“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Millville in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Flag Talk

Flag Talk Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 17, 2008
1. Flag Talk Marker
Inscription. Click to hear the inscription.  Accurate communication was crucial to winning the Battle of Harpers Ferry. Rivers, mountains, and miles of distance separated Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson from his mountaintop commanders. With telegraph messaging impossible and courier service difficult, signal flags became the principle form of communication. Confederate signal men occupied positions on the heights, waving flags in patters to transmit coded messages. This laborious system took time and Jackson complained that "the day was much advanced" before his orders were transmitted. Nonetheless, Jackson received important intelligence from his commanders, like "not much could be expected from their artillery so long as the enemy retained his advanced position on Bolivar Heights." Such intelligence enabled Jackson to envision the enemy, thus helping him to devise his plan of attack.

I do not open [fire] until all are ready on both sides of the river.
Message flagged from Jackson to Walker and McLaws.

(Sidebar): Flagging
Although fog or mist could interfere, the flag system was widely used and an effective form of communication during
Two Waysides in the Southern Portion of School House Ridge image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain
2. Two Waysides in the Southern Portion of School House Ridge
the Civil War. Only one flag or torch was used at a time. Three simple motions could be combined to signal a message.
Erected by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park - National Park Service - U.S. Department of the Interior.
Location. 39° 18.969′ N, 77° 46.771′ W. Marker is near Millville, West Virginia, in Jefferson County. Marker can be reached from Bloomery Road (County Road 27), on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Located in the south section of the School House Ridge unit of the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The marker is along a walking trail just south of the William L. Wilson Freeway (US 340). The trail is best reached from the parking area on Bloomary Road (CR 27). Marker is in this post office area: Millville WV 25432, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Battle of Harpers Ferry (a few steps from this marker); Fake Attack - September 14th (approx. 0.3 miles away); Destined for Antietam (approx. 0.3 miles away); Allstadt House (approx. 0.4 miles away); Confederates Converge (approx. 0.4 miles away); Assessing the Obstacle
Confederate Signal Stations image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 17, 2008
3. Confederate Signal Stations
In a view similar to the background of the marker, locations of the two important Confederate signal stations overlook Bolivar Heights and Harpers Ferry. US 340 crosses over Bolivar Heights in the center of the photograph. In the distant left is Maryland Heights, where McLaws' Division was posted. On the right is Loudoun Heights, occupied by Walker's Division during the battle.
(approx. 0.4 miles away); Battle of Harpers Ferry / Jackson Arrives (approx. half a mile away); Setting the Trap / Jackson Arrives (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Millville.
More about this marker. The background of the marker is a panoramic view of Bolivar Heights, and the mountains east of Harpers Ferry. The locations of Confederate signal stations on Maryland and Loudoun Heights are indicated. An inset illustration shows Jackson's spotting scope and a painting of Jackson reviewing the terrain. In the side bar are examples of daylight flags, dusk/dawn flags, and night torches.
Also see . . .  1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry. National Park Service summary of the battle. (Submitted on May 26, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 26, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 859 times since then and 48 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 26, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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