How the electric telegraph affected the course of the USA's Civil War. Historically, generals had a lot of leeway: whoever was in command out in the field made decisions out in the field. You wouldn't wait for word from HQ: getting a message there and back would take days. The telegraph changed that—but folks had to figure out how the telegraph changed that. Generals were expected to report back to HQ by telegraph. Lincoln would look at those reports—though they weren't addressed to him, send out questions, send out orders. Some generals resented this; some generals were used to sending false reports back home. But with the telegraph aiding cross-checking, those lies got caught early. Telegraphy's impersonal-ity meant that conversations could flare up into flame wars; folks had to work extra hard to stay civil in the Civil War.