Monday, March 19, 2012

The Signal Corps Uniform Standards for the Maryland Campaign

Using the photographs from the LOC of the signal station at Elk Ridge (Below), the uniform standards for Signal Corps are posted below.

Fatigue blouse (For removal of trees and clearing the area)
New York State Jacket
Doment Flannel Shirt or cotton shirt
Mounted or foot pattern trousers in dark or sky blue
Braces constructed and made from period materials
Period underdrawers
Cotton or woolen socks constructed as the originals
Forage cap or slouch hat
Boots or brogans
Double bag knapsack with blanket, ground cloth and personal items
Haversack with rations
Weapons shall be kept at a minimal
Matching accouterments
If you are portraying an NCO, no NCO swords or sashes

Officer: (No rank higher than Second Lieutenant since Halsted was the ranking officer)
Officers’ Shell jacket
Officers’ fatigue blouse
Officers’ frock coat
Cotton shirt
Foot pattern trousers
Boots or brogans
Forage cap or slouch hat
Haversack with rations
Officer’s haversack with notebook, pencils, marine glasses, spy glass and paperwork
Double bag knapsack with blanket, ground cloth and personal items
Saber belt optional with foot officers’ saber
Sash should remain in knapsack or left at home
Sidearm is not needed, but can be displayed

Due to the terrain of Monument Knob, a very rough road was established at the base of South Mountain prior to the Civil War. One could get to Washington Monument by using Zittlestown Road or by using a side road off of Mousetown Road which follows the base of South Mountain near Boonsboro. With that in mind, our detachment should be backing light.

Since the signal corps station was established at Washington Monument for several days including during the Battle of Antietam, a company fly can be set up. Camp furniture such as a table, desk and one chair is also welcomed but should be limited. Any furniture must be constructed as the originals and must be based off of period furniture found in period catalogs or seen in period military camps. Some of these items are present in period photographs at the signal station established on Elk Ridge.

What it is that we are portraying? We are portraying a Union signal detachment that is often at times officer heavy. I copied what Antietam National Battlefield has published on their website for guidelines of establishing a signal corps detachment and what the responsibilities were of the detachment.

A Signal Party on Duty in the Field (Excerpt from Antietam NPS) A U.S. Army signal party could be as small as an officer and two privates. This ratio of officers to men is evident in Alexander Gardner's photograph taken of the signal detachment on Elk Mountain east of the battlefield a few weeks after the battle. There are three officers and six enlisted men.

Only the officer understood the code, and he was responsible for encoding and decoding messages. The enlisted men would flag the signals and assist in reading incoming signals which were given to the officer for translation. Signalmen were selected by examinations and were generally more educated. Commissioned officers were tested in reading and writing, composition, arithmetic, chemistry, natural philosophy, surveying and topography.

Not only were they expected to serve as communicators, they also assisted commanders with reconnaissance and surveillance by virtue of their location at high points on the terrain and their mobility. The life of a signalman could be behind the lines enjoying good food and the comfort of a commander's headquarters—or in advance of the army exposed to the elements in remote and isolated locations, experiencing hardship and danger.

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