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Washington, October 1, 1901. Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith my annual report covering the operations of the Signal Corps of the Army for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901.
The operations of the Signal Corps have been coexistent with the operations of the Army of the United States, not theoretically, but on broad lines and activities which have comprised practically the entire area, not only of the United States proper, but also of Alaska, Cuba, Porto Rico, the Philippines, and a portion of China.
The muster out of the last volunteer soldier would seem to mean a reduction of work, but in an electrical age the demand of our active and progressive generals has developed in the American Army the application of electricity to war on a scale unprecedented in military history. Incessant demands were made by military commanders for intercommunication with their detached organizations by telegraph and by telephone, in addition to the former methods of visual signaling.
While the military work of the other arms of the service speedily decreased with the reduction of the Army, the demands upon the Signal Corps steadily increased.
For convenience of reference the field operations of the Signal Corps are treated in this report geographically under the various headings of Alaska, China, Cuba, the Philippines, Porto Rico, and the United States.
MILITARY TELEGRAPH LINES AND CABLES.
Work in the United States falls under four heads, viz: Signal Corps instruction, military telegraph lines, supply depots, and electrical installation for control of artillery fire.
Only such permanent military telegraph lines are maintained in the United States as are necessary for safeguarding the frontier settlements in case of Indian outbreaks. Such lines, aggregating about 900 miles in length, are situated either along the Mexican frontier or around the great Indian reservations of the trans-Mississippi region. The report upon this subject, made by Capt. Edgar Russel, Signal Corps, forms Appendix No. 1.
The volume of business, both Government and commercial, has been very large during the past year. The tolls for commercial messages have been collected and deposited in the Treasury without the loss of a single cent. These deposits aggregate the sum of $2,533.34. In addition there has been collected on account of commercial telegraph companies and turned over to them the sum of $6,173.86, due for tariffs on commercial lines, there being no loss.
The signal officer of each military department is in charge of the telegraph lines of his department under peace conditions, yet such action has not been practicable during the past year owing to the lack of officers.
The extraordinary demands for trained operators of the Signal Corps in the Philippines and China have necessitated the transfer from the permanent telegraph lines in the United States of every Signal Corps man whose health was such as to permit of foreign service. In consequence many stations have been operated by civilians, thus considerably enhancing the cost of the maintenance of these lines. These lines have remained in a serviceable condition throughout the year, interruptions being very rare and of short duration.
The permanent military. telegraph lines have been, as occasion required, supplemented by temporary telegraph and telephone lines, which have been constructed and dismantled as necessity demanded. Notable among these lines was that constructed at the Presidio in connection with the return of the volunteer army from the Philippines, at the muster-out camp, hospital, and post headquarters, through which telegraphic and telephonic facilities of modern character were afforded both the Army and the interested public.
The systems of short cables, which have been laid in connection with seacoast fortifications in the more important harbors of the United States, have, as a rule, been maintained in successful operation without injury or interruption throughout the year. Serious interruptions occurred, however, in connection with the cable system of New York Harbor, which has been fouled at various points by ships' anchors. The cable has been thoroughly repaired. While occasional interruptions may be looked for in this cable, yet special efforts have been made, through the courtesy of Brig. Gen. John M. Wilson, late Chief of Engineers, to remove it to a route where injuries will be reduced to a minimum.
The extraordinary development of Signal Corps operations in the Philippines made it necessary to supplement the supply depot in Washington by similar depots in New York and San Francisco. The depot in San Francisco was under Capt. A. B. Dyer, Artillery Corps, until June, 1901, when it was transferred to Maj. W. A. Glassford, Signal Corps. The depot in New York has been under Capt. Samuel Reber, Signal Corps. On June 1 Captain Reber was assigned to duty on the staff of the Lieutenant-General Commanding the Army, and was relieved from his duty as signal officer, Department of the East, by Capt. Le Roy S. Lyon, Artillery Corps, who has, since his assignment, efficiently performed the duties of signal officer, and has shown great aptitude and interest in the work. The services of the above-named officers, signal officers, respectively, of the departments of California and the East, were obtained through the courtesy of Maj. Gens. W. R. Shafter and John R. Brooke. The purchase of large amounts of material, their inspection, and their shipment to the Philippines, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Alaska has involved unusual care and in many cases a high order of professional knowledge. While these duties were performed in a most efficient manner by Major Glassford and Captain Reber, Signal Corps, yet the Chief Signal Officer feels it but proper to acknowledge the energy and success with which Captain Dyer has performed his novel and additional duties. His promptness was particularly noticeable in connection with field material for use in China. The report of the signal officer, Department of California, accompanies this report as Appendix No. 17.
FIRE-CONTROL SYSTEM FOR SEACOAST ARTILLERY.
As far as the present unsettled condition of the fire-control system made possible the Chief Signal Officer of the Army has cooperated with other staff departments in perfecting these electrical installations, so absolutely essential to the successful operation of the modern seacoast artillery for the defense of our important harbors.
Appropriations can not insure a satisfactory system in default of adequate plans for electrical installations, which it is evident must vary according to the varying physical environment at different fortifications.
No such definite system of fire-control communication having been prescribed, it has in the past been impracticable to properly fill requisitions for the component parts of such installations. The Signal Corps acts as a supply bureau only, and is not charged with problems of design, hence the Chief Signal Officer of the Army enunciates the principles which govern his actions. At the request of the Chief of Artillery, he is willing to take up the problem of electrical installation for the fire-control system of any post on plans and specitications drawn by any other branch of the service. In this latter case, however, the Signal Corps will deliver instruments and material in accordance with the specifications, but it can not be held responsible for the efficient working of any system devised by any other corps of the Army. These principles underlie the operations of commercial companies in connection with electrical installations, and embody the sound idea that the originator of the system, and not the manufacturer, should be responsible for its successful operation.
The electrical equipments of a post should be an entity, and its component parts designed and adjusted to make one united whole. It is unquestioned that if one department were charged with the various problems arising in the unification of an installation greater economy, simplicity, and efficiency would result. The reorganization of the artillery arm of the service and the designation of Col. Wallace F. Randolph as Chief of Artillery will have important results in the operations of the fire control. Steps have been taken to insure thorough cooperation between the Chief of Artillery and the Signal Corps.
SIGNAL INSTRUCTION IN MILITARY DEPARTMENTS.
Instruction in signaling in the United States has been carried on as usual on two different lines:
First, that of the simplest character in accordance with paragraph 1747, Army Regulations, under department commanders, with a view of enabling independent organizations to intercommunicate in cases of necessity.
Second, at the Signal Corps post, Fort Myer, Va., where men have been thoroughly trained in visual signaling, line building, telegraphy, telephony, etc.
The signal officers of military departments in the United States have been almost entirely officers detailed from the line who have performed signal duty in addition to their other staff duties. Reports of these officers form parts of the reports of the commanding generals of the departments.
Any deficiencies in instruction in military signaling have not arisen from lack of energy or ability, but the strictly limited number of troops within the limits of the United States have made technical military instruction practically impossible.
The Department of California remained in charge, until June, 1901, of Capt. A. B. Dyer, Artillery Corps, who performed most efficiently the duties of signal officer of the department in addition to his other duties, until relieved by Maj. William A. Glassford.
In the Department of Texas, First Lieut. H. R. Perry, aid-de-camp, has had charge of signal operations in that department since October 1, 1899, and has satisfactorily handled with promptness and ability the affairs of the military lines in the department, which he reports have greatly facilitated the transaction of public business and the operations against smugglers and desperadoes along the Rio Grande. First Lieutenant Perry was relieved from this important duty on June 29, 1901, by Capt. C. D. Roberts, Seventeenth Infantry. The report of the signal officer, Department of Texas, forms a part of this report, and is printed as Appendix No. 16.
Capt. Samuel Reber, Signal Corps, with his usual vigor, has performed an enormous amount of work in addition to his ordinary duties as signal officer, Department of the East, and has displayed the energy, zeal, and professional aptitude which have marked his services elsewhere. He has satisfactorily handled the fire-control system of the Department of the East, the most extensive of the country, and conducted with untiring interest and success experiments in the evolution of wireless telegraphy. Captain Reber has also been of great assistance to the Chief Signal Officer of the Army in the purchase and inspection of electrical instruments, material, and apparatus, intended for use in Alaska and the Philippines. This work, especially in connection with the testing of submarine cables, involved a fundamental and accurate knowledge of electrical laws, and of instrumental devices, of a rare order, possessed only by modern electrical experts.
SIGNAL CORPS POST, FORT MYER, VA.
On December 22, 1898, the Secretary of War approved the setting aside for a Signal Corps post of a portion of the Fort Myer Reservation. The ground was surveyed and formally assigned to the Signal Corps by direction of the Secretary of War, with the proviso that this Corps was to have no power as to the water, sewers, roads, or other matters affecting the integrity of the reservation as a whole.
On the ground thus mapped and formally set aside has been constructed a separate post, known as the Signal Corps post, Fort Myer, Va., whereat have been erected barracks for a force of 100 men, quarters for 3 officers, an administration building, a balloon house, and a storehouse. In these buildings have been installed a school of instruction, wherein recruits are trained, not only as soldiers, but are qualified for service as electricians, telegraph operators, and signalmen. This action concentrates Signal Corps instruction at one point, and avoids the wastefulness, irregularity, and deficiencies, which necessarily marked the operations of the three separate Signal Corps schools at Fort Logan, Colo.; the Presidio, of San Francisco, Cal.; and at San Antonio, Tex.
The wisdom of the action of the Secretary of War has been fully justified by practical results during the past year, for without this uniform and proper training, it would have been absolutely impossible to meet the urgent demands for telegraph operators in the Philippines. There have been collected at this post all men unsuited for service elsewhere, through impaired health or insufficient training. Here also have been brought the recruits of the Signal Corps whose inclinations and aptitudes render them fit for a course in theoretical and practical electricity.
The report on the operations of this post (Appendix No. 2) is by Maj. Joseph E. Maxfield, Signal Corps, to whose ability, energy, and zeal are due the present creditable condition of the post. Under his personal supervision the arduous work of organization, instruction, and discipline has proceeded most satisfactorily. The scarcity of officers has made it necessary, however, to divert Major Maxfield at times from his important work of instruction to the almost equally important work of technical inspection of cables and other electrical apparatus of the corps.
Office and clerical work has been enormous, as the total changes in the enlisted force of the post during the year exceeded 380, thus requiring the adjustment of about 210 individual accounts of enlisted men during each month.
It being impossible to enlist sufficient operators for foreign service, it became necessary to train recruits, who are selected with regard to their intelligence, aptitude, and character. Instruction has been unceasing in telegraphy and telephony, in visual signaling, in line repair, and other Signal Corps duties. Operators are trained until they can receive 20 words per minute on practice lines, when they are sent to duty as assistants at the military telegraph stations in the United States, whence they are transferred to the Philippines as soon as they acquire confidence and skill in handling commercial messages.
Instruction in the duties of the soldier has received careful attention, and the creditable condition of the post is shown by the fact that there have been only 33 summary court cases in the year, and 5 general court-martial cases in a garrison which had numbered nearly 500 men.
Through the courtesy of the Quartermaster-General the valuable services of Maj. Theodore A. True, quartermaster, have been available in connection with the construction work. These duties were assumed by Major True in addition to his other arduous duties as depot quartermaster, yet he has performed them with such interest and skill as to insure for the Signal Corps the best possible results.
OPERATIONS IN ALASKA
The act of Congress approved May 26, 1900, provided for an extensive system of military telegraph and cable lines in Alaska, and made it necessary to extend the operations of the Signal Corps to that Depart