A Civil War Biography

Herman Haupt

Haupt was born 26 March 1817 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was appointed to the US Military Academy when just 14 years old by President Andrew Jackson. Haupt, at the age of 18, graduated 31st in the class of 1835. More interested in engineering pursuits he resigned his commission after just three months and began a life long career associated with the railroads. As a civil engineer Haupt became an expert in building railroads while teaching civil engineering, architecture, and mathematics at Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg. In 1851 his work, "General Theory of Bridge Construction", the definitive work on bridge building of its time, was published. In 1851 and 1852, Haupt was employed as the general superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He would serve for many years on the board of directors. He spent the years leading up to the Civil War as the engineer of the five-mile Hoosac Tunnel which cut through the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He also helped finance the project.

Haupt joined the war effort in April 1862 when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton asked him to head the effort to utilize the US railroad system for military purposes. Haupt, with the rank of colonel, was assigned as an aide-de-camp to Irvin McDowell who by then was commanding the Washington defenses. Haupt first set out to secure the rail lines in the Washington area by building blockhouses in weak locations and protecting machine shops with stockades. He had all railroad staff armed and trained to help resist attack. He also improved telegraph communications along the rail lines. He streamlined the process to repair damaged rail lines and bridges. On 5 September 1862 he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers but he refused the appointment, explaining he would prefer to serve without rank or pay so as not to limit his freedom to continue his private business pursuits. He resigned on 14 September 1863 citing he could not tolerate interference in his work that was coming from above. This ended his military career.

After resigning form the army Haupt worked for several railroads as chief engineer or general manager. These railroads included the Shenandoah Valley, the Richmond and Danville, and the Northern Pacific. He was president of the Dakota and Great Southern Railroad. He died in New Jersey of a heart attack on 14 December 1905, fittingly while on a train.

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