By LOUIS FROLIO
Timing is everything—as Abraham Lincoln learned 153 years ago. Thirty-nine days after becoming the 16th President of the United States of America, Lincoln was thrust into the American Civil War. Although this war was horrendous, many novel innovations came from it. Examples include paper money, canned food, and the standardization of clothing sizes.
The biggest change was in the gathering and communication of near real-time intelligence.Until the Civil War, electric telegraph messages were mostly used for train dispatch. Although this technology had not been tested in a time of crisis, President Lincoln embraced the electric telegraph and strategically adapted the technology to war.
Mobile telegraph messages provided Lincoln immediate communications among the war room, battlefield, and other key outposts. This fundamental game changer transformed Lincoln’s war room operations. He and his trusted advisors were now able to participate in strategic decisions with the field generals in near real-time.
Lincoln and his advisors saw the big picture. To them the electric telegraph effectively shrunk time and space; there and then became here and now. The value of their strategic decisions was greatly enhanced by the immediacy of the feedback from the field.