
and Round Top Mountain, but, on account of the
smokiness of the atmosphere, the desired result was not
obtained until 11 p.m., when the first message was
received. These lines were kept open during the
subsequent'battle at Gettysburg and until July 6. In
the event of the repulse and retirement of'our army,
they must have been eminently useful.
Part I. pp. 201-202.1
This station was also used by the First Corps and was
maintained by First Lieutenants J. C. Wiggins and N. H.
Camp. The following messages have been documented as being
transmitted from this signal station.
Cemetery Signal Station
July 2, 1863, 12.35 P.M.
Numerous fires, apparently from the burning of
wagons, south-southeast from here. A wagon train can
be seen in the same direction. I think our trains are
Capt., Signal Officer
Signal Station near Wadsworth's Headquarters
July 2, 1863, 4.35 P.M.
One regiment rebel infantry has just come out of the
woods into a field east-northeast from here. The
enemy's sharpshooters are in the woods at the foot of
this hill. I can see sixteen guns, not in position,-
eight north-northwest and eight northeast from here.
N. Henry Camp,
Lieut., Signal Officer
[O.R., XXVII, Part III, pp. 488-489.1
The allocation of two signal officers per corps had
been ordered by the Chief of Staff of the Army of the
Potomac, Major Gen. Butterfield, on 20 June. This represents
a change from having the signal assets assigned to the three
army wings which was the configuration as of the 14th of
June in anticipation of the move north. Captt. Norton
In view of the contemplated movement of this army
from thelline of the Rappahannock, in June last the
following detail of signal officers was made by
direction of the commanding general, viz: The right
wing was supplied with 6, the left wing with 4, and the
center with 4, 8 officers being held as a reserve, to
be used whenever the Changes in the position of the
army might render them of the greatest service ....
.... On the 20th, by direction of the chief of staff,
two signal officers were assigned to each army corps.
The organization of the Signal Corps was being
formalized during the Gettysburg Campaign.- The leadership
of the Army of the Potomac was organizing its signal assets
internally. At the same time the War Depar-tment was
deciding how many signal soldiers should be assigned to each
corps. The Military Board of 1863 recommended the following
complement of signal soldiers for each corps; one captain as
Chief Signal Officer of the corps; one sergeant as clerk.:
and one sergeant as quartermaster and commissary sergeant of
the corps party in charge of the train. In addition, it
contained eight lieutenants, five sergeants, twenty
first-class privates, and thirty-four second-class privates.
(O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 200.]
[Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Signals, New York, D. Van
Nostrand, 1866, p. 332.1
The Chief Signal Officer was heavily involved in
recruiting officers and enlisted men for the new corps.
Prior to March, 1863, all signal officers were in an acting
status and most of them were on temporary duty from their
regiments. With the advent of the formal organization of
the corps, a board of officers was established by the War
Department to examine officers for permanent acceptance into
the Signal Corps. The following circular illustrates the
emphasis which was being placed on recruiting soldiers for
the new corps.
[CIRCULAR.] OFFICE OF THE SIGNAL OFFICER
Memoirs of Captain Gustavus S. Dana, U.S. Army Signal
Washington, D.C., July 1, 1863
Chief signal officers of departments or army corps
are instructed to proceed at once to enlist and
re-enlist men for the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, after
passing the required examination, for the period of two
or three years or the war.
Enlisted men now upon duty in the corps may be
transferred for the balance of their unexpired term of
Transfers to the corps of men now serving in it may
be made in accordance with General Orders (from the War
Department), No. 106.
By order of the Signal Officer of the Army:
HENERY S. TAFFT,
Captain and Signal Officer.
[O.R., Series III, Volume III, p. 461.]
Soon after this we were notified that the law passed
Mar 3/63, organizing a Signal Corps, consisting of 1
Col, 1 Lt Col, 3 Majors, 20 Capts, 100 lst Lts, and 150
2nd Lts, all to be a part of the regular army required
an examination. All not passing such ex to be returned
to our reg'ts. I found out what studies would be
necessary, sent North for an elementary Chemistry,
Prescott's Electricity, a grammar & arithmetic &
crammed. Expected college bred boys would get the
cream but had the promise of soon being the Col of my
old regt if I returned to it. Col Chatfield and Maj
Rodman had been mortally wounded on July 18th and the
Lt Col [John] Speidel was about to resign, the senior
Captain did not want the Colonelcy and all the other
Capts agreed to waive their rank in my favor. It was a
compliment I ought to have appreciated enough to go
back to the old 6th but I was young & desired more dash
and freedom than could be had with infantry and
concluded to not do so unless the result of the ex-
reduced my rank.
[Captain G.S. Dana, "The Recollections
of a Signal Officer," Edited by Lester L. Swift, Civil
War History, State University of Iowa, Vol. IX, No. I,
March 1963, p. 41.1
Return To Now you should return to your automobile and drive to STOP 2. Exit theCYCLORAMA CENTER parking lot and turn right on TANEYTOWN ROAD (HWY 134).
Drive SOUTH to you reach WRIGHT AVENUE. Turn Right on WRIGHT AVENUE and
stop at the small parking lot on the right before you reach SEDGWICK AVENUE
. Walk the top of LITTLE ROUND TOP and walk to the WARREN STATUE. Find the
SIGNAL CORPS MONUMENT which is a bronz tablet located on a large rock a few
feet behind the WARREN STATUE .
STOP 2 LITTLE ROUND TOP SIGNAL STATION
Standing directly behind the boulder which holds the
Signal Corps Monument, you can see most of the signal
station sites that were in use on the field. The sites on
Culp's Hill and Power's Hill are now obscured by timber.
Take your compass and sight the signal stations from left to
right as follows: Jack's Mountain - 265 degrees, Meade's
Headquarters 35 degrees, Cemetery Hill - 36 degreesi
Culp's Hill 44 degrees, Power's Hill - 50 degrees-
Although the exact location of some of the Gettysburg signal
sites are difficult to pinpoint, it is well documented that
the Little Round Top station was the boulder holding the
tablet and the one right behind it.
[E. B. Cope, Engineer,
Letter, War Department Gettysburg National Park Commission,
Gettysburg, January 10, 1900.] The history of the Signal
Monument is available for review at the National Park
Service Library in the Cyclorama building.
Report of Capt. Lemuel B. Norton, Chief Signal Officer,
Army of the Potomac.
A station was established upon Round Top Mountain, on
the left of our line, and from this point the greater
part of the enemy's forces could be seen and their
movements reported. From this position, at 3.30 P.M.,
the signal officer discovered the enemy massing upon
General Sickles left, and reported the fact to General
Sickles and to the general commanding.
Much of the importance of the Round Top signal station
came from the fact that its mere presence caused a delay in
the employment of Longstreet's Corps on 2 July. The statior
was the direct cause of Longstreet's countermarch. Maj.
Gen. Lafayette McLaws, one of Longstreet's division
commanders, recounts Longstreet's decision to countermarch:
At 5.30 P.M. the enemy opened a terrific fire, but
our left was fully prepared for them, and the fight
gradually extended to the whole front, so that every
signal flag was kept almost constantly working. The
station at Round Top was once, and that at General
Meade's headquarters twice, broken up by the rapid
advance of the enemy and the severity of the fire, but
were immediately reoccupied when the positions became
[O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 202.]
Suddenly, as we rose a hill on the road we were taking
the [Little] Round Top was plainly visible, with the
flags of the signal men in rapid motion. I sent back
and halted my division and rode with Major Johnston
rapidly around the neighborhood to see if there was any
road by which we could go to into position without
being seen. Not finding any I joined my command and
met General Longstreet there, who asked "What is the
matter?" I replied, "Ride with me and I will show you
that we can't go on the route, according to
instruction, without being seen by the enemy." We rode
to the top of the hill and he at once said, "Why this
won't do. Is there no way to avoid it?" I then told
him of my reconnaissance in the morning, and he said:
"How can we get there?" I said: "Only by going back
by counter marching-" He said: "Then all right," and
the movement commenced. But as General Hood, in his
eagerness for the fray (and he bears the character of
always being so), had pressed on his division behind
mine so that it lapped considerably, creating confusion
in the countermarch, General Longstreet rode to me and
said: "General, there is so much confusion, owing to
Hood's division being mixed up with yours, supposed you
let him countermarch first and lead in the attack-" I
replied: "General, as I started in the lead, let me
continue so;" and he replied, "Then go on," and rode
Take your compass and sight a red barn and metal silo
at 308 degrees. This is the location where the above
conversations between McLaws and Longstreet took place. You
can see that McLaws was correct in his assertion that he
couldn't continue without being seen by the signalmen at
[Lafayette McLaws, "Gettysburg," Southern
Historical Society Papers, Vol. VII, p. 69.]
Col. E. P. Alexander, in charge of Longsteet's
artillery and the founder of the Confederate signal service,
comments on the significance of the Round Top signal
Ewell's corps, holding the extreme left, was to attack
the enemy's right on hearing Longstreet's guns.
Longstreet was directed, in his march, to avoid
exposing it to the view of a Federal signal station on
Little Round Top Mountain.
Meanwhile, on the arrival of Longstreet's reserve
artillery in the vicinity of the field. I had been
placed in charge of all the artillery of his corps, and
directed to reconnoitre the enemy's left and to move
some of the battalions to that part of the field. This
had been done by noon, when three battalions, - my own,
Cabell's and Henry's - were located in the valley of
Willoughby Run awaiting the arrival of the infantry.
Riding back presently to learn the cause of their
non-arrival, the head of the infantry column was found
halted, where its road became exposed to the Federal
view, while messages were sent to Longstreet, and the
guide sought a new route.
[E. P. Alexander, Military
Memoirs of a Confederate, New York,Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1910, pp. 391-392.]
The Round Top signal station was used by a number of
two man signal detachments representing the various corps to
which they were temporarily attached. A review of the
message traffic indicates that Buford's signal officer,
Lieutenant Jerome, was the first to use the station on the
second day of the battle. The following messages were sent
before noon on 2 July:
Mountain Signal Station
Jerome, attached specifically to support Buford's
division, evidently left the station when the division was
pulled from Little Round Top.
July 2, 1863, 11.45 A.M.
Enemy's skirmishers are advancing from the west, one
mile from here.
Lieut., Signal Officer
Round Top Mountain Signal Station
July 2, 1863, 11.55 A.M.
The rebels are in force, and our skirmishers give
way. One mile west of Round Top Signal station the
woods are full of them.
Lieut., Signal Officer
[O.R., XXVII, Part III, p. 488.]
In view of the following message, it is probable that
that the Chief Signal Officer, Capt. Norton, joined Capt.
P. A. Taylor at the Little Round Top station. He brought the
station to the attention of Capt. James Hall who along with
Taylor was attached to the Second Corps. You will note that
although Norton tells Hall that Little Round Top is a good
observation station, he does not direct him to occupy it.
This message is typical of the indirect methods Norton
employed in fulfilling his duties as Chief Signal Officer.
Round Top Mountain Signal Station
July 2, 1863.
Saw a column of the enemy's infantry move into woods
on ridge, three miles west of the town, near the
Millerstown road. Wagon teams, parked in open field
beyond the ridge, moved to the rear behind woods. See
wagons moving up and down on the Chambersburg pike, at
Spangler's. Think the enemy occupies the range of
hills three miles west of the town in considerable
[P.S.]-This is a good point for observation.
XXVII, Part III, p. 489.]
Although the Second Corps signal party evidently did
not render a specific report of their Little Round Top
activities, the available message traffic indicates that
Hall joined Taylor on the Round Top Station by at least 1:30
P.M.on the second of July. There are a number of opinions
as to the utility of Capt. Hall's actions which vary from
his "saving the day", expressed by fellow signalmen, to that
he contributed to the problem by presenting confusing
Lnformation to Generals Butterfield and Meade.
J. Willard Brown, an enlisted signalman during the war
and the postwar historian of the U.S. Veteran Signal Corps
Association, gives Hall much of the credit for saving Little
Round Top. According to Brown, Hall was responsible for
sending messages which caused Warren to visit the station,
and then had to convince the general that the Confederate
troops were concealed in front to the position. Brown
It was Capt. Hall's announcement that the enemy were
moving around Sickles's left that brought Gen. Warren
to Little Round Top. When he reached the station the
enemy were under cover, and were scarcely visible
except to-eyes accustomed to the use of the
field-glass. Capt. Hall found it very difficult to
convince Gen. Warren that the enemy's infantry and
artillery were there concealed. While the discussion
was in progress the enemy opened on the station. The
first shell burst close to the station, and the
general, a moment later, was wounded in the neck.
Capt. Hall then exclaimed, "Now do you see them?".
Willard Brown, Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the
Rebellion, New York, Arno Press, 1974, p. 367.]
Although Hall's version of the account is certainly
interesting, his credibility may be suspect. Hall was the
Vice President of the Veteran Signal Corps Association and
was a protege of Brown's. They visited the station on
Little Round Top on July 2, 1888, along with John Chemberlin
who was Hall's flagman, during an annual reunion of the
organization. [Minutes of The Thirteenth Annual Reunion of
the U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, held at
Gettysburg, Pa., July 2 and 3, 1888.] Hall's version was
probably recounted to Brown during that reunion, 25 years
after the actual event, and was almost certainly colored by
time and parochialism.
Harry W. Pfanz, a modern student of the battle,
believes that the messages which Hall sent to General
Butterfield contributed to the confusion as to the
Confederate activity on the left. He postulates that the
signal station could have done a better job providing the
Army with information.
[Harry W. Pfanz, Gettysburg: The
Second Dav, The University of North Carolina Press, 1987,
Hall sent the following traffic from Little
Round Top on July 2, 1863:
Round Top Mountain Signal Station,
July 2, 1863, 1.30 P.M.
A heavy column of enemy's infantry, about ten
thousand, is moving from opposite our extreme left
toward our right.
Round Top Mountain Signal Station,
July 2, 1863, 2.10 P.M.
Those troops were passing on a by-road from Dr.
Hall's House to Herr's tavern, on the Chambersburg
pike. A train of ambulances is following them.
[O.R., XXVII, Part III, p. 488.]
Capt. Hall's party departed the station at some point
in the afternoon and left the station without a signal
party. According to Brown, Col. Morgan ordered Capt. Hall
to report to Gen. Sedgwick.
[J. Willard Brown, Signal Corps
U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion,- New York, Arno Press, p.
That the Round Top Signal station reported information
on the disposition of Confederate troops prior to
Longstreet's assault on Sickles is confirmed by Brig. Gen.
Gibbon's aide, Lieut. Frank A. Haskell. Lieut. Haskell's
"letter" tells us:
About noon the Signal Corps, from the top of Little
Round Top, with their powerful glasses, and the cavalry
at the extreme left, began td report the enemy in heavy
force, making disposition of battle. to the West of
Round Top, and opposite to the left of the Third Corps.
[Frank A. Haskell, The Battle of Gettysburg, Edited by
Bruce Catton, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1958,
The third signal party to assume position on Little
Round Top was that of Capt. E. C. Pierce of the Sixth Corps.
At the time Capt. Pierce and his detachment arrived, Capt.
Hall had departed the site.
Report of Capt. E. C. Pierce, Signal Officer, Sixth
The 6th Corps reached Gettysburg at 2 o'clock p.m.,
July 2nd, after a continuous march of nineteen hours.
After resting three hours, orders were given for the
corps to proceed to the extreme left of our line and
engage the enemy.
Diary entry of Sergeant Luther C. Furst, USA, Flagman,
Sixth Army Corps
Lieut. Geo. J. Clarke and myself assisted Gen.
Sedgwick and staff in forming the line of battle, and
getting the troops in position, as the tide of battle
appeared to turn upon the celerity with which the 6th
Corps was engaged. The splendid manner in which our
first line went in to the fight fairly turned the tide,
and at dusk we had repulsed the enemy at all points.
Before that consummation, we had learned that a signal
station had been abandoned by some signal officers as
impracticable. It being described to us a splendid
post of observation, we determined to occupy it. The
position, as we eventually found it, was a pile of rock
on our left and a little to the right of the place
occupied by Hazlett's battery. From it a magnificent
view of the entire battlefield could be had, extending
from the cemetery, on our right, to the Emmitsburg road
on the left. We remained there during the night.
July 3. At daylight we commenced making
observations, the results of which we reported by
orderlies, to Major-Generals Meade, Sedgwick, Sykes,
Hancock, Birney, Pleasonton, Newton, etc.
Headquarters signal station was in plain sight all
the time, and we could hence call it, but not without
exposing the lives of our men to the deliberate aim of
the enemy's sharpshooters, who, stationed behind rocks,
in tops of trees, etc., fired with fatal effect upon
all that showed themselves. They kept two guns of
Hazlett's battery silent, except when worked by
volunteers, and kept up a continual fire upon the rock,
not ten feet square, occupied by us. Seven men,
including officers, who were drawn there by curiosity,
were killed or severely wounded by the combined fire of
the sharpshooters and artillery. About 11 A.M. we were
joined by Lieutenants Wiggins and Camp, who agreed with
us upon the impossibility of employing flag signals,
and consequently we continued to report by orderlies.
About 3 P.M., the enemy opened fire with all their
artillery upon our lines, and the necessity of sending
orderlies increased as'Gen. Warren, Chief of Engineers
on Gen. Meade's staff, who came to our station at 2
o'clock, p.m. directed us to keep a lookout on certain
points, and to send messages every few minutes to Gen.
Meade during the day. In this connection, I wish
particularly to place upon record the fact that the
signalmen attached toLieut. Wiggin's party and mine
are worthy of all commendation for the bravery
displayed by them in riding to and for, through an
unexampled artillery fire, with important messages.
During the afternoon of this day, after the enemy were
repulsed from our right and centre, Major-Generals
Meade, Sedgwick, Sykes, Pleasonton, etc., visited our
station, and remained there until Gen. Crawford's
division drove the enemy and sharpshooters from their
July 4th. We opened communication by flag signals
with headquarters station and made constant reports of
the movements of the enemy. At 4 o'clock P.M.,
Lieutenants Wiggins and Camp reported back to Ist Corps
by order of Gen. Newton-"
[Capt. E. C. Pierce, report,
quoted in J. Willard Brown, Signal Corps, U-S-A in the
War of the Rebellilon, New York, Arno Press, 1974, pp.
3 6 1 -3 6 2 . ]
July 2d, 2 P.M. We have just made the second halt
for orders. We are now within four miles of
Gettysburg. After a short rest advanced again. Got up
to our line of battle about 4 P.M., having made a march
of thirty-six miles, the longest rest being one hour.
We immediately reinforce our troops upon the left, they
being pressed very hard. We just reach the conflict in
time to make secure the Round Top Mountain to our
forces. The fight now became general along the lines
extending to Gettysburg, which is plainly visible from
this point. Our forces have been able to hold their
positions at every point. The 6th Corps came up the
Round Top Mountain six lines deep, secured and made
safe our position on little Round Top. We immediately
established the signal station on the crest, the other
signal officers having deemed it impracticable.[Sergeant Luther C. Furst, Diary entry,
quoted in J. Willard Brown, Signal CorDs, U.S.A. in the
War of the Rebellion, New York, Arno Press, 1974, pp.
36 2 - 3 64 .
July 3rd. Were up before daylight. Began to signal
in direction of Gettysburg at daybreak. Held our
station all day, but were much annoyed by the enemy's
sharpshooters in and near the Devills Den. Have to
keep under cover to protect ourselves. The large rocks
piled up all around us serve as good protection- Today
there have been seven men killed and wounded near our
station by the enemy's sharpshooters: hundreds on all
sides of us by the enemy's severe cannonading. Up to
near noon there has been considerable skirmishing along
the line. A little later the whole of the artillery on
both sides opened up and shell flew fast and thick. A
good many have been struck near our station, but we are
able to keep up communication. The fight upon the
right is said to have been very severe, but our trooos
have held their positions and repulsed the enemy at
every point. The loss of the 6th Corps has not been
great, owing to the advantageous and protected
As described by both Capt. Pierce and Sgt. Furst, on
the third of July, this station was under such fire that it
lost its utility as a station of communications but remained
a station of observation. Messengers were used to relay the
information obtained by the signal parties to the army
headquarters. Historian George R. Stewart tells us:
"Pickett began his advance from the bottom of a swale, and
for several minutes his lines moved forward without anyone
on Cemetery Ridge being able to see them. Almost at once,
however, his two front brigades came under observation from
Little Round Top, and the alert men of the Signal Corps
sprang into action. The Vermonters of Stannard's brigade,
occupying low ground, knew that the attack was launched
before they saw a Confederate Flag or soldier."
Stewart, Pickett's Charge, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company,
1959, p. 179.]
If Stewart is correct in his assertion that the
Vermonters knew that Pickett's brigades were underway, they
must have received the information by courier from this