Welcome back to Legacies…On The Rails! This is my 9th installment for 2017 as we keep rolling down the tracks toward Spring! Today, we will be discussing trains and railroads of the American Civil War. First let me say that these days, I know some find it offensive to discuss any part of our nation’s history that they find suddenly uncomfortable. Well, I find that fact offensive because those who deny, try to blot out or do not understand or learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I will not apologize for visiting this topic and as a matter of a fact, the phrase I personally coined some time ago is: If you don’t understand where you’ve been, you do not truly understand where you are, or where you are going, or why.
I will never dishonor the memory of my ancestors (or yours) that put themselves in harm’s way or even lost their lives generally serving in our armed forces or fighting in any of the battles that have made our nation what it is, by avoiding study of, or discussion of these periods.Denial cannot erase historical facts. I actually make it a daily point to go out of my way to approach and thank any of our active duty military or those wearing their Veteran caps, jackets, etc. Have you thanked a Veteran today? The freedoms we enjoy as Americans are not free. I love the saying these days that only two have offered, or died for you, Jesus Christ, and our American Military! May God continue to bless and keep our Heroes! And though it may be your “right”, those who are choosing not to stand for the presentation of our Nation’s Flag and the National Anthem……you are dishonoring those who have or are currently fighting for your protection, and spitting on the graves of those that have died fighting for you. You disgust me!
Some do not realize just how vital the railroads were in the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Not only in the transportation of men and goods, but in the eventual defeat of the South. The Confederacy simply did not have the financial or material means to adequately maintain the railroads in their area. They only controlled 9,000 miles of trackage, while the North controlled 20,000 miles.
It also did not help that Northern troops were in the regular habit of burning or otherwise destroying rail bridges, (which, though I certainly do not condone slavery then or now, and understand the necessity, as the creator of the Facebook page Railroad Bridges, Related Photos & Video is kind of sad for me to think about). They were also in the habit of pulling up tracks, heating them until they would bend and tying them around trees, creating what was known as “Sherman’s Neckties“. The Union blockades of sea routes also kept the South from being able to obtain vital supplies to maintain the railroads. This all combined to keep Confederates from being able to ship their cotton crop, so they could not woo the help of European nations.
Unemployment rose in southern states as they had to let go of so many railroad workers. Confederates also usually destroyed as much of a town’s rail equipment as possible before retreats were done. I was actually shocked to see that in the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederacy actually controlled 135 railroads. But also in the beginning, in both southern and northern areas, most railroads were short lines that did not connect with continuing tracks, which made truly long distance rail transport difficult.
The Civil War was also the first time that a train mounted gun was ever created and employed, and the first time that train cars were used as makeshift hospitals. Both would continue into the two World Wars.
But fortunately for both sides, though the Confederacy still eventually fell, with the decline of their railroads playing such a huge role, in 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railway Act, authorizing construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Nebraska and the Central Pacific Railroad built East from Sacramento, California. The finalization of the Transcontinental Railroad was culminated with a ceremony on May 10th, 1869 as the two lines met in the
city of Promontory, Utah. When President Lincoln drove the Golden Spike to complete the line, it was attached to a telegraph wire that sent the news from coast to coast. It was the spike that was heard around the world. Four more transcontinental roads and 174 million acres for them eventually came to be authorized as well.
Here are a couple of my current reads on this subject at the moment. Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad on Amazon at:
https://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Like-World-Transcontinental-1863-1869/dp/0743203178 and The Union Pacific: Birth Of A Railroad check it out at the link:
Probably the most famous American Civil War related railroad story is that of the theft by Union Soldiers and Civilian Scout James J Andrews in Northern Georgia April 12, 1862 of the steam 4-4-0 locomotive known as The General. It was built by Rogers, Ketchum & Grovesner in New Jersey. Part of my personal railroads collection are items related to The General. I have also been to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, Missouri https://www.waltdisneymuseum.org/ (Disney was a huge railfan) and even have friends that are from Marceline. and other friends that have worked the railroads that pass through it. There is a room in the museum almost entirely dedicated the Disney movie The Great Locomotive Chase. I also just purchased the movie on my Google Play Movies collection.
Here is a song about the chase by Robert W Smith that I also found on You Tube:
While the Disney film that starred Fess Parker (Davey Crockett) and Jeffrey Hunter who was the Captain Christopher Pike in the very first Star Trek Pilot: The Cage, was released June 8th, 1956 (cool for me as both my Mother Maureen Losh and my Son John W Losh III were both born in June), there was an earlier version called The General that starred Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, that was released February 5th, 1927 (again cool for me, I was born in February).
I thought of posting the entire lists, but instead I am going to encourage you to do searches on Railroads Of The Civil War as well as books on the same.
I may do a later blog expanding further on this topic but I think we are off to a good start here. Hope you have enjoyed these beginning tidbits of info, and the videos I found and shared about Trains Of The Civil War.
I am going to start a couple new features that will continue from here on in the Legacies…On The Rails Blog and maybe even the Podcast.
The first is a Railroad Equipment Profile. In this feature, I will share pics I have taken of locomotives, freight cars, grain cars, tankers, cabooses, etc and their origins.
This first installment Of my new Railroad Equipment Profile features the Dome Car Prairie View (Great Northern Railroad Empire Builder #1394 that I recently caught at the Kansas City Union Station. The following information on it’s credit goes to Trainweb.org.
Prairie View” – to BN 3/70 (same number), to Amtrak 9364. Was eventually used as an Amtrak parts car and was sold 5/93 as a shell (less trucks) to the BN. Stored Springfield MO (ex Frisco shops) until sold 1994 to Holland America Westours. After putting over $1m into it, car is now in service in Alaska. It carries the name “Deshka” and entered service in 1997. In 2003 Westours put all but 3 of their Budd domes up for sale as `”excess”. They kept 1394 because it required no coupler pocket modifications for the new Colorado Railcar domes and it has Budd braked trucks (from under one of the two 1956 Budd built Santa Fe business cars that were retrucked with 4 wheel trucks in 1989). Car transferred late 2004 to a new division called Alaska Rail Tours (defunct) with the other retained cars to begin service in 2005 in a non “cruise ship” travel/tour operation in Alaska. Sold 10/09 to Iowa Pacific/San Luis & Rio Grande. Renamed back to original “Prairie View”.
The Second is Railroad Old Time Radio. Anyone that knows me knows that I love old movies, old TV shows, and the radio versions of many of them. We will begin with Episode 17 of Gunsmoke. Set in Dodge City, Kansas, it was billed as the first adult western, and its radio show that starred William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon first aired on CBS on April 26th, 1952. (Again, cool for me as both the first date Anniversary and Wedding Anniversary for my wife Denise and I are both in late April (25th/28th respectively). This episode aired September 27th, 1952. My daughter Cara Losh was also born on a much later September 27th. I am loving these connections as I am not a believer in coincidence! Hope you enjoy it. We may start sharing Railroad Movies as well (which I kind of already did by sharing The General with Buster Keaton above.)
Thanks again for joining me! until next time, I want to again encourage you to accept the free gift of Salvation and forgiveness that the Lord Jesus Christ offers you and to follow Him each day of your life. My reading this morning with breakfast was in Romans 9-12 and the verses that stood out to me were Romans 10: 14,15 (NKJV from Bible Gateway)
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Well, if I don’t see you down the rail line, if I don’t see you here, I pray I’ll see you In The Air!