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sketch of Army signal station
An Army signal station at night. From Harper's Weekly, Jan. 24, 1863.
U.S. Army, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Father of the Signal Corps

Albert J.Myer
Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer in New York upon his departure for Texas in October 1854.
U.S. Army, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

When Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer reported for duty in the Department of Texas in 1854, he had already devoted several years of thought to devising a new and simpler military signaling system. It is possible that his observations in Texas, where Apaches and Comanches used fire, smoke, and flags to transmit messages, gave him additional ideas. His 9 months of service at Fort Davis, January to November 1855, afforded him ample opportunity for such observations, but during most of his time he was seriously ill, and his diary reveals no concern with signaling matters. Rather it indicates that he desperately desired transfer to another station. In October 1856 he wrote to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis from Fort Duncan, Tex., offering to explain the new signaling system he had devised. In 1858 a board of officers endorsed it for use in the Army, and on June 27, 1860, Myer was promoted to major and appointed Signal Officer of the Army.

The Civil War underscored the necessity for accurate and rapid communication, and under Myer's leadership the Signal Corps grew into a vital part of the military establishment. As these pages from any early training manual show, his system owed a considerable debt to the signaling techniques of the western Indians. Myer served as Chief Signal Officer of the Army until his death in 1880. Fort Myer, the military post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, commemorates the services of the founder of the Signal Corps.

manual of signals
From Myer's Manual of Signals, 1865.


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