Monday, November 20, 2006

The telegraph and the Civil War

Tom Wheeler in his article, "How the Telegraph Helped Lincoln Win the Civil War," shows how Lincoln used telegraph messages to change national leadership. It allowed him to be in constant communication with his generals and make up-to-the-minute decisions rather than having to wait days for messages to be hand-delivered. In the past the only way for governmental heads to make viable wartime decisions was for them to go with the army to the battle. In the US, leaders had not done that and instead were forced to wait and see what happened. The field generals could act pretty much as they pleased. The telegraph allowed Lincoln to stay in DC yet still make military decisions on a day-to-day basis. This changed the way the US made war. Added to that the telegrams are spontenaous communications and allow us to really hear Lincoln. We can, asWheeler writes, "eavesdrop" on the conversations between Lincoln and his generals giving us a better picture of Lincoln's leadership during the war.

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