August 22: Albert James Myer (1880)

The U.S. Army post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, originally named Fort Whipple and today part of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, was for many years known as Fort Myer, named in honor of Brigadier General Albert J. Myer. A native of Newburgh, New York, Myer received a B.A. degree from Geneva (now Hobart) College in 1847, followed by a M.A. from the same institution four years later. A college classmate was William Paret, future Episcopal priest and Epiphany rector. When Myer was stationed in Washington, he brought his three youngest children to Epiphany for baptism by the Rev. Mr. Paret. During the Civil War, Myer served in the Union Army as a commissioned officer. Myer’s attention was called to the subject of signals for military and naval use. He eventually devised a system of signals which became the basis of the codes used throughout the war. Myer became the army’s first signal officer.

A permanent Signal Corps enlisted personnel corps was provided for by an 1875 Act of Congress, authorizing 150 sergeants, 30 corporals, and 270 privates. The training of officers and men for meteorological work was made a function of the Signal Corps School at Fort Whipple, VA. Courses were established for observer-sergeants and for assistants in one of the grades of private. All recruits were required to pass a preliminary educational examination and were promoted and assigned only after instruction and examination at Fort Whipple. When Brigadier General Albert James Myer died, Fort Whipple was renamed Fort Myer. A monument stands today on Whipple Field at Fort Myer in his memory.

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