Command and Communications at Lee's Headquarters - Signaling At Stuart's Hill
— Stuart's Hill Kiosk —
(Left Panel):The Battlefield in 1862
At the time of the Civil War, the area of the Battlefield was largely agricultural. Fields and pastures alternated with woods, while modest farmsteads and middling plantations dotted the landscape. This rural community became the backdrop for dramatic events in 1862.
Key terrain features influenced the decisions of commanders. Roads and narrow lanes became important corridors for military movement, while the open and gently rolling hills provided room for maneuver. A cleared Brawner Farm afforded space for massing artillery. Nearby, the embankments of an unfinished railroad furnished an excellent defensive position and a geographical focus to the fighting.
(Center Panel):Command and Communications at Lee's Headquarters
Major B.S. White described Lee's headquarters as located on "...a piece of old fields, grown up with broom-sage, and a good deal of undergrowth and locust trees; looked as if at once time there had been an old residence there - dilapidated, run down, destroyed..."
On August 29, 1862, Confederate General Robert. E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, arrived here on Monroe Hill (now known as Stuart's Hill) to assume command of the battle begun the previous evening at Brawner Farm. As he surveyed the fields from this vantage point, he received reports from wing commanders James Longstreet and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
Stuart's Hill provided a central location for Lee with Jackson's men to the left, beyond the Brawner Farm, Longstreet's to the right and the open fields before him. Army headquarters, meanwhile, buzzed with activity. His staff prepared orders and assisted in sorting information coming from messengers, couriers, cavalry, and signalmen. Charles Marshall, an aide, even climbed a tree to increase his range of vision. As Lee pondered his opportunities, his headquarters kept the army in communication and able to respond to orders quickly and efficiently.
(Right Panel):Signaling at Stuart's Hill
In the midst of battle, members of the Signal Corps provided an invaluable service to the Confederate high command. From signal stations posted on high ground, corpsman transmitted encoded messages by waving flags by day or torches by night. This system of visual signaling, known as wigwagging, allowed a commander to relay orders and information speedily among his widely scattered forces.
During the Second Battle of Manassas, Captains Richard E. Wilbourn and Joseph L. Bartlett operated a signal station on Stuart's Hill. From this commanding vantage point, they provided a vital communication link between Lee's command post here and Stonewall Jackson's headquarters north of the Brawner Farm on Stony Ridge.
"I signaled from General Lee's Headquarters on the Warrenton pike to General Jackson's position across the pike to near some wheat-stacks, bearing nearly north, distant about 2 miles..."
From Captain J.L. Bartlett's report, August 30, 1862.