• Stop 1 Cemetery Hill Signal Station
  • Stop 3 - Powers' Hill Signal Station
  • Stop 5 - Culp's Hill Signal Station
  • To begin the staff ride, park in the CYCLORAMA CENTER parking lot and walk across TANEYTOWN ROAD to the NATIONAL CEMETERY. Enter the Cemetery and follow the road to the left until you are between the SOLDIERS NATIONAL MONUMENT on your right and a flag pole on your left.


    This position offers the best view of the three signal station sites in the town of Gettysburg. Take your compass and sight the following stations: Lutheran Seminary cupola 325 degrees; Pennsylvania Hall, Gettysburg College - 356 degrees; Gettysburg Courthouse - 20 degrees. All of these structures are white and are lower on the horizon than the church steeples around them. This guide does not include these signal stations as individual stops but they are worthwhile sites to visit at your convenience. There is a plaque on Pennsylvania Hall identifying it as a Union signal station and the Lutheran Theological Seminary contains a museum which is open to the public.

    All three of the Gettysburg stations were operated in direct support of Brig. Gen. Jno. Buford's First Cavalry Division. Buford's Chief Signal Officer was Lieutenant Aaron Jerome who on 30 June established a signal observation station in the cupola of the Lutheran Seminary and later in the cupola of Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College. On 1 July, the station was moved to the Gettysburg Courthouse. These stations were in flag signal contact with the station here on Cemetery Hill which will be visited next. "The station on the Seminary transmitted numerous reports as to the number and movements of the enemy, which were received by the signal officer serving with Gen. Howard, who on the death of Reynolds had assumed command and had taken position on Cemetery Hill."

    [J. Willard Brown, Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion, New York, Arno Press, 1974, p. 359.] Letter from Lieut. A. B. Jerome, Signal Officer, First Cavalry Division, to Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, Commander Second Corps

    A squadron of the lst Cavalry Division entered Gettysburg driving the few pickets of the enemy before them. The General and staff took quarters in a hotel near the Seminary. As signal officer, I was sent back to look out for a prominent position and watch the movements of the enemy. As early as seven A.M. I reported their advance, and took my station in the steeple of the "Theological Seminary." General Buford came up and looked at them through my glass, and then formed his small cavalry force. The enemy pressed us in overwhelming numbers, and we would have been obliged to retreat but looking in the direction of Emmitsburg, I called the attention of the General, to an Army Corps advancing some two miles distant, and shortly,. distinguished it as the "first" on account of their "corps flag". The Gen. held on with as stubborn a front as ever faced an enemy, for half an hour, unaided, against a whole corps of the rebels, when Gen. Reynolds and a few of his staff rode up on a gallop and hailed the Gen. who was with me in the steeple, our lines being but shortly advanced. In a familiar manner Gen. Reynolds asked Buford "how things were going on", and received the characteristic answer "let's go and see."

    [A. B. Jerome, Signal Officer, First Cavalry Division, Letter to Maj. Gen. W. S. Hancock, 18 Oct, 1865, Bachelder Papers, U.S. Army Military History Institute.]

    The following signal message from Lieut. Jerome to General Howard is credited by the Official Records as having been sent on the second of July. The date was recorded in brackets, indicating that it was added by the compiler. Based on the text of the message it appears that the message was in fact sent on the first to warn of General Rodes' approach, and it was likely sent from the College station or the Courthouse.

    [July 21, 1863

    General Howard:

    Over a division of the rebels is making a flank movement on our right; the line extends over a mile, and is advancing, skirmishing.
    There is nothing but cavalry to oppose them.

    A. B. Jerome,
    First Lieutenant, Signal Officer

    [O.R., XXVII, Part III, p. 488.]

    Jerome's utility to the First Cavalry Division is testified to by Buford:
    Lieutenant [Aaron B.] Jerome, signal corps, was ever on the alert, and through his intrepidity and fine glasses on more than one occasion kept me advised of the enemy's movements when no other means were available.

    [O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 930.]

    Return To
    Walk back toward the entrance until you reach the GETTYSBURG ADDRESS MEMORIAL.
    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.

    [O.R., XXVII, 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.

    Gen. Butterfield:
    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 being destroyed.

    Capt., Signal Officer

    Signal Station near Wadsworth's Headquarters
    July 2, 1863, 4.35 P.M.

    Capt. Norton:
    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.

    Very respectfully,
    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 explains.

    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.

    (O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 200.]

    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.

    [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.

    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 service.

    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:

    Captain and Signal Officer.

    [O.R., Series III, Volume III, p. 461.]

    Memoirs of Captain Gustavus S. Dana, U.S. Army Signal Corps

    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 .


    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.

    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 tenable.

    [O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 202.]

    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:

    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 off.

    [Lafayette McLaws, "Gettysburg," Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. VII, p. 69.]

    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 this station.

    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 station:

    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
    July 2, 1863, 11.45 A.M.

    Gen. Butterfield:
    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.

    Gen. Butterfield:
    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.]

    Jerome, attached specifically to support Buford's division, evidently left the station when the division was pulled from Little Round Top.

    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.

    Capt. Hall:
    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 f orce

    Signal Officers
    [P.S.]-This is a good point for observation.

    [O.R., 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 elaborates:

    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?".

    EJ. 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, pp. 141-142.]

    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.

    Gen. Butterfield:
    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.

    Gen. Butterfield:
    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. 366.]

    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, p.31.]

    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 Army Corps

    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.

    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 position.

    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 . ]

    Diary entry of Sergeant Luther C. Furst, USA, Flagman, Sixth Army Corps

    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.

    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 position.

    [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 .

    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."

    [George R. 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 station.

    Return To
    Now you should proceed to STOP 3.

    Now you should proceed to STOP 3. Return to TANEYTOWN ROAD (HWY 134) and turn LEFT. Drive 1.4 miles and turn right on GRANITE SCHOOL HOUSE LANE. Drive 0.6 miles and stop along the road. You will see a monument in the woodline at the base of a small hill to your left. This prominence is POWERS HILL. Walk to the top of the hill and stop by the artillery battery monument. The hill is heavily timbered, but in the late autumn and winter you can sight LITTLE ROUND TOP at 235 degrees.


    This site was the location of Maj. Gen. Slocum's Right Wing headquarters and was probably supported by Lieut. J. E. Holland who was temporarily attached to the Twelfth Army Corps. This location was also an important artillery position which was used effectively against Confederates on Culp's Hill.

    The Power's Hill signal station played a part in Maj. Gen. Meade's decision to move his headquarters to this location during the cannonade which preceded Pickett's Charge. [Edwin B. Coddington, The Gettysburg CamDaign: A Study in Command, Dayton Ohio, Morningside Bookshop, 1979, p- 496.] In an attempt to notify Meade, news of Pickett's initial movement was signaled to this signal station by Capt. David Castle who had remained at Meade's original headquarters. The details of this event will be examined when you visit Meade's headquarters at the Leister House.

    When studying the various signal sites on this battlefield, it becomes apparent that their selection was of the utmost importance. Col. Myer, comments on the selection of signal stations:

    A station should never be located in a camp, or among tents, or where the white canvas of tents can form the background of signals viewed from the other station ... Signal stations should always be chosen elevated from the ground as much as is possible, when there is difficulty about smoke, or haze, or dust. The undulation of the atmosphere, noticeable on a hot summer's day, is always less at a distance from the earth's surface. Thus it is sometimes practicable to read from a tree or a house-top when it is almost impossible to so read from the ground. This undulation is less also over spots well shaded than in the glare of the sun. This should be borne in mind in all telescopic examinations. Permanent stations should never be placed in hollows, or on low land, when high ground is attainable. The greatest elevation should invariably be sought ... By careful selections of high ground, stations can often be worked when signals on the lower fields would be invisible. For these reasons, it is well to have, sometimes, a station for night work on a house-top or in a tree, while during the day the station is worked from the ground.

    [Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Signals, New York, D. Van Nostrand, 1866, pp. 246-247.]

    Return To
    Now return to your automobile and proceed to STOP 4.

    Drive the short distance to BALTIMORE PIKE and turn left. Take the first right at the park sign to SPANGLER'S SPRING and CULP'S HILL. Follow the signs to the top of CULPIS HILL and park by the observation tower.


    This position was not a signal station. However, because of the increase in timber growth on the battlefield, this tower offers the best view of the signal stations on the field. Climb the observation tower and orient yourself to the other signal sites on the battlefield. While you can't use your compass due to the metal in the tower, most of the sites can be located by using the round sighting device located in the center of the observation deck.

    During the period of the Gettysburg Campaign, signal officers and soldiers were trained in a number of ways. Many received little or no formal training other than on-the-job. The Army's formal signal training was instituted in August 1861, with the creation of the Signal Camp of Instruction at Red Hill, near Georgetown, D.C. The camp served as the Army's primary center for training signal soldiers. A description of the Signal Camp of Instruction is in Appendix II.

    Col. Myer established a signal drill whch was patterned after the manual of arms then in use. These training drills were used at the Signal Camp of Instruction as well as smaller unit sponsored schools and on the job training within the signal parties. Myer wrote his manual in 1864 but the drills were in common use prior to the manual being published. A Manual of lengthy and tends to be redundant, but it certainly does not want for detail. The following excerpts from the chapter on signal instruction gives a flavor of the style of training popular at the time.

    Experience has shown that as, in the Manual of Arms, the soldier must be continually drilled to maintain his full efficiency, so in the practice of signalling, a drill, regular and habitual, is needed to fit either officer or man for the duty in the first place, and to retain them then with that skill which is needed in the moment of danger and of actual war.

    The instruction should commence with the study of the principles of signalling, and the theories of their general use. The pupil should be well grounded in this study before practice is entered upon. He should then be required to commit to memory certain signal alphabets to be used; and these are to be so thoroughly memorized that no signal combination will require thought to determine its meaning. The General Service Flag and Homographic Codes are to be committed in this manner. To this follows practice in the recitation-room with the "wand," a slender rod about eighteen inches long, - the class reading messages signalled by the instructor in the alphabets learned, rapid movements of the wand; or practising in couples, transmitting messages with the wand to each other during the hours set aside for study,-until each is able to read messages of what ever character signalled with the greatest rapidity of motion that can be given. And in this portion of the course should be included practice with codes of different numbers of elements, and signalled by different modes of position or of motion, until the pupil is well accustomed to rapidly read and make the signals. He is practised also in rapidly repeating signals as they are made to him, both according to the plans given for returning signals to the sending station ... [Albert J. Myer, A Manual of Sicinals, New York, D. Van Nostrand, 1866, pp. 220-221.]

    Memoirs of Captain Gustavus S. Danna, U.S. Army Signal Corps

    On Reporting at H.Hd [Hilton Head] I was obliged to take a solemn oath never to have in my possession anything that our code might be written on, never to tell it to anyone, not even our flagmen unless by proper a thority. Then I was furnished a kit & glasses -& sent to Beaufort for instruction with -,'-e understanding that if not ready for duty in 30 days I would be expected to return to my regt. 7-here were 4 of us 2nd Lts in the same detail. Each of us had selected 4 enlisted men from our regts who were also detailed by the same order.

    The code written on a sheet of paper was handed me by Lt [Townsend L.] Hatfield with instructions to commit it to memory and then destroy the paper. It was terrible hard at first but about midnight I had the alphabet and then spelled books full till most morning and lighted my pipe with the paper the code was on just at streak of dawn.

    Then we had the men to learn how to make the motions. It looked simple to wave a flag but it takes considerable practice even after you know how to make the motions to prevent wrapping the flag about the pole. The officers stationed at Beaufort were [Charles F.] Cross, [Townsend L.] Hatfield, [Franklin E.] Town & [W.H.] Hammer and they gladly let us work the station as soon as we could without making mistakes for it gave them more time for fun ... [Captain G. S. Dana, "The Recollections of a Signal Officer", edited by Lester L. Swift,,Civil War History, State Universitv of Iowa, Vol IX, No I, March 1963, p. 38.]

    Return To

    Return to your automobile and drive to STOP 5.

    Proceed down the hill on SLOCUM AVENUE and stop beside the road across from the equestrian statue of MAJ. GEN. SLOCUM. Walk across the road to the grassy area surrounding the statue.


    This area is the location of the Twelfth Corps signal station as documented on the Bachelder Maps. [Map of the Battle of Gettysburg, Office of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, Boston, John H. Bachelder, 1876, Plate 3] Although Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum was the Commanding General of the Twelfth Corps at the time of the battle, he had been appointed Right Wing Commander and had in turn appointed Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams as the temporary commander of the corps. On 2 July, Slocum still considered himself Wing Commander, and brought Williams to Meade's Council of War that evening as the Corps Commander. The signal station located at this site supported Williams' Twelfth Corps headquarters and the station on Power's Hill supported Slocum as the Wing Commander. [O.R., XXVII, Part I, p. 760.] The following message shows intelligence received by signal observation being provided to the Twelfth Corps. This message may have been sent by flag signal or by courier.

    Headquarters Army of the Potomac
    July 2, 1863 - 5.30 p.m.
    Commanding Officer Twelfth Corps:

    The signal officer reports that a heavy column of infantry is moving round to the right, and in front of Slocum's corps. By command of Major-General Meade:

    S. Williams
    Assistant Adjutant-General

    [O.R., XXVII. Part III, p. 489]>

    Now return to your automobile and drive to STOP 6

    Return To
    Continue down the hill and take SLOCUM AVENUE until you reach BALTIMORE PIKE. Turn RIGHT and proceed to STEINWEHR AVENUE. Turn left and return to the CYCLORAMA CENTER parking lot. Looking just south of the CYCLORAMA CENTER, you can see the equestrian statue of MAJ. GEN. MEADE. Walk to a point halfway between the statue and the small white house which is MEADE'S HEADQUARTERS. This is the approximate location of the signal station which supported Meade


    This was the central station on the field and was key in receiving the various reports from Little Round Top and the other signal stations. Maj. Gen. Butterfield was provided information on the movement of Longstreet's Corps on the afternoon of 2 July by flag signals between this station and the one on Little Round Top. On 3 July the station was used extensively. The Chief Signal Officer explains:

    Report of Capt. Lemuel B. Norton, Chief Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac

    The station at General Meade's headquarters and that of General Howard's were rendered inoperative for a couple of hours by the furious attack of the rebels upon our center, but both were again actively employed as soon as the tremendous fire moderated sufficiently to permit of messages being read and transmitted with accuracy. The station on Round Top continued to report throughout the day discoveries in regard to the enemy's position ... I take pleasure in still further mentioning Capt. D. E. Castle, of this corps, for distinguished gallantry and close attention to duty under most trying circumstances. On July 3, when the enemy made their furious attack upon our center at Gettysburg, Captain Castle occupied a signal station at General Meade's headquarters, near Cemetery Hill, and remained there on duty after all others had been driven away. His flagmen had also left with his signal equipments, under the impression that their officer had gone with the rest. Having occasion to send a couple of important messages to the general commanding, then at General Slocum's headquarters, Captain Castle quickly cut a pole, extemporized a signal flag from a bedsheet procured near by, and sent his dispatches through under a most galling fire. [O.R., XXVII, Part III, pp. 203-2061]
    Maj. Gen. Meade, in a letter written to John B. Bachelder after the war, explains the circumstances of his leaving this location to go to Slocum's headquarters and he describes the role the signal stations had in that decision.

    On the 3d of July, 1863, when the enemy's batteries were opened, I was at the house on the Taneytown Road occupied by me as head-quarters. This house, as you are aware, was situated about three or four hundred yards in the rear of the line of battle, and about the center of the enemy's converging lines of fire. Having around me a large number of officers and animals, exposed without any particular necessity to the very severe fire, the question of moving my head-quarters to a position less exposed was repeatedly brought to my notice; but in view of the importance of my being where it was known I could be found, I felt compelled to decline listening to any appeals till informed there was a signal officer on the hill on the Baltimore pike (occupied as head-quarters by Major-General Slocum) who could communicate with the signal officer at the head-quarters I was occupying, I ordered head-quarters to be transferred to this hill. Prior to doing so, I moved over to a barn on the opposite side of the Taneytown Road, which seemed to be out of the line of the heaviest f-ire, but which, on reaching, was as much exposed as the place I had left. On arriving at the hill selected, I at once went to the signal officer on the summit, and directed him to communicate my arrival to the officer I had left at the house. I then ascertained the signal officer at the house had left there. As soon as I learned this, I returned immediately to my old head-quarters.

    [George G. Meade, Letter to John Bachelder, Descriptive Kev to the Painting of the Repulse of Lonqstreet's Assault at the Battle of Gettysburg, New York, John B. Bacheider, 1870, P. 61.]

    Based on the accounts of both Capt. Castle and Maj. Gen. Meade, it appears that Meade had left the Power's Hill location before Castle made his improvised attempt to signal Meade. This event does show that the use of flag signals did figure in Meade's resources for command and control. The fact that Castle was still at this station after Meade's departure appears to be substantiated by the account of Lieut. Haskell of Gibbon's staff:

    The General said I had better "go and tell General Meade of this advance". To gallop to General Meade,s headquarters, to learn there that he had changed them to another part of the field, to dispatch to him bv the Signal Corps in General Gibbon's name the message, "The- enemy is advancing his infantry in force upon my Eront," and to be again upon the crest, were but the work of a minute. [Frank A. Haskell, The Battle of Gettysburq, Edited by Bruce Catton, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1958, p. 101.]
    This is the last stop on the battlefield. The remaining stops visit signal station sites which were a part of Army of the Potomac's movement within the campaign. Return to your automobile and drive to STOP 7.
    To Return To


    End of File