Emmitsburg was not only important to the cavalry operations of the Union army, but it also served as an important role in communications and observing battle maneuvers in Gettysburg. Indian Lookout was a very important landmark during the battle of Gettysburg for the Union army. It served Union officers who could see the positions of the armies on the battlefield. It also served as a communication center via dispatches and telegraph for the Union army.
The Signal Corps used Jacks Mountain, Indian Lookout on the Catoctin Mountain, Emmitsburg and Monterey Pass and South Mountain during the Civil War. Due to the communication and observation advantages both the Union and Confederate armies needed to obtain and protect their positions using mountain gaps and overlooks.
Using the highest point in the Emmitsburg area, Indian Lookout became a landmark. This area, situated near Mount Saint Mary’s College held the most spectacular view of the battle of Gettysburg. A letter reprinted on March 25, 1976 from the Emmitsburg Chronicle by a gentleman known only as A.J.B. wrote about the Battle of Gettysburg as seen from Indian Lookout directly behind Emmitsburg. There he writes about the battle as he saw it: “I should spare some of that talk for describing the battle of Gettysburg as seen by us from Indian Lookout. Truly we are at that place (Indian Lookout) almost the whole time during the three days battle. We had plenty of glasses viz telescopes, spy, and opera glasses. We had a clear view of the field and could see so as to make the men in their lines, attending cannon, the cannon themselves, making charges, officers riding along about their lines, and in a word the whole scene was spread out to our view.”
“We could distinctly observe the changes in the position of the armies: sometimes one army would slowly give way, but seeming to dispute every inch of ground with as much energy and determination as if the fate of the Nation depended on its holding or yielding its position again rallying and driving the foe headlong before it for some distance. When the retreating body either reinforced some fresh troops or perhaps reinforced with courage, the battle would become terrific.”
Emmitsburg resident George T. Humerick was sixteen years old when the Civil War broke out. During the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, he witnesses the flags waving from the top of the mountains west of town. He went up to what is known as the old Wagaman farm and came upon seven signal corpsmen taking signals from the Gettysburg battlefield. The signal from Gettysburg read: “General Reynolds was killed and they are pressing us hard.” Mr. Humerick, the first civilian to hear of the death, spread the news through the valley. It was by means of the signal corps that the Union forces at Gettysburg kept in contact with Washington, D. C. From atop the mountain here the signal was relayed to Sugar Loaf Mountain, below the city of Frederick, and from there to Washington.
An article reprinted in 1951 from the Emmitsburg Chronicle gave a sharp description of the Union cavalry and signal corps that was stationed at Emmitsburg during the time of the battle of Gettysburg: “Small flags waved and dipped from the tower of the old Lutheran Church, used as a signal station by the army. Bearers of dispatches and squads of cavalry dashed madly through the town. The long roll of drums and the blood-stirring bugle calls filled the air; the fields were alive with soldiers. To the untrained eye it looked like a great mob, but it was not a mob in any sense, for in a very short time the men fell into orderly lines and in full marching swing, pressed forward across the fields toward Gettysburg, towards victory and also many of them toward death.”