When Abraham Lincoln was faced with keeping the United States together during the Civil War he was fortunate to have a new technology– the Telegraph. For history buffs this historical record gives us amazing insight into the war and the mind of President Lincoln himself. President Lincoln never kept a diary but the his thanks to his telegraph records we get a peek at his thoughts and it reveals how comfortable he was with this new technology.
What spurred these thoughts for me was I recently watched a great program on C-Span (Mr. Lincolns T-Mails) from Tom Wheeler where he speaks about his book, “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.”
During this time the telegraph was a new device (used primarily by the financial industry) and no national leader during wartime had ever had technology access to such a powerful communication device. Suddenly it was possible to get a fast and fuller view of the battlefield from every theater of engagement. The Telegraph provided Lincoln with the thoughts of his generals, reports from spy’s, and in some cases near instant reports from long away battlefields. Quite a few historians have argued this tipped the balance of power for the President and his cause to re-unify the nation.
That’s where I thought about today, what new communication technology do we have at our hands?