The Signal Corps of the United States Army was born in 1861 on the pastures of Georgetown Heights. Here, at the Signal Camp of Instruction, Union signal officers and enlisted men underwent training in horsemanship, codes and ciphers,and signaling with flags, torches, flares, and rockets.
Overlooking the camp, on the crest where the Russian Embassy is today, a signal tower was erected, where signal officers learned how to relay wigwag messages between similar high points in the city and the surrounding countryside.
The early Signal Corps combined the functions of reconnaissance and communication, and suffered casualties accordingly. As bearers of valuable information, signal officers were a prize to be captured, when possible; if not, they were a preferred target of enemy sharpshooters.
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