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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 03:26 am
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Hellcat
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Ok for years I've had an interest in the railroads during the war brought on from checking out a book from the local library which showed a fortified railroad bridge. The thing was a desire to get back into an old hobby, model railroading, and do a Civil War style layout. This finally lead to me purchasing  Robert R. Hodges Jr.'s American Civil War Railroad Tactics last month looking more for the pictures in the book as a means of helping with creating a layout if I ever get that going. Need a starting point to hopefully get you in gear, right?

Keep in mind that I wasn't just after a picture book when I purchased the book, the idea with the pictures is a little more knowing how things looked rather than more simply imagining the appearance based on descriptions. I also wanted something to explain abou the use of the railroads during the war. The idea in my mind wasn't just what the trains would look like but ideas on how they were used for setting up something similar for a model railroad layout.

One of the things that has gotten me going through the book is how in some cases they were actually making ironclads for use on land. I'd naturally heard of the Dictator being used at Petersburg and had scene images of a heavy rail  battery Federal forces also used during the siege which to me just showed a cannon poking out through a sloped wooden shield. To me that was it for the railroads as weapons of war, otherwise I just thought of them as being used to transport troops and supplies. And of course the Great Locomotive Chase. I don't recall having head of Lee's "Dry Land Merrimac" and I certainly hadn't heard much of the North building ironclad railroad cars of a similar design to the design of the CSS Virginia. A casement lined with railroad rails for armor. The heavy battery cars carrying a single heavy cannon (32 pounders are the ones I've seen mentioned the most) facing forward while the light batteries might carry two or three field artillery pieces.

The Federal ironclad railroad car light batter design actually reminds me even more of the Virginia than the "Dry Land Merrimac" does because the field pieces could be moved about to point out various portholes. The images of multiple portholes is what really causes the comparison. It's stated that the reason is actually the recoil was considerably more in the heavier guns so that coupled with their weigh and the overall weight of the car forced a single gun on the car which pointed ahead of the car. The field pieces were lighter and had less recoil so they could have multiple cannons on the car and could be repositioned to fire ahead of the car or to one side.

The idea actually to me seems more like precurssors to the tank when compared with some of the railroad cars which were used for artillery.



 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 12:14 pm
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Mark
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If you can get a copy of PVT Robert Sneeden's "In the Eye of the Storm" he drew some nice watercolors of what he saw when the first Confederate Land Merrimac went into action at the Battle of Savage's Station. There may have been another similar gun in use at the Battle of Olustee (Ocean Pond) depending on whose account you read. Does your book give any other battles that they were used in?

Mark



 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 01:00 pm
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Mark
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Here is the picture I mean...

Mark

http://www.firstmdus.net/Rail%20cars.htm



 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 12:45 am
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Hellcat
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Mark, I didn't see a picture of the Dry Land Merrimac. The only one on there was labeled Federal 2 gun Rail Road Monitor. Which in itself is actually interesting since the book made no mention of such a thing. It talked about box cars with slots cut into them for use as rifle cars but it looks like that's more a platform car (what we'd call a flatcar) converted into a box car then converted again for use as an artllery unit.



 Posted: Wed Jan 25th, 2012 02:49 pm
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Mark
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I was looking at the first one listed on the page. That one is just a big naval gun placed on a flatcar with some protection for the gunners. I see what you mean about the second one. It looks like the rebels were trying to copy the federal version that is shown second.

Mark



 Posted: Thu Jan 26th, 2012 04:38 am
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Hellcat
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I'm gonna have to take your word for the first one, the second pic is the only one that loads when I click the link. That does sound weird for the Dry Land Merrimac, the descriptions in the book suggest it should look a little more like the Virginia. There's no photo in the book, just an artist rendition based on the descriptions.



 Posted: Thu Jan 26th, 2012 03:01 pm
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HankC
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considering the small amount of firepower and lack of mobility, my comment is 'whats the use?'...



 Posted: Fri Jan 27th, 2012 04:13 am
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Hellcat
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Morale. Hodge, in discussing the heavy batteries, states:


 

Not the least of the benefits of such a weapon at that time was its psychological impact. Rail batteries provided a real boost to morale of troops accompanying them; soldiers would write home to their wives and families extolling the merits of these heavy guns, which could advance with them and strike fear into the enemy.


 

The previous paragraph does hit on the problems of weight and limited field of fire with the heavy batteries. Even without armor your still talking using naval guns or guns likely to be found in costal fortifications rahter than the field pieces used by artillery unitson the battlefield. The guns were heavier than the field pieces and apparently had more recoil. Their weight alone mean that if the tracks weren't strong enough to handle them either they had to be replaced or the gun couldn't move over the track. They were difficult to move even when the track could support their weight. And because of their recoil they could only fire in one direction, straight ahead. So unless you wanted to damage the tracks, you either drove the train up to a curve you you made sure there was a curve ahead of where you were firing that was still going to be short of where the shot would land.

And yet both sides were still willing to build the heavy batteries because of more than their effects on morale. According to what Hodge writes:


 

Despite these drawbacks, however, a 32-pdr rail battery could still move into position and open fire faster than a typical horse-drawn field battery, and with a single shot from it's longer range it could deliver 64lb of explosive ordnance directly into an enemy position - a considerable threat.

 

The light batteries were a different story. They were field artillery mounted on platform cars, or, as we call them today, flatcars. Because they were lighter more could be mounted on a car. Some light battery cars might carry two or three guns. There was less need to worry about whether or not the tracks were strong enough to support the weight. And because they apparently had less recoil they could then be turned to face one of three basic directions (the fourth would have been firing on the train itself). So there was no worrying about if there was a curve ahead or not. Like the heavy batteries the light batteries could still be moved "into position and open fire faster that a typical horse-drawn field battery." After all the pieces were already unlimbered on the platform car so no time would be spent in unlimbering the pieces and then moving them into a firing position.

Last edited on Fri Jan 27th, 2012 04:13 am by Hellcat



 Posted: Sat Jan 28th, 2012 01:23 am
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csamillerp
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Just wanted to let ya know hellcat i appreciate you posting this cause i had completely forgotten about the land merrimac i remember reading about it when i was probably 13 yrs old.



 Posted: Tue Jan 31st, 2012 11:08 pm
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Hellcat
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Found this online:
  
     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.

 
To read the full article check http://www.paradesquare.ca/railway/us_civil_war.htm

Last edited on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 11:08 pm by Hellcat



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 Posted: Wed May 30th, 2012 05:00 am
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Hellcat
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Uh, the topic is military railroads in the Civil War and inparticular armored railroad cars.



 Posted: Sun Sep 1st, 2013 05:31 am
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glenhunter
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Interesting picture of which I've never seen before. Thank you



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