150 YEARS AGO: Hundreds sabotage railroad bridges, track
By RUDI KELLER
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
STURGEON — Hundreds of men descended on the North Missouri Railroad to burn bridges, tear up track and destroy telegraph lines as part of a coordinated attack on Union communication lines.
The force, composed mainly of young men from Boone County, was commanded by Capt. James Watson and Capt. James Searcy, a former professor at the University of Missouri. The sabotage damaged the line for more than 100 miles.
The companies of 30 to 50 men began meeting late the night before at prearranged locations, then met other companies as they approached the railroad. James Lane, 20, who lived about six miles west of Columbia, estimated the number had grown to 400 or 500 by the time they reached Sturgeon.
At trial later, he said: “We reached the railroad before daylight. They stopped awhile before they began to tear it up, but I had no hand in tearing it up; and if I had known what they were going to do, I would not have gone along, and a heap of the others who did not know what they were going to do did not take any hand in it.”
Four trains were forced to halt. Bridges were destroyed at Sturgeon, Centralia, Mexico, Mo., Jeffstown and Warrenton, but a major one east of Mexico was unharmed. “At Centralia, they went within a mile of the camp of the Birge Sharpshooters and destroyed a bridge and water stations, and two freight trains were captured within four miles of the camp of a detachment of the same force at Renick,” the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican reported.
The Columbia Missouri Statesman reported the Sharpshooters rushed to the scene, putting out the flames before serious damage could be done.
Lt. Col. Erastus Morse, 22nd Missouri Infantry, had boarded a northbound train at Centralia around 6 p.m. with 19 other mounted officers and cavalry. Between Sturgeon and Renick, his squad ran off some of the bridge-burners, who left their tools behind. The train was restarted but did not get far.
At Renick, the Union soldiers found 100 yards of track ripped out and the ties burning. Morse, with a dozen men, went in search of the bridge-burners and found 150 of them north of the fires. They were preparing to loot and burn a freight train.
The Statesman reported Morse captured five saboteurs in all. “It was with difficulty Col. M. could restrain his men from shooting the incendiaries on the spot.”
COLUMBIA — William Switzler, publisher of the Statesman and an outspoken Union supporter, left town with the small Union force under Morse because he did not feel safe. The 130-man infantry company left town at 11 a.m., and the mounted force of about 20 followed three hours later.
In an article published after the war, Switzler acknowledged his fear and said Francis Russell also had left Columbia fearing for his safety.
MIDDLETOWN — A force of 160 men from Birge’s Western Sharpshooters had a brief fight with about 100 rebel horsemen, capturing one, killing two others and wounding several more near this Boone County hamlet. The men under Capt. Welker also captured five horses and various weapons and other supplies. No injuries were reported in Welker’s command.
RICHMOND — Confederate President Jefferson Davis scolded Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in a letter telling him no help would be coming from the South. “It was not needed to make me appreciate the difficulties and embarrassments under which you have labored nor the sacrifices and devotion displayed in the cause of Missouri and the South,” Davis wrote.
ALLEN — Lt. Col. Erastus Morse was wounded by buckshot when he dashed after a fleeing guerrilla caught destroying the track of the North Missouri Railroad.
The fight was one of several skirmishes reported along the North Missouri Railroad, which had been struck overnight at numerous points along 100 miles from near Hudson City to Warrenton.
Morse, with only a dozen other horsemen, had surprised and scattered a band of 150 men near Renick during the night hours. After waiting for 70 men from Birge’s Western Sharpshooters to arrive from Renick, he had pushed his train slowly to Allen, the next station. There he encountered more saboteurs.
“Col. Morse, at the head of the troop, charged upon the retreating rebels, and in pursuing one to the distance of perhaps a mile, was fired upon, receiving three buckshot through his left thigh,” an unidentified fellow soldier wrote in an account published in the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican.
Pvt. John Calhoun of the 3rd Missouri Cavalry also was severely wounded.
Morse’s command returned to Renick, where it was joined by 45 men from the 10th Missouri Infantry under Capt. William Forbes, and another 50 men from Col. William Bishop’s Black Hawk Cavalry and went out searching for more rebels.
They found and surprised a band of about 300 near Sturgeon, killing several, wounding many more and capturing 17 prisoners, the officer reported. The rebels had with them Wharton Schooling, Jacob Crosswhite and Adam Gosling, three Unionist residents of Sturgeon who were being held as hostages, the Columbia Missouri Statesman reported.
The attack, near the home of Robert Schoolings, also freed the hostages.
MIDDLETOWN — For the second time in as many days, Capt. John Welker of Birge’s Western Sharpshooters visited this Boone County hamlet. The previous day he had scattered a camp of soldiers returning home from the Missouri State Guard.
The visit on this day was to arrest anyone considered disloyal. The prisoners rounded up included Thomas Keene, John Roberts, John Keithly, William Evans, William Smith, Thomas Stone, J.W. Smith, Joseph Broomfield, Harrison Brown and J.T. Gibson.
JEFFERSON CITY — Provisional Gov. Hamilton Gamble appointed Aikman Welch of Johnson County to replace James Proctor Knott of Jefferson City as attorney aeneral.
Knott, elected in 1860, was forced from office when he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the federal government and the provisional state government. Gamble also appointed Sample Orr of Springfield to be registrar of lands as well as three new circuit judges and two circuit attorneys.
JEFFERSON CITY — Gamble set the date for special elections in two congressional districts vacant because of the expulsion of the incumbents for disloyalty.
In the 18-county Third District, which included Howard and Randolph counties, the election would be held Dec. 30, Gamble announced. The only announced candidate was Circuit Judge William Hall of Randolph County.
In the 13-county Fifth District, the election would be held Jan. 6, Gamble announced. Brig. Gen. Thomas Price of Jefferson City and George Smith of Sedalia were the announced candidates.
MEXICO — Bridge-burners returned to the North Missouri Railroad and destroyed the major span at Davis’ Fork of the Salt River. The fire completed the destruction of most of the major bridges in Central Missouri.
The St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, in an editorial headlined “Villainous Work,” summed up the damage: “Commencing 8 miles south of Hudson, they have rendered the road useless to Warrenton, a distance of 100 miles. They have burnt the bridges, burnt the wood and water tanks and ties, and tore up the track, and destroyed the telegraph lines...”
It was obviously a well-planned attack, the newspaper stated. “They must have been men, too, living somewhere near the lines, as well as rebels from Price’s army, sent there for this purpose, and all of them ought to be made to suffer for this villainy.”
Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck wasted no time sending a warning to the rebels who damaged the railroad.
“These men are guilty of the highest crime known to the code of war and the punishment is death,” Halleck said in an order issued for publication. “Any one caught in the act will be immediately shot, and any one accused of this crime will be arrested and placed in close confinement until his case can be examined by a military commission, and, if found guilty, he also will suffer death.”
Halleck ordered that slaves of secessionists along the road would be used to make repairs. Enemies of the Union, in Halleck’s order, included people who did not actively aid Union soldiers in finding the saboteurs.
JEFFERSON CITY — Brig. Gen. Thomas McKean received orders to send all available troops to Fulton to find an encampment of rebels. Halleck also told McKean he would be sending a portion of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, known as Merrill’s Horse, as well as an additional company of soldiers.
OTTERVILLE — The expedition of 4,000 men that marched to intercept recruits for the Missouri State Guard returned to their winter quarters after five days in the field that netted 1,500 prisoners.
McDowell Medical College on Gratiot Street was being readied for the prisoners, who represented the biggest haul of captured rebels so far in Missouri.
RICHMOND — In a lengthy report, Brig. Gen. Ben McCulloch defended his decisions not to march north with Maj. Gen. Sterling Price after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek or when Union troops retreated from Springfield again in November.
First McCulloch cited a long list of complaints about the condition and leadership of the Missouri forces, and how they ran from the first attack at Wilson’s Creek. “I mention these facts to show the unorganized condition of the Missouri forces, and what great risk we ran of a panic being communicated to the fighting men of the army by having such material among them,” McCulloch wrote.
Price refused to follow good advice, McCulloch wrote. “Had he thought proper to listen to my suggestions on the subject he would have been advised to fortify Springfield and hold it with his infantry and artillery and post his mounted men so as to give protection against the jayhawkers from Kansas,” he wrote.
The enemy was too strong, and supplies were too far away, to make a pursuit with a real chance of success after the November Union pullback.
Cities have origin myths – the stories they tell themselves, often without much concern for authenticity or fact.They are usually semi-heroic episodes about military conquest, a founder’s lucky discovery of an unexplored, unclaimed Eden, or the arrival of pioneers after a gauntlet of hardships. Statues and plaques are mounted to mark where the city was born, and, as time and convenience work their magic, things move around.Tacoma’s beginnings have no such mythic romance. Our city was born, or perhaps more accurately avoided dying, in the cold Christmas season of 1873.In the last year of the Civil War and his life, Abraham Lincoln signed the charter for an ambitious northern transcontinental railroad. Improbably, Commencement Bay was selected as its end point on the Pacific. The decision was made in July 1873, just as the tracks headed west and then north from the Columbia River were reaching the Tenino area. A serious problem loomed, however. A condition in the land grant charter required that the railroad reach saltwater just before Christmas or millions of acres along the line would be forfeited.A second, more serious problem was that the Northern Pacific railroad, along with the entire nation, was headed toward an economic collapse. The best chance for saving the whole enterprise was to rush the track-laying in a straight line across the glacial prairie between the Nisqually River and Commencement Bay and then begin cashing in on the real estate value of a newly created terminal port city.By the end of September, the financial crash came and the House of Jay Cooke, bond seller for the NP, collapsed. With no money for wages, a quarter of the workers quit, armed themselves and barricaded the track 25 miles from Tacoma. Then, it started to rain.The situation, which meant certain death for the City of Tacoma, was famously averted when Capt. J.C. Ainsworth, NP’s West Coast manager, put up his own money to pay the strikers. The legendary deep woods engineer E.S. “Skookum” Smith was put in charge of a last major push to reach the ocean with a steam locomotive.Over the next two months, 750 Chinese laborers graded the line to the crest of Commencement Bay near the south end of today’s Hilltop neighborhood. At one point, workers covered 14 miles in 18 days. But now they faced the most complicated and uncertain section of the work: the drop to the sea.Between the engineers, surveyors, timber cutters and Chinese gang bosses, a diagonal 80-foot-wide shelf was mapped across the hillside, creating a railroad grade down to tidewater. The steepness exactly matched the climbing horsepower of the locomotives. To save time, the crews used the trees they cleared on the hill for wood ties and fuel.Then, it started to snow.END IN SIGHTOne day that December, a Chinese laborer in a mud-soaked, quilted silk jacket standing near what became 17th Street and Pacific Avenue looked up from his work and noticed through the cedars the saltwater of Commencement Bay. He was seeing what Abraham Lincoln only dreamed of – the completion of the Northern Pacific transcontinental railroad. At 3 p.m. on Dec. 16, 1873, a crowd of people bundled in heavy coats, long capes and trade blankets assembled somewhere along the fresh railroad tracks that crossed a City of Tacoma yet to be born.They were there to drive a last spike. Around them were work camps, steam-age machinery, canvas tents and tree stumps that no one expected to last long. At their feet, however, was a wide swath of cleared, level ground marked by iron rails that climbed the hill and set off for the prairie and the continent beyond.Today, as another Christmas approaches in Tacoma, if you find yourself downtown near where a skating rink adds cheer to Pacific Avenue, take note of the diagonal open space that ramps gently down the hillside through the University of Washington Tacoma campus and under Interstate 705.Never broken, narrowed or built upon, it’s the Prairie Line, the last terminal section of the transcontinental railroad – and the very certain place where the City of Tacoma began at Christmas a long time ago.
Christmas day marks the 181 year anniversary of the Best Friend of Charleston. The best friend of Charleston was a passenger train – the first ever railroad locomotive train built in the United States.
On Christmas day in 1830 – this railroad locomotive ran for the first time. It would be used as a passenger railroad service along a six mile route in Charleston, South Carolina.
At the time it debuted – this locomotive train was the fastest mode of transport available in the country. The train reached speeds of 25 miles per hour, and in the early 1830′s – no other means of travel could approach this speed.
Unfortunately, the Best Friend of Charleston had a tragic accident in June of 1981. A boiler exploded injuring three crew members severely. Pieces of the Best Friend were used for construction in another project, but the Best Friend was retired forever.
However, it still today is remembered as it was a true Railroad breakthrough for this country.
To see what other famous events happened on December 25th – check out the Famous Daily on Christmas Day. The famous daily is published each morning showing the famous birthdays and historical events that occurred on that specific date. You can subscribe for free to get the Famous Daily delivered to your email each day.
In the new year – we will continue to highlight historical railroad events on the date they happened in history.
150 YEARS AGO: Rail attacks prompt Christmas Day troop movements
By RUDI KELLER
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Christmas was not a day off for Federal soldiers marching through snow and cold as part of the growing response to attacks along the North Missouri Railroad.
Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, Union commander in Missouri, ordered Brig. Gen. John Schofield to Warrenton as senior commander of the response from the east. Brig. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss, on his way from Palmyra with five troops of the 3rd Missouri Cavalry, was marching via Paris to Sturgeon.
A regiment of infantry and two companies of cavalry were on the way from Jefferson City to Fulton, Halleck told Schofield in the order sending him to Warrenton. Another 700 to 800 men were on the way from Hermann to Warrenton to reinforce the troops already there, Halleck wrote.
A battery of artillery and a full regiment of infantry were being sent from St. Louis.
Birge’s Western Sharpshooters, about 800 in all, had been stationed at Renick and Centralia when the saboteurs hit the railroad. Cavalry was coming south along the road from Macon, Halleck wrote, and Brig. Gen. John Henderson, with a force of state militia, was on his way from Lincoln County.
The St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican reported that the railroad was intact from St. Charles to High Hill and that minor damage would be repaired so trains could reach Montgomery City, 75 miles from St. Louis.
Rebel camps dotted the countryside. Col. Caleb Dorsey of Pike County was on his way southwest to Boone County to swear in recruits for the Missouri State Guard. Hundreds of men had taken part in the raids on the railroads. Although many had returned to their homes, others were attempting to reach the Missouri River and join Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard.
FULTON — Capt. Daniel McIntyre, leader of the Callaway Guards company that enlisted in the Missouri State Guard in May, was arrested while recuperating from wounds suffered at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
McIntyre had returned home after being hit in the jaw by a musket ball during the Aug. 10 battle near Springfield. He was among more than a dozen people arrested as traitors when a battalion of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry and a battalion of the 11th Iowa Infantry arrived. The Federal troops, which had marched from the Missouri River after a night crossing, blocked all the roads leaving town and made the arrests in a sweep as they arrived, the Columbia Missouri Statesman reported.
Additional arrests were made in the countryside.
The Statesman reported the names of several of those arrested in addition to McIntyre. They were Capt. L.B. Chaney; John Provines, an attorney; a Lt. Duncan; Henry Willing; J. Snedeco; George Willing, a physician “who represented himself as formerly a Senator from one of the territories”; C. Branham; and men named Jackson and Dorson. Several others were arrested whose names were not available to the newspaper.
ST. LOUIS — Halleck requested that he be allowed to convert the empty Illinois state prison at Alton into a Union military prison. He was burdened with between 2,000 and 3,000 prisoners, he reported.
Must be nearly time for teh 1862 campaigning season to commence
12 April this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Locomotive Chade - there are several events in Georgia. See the April issue of Trains for further details.
Troops deal with railroad sabotage
Civil War history
Correspondence from the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment highlighted this week's news in the Western Reserve Chronicle. Here's a letter published in the newspaper.
Near Bowling Green, Ky.
Feb. 28, 1862
We are now encamped about one half mile from Bowling Green, Ky., which place we reached several days ago. There is a great rush of troops here, who are crossing the river as rapidly as possible and pushing forward to Nashville. The bridges being destroyed render the crossing slow and tedious. A temporary bridge has been constructed of three steamers moored side by side on which the troops and wagons are passed over.
This is the most warlike place we have been in; about 30,000 troops were here when we came, of which the greater proportion have gone, but their places have been filled in a degree of newcomers. Artillery is constantly passing, and the road is filled with troops and trains of wagons for the distance of a mile or more.
General McCook's brigade crossed early yesterday and will probably reach there tonight or tomorrow. General Mitchell is six miles the other side of Nashville and latest report says the rebels have made no stand as of yet.
A number of men are getting out timber to rebuild the bridges, which job I learn has been contracted for. The railroad cars do not yet run down to this place from Louisville, but we expect a train tomorrow. The principal obstructions are at the tunnel, a few miles this side of Cave City, which the rebels blasted full of rock; they also tore up the track for a distance of a mile or so, on each side of the tunnel, and spoiled the rails by placing them on large piles of ties, which they fired; as soon as the rails became heated in the middle, they bent by their own weight, rendering them useless, at least for the present. On the other side of the river we have two good locomotives and about 20 cars.
The train left yesterday for Nashville, taking a load of soldiers; it returned last night and left again today. The retreating rebels destroyed some very valuable property, among which are the engine house and the machine shop of the railroad company; there were four locomotives burned in the round house, and one was disabled by the falling walls.
Buckners fortifications are in plain sight from our camp; they are eight in number and are situated upon eight different hills. The main fort is across the river, on an eminence above the town called College Hill, from which point the enemies' guns could have commanded approaches in all directions for at least five miles, and it would have been almost impossible to have taken it by any direct attack. In their hurry to leave the place, they left a few wagons, ambulances and an iron six-pounder, an old U.S. smooth bore.
We will probably leave here some time tonight. We have had no mail since we left Columbia, except a very light one at Glasgow. We will have excellent roads from this, which is what we have not had since we came into Kentucky. The boys now begin to look forward to the close of the war, and many confidently expect to reach home in a couple of months at the farthest. All mail matter for this regiment should be directed via Bowling Green, Ky.
NOTE: The young men from Trumbull County could not foresee the coming events at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., in early April 1862 at the battle of Shiloh. Their hopes for an early end to the war were not to be realized.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.
COLUMBIA — The military trial of William Petty was cut short when defense witness Charles Sexton showed up too drunk to testify.
Petty was accused of taking part in the destruction of the North Missouri Railroad in December. His defense was that he came upon the bridge-burners the morning after they attacked the railroad and was innocently on his way home at the time.
The military tribunal conducting the trial was made up of three officers from Merrill's Horse and led by the regimental commander, Col. Lewis Merrill.
The prosecution called three witnesses, all residents of the Sturgeon area who claimed to have been taken prisoner and forced to join the band that tore up ties and burnt bridges on the railroad.
Jacob Crosswhite, 29, an unemployed merchant, farmer and carpenter, said he was in bed when a group of men "burst open the door, called me to strike a light. I did so. A man put his hand on my shoulder and told me I was his prisoner."
When he arrived at the railroad, the bridge was on fire, Crosswhite said. He was kept prisoner until the next morning, when the camp of several hundred was attacked at Riggs' farm by Union cavalry.
He testified that he first saw Petty at Riggs' farm, among the group that had destroyed the bridge, but he did not see him participate.
"Don't recollect seeing him any more until we got three or four miles from place of fight. ... I was released on parole near prisoner's house. W.R. Schooler and Adam Gosling were prisoners with me."
William Schooler, 40, and Gosling, 42, gave similar accounts, with Gosling testifying that Petty "was with the party who took me out of bed, burnt the bridges and destroyed the road."
Jonathan McKinney, 40, a farmer who lived 14 miles northwest of Columbia, testified on Petty's behalf that on the evening the railroad was destroyed, McKinney had arrived home about 9 p.m., and Petty arrived shortly after. Petty came in, warmed himself at the fire and paid a debt, McKinney said, providing a copy of the receipt he had given Petty. Petty left his home about 10 p.m., he said.
To finish Petty's case, Merrill ordered a four-hour break for Sexton to become sober, but it was not enough, and the case was continued.
COLUMBIA — William Petty postponed but did not prevent a military commission from ordering him shot on charges of aiding in the destruction of the North Missouri Railroad.
The presentation of Petty's defense had been delayed when one of his witnesses had been too drunk to testify. He was trying to show that he had not taken part in the attack on the railroad and had, actually, been far away when it occurred.
In his statement to the court, Petty said he left home early in the morning intending to transact business in Sturgeon. When he was about six miles away, he was told there were Federal troops in the town, and he decided to return home, he said. Petty's home in Perche Township was about 14 miles from Sturgeon.
Men who swore they saw him among the bridge burners at Riggs farm in the early dawn hours "are either innocently mistaken as to the man or they have sworn falsely, and I fully believe they were mistaken from the fact that he had only a passing acquaintance with either of them."
The first defense witness of the day, Charles Sexton, told the three-officer tribunal that Petty had been at his mill and slaughter pen until about 9 p.m. on Dec. 20, 1861, the night the railroad was attacked.
After leaving Sexton's, Petty had gone on to visit Jonathan McKinney, who lived about 20 miles from Sturgeon, McKinney had testified two days earlier.
William Patton, Petty's nearest neighbor, testified that he had seen Petty the day after the railroad was torn up, about an hour and a half before sunset. With a little prompting, he also recalled seeing Petty in the morning more than two hours before sunrise.
The tribunal, under Col. Lewis Merrill, found Petty guilty. The death sentence was stayed until approved by Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, Union commander in Missouri.
This has been included for instance and to serve as a reminder that most iron used in Confederate built warships was sourced from...
The poor old Confederate railroads...
Also as a reminder that the Confederacy managed to NOT build one locomotive during the war.
CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862
At mid-day on 8 March 1862, CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack, and identified by that name or as "Merrimac") steamed down the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and entered Hampton Roads. It was the newly converted ironclad's trial trip, a short voyage that would deeply influence naval opinion at home and abroad.
Anchored on the opposite side of Hampton Roads were five major Union warships: the frigate Congress and large sloop of warCumberland off Newport News, and the frigates St. Lawrence, Minnesota and Roanoke a few miles to the east, off Fortress Monroe. All were powerful conventional wooden men o'war. Minnesota and Roanoke, of the same type as the pre-war Merrimack, had auxiliary steam propulsion, but the other three were propelled by sails alone, and thus were at the mercy of wind conditions and the availability of tugs. As Virginia crossed the Roads, looking (as one witness described her) "like the roof of a very big barn belching forth smoke as from a chimney on fire", the Union ships called their crews to quarters and prepared for action. Turning west, the Confederate ironclad shrugged off steady fire from ships and shore batteries as she steamed past the Congress. Firing her heavy cannon into both ships, she pushed her ram into Cumberland's starboard side. The stricken ship began to sink, though her gun crews kept up a heavy fire as she went down. In the words of one of Cumberland's enemies, "No ship was ever fought more gallantly."
Virginia backed clear, tearing off most of her iron ram, and slowly turned toward the Congress, which had gone aground while trying to get underway. Confederate gunners put several raking shells into the frigate's hull, and maintained a relentless fire as they came alongside. After an hour's battle, in which Congress' crew suffered heavy casualties, she raised the white flag of surrender. As the Confederates began to take off her crew, several men on both sides were hit by gunfire from ashore, among them the Virginia's Commanding Officer, Captain Franklin Buchanan, who ordered Congress set afire with hot shot. She blazed into the night, exploding as the fire reached her powder magazines about two hours after midnight.
Virginia had meanwhile made a brief demonstration in the direction of the big steam frigate Minnesota, which had also gone aground. However, with the day's light about to fade, the ironclad turned back toward the southern side of Hampton Roads and anchored. Though two of her guns had their muzzles shot off and most external fittings were swept away or rendered useless, she had dramatically demonstrated the horrible vulnerability of unarmored wooden warships when confronted with a hostile ironclad, and was still battleworthy. Her casualties, less than two-dozen, were removed and command passed from the injured Buchanan to LieutenantCatesby ap R. Jones, who would take Virginia out the next day to deal with the Minnesota.
This page features images of the battle between CSS Virginia and the Federal warships Cumberland and Congress, 8 March 1862.
Additional pictorial coverage of this action, CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862 (Part II).
Other images of the ships involved
Views of the acting commanding officers of Cumberland and Congress, and of another officer who lost his life in this action
Click the photograph to prompt a larger view.
Photo #: 80-G-K-17106 (Color)
"Iron versus Wood -- Sinking of the Cumberland by the Merrimac. In Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862."
Oil painting by Edward Moran (1829-1901), depicting CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) ramming USS Cumberland in the teeth of a broadside from the wooden warship.
This painting was presented to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1941 by Paul E. Sutro, of Philadelphia. It was photographed by Taggart in December 1953.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Online Image: 66KB; 740 x 505 pixels
Reproductions may be available through the National Archives
Photo #: NH 64088-KN (Color)
USS Cumberland sunk by CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack), 8 March 1862
Colored lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1862, entitled "The Sinking of the 'Cumberland' by the Iron Clad 'Merrimac', off Newport News, Va., March 8th 1862. 'Cumberland' went down with all her Flags flying: -- destroyed, but not conquered. Her gallant Commander Lieut. Morris calling to his crew 'Given them a Broadside boys, as she goes'."
Courtesy of the Beverly Robinson Collection, U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 119KB; 740 x 525 pixels
Photo #: NH 59215
CSS Virginia rams and sinks USS Cumberland, 8 March 1862
Halftone reproduction of an artwork, copyright 1906 by G.S. Richardson.
The original print was presented by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 119KB; 740 x 630 pixels
Photo #: NH 59212
CSS Virginia rams USS Cumberland, 8 March 1862
Halftone reproduction of an artwork, published in Fiveash, "Virginia-Monitor Engagement", Norfolk, Va., 1907.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 98KB; 740 x 590 pixels
Photo #: NH 59222
"The Rebel Steamer 'Merrimac' running down the Frigate 'Cumberland' off Newport News"
Line engraving, published in the "Harper's Weekly", January-June 1862, pages 184-185, depicting CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) ramming USSCumberland, 8 March 1862. USS Congress and the bow of a Confederate gunboat are shown at right.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 80KB; 740 x 315 pixels
Photo #: NH 2048
CSS Virginia sinking USS Cumberland, 8 March 1862
Oil painting by an unidentified "Eyewitness".
Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 122KB; 740 x 505 pixels
Photo #: NH 59224
Two views of CSS Virginia in action, 8 & 9 March 1862
Line engravings published in "The Soldier in Our Civil War", Volume 1, pages 246-47.
The upper view depicts the 8 March 1862 action off Newport News, Virginia, in which Virginia sank USS Cumberland and set USS Congressafire.
The lower view depicts the battle between Virginia and USS Monitor in Hampton Roads on 9 March 1862.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 101KB; 740 x 615 pixels
Photo #: NH 65698
Sinking of USS Cumberland by CSS Virginia, 8 March 1862
Line engraving published in "Leslie's Weekly", circa 1862, depicting the scene on board the Cumberland as she went down off Newport News, Virginia, with her crew still firing on the Confederate ironclad.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 138KB; 740 x 485 pixels
For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions
To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.
And on the following day-
Action between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia9 March 1862
At dawn on 9 March 1862, CSS Virginia prepared for renewed combat. The previous day, she had utterly defeated two big Federal warships, Congress and Cumberland, destroying both and killing more than 240 of their crewmen. Today, she expected to inflict a similar fate on the grounded steam frigate Minnesota and other enemy ships, probably freeing the lower Chesapeake Bay region of Union seapower and the land forces it supported. Virginia would thus contribute importantly to the Confederacy's military, and perhaps diplomatic, fortunes.
However, as they surveyed the opposite side of Hampton Roads, where the Minnesota and other potential victims awaited their fate, the Confederates realized that things were not going to be so simple. There, looking small and low near the lofty frigate, was a vessel that could only be USS Monitor, the Union Navy's own ironclad, which had arrived the previous evening after a perilous voyage from New York. Though her crew was exhausted and their ship untested, the Monitor was also preparing for action.
Undeterred, Virginia steamed out into Hampton Roads. Monitor positioned herself to protect the immobile Minnesota, and a general battle began. Both ships hammered away at each other with heavy cannon, and tried to run down and hopefully disable the other, but their iron-armored sides prevented vital damage. Virginia's smokestack was shot away, further reducing her already modest mobility, and Monitor's technological teething troubles hindered the effectiveness of her two eleven-inch guns, the Navy's most powerful weapons. Ammunition supply problems required her to temporarily pull away into shallower water, where the deep-draftedVirginia could not follow, but she always covered the Minnesota.
Soon after noon, Virginia gunners concentrated their fire on Monitor's pilothouse, a small iron blockhouse near her bow. A shell hit there blinded Lieutenant John L. Worden, the Union ship's Commanding Officer, forcing another withdrawal until he could be relieved at the conn. By the time she was ready to return to the fight, Virginia had turned away toward Norfolk.
The first battle between ironclad warships had ended in stalemate, a situation that lasted until Virginia's self-destruction two months later. However, the outcome of combat between armored equals, compared with the previous day's terrible mis-match, symbolized the triumph of industrial age warfare. The value of existing ships of the line and frigates was heavily discounted in popular and professional opinion. Ironclad construction programs, already underway in America and Europe, accelerated. The resulting armored warship competition would continue into the 1940s, some eight decades in the future.
This page features images of the 9 March 1862 action between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack and persistently mis-identified in accounts of this battle by that name or as "Merrimac").
Additional pictorial coverage of this action
Other images of the ships involved:
Click the photograph to prompt a larger view.
Photo #: NH 45973
USS Monitor in action with CSS Virginia, 9 March 1862
Aquarelle facsimile print of a painting by J.O. Davidson.
Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 62KB; 740 x 610 pixels
Photo #: NH 1053
Battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 9 March 1862
Lithograph by Closson Blake, after a painting by W.F. Halsall, depicting the two ironclads engaging at close range.
Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 69KB; 740 x 390 pixels
Photo #: NH 1275
Engagement between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, 9 March 1862
Contemporary print by C. Parsons, New York, after a drawing by J. Davies.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 112KB; 740 x 475 pixels
Photo #: NH 59211
USS Monitor and CSS Virginia in battle, 9 March 1862
Halftone reproduction of an artwork, published in Fiveash's "Virginia-Monitor Engagement", Norfolk, Virginia, 1907.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 145KB; 740 x 435 pixels
Photo #: NH 59217
"'Virginia' Engaged in Battle with the 'Monitor', in Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862"
Halftone reproduction of an artwork, copyrighted by G.S. Richardson, 1906, depicting the action between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 118KB; 740 x 640 pixels
Photo #: NH 65686-KN (Color)
USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia, 9 March 1862
Painting by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN(Retired), 1967-68, located at the Marine Midland National Bank, Troy, New York.
Courtesy of the Marine Midland National Bank.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 39KB; 740 x 290 pixels
Photo #: NH 84512-KN (Color)
Painting by Raymond Bayless, depicting the battle between CSS Virginia(foreground) and USS Monitor (at right). USS Minnesota is also shown, in the left middle distance.
Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. Donation of Raymond Bayless, 1975
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 76KB; 740 x 560 pixels
Photo #: NH 42207
"The First Naval Conflict Between Iron Clad Vessels."
"In Hampton Roads, March 9th 1862."
Lithograph by Endicott & Company, New York, 1862, after a drawing by C. Parsons, depicting the battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack). Other elements shown in the central image include Sewalls Point, CSS Jamestown, CSS Yorktown and "Rebel Tugs in the left distance; and USS Cumberland (sunken), USS Congress (burning, USSMinnesota and Newport News in the right distance.
Shown around the central image are a portrait of John Ericsson, a view of Ericsson's caloric engine, a "sectional view" of CSS Virginia's casemate, and seven scenes on board USS Monitor. Engraved versions of the latter are reproduced as (counter-clockwise from upper left) Photo #s: NH 58850; NH 58854; NH 58856; NH 58855; NH 58851; NH 58857; NH 58858.
Donation of F.L. Stickney, 1933. Another copy, without the stain in the lower right, was in the collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 87KB; 740 x 510 pixels
Photo #: NH 45963
Monitor Montage, signed by Thomas Fitch Rowland
It includes photographs of the "Monitor Shiphouse" and USS Puritan on the building ways at the Continental Iron Works, Greenpoint, New York, and an artwork of the battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.
The original was in the Office of Naval Records & Library Collection at the National Archives, circa the early 1960s.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 94KB; 740 x 610 pixels
Photo #: NH 42208
"Merrimac and Monitor Duel"
Photograph by McCaffrey's Elite Photo, New York, of an artwork depicting the 9 March 1862 battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (ex-USSMerrimack). This scene was apparently one of a group entitled "Merrimac and Monitor Naval Battle", exhibited in New York City during the 19th Century.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 70KB; 740 x 490 pixels
Photo #: NH 42212
"Desperate Encounter Between the Ericsson Battery 'Monitor' 2 Guns, and the 'Merrimac' 12 Guns"
"In Hampton Roads, March 9th 1862."
"In Which the 'Monitor' was Victorious. The 'Merrimac' Being Finally Towed Off in a Disabled Condition"
Contemporary print, depicting the action between USS Monitor and CSSVirginia (ex-USS Merrimack).
Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 122KB; 740 x 565 pixels
"The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America" by William G. Thomas, Yale University Press, 281 pages, $30
Walt Whitman's verse "To a Locomotive in Winter" called the growing railroad industry "the pulse of the continent." Henry David Thoreau, on the other hand, wrote in "Walden" that the railroad was disturbing the peace of his quiet village, and wondered if we rode the railroad or if it rode us. In this deeply researched and most readable book, William Thomas sides with Whitman and describes how the development of the railroad contributed to the Civil War and thereafter to the growth of the nation.
Optimistic Southerners gave speeches about how the newly constructed railroads would bring them victory, while General William Tecumseh Sherman found the Union railroads most helpful in moving troops, and said "Railroads … are next to rivers the best military channels and should be extended as far as possible."
A railroad is not only a railroad; in the eyes of Northerners and Southerners it became a metaphor for progress, for ideological support. In the South, it was seen as a means for extending slavery, while Northern leaders saw it as a way to utilize labor and the growing number of immigrants.
In the South, black slaves were used almost exclusively to build the railroads and the president of the Mississippi Central Railroad wrote that "the slave is preferable to free labor."
Thomas devotes many chapters to the conduct of the war itself, showing how important railroads were. He writes: "Increasingly after 1862 the American Civil War became structured around the railroad network, centered on the boundaries made by junctions and rail lines."
One suspects that even Thoreau might have felt better about the railroads after the passage of time. Thomas notes that Thoreau, a hater of slavery, helped an escaped slave to evade his captors "by getting him safely aboard a train bound for Canada."
William Thomas is a historian and holds the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln.
UP steam locomotive No. 844 to lead Shiloh Troop Train
Published: March 14, 2012
OMAHA, Neb. – Union Pacific 4-8-4 No. 844 will depart Cheyenne March 22 and embark on a seven day trip to Arkansas to transport civil war re-enactors to Marion, Ark., just across the Mississippi River from Memphis. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Shiloh located near Shiloh, Tenn., approximately 100 miles east of Memphis. The Blue –Gray Alliance is presenting the event and giving participants a chance to travel by train to the re-enactment just as real soldiers arrived by train to the battle of Shiloh in 1862.
Union Pacific will provide a 21 car train for the event, deadheading from Cheyenne to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where eight cannons will be loaded onto the train for transport. From Council Bluffs, the train will travel to Kansas City where more than 300 civil war re-enactors and their guests are expected to board for the trip to Marion. The re-enactment will take place between March 29 and April 1. The timeline for the train is as follows:
For a more detailed schedule, including intermediate servicing stops, links to track the train via GPS, and locations for public viewing, visithttp://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/media_kit/steam/generic.shtml.
KENNESAW — After 150 years, the epic story of the Great Locomotive Chase continues to fascinate.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the event, also known as Andrews Raid, when Union raiders during the Civil War conducted a sabotage mission that included hijacking the now famous locomotive, “The General,” pursued by Confederates in another locomotive, “The Texas.” Since then, the story has been memorialized in film, books, toys and museums.
“It’s all part of a bigger story of how the Civil War transforms America,” said Dr. Richard Banz, executive director of the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Kennesaw.
“These trains played such an important part of the future of the country. Trains were in their infancy, but here it shows how important these rail lines are and this raid took everyone by surprise. It necessitated the need to guard rails better.”
The Southern Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate that views the history of the Civil War through railroads, is home to The General.
On April 12, the museum will host a series of events to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Great Locomotive Chase, which will include a breakfast, proclamations at Kennesaw’s historic train depot, and an evening of music and interpretive storytelling.
Banz, who previously taught American history at York College of Pennsylvania, said the Great Locomotive Chase helped to put Cobb County on the map.
The General is by far the museum’s most popular exhibit, attracting visitors nationwide. It’s also prominently displayed on the city of Kennesaw‘s official seal. The railways used during the historic chase continue to be used. The Texas, currently housed at the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum, still makes headlines as the cities of Kennesaw and Marietta angle to acquire it.
“The importance of the event to me personally is that it commemorates a significant aspect of the Civil War that is not necessarily military,” Banz said.
“It’s an event that has legend to it. Obviously, the daringness of it — let’s go 200 miles below enemy lines and steal a locomotive. It has the high-speed chase of the day, two locomotives. The courage of William Fuller chasing first on foot, then by handcar and then by several locomotives, eventually The Texas.”
Even in the event’s immediate aftermath, the Great Locomotive Chase was a big story that was widely talked about, said Dr. Wendy Hamand Venet, a Georgia State University history professor.
“The Andrews episode shocked people in Atlanta,” said Venet, who is currently writing a book about Atlanta civilians during the Civil War.
“The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer newspaper called it ‘this extraordinary and most audacious attempt of Lincoln’s spies to rob, burn, and destroy the state (railroad).’ Even though Andrews and his colleagues were executed, the raid revealed that spies and saboteurs were present in Georgia, including Atlanta. The Andrews episode also made the war seem much closer to Atlantans. Up to this time, military engagements had occurred in Virginia and Tennessee, but not really in Georgia. Andrews and his men destroyed the belief that Atlanta might remain physically isolated from the military events of war.”
On April 12, 1862, civilian scout James J. Andrews and his band of Union army volunteers stole The General locomotive while its passengers and crew were eating breakfast at the Lacy Hotel, located in what is now downtown Kennesaw. They’d plan to do as much damage as possible to the vital Western & Atlantic Railroad along the way to Chattanooga, Tenn. in order to cut off Confederate supplies and reinforcements.
They nearly made it across the Tennessee line before Confederate forces — amongst them The General’s conductor William Fuller — eventually caught up with them in The Texas locomotive. Some of the Andrews Raiders became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor, after some escaped and others were executed by hanging.
“It was a very daring and bold raid early in the war, at a time when there really wasn’t a lot of boldness on the Union side,” said Russell S. Bonds of Marietta, a lawyer and author of the book, “Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor.” “President Lincoln recognized that by awarding the surviving raiders the first Medal of Honor.”
In 1962, The General under its own steam made a national tour to more than 20 cities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the chase. It won’t be making another such journey for this anniversary, but it will be on public display, said Banz.
“It’s an ongoing story of the industrial ingenuity of America,” he said.
“These machines are almost as if they were alive; that’s why they have names. It was The General, The Texas, The Yonah and The Smith. They were important things. They way they hissed smoke and steam. It’s almost as if they were living.”
On April 12, the museum and the city of Kennesaw will hold a series of events and ceremonies to commemorate the event. In addition, the museum will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. free of charge to the public. Interpreters and various activities will be present throughout the day.
The day will begin at the same time the historic event began, with a 6 a.m. breakfast, featuring interpreters, at the Trackside Grill in downtown Kennesaw. Tickets are $20 and registration is required. Guests will receive commemorative coins.
At 8:30 a.m., a 150th anniversary proclamation will be presented nearby at The Depot. Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and Paul Chastain, president of the Kennesaw Museum Foundation, are scheduled to speak. The North Cobb High School Brass Quintet will also perform prior to a cannon firing on the museum’s lawn. The public is encouraged to attend at no charge in period costumes.
At 6:30 p.m., the museum will hold the Great Locomotive Chase dinner at the Trackside Grill. The $100 per ticket event is sold out.
At 8 p.m., the museum will host “Dessert at the Southern Museum,” featuring musician Bobby Horton, who’ll be performing Civil War era songs; a presentation of model-train replicas; and the donation of a historic Medal of Honor by the Waggoner family of Ohio. Historian Dr. Barry Brown will give a history of the chase. Tickets are $25 for those who do not attend the dinner.
The day of activities is organized by a special committee, chaired by Marietta businessman Gary Eubanks. Proceeds from all of the commemorative events will cap a $1.2 million campaign to construct the museum’s new research center.
For event tickets, call (770) 427-2117 or visit southernmuseum.org.
Following the Great Locomotive Chase anniversary, the museum will be hosting, “Camp McDonald: A Living History Weekend,” April 14-15 with activities recreating and interpreting life in Camp McDonald, a Confederate encampment in Kennesaw. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 4 to 12, and free for children age 3 and younger.
The city of Marietta — where the Andrews Raiders rendezvoused before their journey — will also commemorate the Great Locomotive Chase with four days of events April 12-15.
It will feature the re-premiere of the 1956 movie, book signings, lectures, trolley tours, a statue dedication and cemetery tours, silent movie and plays at local theatres, and museum tours at the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, Marietta Museum of History and Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.
The re-premiere of the Walt Disney film, “The Great Locomotive Chase,” begins at 6 p.m. April 12 at the Strand Theatre in Marietta Square. The “Garden of Heroes” statue dedication will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 15 at the Marietta Confederate Cemetery. For more event details, visit mariettacivilwar.com
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Museum marks 150 years since Great Chase
UP steam locomotive crossing Nebraska again
Posted: Saturday, March 17, 2012 1:00 pm
The 450-ton Union Pacific Locomotive No. 844, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., sits on huge wheels capable of powering massive loads across the country. The machine was the last steam locomotive built for the Union Pacific Railroad, delivered in 1944. (AP file)
OMAHA -- One of Union Pacific's historic steam locomotives will cross Nebraska later this month pulling several hundred Civil War buffs.
The railroad says its steam locomotive No. 844 will leave its Cheyenne, Wyo., home on Thursday and spend two days crossing Nebraska.
The locomotive's ultimate destination is Marion, Ark., near where the Civil War historians will help re-enact the Battle of Shiloh.
The locomotive was delivered for Union Pacific in 1944. The engine pulled passenger trains at first but in the 1950s was switched to freight duty in Nebraska
The 150th anniversary of the Union Pacific Railroad this year coincides with the 150th anniversaries of several major Civil War battles, and Central Nebraska this Friday will see a U.P. steam locomotive heading to Kansas City to transport battle re-enactors to the site of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.
The eastbound Shiloh Limited, pulled by famed locomotive No. 844, is scheduled to stop in Grand Island at 11:45 a.m. Friday for 30 minutes for servicing the locomotive. The Oak Street crossing is the announced location. The railroad welcomes observers at service stops.
No. 844, the very last steam locomotive built for U.P., is often referred to as the “Living Legend” because it was never retired from service.
The locomotive is slated to pull “a special 150th anniversary commemorative Civil War troop train with nearly 300 Civil War historians from the Midwest on their journey to participate in the 150th anniversary Battle of Shiloh reenactment,” said Mark Davis, U.P. spokesman.
After several passenger coaches are added in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the train on Sunday will proceed south to Kansas City to pick up re-enactors. It will then travel through St. Louis to a point in Arkansas opposite Memphis, Tenn., arriving next Wednesday.
The anniversary of the battle will be April 6 and 7.
The Memphis and Charleston Railroad, completed in 1857, was the first railroad in the United States to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Mississippi River. Chartered in 1846 the railroad ran from Memphis, Tennessee to Stevenson, Alabama through the towns of Corinth, Mississippi and Huntsville, Alabama. From Stevenson, the road was connected to Chattanooga, Tennessee via the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. In Alabama, the railroad followed the route of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad between, Tuscumbia andDecatur, the first railroad to be built west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The American Civil War
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, this railroad became of strategic importance as the only east-west railroad running through the Confederacy. On the morning of April 11, 1862, Union troops led by General Mitchell captured Huntsville, cutting off this railroads use for the Confederacy.
While the railroad briefly survived the American Civil War, the effect of the war on the railroad was devastating and led to its merger into other railroads of the same fate and eventually to become part of the Southern Railway system.
The Memphis and Charleston Route Today
The Memphis and Charleston Railroad eventually merged into the Southern Railway. The route is still in use today as part of the Norfolk Southern Railway line running between Memphis and Chattanooga, Tennessee. US 72 roughly follows the original route of the Memphis and Charleston between Memphis, Tennessee andMuscle Shoals, Alabama. From Muscle Shoals to Huntsville, Alabama Alt. US 72 follows the original Memphis and Charleston. US 72 follows the route again from Huntsville to Stevenson, Alabama.
A disconnected piece of the M&C is still in use today by the Caney Fork Western RR (CFWR), which runs 61 miles from its junction with the CSX RR at Tullahoma, Tennessee to Sparta, Tenn. Much of the line is visible along SR 55 between Tullahoma and McMinnville. Northeast of McMinnville, US 70S in places, then McMinnville Highway from McMinnville to Sparta. A panoramic view of the deck truss bridge over the Caney Fork River may be seen from the McMinnville Hwy. (there SR 136) bridge. The track ends at the White Co. Justice Center in Sparta.
The bridge was raised for clearance over the lake when the dam was being built. New caps were poured on the original stone piers. One pier on the bank has a plaque set into the stonework describing the building of the M&C RR.
The Memphis & Charleston Railroad 1851-1865
The Memphis & Charleston Railroad began limited service over newly built segments of track in August of 1852. By May 1857, the line was offering regular service over the entire 272-mile route from Stevenson to Memphis. With its link in Stevenson to the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, the Memphis & Charleston became part of the first contiguous rail route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippii River.
The Memphis & Charleston Railroad was unique in many ways. 1) It was the first railroad to offer sleeper cars. 2) It was the only railroad to run east-west in what was to become the Confederacy. 3) It made more money from its passenger service than from its freight service. 4) It was not conceived and operated as a local branch railroad, but as a long-haul route. Direct routes to the east coast and the northeast were enabled by the decision of Memphis and Charleston planners and management to adopt a standard rail gauge and to lease usage rights from adjoining rail lines. The passengers on competing rail lines, lines had that opted instead for alternate gauges and failed to negotiate usage rights with neighboring lines, were forced to deboard one train and reboard another to continue their journeys. In many cases, that distance between train terminals was spanned by steamboat or keelboat, since most early southern railroads were typically designed as nothing more than routes to the nearest river port. 5) It ran parallel a major river--the Tennessee--rather than merely feeding into the river traffic infrastructure. This parallel route was the result of the Tennessee having defeated every attempt at establishing regular freight tranport over its main channel from Paducah to Knoxville. Passage was disrupted at Muscle Shoals and at a bend in the river just upstream of South Pittsburg where several geological structures--the suck, the skillet, the boiling pot--made navigation difficult under the best of conditions and even impossible much of the year. The Tennessee was essentially three different rivers.
In 1828, a small steamboat, "The Atlas," navigated the length of the river to claim a $640 prize in Knoxville, but regular and dependable commercial service for the length of the river was never realized. The river's most notable historian, Donald Davidson, noted, "...of all the great rivers east of the Mississippii, it has been least friendly to civilization. It mocked the schemes of improvers. It wore out the patience of legislators. Tawny and unsubdued, an Indian among rivers, the old Tennesse threw back man's improvements in his face and went its own way, which was not the way of the white man." (p6)
The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was a substitute for the river, not a complement to it. As a result, those towns that put their trust in the eventual ability of technology and engineering to overcome the problems of Tennessee River navigation--towns like Bellefonte--would be doomed by their decision not to embrace the new mode of transportation.
A ticket from Memphis to Chattanooga was expensive--twelve and a half dollars--but progress came at more than a monetary price: passenger cars were open to the smoke and cinders from the wood-burning firebox in the engine. The typical locomotive burned a cord of wood each 50 or 60 miles, and the principle fuel was pine, an acrid wood made more volatile by its high concentration of resin. Boiler explosions and car fires were common.
The likelihood of fire in the passenger compartments was a critical concern, but there were other hazards. Early lines were built in haste and laid on open ground without stone ballast underpinning. The railroads avoided excavation and instead bypassed obstacles by constructing sharp curves. Bridges were typically wood often without stone abutments for foundations. Braking was a slow process that required a brakeman to walk across the roofs on the individual cars to apply breaks to each car in succession. In the mid-1850's, one in every 188,000 passengers on American trains met a violent death--nine times the rate in Europe and thirty times the rate in England (page 32, Confederacy).
Among American Railroads, the Memphis and Charleston was fairly well-engineered, well-built, and boasted an impressive array of locomotives and rolling stock. In 1861, the line owned 50 locomotives, 41 passenger cars, and 13 baggage cars.
The M&C also had a good safety record. The line suffered its first passenger fatality in 1861 when a rail broke, curved up through the floor of a passenger car, and struck a passenger. With one death in 356,646 passenger boardings, the M&C was twice as safe as the typical American railroad. From 1852 until 1861, the line lost only one locomotive--the Cherokee--due to a boiller explosion.
The Memphis and Charleston Railroad enjoyed only five years of prosperity before it fell into Union hands very early in the Civil War. From the outset, the Confederate military had acknowledged the importance of the line. "The Memphis and Charleston Road is the vertebrae of the Confederacy," Robert E. Lee's advisors told him, "and must be defended at all hazards." (139) One of the earliest campaigns to seize the M&C lines was mounted by Union General WilliamTecumsah Sherman who in 1862 was ordered to cut the line between Corinth and Iuka, MS. Uncharacteristically, Sherman backed down from the effort, saying "I am satisfied we cannot reach the M&C Road without a considerable engagement, which is prohibited by General Halleck's instructions. (114)
However, concurrent with Sherman's failed attempts to disrupt the railroad, Confederate General Braxton Bragg wrote that the fall of the M&C was emminent. "The disorganized and demoralized condition of our forces . . . gives me great concern. The unrestrained habits of pillage and plunder [by Confederate troops] have done much to produce this state of affairs and to reconcile the people of the coutry to the approach of the enemy, who certainly do them less harm than our own troops. The whole railroad system is utterly deranged and confused. Wood and water stations are abandoned; employees there and elsewhere, for want of pay, refuse to work: engineers and conductors are either worn down, or, being Northern men, abadon their positions, or manage to retard and obstruct our operations." (114-115)
Ironically, the demise of the rail was made possible by the mode of transportation it was intended to replace: the Tennessee River was easily navigable at its western end, and Northern troops used the channel to reach Corinth and Pittsburg Landing. From there, they followed retreating Confederate troops along the Memphis and Charleston tracks into north Alabama.
In April, 1862, one month after Bragg's assessment, Huntsville's railyards fell to General O.M. Mitchel. The Confederates never mounted campaigns to retake Huntsville (although Union troops abandoned the town and Confederates reoccupied it on occasion), and the South was denied the use of their crucial east-west rail route for the duration of the war.
Shortly after the fall of Huntsville, General Mitchel rode through Scottsboro in the cab of a locomotive bound for Stevenson where he reported that ". . . 2,000 of the enemy fled as usual at our approach without firing a gun, leaving behind 5 locomoties and a large amount of rolling stock." (134)
Mitchel deployed troops east to Stevenson in an effort to keep the rails open to his own supply lines, but was opposed in his efforts to rebuild the Memphis & Charleston route by several Confederate Generals, including Brigadier-General Hylan Benton Lyon, who attacked union forces at the Scottsboro Depot in January, 1865.
At the war's end, the M&C rebuilt surprisingly quickly. By November of 1865, the entire road was passable with the exception of one bridge, crossing the Tennessee River at Decatur. That bridge was rebuilt and opened to traffic in July of 1866.
Financial recovery for the M&C came too slowly, however. Perhaps the final challenge came in 1887 when the US government declared the Florence bridge to be an obstruction to navigation on the Tennessee River and ordered the bridge rebuilt at the M&C's expense. In 1892, the road entered receivership. It was taken over by the Southern Railway in 1897 when it was designated "the Memphis division."
SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2012
Christopher Slocombe is in the midst of researching and writing a full length history of Henry Halleck's April-May 1862 campaign, the post-Shiloh operation aimed at capturing the critical Mississippi rail junction and town of Corinth. The successful completion of such a project will mark a true milestone in western theater military historiography, so I thought I would invite Chris to participate in a brief interview about his work and its progress.
CWBA: The 1862 “Siege of Corinth” campaign is probably the largest (and certainly among the most significant) remaining Civil War campaigns lacking a detailed operational and tactical treatment. Why do you think it has been neglected and what motivated you to give it a try?
CS: I think that the lack of a pitched battle is what has kept the siege from receiving the attention it deserves. It also suffers from living in the shadow of its bigger and bloodier brother: Shiloh. These two characteristics, however, are what attracted me to the siege in the first place. After years of reading about western theatre operations and strategy, it became clear to me that the siege was being treated largely as an afterthought. I found that many authors covering the 1862 western campaigns implied that the capture of Corinth after Shiloh was almost a foregone conclusion, and that only Halleck’s imbecility prevented a quicker Union success. I can’t remember one book or article that took primary source material and analyzed the eccentricities of the campaign. Instead, everyone seemed to be relying on generalizations garnered from the same tired sources. Many important details were being neglected – the first widespread use of fieldworks in the western theatre, the ridiculously high rate of sickness on both sides and the military medical system’s attempt to deal with it, the political fallout from the Shiloh bloodbath, the Confederate reorganization, the small but important fights that shaped the siege, and the overarching Union strategy, among others. It seemed to me that Civil War scholars recognized Corinth to be very important but were more than willing to let the analysis stop there. I wanted to fix that and tell the full military story.
CWBA: You mentioned to me that you are 5+ years into the project. What stage are you at in terms of the research and writing?
CS: Aside from a few repositories I haven’t yet visited, I’ve finished my research and am now on to the analysis and writing parts of the project. If I’m being realistic, I’m still several years away from being finished. But there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t make progress. This is a labor of love for me, and I want to make sure I’m doing it right and leaving no stone unturned. My goal is to have this be the definitive military study of the siege. I don’t want to make the mistake of not being thorough.
CWBA: What unit scale are you looking at for your narrative description of the fighting?
CS: I’m doing a regimental level tactical study of the entire Siege of Corinth similar to Tim Smith’s Champion Hill. In short, my book begins on April 7th as the Confederates leave the Shiloh battlefield and begin their retreat back to Corinth. The book ends with the Confederates gathering at Tupelo after evacuating Corinth. I will cover in detail Fallen Timbers, the outpost fighting of April, the multiple Farmington fights, Russell House, Shelton House, Serratt’s Hill, the general siege operations, the many cavalry raids (particularly the Federal cavalry trying to break the Memphis and Charleston Railroad), and of course the Confederate retreat from the town and the subsequent Federal pursuit.
CWBA: Are you satisfied with the amount of research material available from both sides?
CS: Absolutely. Sometimes I feel as if I have too much material actually – our home office itself is under siege from the mountains of material. Just ask my wife! As many folks that study the western theatre well know, there were a substantial number of troops in the Corinth vicinity in the spring of 1862. After Shiloh there was a mass concentration of forces for what many on both sides believed would be the battle that would end the war in the west. On the Federal side there were three full armies – the Army of the Ohio, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Mississippi. The Confederate side boasted two full armies – the Army of Mississippi and the Army of the West. So finding material to draw from was never an issue, but it did mean that when I started that I had a long research road ahead of me -- a lot of repositories to get to, a lot of manuscripts to read, and a lot of material to analyze.
CWBA: Can you describe your process in constructing your orders of battle and strengths data? I’ve never seen regimental OBs for the campaign and only very rough estimates of numbers engaged.
CS: Orders of battle and strength data are tough to compile for the siege, particularly because of the large amount of troops that arrived in Corinth on both sides throughout April and May. Also, the level of sickness experienced by each army makes it difficult to assess how many troops from each organization were sick at a given time, a given battle, etc. Some troops would be sick one day, fine the next, and sick again a few days later. Throughout the siege new regiments were being added to brigades, other regiments were switching brigades, and on the Federal side the stream of reinforcements was consistent. I’ve found that during the siege there was not one order of battle but instead several orders of battle. While a few organizational charts exist in the Official Records for both the Union and Confederate armies, in practice some of these were fluid organizations because of sickness; certain regiments would be attached to certain brigades to make up manpower lost to sickness. Patton Anderson’s Confederate brigade of Ruggles’ Division, for example, is listed for the May 9th Farmington fight to contain some regiments very different than it does at any other time during the siege. And during the May 9th Farmington fight some regiments were commanded by captains for the same reason: sickness. Thus far I haven’t dug into the strengths data to any great length, but am well on my way to creating clear orders of battle.
CWBA: In terms of the extraordinary affect of sick lists on assessing the number of available effectives, the Peninsula Campaign offers similar problems to historians interested in numbers. I’m sure you want to save your best discoveries for the book, but can you hint at some surprising things you’ve found in your research?
CS: There are many things. Among them is the fact that the Siege of Corinth was significant in convincing many western Union soldiers that it would likely be a longer and bloodier war than they had thought after Shiloh. One Illinois soldier flatly stated that when the Federals captured Corinth he thought that the war would be over in the west and everyone could go home. Another Union soldier wrote to his wife in 1863 about how foolish and naïve he was in the spring of 1862 to believe that the Rebels would be completely defeated once Corinth was captured. After the tactical victory Shiloh many Union soldiers thought that one more victory at Corinth would defeat the Rebels for good. After the Confederates left Corinth many recognized that it was going to be harder to achieve victory than they thought. It was a hard realization for some.
Beauregard deserves more credit than he has usually been given for the defense of the town. He tried on multiple occasions to decisively attack the Federals, but terrain, bad management of troops from his subordinates, and simple bad luck failed to produce the desired results. Halleck, for his part, isn’t quite the incompetent field commander that many have made him out to be. He isn’t very good either, but he deserves to be assessed fairly.
CWBA: What do you have planned for the maps?
CS: The maps are something I’m really looking forward to creating. I’m sure other avid readers of Civil War books will agree that nothing beats good maps in a military history book. It is my belief that in order to make the text meaningful to readers that detailed maps with terrain features are necessary. For the battles and skirmishes during the siege there will be regimental scale maps. I’ve already read too many articles and books where I lose track of the author’s text because I can’t follow what I’m reading on a map, and I don’t want my readers to feel the same way. Besides, maps are fun, and I want people visiting the Corinth area to be able to pinpoint exactly where their ancestor’s regiment fought.
CWBA: That's good to hear. What publishing options do you have under consideration?
CS: I haven’t contacted any publishers yet, but will be doing so fairly soon. I’d love to have the book picked up by a publisher like Savas Beatie or a university press. If no publisher wants it, I’ll self-publish.
CWBA: Thanks, Chris, and good luck. I know many of us will very much look forward to seeing the final product. Readers, if you'd like to ask Chris a question or if you have source information you think he might be interested in, you may contact him here.
In an age of post-supersonic jets and an obsession with computers' bandwidth speed, Dan Toomey gets attention with the line, "A locomotive was the fastest thing on Earth at 60 miles per hour in 1861."
Toomey, curator of "The War Came by Train" at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, explains that not only was the locomotive a fast engine but also one of the quickest ways for a well-trained working man to make decent money during the Civil War.
"Troops came by train and left by train. … Soldiers made $13 a month," he said. "A locomotive engineer made $4 a day."
Engineers played key roles. During 1861 in Virginia, trains were the first front of the Civil War as Confederate forces controlled the railroad and destroyed track and bridges on the portion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad that was in Virginia.
After Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston's forces abandoned Harper's Ferry and destroyed a major bridge there as well as the railroad works at Martinsburg in late June, the Confederates — in a major engineering feat — disassembled 14 locomotives from Martinsburg and moved them by horse-drawn teams to Strasburg, 50 miles south, in two months. Richmond eventually got these locomotives, where they were put to use by the Confederacy, which did not build one locomotive during the war.
The engines at the B&O Railroad Museum have long been silent and immobile, with one exception: The William Mason, the world's only fully operating Civil War vintage steam locomotive, gets called into action whenever a Civil War film such as "Gods and Generals" calls for one.
"The War Came by Train" is the B&O Railroad Museum's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. On Saturday, the objects and narrative relating specifically to 1861 will have changed to new exhibit items relating to 1862, the second year of the war.
"The second year — 1862 — saw the removal of passenger seats from some trains to make them into hospital cars for the wounded," Toomey said.
"Some objects displayed in 2012 have never before been on public display. We'll highlight the establishment of the Union Army's Railroad Brigade, the Battle of Antietam, and a freight wagon and stagecoach from the National Road, which hauled freight, mail and people, and took up the slack when sections of the B&O were damaged by Confederates."
Mark your calendar for April 21, 2015, the re-enactment date of the Lincoln Funeral Train's stop in Baltimore. The museum has secured a reproduction of the casket from the Batesville Casket Co.
But at the B&O Museum you don't have to wait for a big event to have an engaging visit.
"On any day," Toomey said, "you can exit the gate, turn right, go five blocks, and you're on a Civil War battlefield: the Pratt Street Riot, site of the first bloodshed of the war."
The Baltimore riot on April 19, 1861 — the Pratt Street Riot, between Confederate sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia — is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the Civil War.
But for the folks at Fort Sumter, S.C., who have always laid claim to the first Civil War battle, that's another story.
The Civil War is renowned for the introduction and employment of many new weapons, including rifled artillery, machine guns and submarines. To this list should also be added railroad weapons, which were the predecessors of modern armored fighting vehicles.
During the war, railroads were second only to waterways in providing logistical support for the armies. They were also vital to the economies of the divided nation. A great deal has been written about railroads in the war, and in particular the spectacular engineering feats of the U.S. Military Railroads' Construction Corps under Herman Haupt. But strangely, the tactical employment of locomotives and rolling stock, which was actually quite widespread, has thus far escaped serious attention.
Large military forces were, of course, the worst danger to railroads. Because they supplied the units that were on campaign, railroads were often major objectives–an army without supplies cannot operate for long. Since the only sure way to deal with large-scale threats was with a force of similar size, armies often stayed near the railroad tracks. While armies campaigned, locomotives and rolling stock provided logistical support, and some also performed tactical missions. These missions included close combat, especially when the situation was fluid or when the railroad provided a convenient avenue of approach to an opponent.
In such situations, commanders sometimes sent locomotives to reconnoiter the terrain and gain information on enemy troop dispositions. While this may seem like a risky venture, gathering information was often worth the risk, and lone locomotives could quickly reverse direction and move as fast as 60 mph, far faster than pursuing cavalry. With such great mobility, locomotives were also useful as courier vehicles when commanders had to rush vital intelligence to headquarters. This communications service was an important advantage in a war where raiders frequently cut or tapped telegraph lines.
Useful as they were for tactical and logistical support, locomotives were vulnerable to derailments and sharpshooters, who might perforate a boiler or a crewman. Federal officers accordingly inspected rails and armored some of their engines against small-arms fire. Unfortunately, their crews found that the armor trapped too much heat inside the cabs and limited egress if there was an accident. This was an important consideration, since a ruptured boiler could scald a crew in their iron cab like lobsters in a pot. This grisly prospect encouraged many crewmen to take their chances by jumping from the cab in the event of a derailment. An eventual compromise included applying armor to some parts of the cab and installing small oval windows, thus reducing the chances of a sharpshooter's bullet penetrating the glass, while still affording adequate visibility for the crew.
In special situations, locomotives served as rams. Troops might start a locomotive down a track with a full head of steam to damage an enemy train or railroad facilities, or to attack troops. On one occasion, Confederate soldiers lurking near a burned bridge suddenly saw a burning ammunition train hurtling straight toward them, forcing them to skeddadle. Troops sometimes launched individual cars, also set ablaze, against opponents, or used them to burn bridges. The potential for such railborne threats prompted commanders to build obstructions on the tracks.
Freight trains might also deceive an enemy. A train might run back and forth into an area, tricking scouts into reporting that the enemy was reinforcing his position, when in fact he was leaving. One Federal ruse involved sending a deserted train down the tracks to entice masked Confederate artillery into firing, thereby revealing their location to counterfire.
While trains might serve as artillery bait, they could also transport heavy guns to the battlefield. Commanders took this idea a step further during the war by mounting heavy artillery pieces, which were very cumbersome to maneuver in the field, on flatcars for combat operations. Locomotives or manpower propelled these railroad batteries, dispensing with the horses that normally were the prime movers for the guns and eliminating the need to hitch or unhitch the gun from the horse team. This enabled a battery to fire on the move, a significant advantage over its horse-drawn counterparts.
To protect railroad batteries against counterfire, builders mounted thick iron and wooden shields on the flatcars at a 45-degree angle to deflect enemy projectiles. Batteries fired through the shields' embrasures and then recoiled along the length of the cars, arrested by ropes. The crews then reloaded the weapons and pushed them back into battery position.
Not all railroad batteries had armor protection. Some relied on mobility, covered firing positions, and firing during periods of low visibility to limit their exposure to enemy artillery. Other railroad batteries relied on their superior range to batter opposing forces from afar. With such capabilities, railroad artillery was appropriate for siege and harassment operations as well as head-to-head encounters between armies.
As an army advanced, it often had to rebuild railroads that the fleeing enemy had destroyed. Construction trains, forerunners of modern engineer corps vehicles, thus became indispensable to military operations. These trains required armed protection, and infantrymen and cavalrymen often accompanied them.
Also useful in railroad warfare were armed trains, which, as their name implies, carried combat-ready troops and, at times, artillery. Their march order, or sequence of cars, is noteworthy. The locomotive was placed in the train's center, where it received some protection from the train's cars and its own tender. Generally speaking, flatcars–sometimes laden with troops and artillery–rode at the train's ends to provide the best fields of fire. Passenger cars or boxcars might ride between the flatcars and the locomotive.
Armed trains performed several missions. In some instances they doubled as construction trains. They also patrolled tracks, conducted reconnaissance missions, and escorted supply trains. Individual armed cars also accompanied supply trains, usually coupled to the front of a locomotive. On one occasion, armed Federals in mufti stole a Confederate train and wreaked havoc on the line. Meanwhile, another Federal armed train, only recently commandeered from the Confederates, carried a conventional force through Confederate territory to rendezvous with the renegade train.
Some armed trains carried sandbags or another form of shielding for the troops on board, but this was not always the case. In the first few months of the Civil War, troops disdained cover, since they were accustomed to tactics best suited for the smoothbore musket. They considered cowering behind cover during combat to be less than manly.
As the war progressed and the lethality of rifled muskets became all too evident, soldiers' attitudes changed toward using cover in combat. Naval events at Hampton Roads, Va., which included a duel between the ironclad vessels Monitor and Merrimack, convincingly illustrated the efficiency of iron plating in stopping projectiles. Shortly thereafter, 'monitor fever' swept the nation as ironclad enthusiasts lobbied for the construction of a huge ironclad fleet. Army officers also caught this fever, and ironclad railroad cars soon appeared across the nation. Fittingly, troops called them railroad monitors, to honor the Federal vessel that inspired the fever.
The first railroad monitors resembled iron boxcars. Light artillery pieces were fired from hatches cut in the hull. Small-arms apertures cut in the sides allowed infantrymen to supplement the fire of the main guns. The car's armor was only thick enough to withstand small-arms fire, however, so commanders generally relegated the boxcar-shaped monitors to areas known to be infested with partisans.
Railroad monitors carried several infantrymen. However, firing artillery and muskets from within the cramped confines of a railroad car must have been confusing and dangerous. Ultimately, monitors carried riflemen with repeating rifles inside the car, which had an artillery piece mounted on the top of the car that commanded all sides of the train. This arrangement separated the infantry from the artillery while substantially increasing fire- power, but at least one unimpressed reporter referred to it as a 'hermaphrodite.'
Another means of segregating the infantry from the artillery was the rifle car. Rifle cars resembled ordinary boxcars, but their shielding was placed inside the cars. Musket apertures on all sides offered their crews wide fields of fire for small arms. Like the artillery-bearing railroad monitors, rifle cars could guard key railroad features, protect repairmen, supervise railroad guards and escort supply trains. Just as rifle monitors foreshadowed modern tanks, rifle cars were early versions of infantry fighting vehicles.
Along with rifle cars came a new type of railroad monitor that used thick, sloped iron casemates that could deflect light artillery projectiles–an important capability when Confederate horse artillery lurked nearby. These new railroad monitors resembled elongated pyramids and were the same shape as casemated ironclad vessels (turrets were not used with the light artillery on railroad monitors, though armored railroad cars in subsequent conflicts did use turrets). With their thick armor and cannons, these railroad monitors were similar to modern tanks.
Rifle cars and monitors coupled to a locomotive formed an ironclad (or armored) train. A simple ironclad train consisted of a locomotive and a railroad monitor. Optimally, however, an ironclad train employed a number of cars in a specific sequence as had the armed trains. A railroad monitor rode at each end of the train. Coupled to these were rifle cars, with the locomotive and tender positioned in the middle. This march order distributed firepower evenly, provided mutually supporting small-arms and artillery fire, and afforded the locomotive some protection. Not all ironclad trains had the same number of cars, but this efficacious march order became the ideal for armored trains subsequently used by many nations. Indeed, modern armored forces today use a similar combined-arms approach of mutually supporting firepower, although the vehicles operate independently rather than being coupled together in units, and, of course, are not limited to the rails.
While armor might protect rolling stock from projectiles, explosive devices planted in the roadbed posed serious threats to trains of all types. These torpedoes (known today as mines) included simple artillery shells with percussion fuses as well as specially constructed pressure-detonated contrivances filled with gunpowder. When buried in the roadbed under a crosstie, torpedoes could be detonated by a passing train. Some torpedoes, especially those using artillery shells, lifted locomotives completely from the tracks and shattered freight cars.
Because of the many hazards that might be present on the tracks, some Federal locomotives pushed loaded flatcars over the rails to inspect the tracks or to detonate torpedoes before the valuable locomotive passed over them. These flatcars, known today as control cars, pusher cars or monitor cars (not to be confused with railroad monitors), also protected locomotives from rams.
Another method of preventing attacks on Federal trains was to put hostages with Confederate sympathies on the trains. Some Federal commanders even issued draconian decrees threatening to deport local inhabitants or destroy their farms if depredations occurred on local railroads.
Belligerents also used other vehicles on the railroads. Handcars–small but utilitarian vehicles–were used to inspect rails, transport important personnel and evacuate the wounded. They also helped troops escape superior forces and reconnoiter in fluid tactical situations. In this role they were far more stealthy than locomotives, although they lacked a locomotive's speed and protective cab. Some handcars were large enough to transport several men, including guards, and were a valuable mode of transport if a locomotive was unavailable. In one instance, a large handcar carried a 10-pounder Parrott gun to duel with a much larger Confederate railroad battery.
Since operable locomotives were at a premium during the war, it was not always economical to use them on missions for which a smaller vehicle would suffice. The Federals therefore applied off-the-shelf technology to warfare, using recently developed steam passenger cars (self-propelled railroad coaches) to inspect the tracks and deliver pay to isolated posts. On such missions, the cars carried some interior armor that protected the steam engine as well as the crew, making the steam passenger cars forerunners of self-propelled armored railroad cars or, as the Russians called them, railroad cruisers. These heavily armed railroad cars proved good substitutes for armored trains, since several cars were not dependent on a single locomotive for mobility.
Civil War railroad operations were characterized by the widespread use of locomotives and rolling stock to support armies tactically as well as logistically. Americans set precedents for a variety of modern armored fighting vehicles, including armored railroad cars, armored trains, railroad batteries and other railroad weapons. Moreover, tanks, armored personnel carriers, engineer vehicles and self-propelled artillery can also claim American railroad weapons as their conceptual ancestors.
A little more than 150 years ago, Union troops who had been keeping peace in Missouri were loaded onto trains in Jefferson City, Tipton and Sedalia on their way to duty as part of a major army invading western Tennessee.
Those events will be recalled tomorrow as about 300 Civil War re-enactors pass by train through Central Missouri on their way to Tennessee to commemorate the Battle of Shiloh, which took place on April 6 and 7, 1862. It was the bloodiest battle of the war to date, with more than 23,000 casualties — including about 3,500 killed — among the 105,000 men from both sides who took part.
The Shiloh Limited, pulled by Union Pacific steam locomotive No. 844, will make stops in Boonville and Jefferson City on its way to its destination in Marion, Ark. The stop at 12:15 p.m. in Boonville will be brief, about 15 minutes to service the locomotive, but the 70-minute stop at 1:20 p.m. at the old Missouri Pacific Depot, 301 State St. in Jefferson City, will feature a performance by a period Marine band and other events intended to bring history to life.
From Boonville to Jefferson City, the train will travel on the Union Pacific tracks that run along the south bank of the Missouri River.
"UP's assistance in commemorating the sesquicentennial events is giving us the wherewithal to ride a steam-driven train, which to many of us is an actually once-in-a-lifetime, unique event," said Joe Grosson of Nashville, Tenn. Grosson, a member of Cleburne's Division of Reenactors, a Confederate organization, will be a liaison on the trip for the Blue-Gray Alliance.
The trip will help Union Pacific celebrate an anniversary of its own. In July 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a law authorizing land grants and federal subsidies for the construction of a rail line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. The idea, embodied in a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. James Rollins of Columbia, was to extend the Pacific Railroad in Missouri, which at that time ran from St. Louis to Sedalia.
The locomotive, Engine 844, is itself a historic treasure for the Union Pacific. It is the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific, going into service in 1944. It has never been retired.
"For UP, 844 has become a goodwill ambassador," said Mark Davis, spokesman for the railroad. "It represents a time when steam locomotives moved freight and passengers. For its day in 1944, 844 was a state-of-the-art locomotive."
Prior to the Civil War in this country, railroads were a new and relatively untried invention. However, during the rebellion, railroads came of age. They became both strategic resources, as well as a military targets, precisely because they were strategic resources. During the war, soldiers, material and food were routinely transported by rail along with civilians and the raw material necessary to keep the war effort progressing. It was soon realized that the railroads would help to make or break the Union in this conflict which was so bloody that the combined total of all U.S. losses in all other wars would not equal the losses in that war.
When the war began, there were approximately nineteen million people living in the United States. Of these, nine million were living in the South, of which three and one-half million were in bondage. The South was largely an agrarian society dependent on cash crops such as tobacco and cotton and, to a lesser extent, staple crops to feed its peoples and armies. Two-thirds of the rail miles and four-fifths of the manufacturing power of the entire nation were located in states loyal to the cause of the Union. In all of the states which attempted to leave the Union, there was only one plant which could reclaim rail which was bent into what became known as "Sherman's Bowties." The South was at a distinct disadvantage in men, material, transportation and productive abilities.
There were more than two hundred railroads in existence at the start of the war. The majority of rail lines were found in those states which remained loyal to the national government. Most of these rails were four feet eight and one-half inches apart. By contrast, the South had only about one-third the mileage in the North and the gauges of the rails varied widely. This meant that the North could transport more troops and material to more places with less transfers due to gauge differences than the South. The South immediately realized the potential of railroads and used the rails it had to transport troops from one part not under attack to support fellow troops in a threatened area. The North was not so quick to learn this lesson.
An example of this is the First Battle of Bull Run in the summer of 1861. A large and unprepared Union Army under the command of General McDowell moved south out of Washington D.C. towards the rail center of Manassas astride the tributary known as Bull Run. A smaller and equally unprepared southern force under the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard blocked this advance ultimately aimed at Richmond, the Confederate capitol. The Northern forces were defeated when Generals Joseph Johnson and Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson arrived from the Shenandoah Valley with their armies. This concentration of secessionist forces was achieved by transporting these troops to the battle by rail.
The South was to employ this tactic for the rest of the war. The South could not politically afford to abandon any territory to the North and was therefore required to spread its limited number of troops to cover the numerous approaches to its territory which could be used for an enemy advance. Then when one area was under attack, the troops would come, usually by rail, from an area not currently threatened.
When Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and given command of all Union forces, he understood the advantage the South had in its interior lines of supply and the part railroads played. As long as the North squandered its resources in uncoordinated attacks upon the Confederacy, the rebels would be able to transport troops from one area to another in order to halt any Union advance. By applying pressure to all points of the South, advances could be made in more than one place and, in those areas where national troops could not advance against the secessionists forces because of their numbers, the loyal troops would be able to keep the rebels occupied and unable to reinforce other rebel units. As Grant said in his memoirs, those who could not skin could help by holding a leg.
At the beginning of the hostilities, the northern railroads did not contribute as they should have to the Union war effort. Most railroad executives were more concerned about the rates for transporting war material and the profits they would make due to the high demand for their services than they were for the welfare of the Union. For a period of time after the South fired on Fort Sumter, which initiated the war, miles of track ripped up by Confederate raiders were left in a state of disrepair and, while boxes of food and ammunition sat on sidings, railroad executives haggled with army officers over the cost of transporting the goods. Lincoln's Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, who was a prominent investor in numerous railroads, was forced to resign because of his profiteering by manipulation of the rates the War Department would pay for the transportation of its soldiers and material. Such corruption in the rail industry prompted the enactment of the Railways and Telegraph Act of January 31, 1862. This legislation enabled the President to take possession of railroads and run them as required to preserve public safety. The War Department would supervise any railroads taken over by the government. This act was the precedent for the United States Railway Administration of World War I and government influence on railroads in World War II.
Few northern railroads were seized under the act but those that were seized were organized into the United States Military Railroad (U.S.M.R.R.). The railroads, faced with this tough legislation, immediately fell in line to aid in the Union war effort for fear of being seized. Profiteering and corruption immediately fell off and trains began to move in an expedient way. Southern railroads, however, were routinely impressed into the service of the national government whenever Southern territory was taken by Union troops. For a short time, during the invasion by the Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania, some Northern railroads were seized to adequately and efficiently deal with the threat posed by General Lee.
In order to deal with rebel attacks on Union rail lines, the North set up garrisons along rail lines to guard depots and bridges. In addition, large stockpiles of railroad materials were gathered in certain areas to be rushed to a damaged area so that repairs could quickly and efficiently be completed. The national government went so far as to have pre-fabricated bridges made of wood in these stockpiles. General Herman Haupt, the Union's brilliant and innovative chief of construction and transportation, is the one who initiated the stockpiling of pre-fabricated parts. In addition, he used ferries to transport loaded rail cars to Aquia Creek and his successor did the same thing at City Point so as to reduce the time normally associated with loading rail cars transporting them to the wharf, unloading the cars and then loading the barges for transfer to the next port where the process was reversed.
At the same time that railroads were recognized as benefits to the war effort, the military leaders also recognized them as great targets for destruction. General Nathan Bedford Forrest successful destroyed General Ulysses S. Grant's supply line, the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad, South of Memphis when he first attempted to take Vicksburg. General Grant, lacking the necessary supplies, retreated to Memphis and, in order to feed his troops, ordered them to forage off of the land. When Generals Grant and Sherman again attacked Vicksburg the following year, they destroyed all five railroads which serviced both Jackson, Mississippi and Vicksburg. This prevented the easy transportation of troops and supplies by the rebels to the scene of the battle. By the time the troops and supplies arrived in the vicinity of Vicksburg, Grant's troops were too strongly entrenched and anchored to be dislodged from the stranglehold they had on the city.
After the Battle of Chickamauga, when the tables were turned and Union troops were besieged in Chattanooga, Grant used the railroads help to reinforce and supply his beleaguered troops who were half starved. This quick action by the railroads saved the Union garrison, allowed Grant to launch his brilliant battle to lift the siege and prepare the springboard from which General Sherman would undertake his March to the Sea.
General Sherman trained ten thousand troops in railroad repair before he left the vicinity of Chattanooga to begin his attack on Atlanta. He understood that his lines of supply would be under attack by local guerrillas and possibly organized Confederate units. Then, when he began the famous March to the Sea, his troops were so adept at repair of the tracks that the rail lines would often be in service within a day or two if not the same day.
When General Sherman cut loose of his supply line after the fall of Atlanta and continued the march to Savannah these same troops turned their abilities to the destruction of the railroads. The troops would pile up all of the ties from a stretch of track and place on top of these piles the rails taken from the same stretch of track. The pyre would then be set aflame and the rails would soon begin to glow red at the centers. The troops would then pick a rail up off the fire and take it to the nearest tree to bend the rail around the tree and, for added difficulty, twist the rail. They did all of this knowing the South had only one plant which could undo the destruction they had done to the rails. These actions crippled the ability of the South to react to Sherman's trek through the Georgia countryside and state capitol, as well as tax the ability of the South's shrinking industrial base to produce new rail and repair the old. General Sherman employed these same tactics when he left Savannah for his march through the Carolinas.
When General Grant began the siege of Richmond and Petersburg, two cities close to each other, he set up an enormous rail depot at City Point from which he provisioned his army. Without the miles of track, engines and rolling stock, Grant would have had to supply his troops with numerous wagons pulled teams of horses managed by teamsters which would have required more forage for the horses and more food for the teamsters. It is possible that General Grant may not have been able to continue his hold on the cities of Richmond and Petersburg if the railroads had not been built to carry supplies from the harbor at City Point to his troops at the front.
As this article demonstrates, the railroads were a new strategic weapon which enabled the North to defeat the South and thus preserve the Union and put an end to slavery. Without the railroads contribution to the war effort, the conflict would have been much different and cost many more lives than the devastating war actually took.
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