Columbus Barracks was an Infantry post, used for recruiting intake and some Infantry training.

Five days later, on Christmas day, Dec. 25th, 1909, Vern was forwarded to the Signal Corps at

Fort Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska. After three days, he arrived at Fort Omaha on Dec. 28th, 1909,

where he was assigned to Signal Corps Company ‘H’, for training [Note 15. c., d.].


There are two photographs of Vern, in two different Army uniforms, both with the Signal Corps

insignia on the sleeve. These pictures were probably made in the spring of 1910, before he went

north to Alaska. There is no record of the photographer, date, nor place [Notes 8.b., 8.c. (images)].


While Vern was in training at Fort Omaha, Signal Corps regulations would have required him

to master “three codes: the Myer [which uses a single flag or torch], the American Morse for

ordinary telegraphy, and the Continental or International Morse for wireless and cable service”.

Only later, in 1912, did the Army standardize on International Morse code as its general service

code; and, in 1913, the Signal Corps closed its post at Fort Omaha, and the school for enlisted

instruction moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. [Note 16.a. pg.143] 


Sometime in the middle spring, probably April, 1910, Vern would have started the 6-8 week trip

to Fort Gibbon, Alaska; the Army service record shows that Vern was assigned to Signal Corps

Company ‘K’ in Alaska, although the transfer was not recorded until after he was already there

(it was recorded at the end of the spring quarter, on June 30th, 1910) [Note 15. d.].


In those days, the pre-embarkation ‘staging area’ for transfers to Alaska was the U.S. Army’s

Vancouver Barracks, at Fort Vancouver, Vancouver, Clark County, Washington state, on the

‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’ route, on the north bank of the mighty Columbia River, and directly

across the river north of Portland, Oregon [Note 17]. Presumably, Vern would have come west

to Portland by train, and then processed through Vancouver Barracks on his way north to Alaska,

and then another 3 or 4 weeks at sea on the long Pacific ocean voyage north to Fort St. Michael.


Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS)


On 9 February 1870 an Act of Congress authorized the Army to establish meteorological stations

in the Alaska Territory, and the Chief Signal Officer, Brigadier General Albert Meyers, created the

Army Weather Bureau, which eventually had over 90 stations in the Alaska Territory [Note 18].

In 1899, the War Department created the Department of Alaska, and established its headquarters

at Fort St. Michael on Norton Sound [near the mouth of the Yukon River] [Note 16.a. p.106]


As the gold rush to Alaska gained momentum at the tail end of the 1890's, the U.S. Army also

deployed infantry units, to help maintain order. Posts were established at Fort Seward (Haines),

Fort Liscum (Valdez), Fort Egbert (Eagle) [upriver on the Yukon River, near the Canadian border],

Fort Gibbon (Tanana) [Yukon River, center of the Alaska Territory], Fort St. Michael (St. Michael)

[on the south shore of Norton Sound], and Fort Davis (Nome) [north shore of Norton Sound].

Soldiers at these posts used skis for drills, patrols, recreation and for hunting for food [Note 21].



McAninch Family History NL v.XX n.3 / July 2012 / Frank McAninch, Editor / page 2012-21


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