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Tag: telegraph

The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Throughout the Civil War, when President Lincoln needed to concentrate—when he faced a task that required his focused and undivided attention—he would leave the White House, cross the street to the War Department, and take over the desk of Thomas T. Eckert, chief of the military telegraph staff.

The hub of the Union’s military communication center had become an unlikely refuge for the President. Anxiously awaiting the latest reports from the front, hovering over the shoulder of an operator, he would enjoy the easy banter of the telegraph staff and, somehow, find relief from the strain of his office.

In early July of 1862, President Lincoln asked the telegraph chief for some paper, explaining that he had something ”special” to write. Slowly, putting down just one or two lines at a time, Lincoln began to work.

Only when a draft was finished did Lincoln reveal that he had composed an order ”giving freedom to the slaves in the South, for the purpose of hastening the end of the war.”

Page 1 of Presidential Proclamation 93 (Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation); Presidential Proclamation 93 (vault), Box 2; General Records of the U.S. Government, Record Group 11; National Archives.

This Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation indicated Lincoln’s intention of issuing the final proclamation in the near future:

That on

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Before there was broadband, there was a beard

morse

Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865 (ARC 526779)

Long before the push to make high-speed Internet available across America, Samuel Morse was tap-tap-tapping information across America. By 1838, his telegraph machine was using a dot-and-dash system to send messages of up to 10 words a minute. He even convinced Congress to come to up with $30,000 to help him wire America.

Morse was born in 1791, more than 200 hundred years before Twitter was invented. But the telegraph was as radical as Twitter. Morse’s invention was a new, fast method for communicating across distances, and changed the way wars were fought.

Ever wonder how Lincoln communicated with his generals? He certainly wasn’t texting or twittering—but he was telegraphing during the Civil War, giving orders and making decisions. He even received a telegram from General Sherman announcing the surrender of Savannah, GA, as a Christmas present.

Virginia, Petersburg, Field Telegraph Battery Wagon, 09/1864 (ARC 533347)

Virginia, Petersburg, Field Telegraph Battery Wagon, 09/1864 (ARC 533347; 165-SB-73)

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