Wig Wag

During the days the American Civil War the Union Generals kept President Lincoln abreast of progress via wire telegraph. In order to accomplish this a team had to move the wire every time the general moved.

Information sent to the general – troop movement, numbers, locations, supply line, equipment – didn’t arrive by wire. It came in Morse code from individuals stationed on hills or rooftops armed with a flag attached to a four-foot hickory stick. It was called a Wig Wag Flag.

Messages began with the flag held in an overhead vertical position. Dropping the flag to a horizontal position on the sender’s right side made a DIT (dot). Dropping it to a horizontal position left side was a DAH (dash). Held in vertical position signified the beginning or end of a letter. Straight down meant the end of a word or finished.

vertical up meant the beginning of a letter

l,r,l,r, up was C

r,l, up was A

l,r, up was N

l,r, up was N

l,l,l up was O

l,r, up was N

down meant end of word or finished


  • Slow but faster than sending a runner down the hill with a note.