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 Posted: Sun Sep 28th, 2008 11:23 pm
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pamc153PA
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Hi all,

This afternoon I was at a train museum in a neighboring county (my husband and son are the train buffs; I was along for the ride. I was interested in a talk one of the museum's guides was having with another visitor about the growth of the railroads during the mid-1800s. He mentioned that the armies in Civil War really utilized the rails, and that strategy and troop movements were developed considering where the railways went. I know that troops and supplies were moved by rail on both sides, but I hadn't heard the part about strategy before. Was he correct, and if so, any examples? Also, in general, how significant was the rail system to both the Union ans Confederate armies?

Pam



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 12:19 am
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The Iron Duke
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Corinth, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Petersburg were important rail hubs and major battles were fought at these locations. The ability to move and supply the armies dictated what strategy was enacted.  Bragg achieved a strategic coup in 1862 when he managed to move his army all the way from Mississippi into Kentucky before Buell knew what hit him.

Last edited on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 12:22 am by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 12:28 am
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susansweet
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The whole idea of stealing the General was to destroy the rail line north from Atlanta so supplies could not move from Atlanta to Chattanooga .  Sadly it didn't work out but of course makes a great story  Read Bonds Chasing the General . 



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 01:07 am
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ole
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I think the guide was being a bit overly enthusiastic. Movements were made against rail hubs. Movements were made using the rails. But I can think of no movements made simply because there was a railroad.

ole



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 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 03:01 am
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susansweet
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Bama I have never read a book where I was rooting for both sides so much as Bonds book Stealing the General



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 11:35 am
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PvtClewell
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Pam,

Were you at the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg? Incredible place; we visited it a few years ago. Here in North Carolina, we have the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, which is next door to our town. It's on the property of the old Spencer Yards, which was a major rail hub for the Southern Railroad in its heyday. The repair shops have been restored, while the roundhouse, turntable and depot are still active, along with a working diesel and and working steam locomotive, which they alternate using every other day to give rides on a 5-mile loop.

To get back to your original post, in the March issue of North & South magazine there is an article written by John E. Clark Jr. titled 'The Importance of the Railroads in the Civil War,' that goes a long way, I think, to answer many of your questions.

Most of us are familiar with Joe Johnston bringing troops to First Manassas that tipped the scales in that battle. There are other examples of how the railroad was used, including Longstreet bringing 13,000 men over 950 miles to Chickamauga, and Bragg bringing 31,000 men from Tupelo, Miss., to Chattanooga, considered to be the first large movement of troops by rail.

One of the best examples of the importance of the railroad is the relief of Rosecrans at Chattanooga is 1863. The 11th and 12th Corps, plus all their artillery, horses and equipment (23,000 men in all) moved from the Army of the Potomac to Chattanooga, 1,233 miles in 12 days. That action is still considered, as Clark writes, "as one of the most impressive transportation achievements in the history of war."

Clark also points out that all major civil war battles were fought within 20 miles of a railroad head or river port.

"Railroads guided campaign objectives as planners focused on the enemy's rail centers, such as Mansassas, Nashville, Corinth, and Jackson, Miss., Chattanooga, Petersburg, and Atlanta, rail junctions all," writes Clark. "These campaigns attacked the enemy's transportation and communication nets, to be sure, but also demonstrated the modern objective of denying the enemy the industrial wherewithal to fight the war at all..."

That might answer your strategy question.

Another aspect that the railroads brought was the need to defend them. Clark cites Archer Jones and Herman Hattaway who noted that the Union diverted 30 percent of its manpower (112,000 men) toward protecting the railroads from 22,000 Confederate raiders during the war.

The bio note on Clark states that he is the author of the book 'Railroads in the Civil War: The Impact of Management on Victory and Defeat', 2001 by Louisiana State University Press.



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 12:37 pm
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izzy
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PvtClewell - I knew someone out there would come up with a good information source to answer her question.

Good job on the post, Pvt.



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 07:56 pm
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pamc153PA
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Clewell,

Yes, it WAS the PA Railroad Museum in Strasburg! What a neat find of a museum. Actually, we have been going to Strasburg RR right across the street for a few years, especially when Thomas the Tank Engine comes in (for my son), but we've never gone into the museum until this weekend. When you were there, were you able to go across to the railroad and take a ride? That's very cool, too.

Thanks for all the information, as well. It is interesting that what could be a real asset in moving men and supplies could also be a liability because of the same reasons.

Does anyone know, I seem to recall that the Southern RRs were a different "gauge" or size rail than the Northern RRs--or am I just thinking I heard that somewhere?

Pam



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 09:02 pm
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PvtClewell
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Pam,

In the same article, Clark writes: "The Confederacy did not have the financial means to compensate its railroads, unless one counts its rapidly depreciating bonds. It did not organize them for the war, either, such as by joining the tracks of same-gauge railroads, which would have increased the speed of rail movements and allowed sharing of rolling stock in times of emergency."

I think I remember reading somewhere that southern railroads were of different gauges all across the south, which in wartime, is a big problem.

As for the railroad museum in Strasburg, we did not take any rides, just spent several hours on the grounds, and then found some good Pa. Dutch restaurants to eat.



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 09:11 pm
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Texas Defender
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pamc153pa-

  There were three different railroad gauges in the south during the time of the Confederacy.

  Aside from the 4' 8.5" gauge, there were some operating at 5' and 5'6". The lack of standardization was a serious handicap.

 

snopes.com: Railroad Gauges and Roman Chariots



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 09:21 pm
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fedreb
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Pam
A good reference point for all things related to CW Railways is George B Abdill's " Civil War Railroads. A Pictorial Story of the War Between the States". It is packed with dozens of photos (including a couple of good ones of rail mounted artillery and mortars which I believe were mentioned in a recent thread), and info concerning the building and use of locos, tracks, trestles, depots etc.
We, too, visited the PA Railroad Museum in Strasburg a couple of years ago, took the ride on the train, and have to agree it is a gem of a museum.
I recall reading somewhere that there was not just a difference in gauge between North and South but not all Northern Railroads were built to the same gauge either, compounding the problems of tactical use, but I'm sure one of you guys can put me right on that.



 Posted: Mon Sep 29th, 2008 09:22 pm
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ole
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There were six different gauges in use in the United States -- most of them in the north. The problem with southern railroads was more a matter of not enough miles of them and an inability to fix them.

To get from, say Chicago to New York,three different gauges were involved. The real problem is in the following example taken from "Mapping America's Past" by Mark C. Carnes, et al. (Holt, 1996): "Most cities lacked a common, or union termin ... In 1865 for example, each of the four railroads into Cincinnati had its own station. Freight originating in St. Louis and destined for Cleveland arrived at the Ohio and Michigan terminal in the southwestern part of Cincinnati and was then carted to the Little Miami terminal 18 blocks away."

In those days a company would build a railroad between two commercial centers designed to serve a certain market. Another company would build a railroad between one of the centers and another. Each would have its own station, so even if they build their road of the same gauge, a train would still be unable to continue on another road's track.

Probably the most famous example is the Baltimore riots when soldiers had to walk through Baltimore to get from one station to another, even though the tracks were the same gauge.

ole



 Posted: Tue Sep 30th, 2008 12:39 am
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susansweet
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Good information about the railroads.  I have read about the different gages.  Also how they had to travel to get from place to place not in a straight line.  To get to a site in a direct line they would have to take one train south , change, take another train east or west , then take another train north . 

Thought it was interesting after Thompson Station the 19th Michigan was marched to a railhead miles away and put on a train to Richmond .  Tullahoma to Chattanooga  Chattanooga to Knoxville , Knoxville to Bristol then Lynchburg finally arriving in Richmond March 16th having left Tullahoma March 11th . 

 



 Posted: Tue Sep 30th, 2008 01:44 am
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The Iron Duke
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Don't forget that Southern railroads often did not connect. Men would take a train to one station and then have to march on foot for miles to get to the next station and board a different train, eg the Army of Tennessee treking from Mississippi to North Carolina for Bentonville.  There's no better example of the damaging effect of States' Rights than by examining the petty feuds of the Southern railroad system.

Last edited on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 01:49 am by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Wed Oct 1st, 2008 08:33 pm
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Widow
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Fairfax Station was one of many stations on the Orange & Alexandria RR (VA).  On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Friends of Fairfax Station Railroad Museum are having a driving/walking tour of Civil War sites in Alexandria.  According to the flyer...

"After an orientation of Civil War Alexandria at the George Washington Masonic Temple, the tour will proceed toward the water front.  Along the way, the location of a large Union Army stable, the terminuses for the three railroads serving the city, and the location and alignment of the Alexandria Canal will be pointed out and discussed.  The waterfront was a major area of Union activity for logistical support, and improvements to increase army logistics and will be shown.  Stops are also planned for the United States Military Rail Road complex and the National Cemetery to visit grave sites of soldiers killed in an explosion at Fort Lyons, people killed while on a mission to find John Wilkes Booth, and local civilians connected to the railroad.  Several pre-Civil War structures are included in the tour, including an existing tunnel and bridge, and artifacts of three Union forts (one untouched, one destroyed, and one recreated), Union encampments, and mill sites west of the city."

The tour guide is Ron Beavers, an authority on historic railroads.  He has visited the site of every station on the O & A from Alexandria to Lynchburg.  As a member of the 17th Virginia reenactors, he portrays the civilian president of the O & A.  His license plate reads "O & A RR."

As the daughter of a Union Pacific switchman, I'm really looking forward to Ron's tour.  It should be fascinating!

Patty



 Posted: Wed Oct 1st, 2008 11:33 pm
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pamc153PA
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Patty,

That sounds like a really interesting tour. Wish I was alittle closer to Fairfax!

Is it a hindsight is always 20/20 thing, or am I right to wonder, if it was so out of the way to switch from one line/company to the other, why didn't someone think, "hey, if we'd make them all the same gauge, wouldn't it be easier?" I'm sure that every RR company closely guarded its specifc size gauge, so maybe it was a business thing?

Pam



 Posted: Sun Oct 5th, 2008 04:03 pm
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Widow
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Pam, yesterday morning I overslept by 45 mins. and had to skip the tour of historic railroad sites in Alexandria.  Simply didn't hear the radio when it came on.  Rats and darn.

You're right that the reason for not connecting the rail lines was a business thing.  I suspect the companies were thinking locally.  After all, in peacetime, what difference did it make?  When the war started, suddenly there was a NATIONAL need to move cargo quickly over long distances.  The railroad companies just weren't able to work together, hence the establishment of the U.S. Military Rail Road.  I don't know if there was a comparable organization in the Confederacy, but it seems unlikely, given the antipathy to centralized government control.

Patty aka Widow



 Posted: Tue Oct 7th, 2008 04:00 pm
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Chagrins
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Pennsylvania represent! Actually...I haven't been to the Strasburg RR in a long time. However, I did make it out to Scranton about 6 months ago...to their rail station and, also, the coal mines.



 Posted: Tue Oct 7th, 2008 11:26 pm
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pamc153PA
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Welcome, Chagrins! There are a few of us current and former Keystone staters here on the board. Any PA Civil War ancestors that you know of?

Pam



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