Portal:American Civil War/Selected biography/31
Albert James Myer (September 20, 1828 – August 24, 1880) was a surgeon and United States Army officer. He is known as the father of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as its first chief signal officer just prior to the American Civil War, the inventor of wig-wag signaling (or aerial telegraphy), and also as the father of the U.S. Weather Bureau.
He engaged in private medical practice in Florida and then sought a commission as a U.S. Army assistant surgeon (lieutenant), entering service September 18, 1854, posted at Fort Duncan, Texas, and Fort Davis, Jeff Davis County, Texas. His major interest of the time, besides medicine, was to devise a system of signaling across long distances, using simple codes and lightweight materials. This system of codes using a single signal flag (or a lantern or kerosene torch at night), known as wig-wag signaling or aerial telegraphy, would be adopted and used by both sides in the Civil War and afterwards.
The June 21, 1860, letter from the War Department that ordered Myer to organize and command the new U.S. Army Signal Corps provided little of substance. It authorized $2000 for equipment and a promotion for Myer to major, effective June 27. Myer was faced with the responsibility of recruiting subordinates who could be detailed from elsewhere in the Army. The Signal Corps would not commence as an official Army organization until March 3, 1863, at which time Myer was promoted to colonel. Ironically, the first use in combat of Myer's signaling system was by Confederate Captain Edward Porter Alexander at the First Battle of Bull Run.
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