Bunnell on the wire

Woolgathering and Widdershins

When I found the book “Brass-Pounders” by Alvin F. Harlow, I wondered skeptically how a book about Civil War telegraphers could be interesting. After all, how many stories could someone write about operators sitting in old wooden offices sending and receiving Morse code? But from the first story on, I found the adventures of the telegraphers compelling, and I learned that many were field operators who replaced horseback couriers. The exploits of Massillon native Jesse Bunnell stand out as extraordinary.
In late June 1862 the federal Army of the Potomac under Gen. George B. McClellan moved up the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James rivers toward Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy when “Forward to Richmond” was the North’s rallying cry. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps was on the north side of the swampy Chickahominy River, and McClellan’s headquarters were 10 miles away on the other side of…

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