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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thomas T. Eckert Papers
    Dates: 1861-1877
    Bulk dates: 1862-1867
    Collection Number: mssEC 1-76
    Creator OR Collector: Eckert, Thomas Thompson, 1825-1910
    Extent: 76 volumes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains professional papers of Thomas T. Eckert (1825-1910), chiefly related to his duties as part of United States Military Telegraph Office during the Civil War.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Thomas T. Eckert Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Purchased in part by the Library Collectors' Council from Seth Kaller, January 2012.

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    Visit the Huntington Digital Library   to view digitized items from this collection.

    Biographical Note

    Thomas Thompson Eckert (1825-1910) began his career as an operator in the Morse Telegraph Company; in 1852 he became the head of the Chicago Branch of the Union Telegraph Company. In the fall of 1861, Eckert was appointed Assistant General Superintendent of the United States Military Telegraph. The Telegraph was organized from the Western Union Company as an expressly civilian service, subordinated directly to the Secretary of War and the President. The service remained under the civilian control, despite numerous attempts to put it under the command of the Signal Corps. In February 1862, Eckert was put in charge of all telegraphic operations of George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac. He remained with McClellan throughout the Peninsula campaign, supervising construction and operation of field telegraph offices in Virginia and Maryland. In April 1863, when the General Superintendent of the Military Telegraph Anson Stager moved his office to Cincinnati, Ohio, Eckert was recalled to Washington and appointed the head of the Military Telegraph office at the War Department. In addition to managing the Telegraph Washington office, Eckert was entrusted with important political, intelligence, and diplomatic missions. In March 1865, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, and on July 1866, became Assistant Secretary of War. He held this position until he resigned from the War Department in February 1867. In the post-war decades, Eckert managed first the Vanderbilt family's Western Union and then its chief competitors, Jay Gould's Pacific Telegraph Company and the then American Union Telegraph. From 1893 to 1900 he was the president of Western Union, and then served as chairman of the company's board of directors until close to his death in October 1910.

    Scope and Content

    The collection is made up mostly of items related to Eckert's duties as part of the United States Military Telegraph Office during the Civil War, including 35 volumes of telegram ledgers containing roughly 16,000 telegrams from 1862 to 1866. These include telegrams both still in code and decoded (the sent messages are ciphered; the received telegrams are mostly decoded).
    Series one includes 14 United States Military Telegraph volumes containing telegrams received by the War Department (1862, Feb.-1867, August) and 7 volumes of telegrams sent from Washington (1862, Feb.-1867, July). Included are messages to and from Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, Ulysses S. Grant and others. Subjects include: the campaigns of the Union armies in the Eastern and Western theaters; intelligence and covert operations; transportation; communications; hospitals; troop provisioning and logistics; personnel issues; fugitive slaves; etc.
    Series two includes four volumes of telegrams sent and received from the Army of the Potomac and Fort Monroe (1862-1865).
    Series three includes eight volumes of telegrams received and sent by Major Thomas Eckert (1864-1866). Subjects include the construction, repair, and maintenance of the Union telegraph lines; transportation; relationship with the press and the agents of Reuters and Associated Press; intelligence and covert operations in 1864 and 1865; the elections of 1864; etc.
    Series four includes two volumes of telegraphs from special investigating agent and Assistant Secretary of War Charles Anderson Dana sent from Chattanooga and Knoxville (1863-1864).
    Series five includes 32 volumes all related to ciphers and cipher codes used by the United States Military Telegraph. This series consists of: a volume giving location of ciphers and cipher keys arranged by Colonel Anson Stager; miscellaneous handwritten cipher books; cipher books for generals and places; eight copies of cipher book #1 (1861-1862); two copies of cipher book #2 (approximately 1866); 18 copies of cipher book #5 (1865-1866); and 1 copy of cipher book #9 (approximately 1865). These cipher books often have a listing of the holders of that particular cipher written in the volume, as well as letters and telegrams regarding the cipher.
    Series six includes five miscellaneous volumes related to the United States Military Telegraph, including: a pass book; two volumes related to supplies and requisitions; a ledger of telegram costs and numbers of words sent; and an account of money collected for the American Telegraph Company at the Military Telegraph Offices in the Department of the Potomac.
    Series seven includes four volumes belonging to Major Thomas Eckert dealing with his post-war career. This series consists of: a money receipt book, accounts of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company, and two copies of the cipher codes for weather by the U.S. Signal Service, Division of Telegrams and Reports (1877).


    The collection is organized into seven series: 1. United States Military Telegraph Ledgers; 2. The Army of the Potomac and Fort Monroe Telegraph Ledgers; 3. Thomas T. Eckert Letterpress Books; 4. Charles Anderson Dana Telegraph Ledgers; 5. United States Military Telegraph Code Books; 6. United States Military Telegraph Miscellaneous Ledgers; 7. Thomas T. Eckert Miscellaneous Material Post Civil War.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Dana, Charles A. (Charles Anderson), 1819-1897
    Dix, John A. (John Adams), 1798-1879
    Eckert, Thomas Thompson, 1825-1910
    Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885
    Halleck, H. W. (Henry Wager), 1815-1872
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
    McClellan, George Brinton, 1826-1885
    Pinkerton, Allan, 1819-1884
    Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891
    Stager, Anson, 1825-1885
    Stanton, Edwin M. (Edwin McMasters), 1814-1869

    Corporate Names

    United States. Army of the Potomac
    United States. Military Telegraph Corps
    United States. War Department
    United States Military Telegraph
    Western Union Telegraph Company


    Telegraph -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Telegraphers -- United States -- Archives

    Geographic Areas

    Fort Monroe (Va.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Communications -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Cryptography -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Secret service -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources


    Ciphers (codes) -- United States -- 19th century
    Letterpress copybooks -- United States -- 19th century
    Letter books -- United States -- 19th century
    Military records -- United States -- 19th century
    Telegrams -- United States -- 19th century