Camp Herndon, Va.
September 7, 2000
All Civil War Buffs:
I wanted to speak just a little on something that many of you may have never thought of in relation to a battle in the Civil War and that is "Time!" Not "time" as something arbitrary, but "time" as a finite term such as 12 o'clock. Did you ever think about how time was kept in those days? Remember there was no "standard" time as we know it today. That
did not come until later with the advent of cross country railroads and was, in fact, originally known as railroad time." How then did the commanders on the battlefield know what time it was if they were supposed to make a coordinated attack at say 9 o'clock? The plain and simple truth is, they didn't. Most had a pocket watch, but that watch was generally set to a town clock and that clock was set to 12 o'clock when the sun was directly overhead. It stands to reason that the town clock somewhere in Maine would not be the same as one in Virginia and the last time someone set their watch may have been to that clock. That's why you can read some reports where the Division commander says the attack started at 9 o'clock and a Brigade commander within that division might say the attack started at 9:10 while one of his Regiment commanders might say it started at 9:20 and all of them could have been right according to their watch. So, when you are discussing the war, don't quibble over the time the commander said something happened. It only happened at that time according to his watch!
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)