The United States Civil War of 1865

Categories: Civil WarStateWar

During the United States Civil War of 1865 there was a need for communication with neighboring countries and with Europe. The government realized the importance of telegraphic communications and two expeditions were formed; The Atlantic Cable and The Western Union Telegraph Expeditions. “The idea for the project originated from a man named Perry McDonough Collins, an American promoter, an advocate of manifest destiny, and dreamer of a commercial empire which would link two continents. ” The two groups worked from opposite sides.

One team labored from Siberia to Alaska, trying to connect, survey, and observe the land while another group handled the territories from Russian America to East Asia.

The idea to spread telecommunication from the Pacific, stretching from Siberia to Russia was initially conceived and developed by Collins in 1864. His crew was called Cyrus Field’s Atlantic Cable. Questioning the completion of this project by one team, the Western Union Telegraph Company, led by Major Robert Kennicott then supported Perry Collins project with their own team.

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“In 1865, hundreds of men started work on different phases of the project. Construction gangs began stringing wire through the rugged Cascade Mountains and forest of British Columbia, smaller parties began surveying and exploring in search of the best routes across Russian America and bleak northwestern Siberia. ” The Western Union Telegraph Expedition (W. U. T. E. ) of 1865-1867 was led by Kennicot and involved a large, diverse group of men. It included some scientists, zoologists, geologists, and other hard workers.

The WUTE was formed in Washington and its members “came to San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama in June, 1865.

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” As a result of their personal journals, three of these scientists, George Russell Adams, Henry Bannister and William Ennis, greatly contributed to the study of the journey. Adams is credible and his words can be trusted because the other two scientists confirm much of his recorded journal entries. He was more specific with the number of people involved and put notes on which information were attributed only from his memory.

The men who participated in the Western Union Telegraph Expedition worked hard yet their mission was ultimately unsuccessful. However, their journey is important in understanding what each individual man went beyond difficult moments to connect two countries together. A significant indication that the expedition was of great importance can be seen in the fact that today’s communication lines do not only connect Siberia to Russia. Modern technology already developed, from the original expeditions, and has created communication lines that span other continents.

George Adam’s Life is recorded in a book called Life on the Yukon, 1865-1867. This book is a personal diary written by George Russell Adams and edited by Richard A. Pierce, a Scholar at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. The entries log information and observations during The WUTE between the years 1865 to 1867. The focus of this book is on the hard work and struggles that the men encountered to complete their project. Examples of these are the harsh weather, the low stock of food, and the accomplishments of the actual expedition. George Adams was only twenty years old when he joined the WUTE.

He was “eager to become an explorer and pioneer telegraph builder. ” On this challenging journey Adams, kept a diary that consisted of daily logs of his own personal experiences, as well as records of his job as a scientist. It included the survey of land that Americans had never stepped on before. Adams’ was an explorer, an adventurous man who was able to witness the beauty of other countries despite the uncompromising harsh weather. Adams’ diary is significant because it helps confirm that the Western Union Telegraph Expedition was of great importance.

Even though the three men played active roles on the Great Expedition, they were not always together. Sent to do different jobs by Kennicott, they had entered different data logged in their daily routines. They varied in the spellings of location names, unique people they encountered and also different perspectives about their individual expedition experiences. Kennicott’s orders were to collect information from observations and from the native Russians in the Ulukuk Village. As George Adams experienced frost bit weather, others like Henry Bannister stayed nice and warm.

Bannister, a colleague of Adam’s, was given orders through a letter from Colonel Bulkley, “to stay with Mr. Bean to take care of stores and take observations on the climate, tides, etc. ” His personal journals are dated from March 21st, 1865 to January 20th, 1867. These were written and completed before the ratification of the Alaska treaty on April 9th, 1867. Bannister was an educated man, which is evident due to extensive scientific references on the subject of the climate, his geological knowledge, astronomical observations and vast knowledge of animal species.

Bannister did not have a language barrier with the native people because he could speak and read the Russian language. Bannister’s journal left evidence that the project of the WUTE was a struggle for the workingmen involved on the project. Bannister’s entries reveal the events that unfolded and his daily observations about temperature, tides, climates and people which include other scientists and their tasks, the Russians, the workers and the natives he came in contact with.

Although the work does contain information that would be of interest to the casual reader, it seems directed towards his own scientific community, possibly his friends and colleagues. As for William Ennis, he too was on the undertaking “to explore a line for the intention of laying a telegraph line…” , but was also out in the field facing frostbite while collecting data on the terrain and more knowledge of the natives on the expedition. Like George Adams, Ennis was in the field doing hands on work, collecting information and getting provisions for camp.

Continental Dash and his own journal entitled, Journal of William H. Ennis by Harold F. Taggart describe his contributions to the WUTE in Russia America. Ennis was an adventurous man with courage to pursue exploring “a line for the intention of laying a telegraph line from Vancouver Island to Siberia. From thence to communicate with the Russians from St. Petersburg and thus to have a line of communication from Europe to America. ” Each of the three men produced individual scientific reports. However, this also caused some inconsistencies of their records with each other.

We should understand that during the travels throughout Russia America, they faced many difficulties in dealing with the cruel weather conditions and transportation by foot or by dogs in order to gather all necessary data. The dated events could be varied by days but major different details on particular instances can change the reliability of recorded information. The objective in assembling this information is to determine whether the journals are trustworthy or not. Each of the three men provided dates logged in their journals.

George Adam’s diary is dated from September 26, 1865 to October 8, 1867, with gaps in some days and even weeks but for the most part, he writes daily until March 23, 1866. Henry Bannister’s diary is dated from March 21, 1865 to January 20, 1867. He holds a well-kept log of daily entries but also has gaps in days and weeks. William Ennis Journal is dated from June 1, 1965 to March 3, 1867. He, on the other hand, does not maintain a well-written log of daily events and observations. There are lost days and weeks in between his logs and it seems that he only kept some vital dates that indicate the importance of some events.

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The United States Civil War of 1865. (2016, Dec 18). Retrieved from

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