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What is Grapevine Dispatches?

GVD focuses on the role of ‘military intelligence’ during the American Civil War.

Let James A. Wright, a sergeant in Company F of the First Minnesota describe what grapevine dispatches are:

“One thing surprised me then – and I have wondered at it since — how some of the boys managed to get so much information as to what was being done and what it was planned to do. Every day had its story of what was to be done on the morrow, but when tomorrow came it failed to materialize. Many fanciful stories were current in camp for the week preceding the march for Bull Run. Of course, they soon failed to pass current and were referred to as ‘grapevine dispatches.'”

General Sherman Marching through Georgia – chapter XI

“We were aroused the next morning long before daybreak and ordered to get ready to move. The weather was very cold, and felt more like November than May. We left camp at three o’clock in the morning and marched in the direction of Buzzard Roost Gap. We took our position in front of it and commenced fortifying. The enemy seemed unusually quiet. Our batteries shelled them occasionally, but there was no reply. We remained in position behind our works all day. Everything appeared to be very quiet except the usual skirmishing. The day was cold and chilly and fires were comfortable. There were rumors among the boys in the evening that the enemy was falling back. It was set down by the boys as a “grapevine” dispatch, although some firmly believed it.”

The Civil War papers told the story of Richard Battey’s time in the 23rd Regiment of Indiana Volunteers.

“On the 17th, Battey wrote, “heard today that Lincoln had been assassinated. Hope it is only a grapevine dispatch.”

Terms associated with military intelligence during the Civil War: intelligence, covert activity, clandestine, C.S.A., spy, spying, scout, scouting, secret service, signal corps, cavalry, reconnaissance, Torpedoe Bureau, Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin, Europe, Canada, St. Albans Raid, newspapers, reporters, women, Belle Boyd, Rose Greenhow, Lincoln assassination, John Wilkes Booth, interrogation, propaganda, Confederate, agent, civilian, slaves, negroes, report, execution, guerrilla, espionage, sabotage, telegraph, raid, expedition, irregular warfare, disruption, 1864 election, antiwar, Peace Democrats, Copperheads, gold, operatives, prison, prisoners, escape, Montreal, Toronto, Thomas C, Hines, John Hunt Morgan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, George Nicholas Sanders, Sarah E. Edmonds, Mary Walker, Stanton, Jacob Thompson, Cipher disk, code machine, Andrew’s Raiders, Kirpatrick-Dalhgren Raid, counterfeiting, Harrison, Allan Pinkerton, Military information, Military Department, Lafayette C. Baker, detective, William H. Seward, Henry Shelton Sanford, John Stringfellow, John Bigelow, Thurlow Wood, campaign, disinformation, clergy, James J. Jaquess, subversive, conspiracy, conspiracies, secret, Sharpe’s Bureau, Thomas O. Harter, railroad, Franz Sigel, State Department, War Department, Submarine Battery, Engineer Bureau, Mosby’s Rangers, Charles Venable, courier

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