Chicago Tribune
Chicago, Tuesday, October 9, 1866


Our Military Roads During the Late War.

How they were Managed-
Unprecedented Feats of Repair and Construction.

[Correspondence of the Chicago Tribune,]

Washington, October 4.
During the nearly forty years in which railroads have been In existence, no great war has ever thoroughly tested their use till the late rebellion. Operating on the outer line of a great circle, and slowly but steadily moving towards its centre, it was necessary to transport immense bodies of men, animals and munitions of war great distances, through a hostile territory, and at comparatively rapid speed. The experiment of supplying an army over a long line of railroad through an enemy's country had never been tested. It demanded a high order of practical talent, the most perfect organization and the most vigilant energy. That all these circumstances concurred in the management of our Military Railroads, is best proven by the result of the war itself. The following facts, taken from the official records of the War Department, show the mode in which the whole system was carried on.
On the 11th of February, 1862, the Secretary of War appointed D.C. McCallum, " Military Director and Superintendent of railroads in the United States, with authority to enter upon, take possession of, hold and use all locomotives, equipments, appendages and appurtenances that may be required for the transport of troops, arms, ammunition, and military supplies of the United States."
Government was at that time running a railroad seven miles long from Washington to Alexandria. Commencing with this light duty, General McCallum organized the largest railroad system in the world, and held it till the war was over, purchasing, or capturing four hundred and nineteen locomotives, and six thousand three hundred and thirty cars.
The first purchase of engines by Government was on March 14, 1862, when under orders from General McCallum, five engines and eighty cars were put on shipboard at Baltimore for use in the Peninsular campaign. On the withdrawal of McClellan's army to Harrison's Landing, June 28, all this stock was destroyed to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy.
Then commenced that building and rebuilding of railroads in Northern Virginia, rendered necessary by the alternate advances and retreats of the contending armies. In the summer of 1862 General McCallum opened the road to the Rapidan, a distance of' eighty miles; on the retreat of General Pope in August, the road was entirely abandoned, with the loss of seven locomotives and two hundred and ninety-five cars. The Manassas Gap Railroad, the Loudon and Hampshire Railroad, and the road from Aquia Creek to Fredricksburg were severally opened again and again to be destroyed again and again, till Grant finally shut up General Lee in Richmond. Since that time it has been safe for a Yankee to ride on a Virginia railroad. During that year the greatest engineering feat was the rebuilding the Rappahannock Bridge, six hundred and twenty-five feet long and thirty-five feet high in only nineteen working hours.
During the rebel occupation of Central Pennsylvania in June, 1863, all the bridges were destroyed by them on the Northern Central Railroad, between Hanover Junction and Harrisburg, and many miles of track torn up on the Cumberland Valley & Franklin Railroads. As the war progressed, the nature, capacity and value of railroads were better understood on both sides, and more systematic and determined efforts were made by the enemy against the lines used for transporting supplies to our armies. The destruction of track and bridges was greater each subsequent time the roads passed within their military lines, and it became apparent that extraordinary preparation must be made to meet it. With his accustomed energy, therefore, General McCallum organized a construction corps of 300 men; this grew and swelled till it finally amounted to ten thousand.
During the war, seventeen railroads were run at different times in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, by Government, at a cost of nearly five millions of dollars, and using seventy-two engines and 1,733 cars; at the close of the war, these were all returned to their owners.
Not until December, 1863, did General McCallum take charge of the Military Railroads of the Southwest. Then commenced the experiment of supplying an army over a long line of railroad through an enemy's country. To carry food and forage to the army at Chattanooga, the General called for 200 locomotives and 3,000 cars. About twelve thousand men were employed in the Transportation Department of the Mississippi; in the construction corps, about five thousand more. To obtain the necessary engines and cars, the following order was given by the Secretary of War, impressing all the cars and locomotives building in the country.

WASHINGTON CITY, March 23, 1864.
GENTLEMEN: Colonel Daniel C. McCallum, general manager of Government railways, has been authorized by this Department to procure locomotives without delay for the railways under his charge.
In order to meet the wants of the Military Departments of the Government, you will deliver to his order such engines as he may direct, whether building under orders for other parties or otherwise, the Government being accountable to you for the same. The urgent necessity of the Government for the immediate supply of our armies operating in Tennessee renders the engines indispensable for the equipment of the line of communication, and it is hoped that this necessity will be recognized by you as a military necessity, paramount to all other considerations.
By order of the President,
Edwin M. Stanton Sec'y of War.
Under this order, which placed all the locomotives manufactories of' the country at the disposal of General McCallum, and which nothing but military necessity would justify, one hundred and forty engines and two thousand, five hundred and seventy three, cars were built and handed over to the Government, now running over a thousand miles of railroad in the Southwest. On the Western & Atlantic Railroad, from Chattanooga to Atlanta, the guerillas made continuous warfare. Every device possible to apply was used to throw trains from the track, and though occasionally successful, the preparations to guard against such attempts were so complete that few of them caused loss of life or more than a few hours' detention. The most important single structure on this road was the Chattahoochie bridge, seven hundred and eighty feet long and ninety-two feet high, and this enormous bridge was completed by the construction corps in four and a half days. European warfare never witnessed a greater rapidity of construction than this.
Early in October, 1864, General Hood passed around General Sherman's army, and fell upon the railroad at several points in its rear. He destroyed 35” miles of track and 455 lineal feet of bridges; but in thirteen days after he left the line, it was repaired and trains were run over its entire length.
Twenty-five miles of track and 230 feet of bridges, between Tunnel Hill and Reseca, were reconstructed in seven and one-half days. This was accomplished by working from each end of the track, and at the same time working both ways from Dalton, which was reached by trains with material, by way of Cleveland, after relaying 1 miles of track.
Over 1,200 miles of railroad were operated in the Southwest in 1864 and 1865, and were turned over to the owners in September, 1865. About thirteen millions of dollars were paid to the operatives engaged in run. ning them. Nearly 19 miles of' bridges were built and rebuilt, and 433 miles of track laid.
There being a large quantity of old rails always on hand and as the price of iron and labor had steadily advanced and was still advancing an order was issued February 17, 1864, to complete and set at work the rolling mill in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This was done at a cost of $290,000, and 3,818 tons of rails were re-rolled there. After being in operation six months it was sold for $175,000. In addition to these 3,818 tons, Government purchased 21,783 tons during the war ; the lowest price, which was $40, was paid in July, 1862; in June, 1864, the price had advanced to $130.

The following statistics show the number of cars and locomotives operated by Government during the war:

Whole number of locomotives                         419
Lost or destroyed                                               6
Sold for cash                                                  146
Sold for credit under executive orders of
August 8 and October 14                               164
Returned to former owners                             103
Whole number of cars                                 6,330
Lost or destroyed                                       1,043
Returned to former owners                            510
Sold for cash                                              2,186
Sold for credit                                            2,589

At a time when the railroads of the country were needing all the rolling stock they could get, and were willing to pay for it in cash President Johnson ordered 164 engines and 2,589 cars, to be sold at cash prices on long credit, to Southern railroads, for the enormous amount of $7,428,204.96, while the cash sales were only $3,466,739.33. Of that sold on credit, not one-fifth has yet been paid and much of it never will be. It was a generous offer to the Southern railroads, inviting them to come back into the Union and receive the new cars and engines the Union had built at the nation's expense. They accepted the invitation; but only one of these roads has as yet paid in full for the rolling stock thus purchased.

In his report, General McCallum, to whom all the credit of the energy and systematic operation of their roads belong, says that in the beginning of the war military railroads were an experiment; and although some light as to these management had been gleaned by the operations of' 1862 and 1863, yet so little progress had been made that the attempt to supply the army of General Sherman in the field, construct and reconstruct the railroad in its rear and keep pace with its march, was regarded by those who had the largest experience, and who had become most familiar with the subject, as the greatest experiment of all. The attempt to furnish an army of one hundred thousand men and sixty thousand animals with supplies from a base three hundred and sixty miles distant by one line of single track railroad, located almost the entire distance through the country of an active and most vindictive enemy, is without precedent in the history of warfare, and to make it successful required an enormous outlay for labor, and a vast consumption of material, together with all the forethought, energy, patience and watchfulness of which men are capable.
This line, from its great length, was imperfectly guarded, as troops could not be spared from the front for that purpose. This rendered the railroad service one of great risk and hazard, and at times it was only by the force of military authority that men could be held to service. As an item showing the real danger attending military railroad operations, it may be stated that during the last six months of the fiscal year, ending June 30, 1865 the wrecking train picked up and carried to Nashville sixteen wrecked locomotives, and 294 car loads of car wheels, bridge iron, &c., all the result of guerilla and rebel raids.

The United States military railroads were transferred by Executive order of August 8, 1865, to the original owners.

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