Imagine a commanding general on a Civil War battlefield, using all his senses to evaluate and decide matters on the spot. With the lack of modern communications, how did they know what was happening around them? I have read they would be brought captured flags and reports of artillery captured, and of course there were staff and messengers going to and from them. Sometimes they would go to critical areas, but then the potential problems with that are obvious. Of his sensory awareness, that of sound was the most important, and the subject of a talk given us by Mr. Anthony Roscetti.
Mr. Roscetti, a member of the Indianapolis Civil War Round Table, presented to us on the subject of acoustic shadows and their possible influence on a number of battlefields, such as Perryville, Kentucky, October 8,1862. (He highly recommends a visit to this State-park battlefield, a subject of particular interest to him, because of its preservation and drivable distance from northeast Indiana.)
Acoustic shadows are also called “zones of silence.” A number of atmospheric and topographical variables can create them, such as temperature, distances, humidity, ground absorption (snow, foliage, valleys), obstructions, wind, refraction, in various potential combinations.
He emphasized that the importance the sound of battle had with commanders in their evaluation of their situations, and that it was the influence of acoustic phenomena on their decision-making, not that of the private soldiers, that impacted outcomes.
Thanks to Mr. Roscetti for bringing to our attention an aspect of battle that was important for the great commanders for centuries past, far more important than today for command-and-control of battles.
Mr. Roscetti credits a book by Charles D. Ross titled Civil War Acoustic Shadows (2001) with teaching him much about this important subject in military history.
Add Anthony J. Roscetti to our list of wonderfully informative presentations on the Civil War this year !