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Now for something really different…
by Sgt Craig Anderson

What does the Signal Corps have to do with fighting a battle?  Actually a lot.  When used properly, the Signal Corps can enhance a reenactment for both the spectators and the participants.
 For the spectators, the Signal Corps can provide a means to explaining how communications were carried out over long distances, prior to the telegraph or where telegraph wasn’t available. Spectators are often intrigued by the flag waving and are caught by surprise when they find out that there was no Morse code at the time. They can be brought to a modern understanding that a form of signaling is still used, particularly on ships with flags (semaphore) and at modern airports, where the flags are replaced by orange flashlights.
 For the reenactor, the use of signals affords the opportunity to rely less on modern means of battle control (via radios) yet still get the message across in a timely manner. Sometimes using signals can get a message out faster than even mounted couriers can. Signals can be used either for coordinating the Union and Confederate movements in a battle, or for each side’s divisions, battalions, or companies individually.
 Flagging signals is as easy as 1-2-3 if you can remember that 1= down to left side, 2 = down to right side, and 3 is down directly in front of you.  An attention signal is waving the flab over your head in a large figure "8", and an error message is holding the flag up over your head and to the left side. The harder part is reading the signals when you are answered, because the sequence is some what reversed. (Mirror image)

 For example:
2/3  11/2112/3  121/1/1122/22/11/112/2/22/1122/333  translates as
I       a    m    s   i     g     n    a    l    i   n   g        .(In this case, the end of the sentence is the end of the message, therefore a 333 is used instead of 33.)

Open Text Code (For spelling out words)

 11  A
1221 B
212  C
111  D
21  E
1112 F
1122 G
211  H
2  I
2211 J
1212 K
112  L
2112 M
22  N
12  O
2121 P
2122 Q
122  R
121  S
1  T
221  U
2111 V
2212 W
1211 X
222  Y
1111 Z
1112 AND
1113 ING
1114 ED
2221 TION
12221 1
21112 2
11211 3
11121 4
11112 5
21111 6
22111 7
22221 8
22122 9
11111 0

As you can see, signaling by use of individual letters and their corresponding numbers could take quite a bit of time; EXCEPT that the people who came up with signals also came up with a kind of signal "shorthand", called a preconcerted code. Using this, entire sentences can be reduced to three (more or less) series of flag signals.  Thus a command, such as "recall skirmishers" comes out to nothing more than "12112/3  12212/333"
 There are approximately 62 different orders that can be given using preconcerted signal code.
Some examples of preconcerted code:

1  1 Advance
11 Ammo Exhausting
12 Artillery
111 Attack
112 Begin
1121 Center
1122 Clear
1211 Close
1212   Concentrate
1221   Confederate
1222 Division
11212 Relay (or)  Pass
11221 Reinforce
11222 Renew
           (or) Resume
12111 Repeat
12121 Reply at Once
12112 Retire / Recall
12122 Retreat
12211 Right
2 End
22 Extend
21 Faster
222 Federal
221 Final / last
211 Fire
212 Flank
2212 Identify
2211 Infantry
2122 Left
2121 Minutes
2112 Move / proceed
22221 Wait
22212 When
22211 Yards
22122 Yes
22121 Your

Numbers can also be signaled, using the preconcerted code:
22112 One  21221  Four  21122 Seven  21111 Zero
22111 Two  21212  Five  21121 Eight
21222 Three  21211  Six  21112 Nine

  It is unfortunate that some regularly armed re-enactors see signalmen as "those silly guys out there waving flags".  Those "silly guys" are telling them where to go and what to do.  So don’t ever get a signalman mad at you, - he could end up sending your brigade into oblivion!

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