Huntington acquires trove of Lincoln, Civil War telegrams, codes





A long-unknown, 150-year-old trove of handwritten ledgers and calfskin-covered code books that give a potentially revelatory glimpse into both the dawn of electronic battlefield communications and the day-to-day exchanges between Abraham Lincoln and his generals as they fought the Civil War now belongs to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

The collection, acquired in a private sale on Saturday and disclosed Wednesday, includes 40 cardboard-covered albums of messages that telegraph operators wrote down either before sending them in Morse code, or transcribed from telegraphic dots and dashes at the receiving end. There are also small, wallet-like booklets containing the key to code words Union commanders used to make sure their messages would remain unfathomable if intercepted by the Confederates.

"This opens up some new windows that we haven't really been able to look at. It's a major find," said James M. McPherson, a Princeton University historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1988 study "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era." Had it been available while he was researching his 2008 book, "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief," McPherson said, "it would have enriched my own work."...



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