Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 16.djvu/109
The Signal Corps in the Confederate States Army. 103
refer to the Spartan Scytale cipher. When the general of the army ventured into the enemy's country, or was cut off in his own, he communicated with the Spartan Ephors by the use of a staff called a Scytale, an exact duplicate of which was possessed by the Ephors. The party desiring to write, first wound a slip of parchment around the staff and then wrote his message lengthwise with the stick. After which, when it was unrolled, only unmeaning letters, wholly uncon- nected with one another, appeared, but the receiver rewound the ribbon on his Scytale, and all was plain."
The alphabet first used by the Confederate Signal Corps was a modification of that introduced by General Myer into the service of the United States. It became necessary to change it several times during the war, as from observation of messages sent in the field the United States signal men learned to read the Confederate messages, while the Confederates took the same liberty with the messages of the other side.
Early played a ruse on Sheridan in the Valley campaigns. Finding that Sheridan was reading his signals, he caused the following dis- patch to be sent to himself by his signal flags :
"Lieutenant- General EARLY,
" Be ready to advance on Sheridan as soon as my forces get up, and we can crush him before he finds out I have joined you.
"(Signed) J. LONGSTREET."
When this was communicated to Sheridan, as Early intended it to be, Sheridan telegraphed to Washington, and Halleck telegraphed to Grant. In time, the answer came to Sheridan that Longstreet was nowhere near Early. This telegram was long a puzzle to the Union general. When Early was asked about it after the war, he simply laughed.
The Signal Corps was nowhere more useful than where the defense and operations were conducted in a field in which water occupied a large place in the topography. Such were Charleston, South Caro- lina, and Mobile. The reports of Captain Frank Markoe, Signal Officer at Charleston, show that during the siege thousands of mes- sages were sent from one post to another, and from outposts to head- quarters, most of which could have been sent in no other way, and many were of great importance.