why were railroads important during the civil war
It s easy to take trains for granted in this day and age, so it s important to remember that, in Civil War times, they were cutting edge. In fact, at the beginning of the War, we hadn t quite figured out the military applications of the railroad beyond basic supply delivery. Although they had fewer tracks at their disposal, the Confederates were quicker to learn their value, using trains to speedily provide reinforcements that made the difference at battles like Bull Run. As the War progressed, both sides developed greater strategic dependence on the railroad as they realized its potential. An army without supplies is not much of an army, so large forces typically stayed close to the tracks. This allowed them to protect the railways and trains, as well, since the newfound significance of the tracks made them targets for the enemy. A common practice was to plant pressure-sensitive БtorpedoesБ (essentially landmines) that would explode and derail the first train to roll over them. That led to precautionary tactics like sending an empty car ahead on the tracks. Trains were also susceptible to sharpshooters, who would try to puncture the boiler or take out the crew. In spite of such weaknesses, locomotives were a powerful tool.
You wouldn t think of a train as a good scout vehicle, but a single engine could be sent on a reconnaissance mission into enemy territory, quickly reverse, and speed away at 60 mph. That might not seem like much to us, but it was fast enough to escape the cavalry that would pursue them. On top of that, they could be mounted with heavy artillery or loaded with riflemen, they could be used to ram enemy trains or set fire to their bridges, they could even be used as decoys to draw out concealed enemies. Trains were a true force to be reckoned with over the course of the Civil War. We ve barely scratched the surface of this fascinating subjectБit s really worth a visit to the бto learn more!
As troop movement began in earnest in May and June 1861, a crippling problem was discovered; many rail lines terminated in towns without connecting to continuing lines. Instead, cargo would have to be unloaded, driven across town, and then reloaded. Soldiers and other passengers would often have to stay overnight to catch a continuing train the next day. When the Confederate government attempted to rectify this problem, they ran into local opposition.
Towns preferred the lack of connection which, under the principle of the, required the hiring of teamsters and hotel rooms. Railroad operators, while not opposed to connecting lines, were opposed to the possibility of sharing rolling stock with rival companies. Confederate raids on the Union's most relevant railroad company, devastated tracks and rolling stock; the line quit running. However, the North had enough industrial resources to restore operations. As 1862 opened, the Confederacy built a 5. 5 miles (8. 9Pkm) spur off the at Manassas Junction toward known as the. It served to supply the Confederate defenses on the Centreville Plateau along the north side of the feed into the. [ As the war waged on, attempts were made by railroad operators to acquire railroad supplies abroad, necessitated by the Confederacy's small industrial base. The problem of supplies had become increasingly acute, especially with respect to the already small supply of engines and cars. Stressed by overuse, lacking material to make repairs, and the conscription of men who could make them, rail operators were predicting a breaking point as early as 1862. While railroad operators attempted, throughout the war, to get assistance from the, the response was either indifferent or hostile.
In mid-1863 the Confederate government finally initiated an overall policy concerning railroads, and even then it was confined solely to aiding the war effort rather than shoring up the weakening. New legislation allowed (under the name of " "), which brought railroads and their rolling stock under the de facto control of the military. Meanwhile, Union victory in the gave the full control of the which after repairs supplied the. In March 1864, the ordered all passenger trains to give governmental trains the right of way. By mid-1864, all passenger service in the Confederacy had come to a standstill. Transport of goods for civilian use was also affected, exacerbating shortages brought on by wartime devastation, speculation, hoarding, and the Confederacy's impressment policy. In the last year before the end of the war, the Confederate railroad system was always on the verge of collapse. The impressment policy of quartermasters ran the rails ragged. Feeder lines would be scrapped for replacement steel for trunk lines, and the continual use of rolling stock wore them down faster than they could be replaced.
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