|About the Book|
The focus of this selection concerns both the Federal and Confederate efforts to disable or maintain the railroads within the active theaters of the war. Real railroads of iron and steam and ribbons of steel vanishing into the horizon quickly becameMoreThe focus of this selection concerns both the Federal and Confederate efforts to disable or maintain the railroads within the active theaters of the war. Real railroads of iron and steam and ribbons of steel vanishing into the horizon quickly became a strategic objective of both armies in the Civil War. Raiders and protectors were deployed both North and South. The damage inflicted on roadways and rolling stock was not always easy to accomplish. The simplest method of slowing a train was to remove a small section of rail, but once spotted the gap was not difficult to repair. Both sides learned to tear up long sections of track, pile up and set fire to the ties, and heat and bend the iron. This was temporarily effective, but the rails could often be reheated, straightened out, and spiked back into place. The destruction of bridges, trestles, rolling stock, and especially engines was more difficult and expensive to undo. It was found that to permanently disable a locomotive, however, smashing cylinder heads, pumps, links, and valve stems was not enough. The parts had to be scattered, taken away, or buried or thrown into an inaccessible body of water.It is the author’s purpose to record this often under-reported aspect of the Civil War for both military and railroading enthusiasts. The book includes maps and period illustrations. Most Civil War historians concentrate on the strategic and military aspects of the railroading industry, and they rather uncritically mention engineering and other technical factors as if they were simply founded or well established. They were not. In many cases, the same sources and traditions are always quoted with no investigation into their accuracy, and no further understanding of the matter at hand is attempted. The Confederate Railroads, for instance, have only been given a detailed examination once. The Railroads of the Confederacy, by Robert Black (1952), was written sixty years ago. To the topic, the present author brings both the wide knowledge of a military historian and the technical knowledge of a professor of physics.