The first telegraph message after the Battle of Gettysburg
Dignitaries, politicians, reporters, and soldiers all appear in this November 1863 photograph (courtesy of the Library of Congress). Taken facing north at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, it shows a part of the crowd that have arrived with Governor Andrew Curtin (R-PA) as the delegation changed trains at Hanover Junction to head west for Gettysburg and the dedication ceremonies for the new National Cemetery.
Giving to the World News of Battle of Gettysburg
Troubles of the Telegraph Operators sending the Dispatch from Hanover
George H. Grove of Hanover, and Daniel E. Trone, were telegraph operators at Hanover, and had a lively experience just before the battle of Gettysburg and Mr. Trone sent out the first message of the battle to the world. When Lee began his march into Pennsylvania, rumors spread all over the southern part of the state that the Confederate would draft into their service all telegraph operators.
The late Hugh D. Scott, of the Western Maryland Company, was then the operator at Gettysburg.
On the evening of June 26th, he sent a message to Daniel E. Trone at Hanover, that the advanced troops of the Confederate Army were entering the western end of Gettysburg. “I will leave this place at once. This in my last message. A minute later I will have my instrument under my arm ready to drive down the turnpike to York, for I do not want to be captured.”
Mr. Trone then conferred with Mr. Grove about the advisability of both of them skeddaddling from Hanover in the same way that Mr. Scott left Gettysburg. Meantime, Mr. Grove packed up his traps, and took his instrument with him to York, where he gave it to Albert W. Barnitz, father of J. Percy Barnitz, of Carlisle street. He then boarded a train from Lancaster with his father. The next day he went to Philadelphia, and in the evening took a fast train for Baltimore, where his family had gone.
Mr. Trone being in the employment of the telegraph company as well as the railroad company, struck to his post of duty until the last. He was sending messages on the morning of June 27th when four hundred Confederate cavalry, under Col. [Elijah V.] White, came dashing into Hanover from Gettysburg, up Carlisle Street. When they approached the railroad station, one of the officers called out. “Where is the telegraph office?” Mr. Trone had heard of their coming. He threw his instrument on the attic of the building, put the sounder in his pocket and skipped across the town to his home. A few minutes later several Confederate troopers entered his telegraph office. Upon reaching home he went upstairs, when he got sufficient cash to assist in his flight to a place of safety from capture by the Confederates.”
In his narrative Mr. Grove says that Mr. Trone moved out Westminster road, and when about one mile from town, a man on horseback approached him.
“Don’t go into town” said Mr. Trone to the farmer. “The rebels will capture your horse.”
“Well,” said the farmer, “I must go to Hanover, but I will lend you my horse and you can ride to Westminster.” So it happened that Mr. Trone Hastened off to the Maryland town some sixteen miles away, and placed the horse in a stable. He then boarded a train for Baltimore, reaching that city late in the evening of June 27th.
The following day he met Mr. Grove and some other Hanover people. Rumors of all kind were heard about the Southern Army. They were told on July 1st, that a battle had taken place at Hanover the day before, and that the Confederates were driven back. This news induced them to believe that the coast was clear; so Mr. Grove, William Grumbine, Daniel E. Trone and three or four other Hanoverians, hired a large omnibus to bring them to Hanover, Each paid the owner five dollars. When they approached the Pennsylvania line, they head cannonading in the vicinity of Gettysburg and saw a part of [David M.] Gregg’s Cavalry Division, near Manchester. The continued to move and arrived at Hanover on the morning of July 3rd. This was the day that the battle ended at Gettysburg. The telegraph line from Gettysburg to Hanover had been cut down, but an effort was already being made to have it fixed up between Hanover and Hanover Junction.
Mr. Trone was hourly expected that he could send messages out of Hanover. He had already arranged with E. C. Byington, a telegrapher, who had been sent from Gettysburg to Hanover by Whitelaw Reid, now the American Ambassador to England, but then the war correspondent of the New York Tribune.
Before the line was entirely rebuilt to Hanover Junction, Mr. Trone came up the street with a roll of manuscript. It contained messages for the President and the War Department at Washington as well as for the New York paper.
“These dispatches,”said Mr. Trone to Mr. Grove, “Should be sent at once. Take them down to Hanover Junction.” A few minutes later a handcar was obtained. George D. Klinefelter, Abraham Baker, Michael Colgan and Mr. Grove boarded the car. Some accident happened at Jefferson Station and the car, like a stubborn mule would go no father.
Jonas Rebert, of Jefferson, came to the rescue. He told them there was a large car on the track filled with lime. “It ought to be sent to Hanover Junction. Get on that car, boys and I will send you down the line. It is down grade, and you will be at Hanover Junction in a jiffy.”
There were no brakes on the car, which moved rapidly to a distance of one half mile from the Junction. The up-grade at this place checked the onward progress of the car, and by using rails to rub on the wheels they stopped it. A few minutes later Howard Scott, the son of the hotel proprietor at Hanover Junction, began to send the messages with lightning speed to their destination. One of them says Mr. Grove, he remembers contained the statement that General Daniel E. Sickles, now one of the two surviving Corps Commanders of the whole Union Army, had lost his right leg at Gettysburg.
This dispatch requested that a special train be sent at once, to convey the General to his home, or to the city of Washington. Later in the evening of July 3rd, “these boys of 1863” returned to Hanover. A short time after they had left this town, telegraph communications were opened in the meantime, Daniel E. Trone had sent with his sounder, in his office at Hanover, the first message to he civilized world of the great Battle of Gettysburg.
George R. Prowell
Gettysburg Compiler, Wednesday Oct 20, 1909