SEES, Oliver W.
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SEES, Maj. Oliver Washington, was born in the city of Philadelphia, on the .27th of October, 1835. He was the second son of David Sees and Ann Fell Edwards. His parents had removed from Harrisburg to Philadelphia in 1832, but returned to their old home on the 1st day of January 1839. Oliver Sees did not have the advantages of a liberal education. When quite young, about twelve years of age, he became a messenger boy in the first magnetic telegraph office that was opened in Harrisburg after the wonderful discovery by Professor Morse, the office being under the management of David Brooks. The latter became very much interested in the bright-eyed, youthful messenger, and under his special care and teaching Oliver rapidly developed into an operator, and finally became one of the most expert and accomplished in the business. He was one of the first to learn to read messages by sound. His interest was so great in the success of the laying of the Atlantic cable that when the news reached Harrisburg of its final accomplishment, he was chiefly instrumental in getting up a very enthusiastic demonstration to celebrate that event. Mr. Sees' knowledge and special fitness in his business were so marked that on the 23d day of December, 1861, Governor Curtin appointed him chief of telegraph, with the rank of major, and shortly afterwards added that of chief of transportation, two very important positions during the war. The duties of these combined offices he discharged with signal ability and entire satisfaction. In connection with this arduous work the General Government intrusted [sic] Major Sees with the key to the secret service cipher, used in the transmission of the most vital and important messages by the General Government in relation to matters at that critical period, and which could only be deciphered through a knowledge of this key. About this period he was appointed by Maj. Gen. D. N. Couch, who was directing military operations at this point, on his staff, and mustered into the United States service. Immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, Governor Curtin ordered Major Sees to the battlefield to assist in caring for the dead and wounded Pennsylvania soldiers who fell on that memorable occasion, a duty he performed well. On his way back to Harrisburg he was taken very sick at Carlisle, and died in this city on the 30th day of September, 1863, before he was twenty-eight.

The following is an extract from the report of Col. M. S. Quay to Gov. Andrew G. Curtin. Colonel Quay was the successor of Major Sees as chief of transportation.

"The invasion of the State, in June, 1863, by the army of General Lee, and your call for the militia forces which immediately followed, occasioned a large influx of business of pressing importance, which occupied the chief of the department, Major Sees, and his clerical force for weeks.

"The United States having assumed the payment of the expenses of the transportation of the militia, Major Sees was placed temporarily in their service, and assigned a position on the staff of Major General Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna. He was relieved by General Couch, at his own request, and was immediately afterwards ordered to Gettysburg by you to look after our dead and wounded.

"The extraordinary labors he found necessary during this period, extending at times through successive days and nights, with the exposure and fatigue sustained at Gettysburg, undoubtedly produced illness through which your administration lost a faithful and competent officer, and his family a husband and father who was their only support."

Major Sees was married to Caroline, daughter of Charles Buehler and Sarah Hoover, at Harrisburg, on the 22d day of September, 1857; the widow and one daughter, Caroline, survived him.



Historical Review of Dauphin County

Transcribed by Becky Tuszynski for The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project -

Date of Transcription: 24 February 2001

Copyright (c) 2001 - All Rights Reserved: Use, duplication or reproduction for profit or presentation by any person or organization is strictly prohibited.