“The First Wired President”

“Lincoln saw his first telegraph key only three years before he ran for president, in a hotel lobby while riding circuit in Pekin, Ill. Always fascinated with technology, he peppered the operator with questions. Yet to most people in the mid-1800s, electricity was a mystery, and the telegraph was magic. A vague scientific concept to most, electricity wouldn’t become obvious until Thomas A. Edison invented the light bulb in 1879. Sending messages by electric sparks was a doubling down on that mystery. (…)

Reading a telegraphed report from Gen. George McClellan offering excuses for his failure to pursue the Confederates for five weeks after the 1862 Battle of Antietam, Lincoln bridled at the excuse that the Army’s horses were tired. Armed with firsthand information about the general’s supplies gleaned from the stream of telegraphic information, the president superseded the chain of command to express his frustration and dissatisfaction directly to McClellan: “I have just read your despatch [sic] about sore tongued and fatiegued [sic] horses – Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?” Two weeks later the president removed McClellan from command.”

Abraham Lincoln und der neu erfundene Telegraf. Aus der immer noch großartigen Disunion-Serie der NYT über den Civil War.