Learning Lincoln On-line


The War Room & the President During the Civil War

President Lincoln perhaps reading or writing a telegraph message to one of the commanders in the field

Secretary Edward Stanton's War Department, located behind the White House, only a walk for the President.  A room on the bottom floor was dedicated to a new U.S. Military Telegraph Office
Secretary of War, Edward Stanton

Quick to establish a national telegraph system, but did not trust the new hot-air surveillance balloons

The Intrepid Air Balloon

Check my Air Balloon Page Here

1860's White House
        The President had no privacy or real security in this old building.  Anyone could walk inside and join a crowd waiting to meet with him.  He would have to greet and talk to job-seekers, government-position seekers, and people wanting solutions to their problems. 
        In addition,  the First Lady felt it necessary to host a big dinner and/or reception regularly.  The Telegraph Office was a place where the President could get private time to think and run the war.

Edward Stanton, Secretary of War

The White House in 1860


Check the Mr. Lincoln's Whitehouse site for the Washington D.C. Page for a map to see where the War Department was actually located.

President Lincoln would use the Telegraph Office (on the bottom floor of the Department of War building right behind the White House) as his strategy, and sometimes "escape-place" to get away from the high-stress of the always full White House.  In the War Room, also called the Telegraph Office, he would receive instant updates on battles, events and other topics through his telegraphers.  The White House did not have telegraphs within it, and therefore all messages were sent and received from the War Room.  

U.S. Civil War Telegraph System Resources:


David Homer Bates' book, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office.  Also much can be learned about the development of the U.S. Telegraph System at this site.

Read actual Library of Congress Presidential Telegraphs, Click Here.

Click here for a description of the War (Telegraph) Room and the President. 

Here are questions to answer:

1.  Communication on the battlefront before the Civil War was done by what means (how)?

2.  Did the United States have telegraph lines everywhere, as we do phone lines now?  Why?

3.  Who was the Assistant Secretary of War that got the military telegraph system started?

4.  A war telegraph office was placed next to the White House.  List some of the men who were operators and managers of that first office.

5.  Who was a regular visitor of the telegraph office?  Why did he stay in it so much?

6. What is a cipher, and who designed the first cipher to be used with telegraph messages over the military telegraph system?

7.  What was the name of the code used to send the ciphered messages?

8.  Why were military messages ciphered?

9.  Why was being a telegraph operator/ cipherist so dangerous? 

16th President Topics Index

New Technologies in the Civil War

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