May 31, 2012

Sherman's Summary of Railroad Operations

I have just concluded reading General W.T. Sherman's Memoirs. One of the last chapters is an after-action review of the Army operations in the war. It is well worth reading.

Here is a snip from Sherman summarizing his railroad operations.


The value of railways is also fully recognized in war quite as much as, if not more so than, in peace. The Atlanta campaign would simply have been impossible without the use of the railroads from Louisville to Nashville--one hundred and eighty-five miles--from Nashville to Chattanooga--one hundred and fifty-one miles--and from Chattanooga to Atlanta--one hundred and thirty-seven miles. Every mile of this "single track" was so delicate, that one man could in a minute have broken or moved a rail, but our trains usually carried along the tools and means to repair such a break. We had, however, to maintain strong guards and garrisons at each important bridge or trestle--the destruction of which would have necessitated time for rebuilding. For the protection of a bridge, one or two log block houses, two stories high, with a piece of ordnance and a small infantry guard, usually sufficed.

The block-house had a small parapet and ditch about it, and the roof was made shot proof by earth piled on. These points could usually be reached only by a dash of the enemy's cavalry, and many of these block houses successfully resisted serious attacks by both cavalry and artillery. The only block-house that was actually captured on the main was the one described near Allatoona.

Our trains from Nashville forward were operated under military rules, and ran about ten miles an hour in gangs of four trains of ten cars each. Four such groups of trains daily made one hundred and sixty cars, of ten tons each, carrying sixteen hundred tons, which exceeded the absolute necessity of the army, and allowed for the accidents that were common and inevitable. But, as I have recorded, that single stem of railroad, four hundred and seventy-three miles long, supplied an army of one hundred thousand men and thirty-five thousand animals for the period of one hundred and ninety-six days, viz., from May 1 to November 12, 1864. To have delivered regularly that amount of food and forage by ordinary wagons would have required thirty-six thousand eight hundred wagons of six mules each, allowing each wagon to have hauled two tons twenty miles each day, a simple impossibility in roads such as then existed in that region of country. Therefore, I reiterate that the Atlanta campaign was an impossibility without these railroads; and only then, because we had the men and means to maintain and defend them, in addition to what were necessary to overcome the enemy.

Habitually, a passenger-car will carry fifty men with their necessary baggage. Box-cars, and even platform-cars, answer the purpose well enough, but they, should always have rough board-seats. For sick and wounded men, box-cars filled with straw or bushes were usually employed. Personally, I saw but little of the practical working of the railroads, for I only turned back once as far as Resaca; but I had daily reports from the engineer in charge, and officers who came from the rear often explained to me the whole thing, with a description of the wrecked trains all the way from Nashville to Atlanta. I am convinced that the risk to life to the engineers and men on that railroad fully equaled that on the skirmish-line, called for as high an order of courage, and fully equaled it in importance. Still, I doubt if there be any necessity in time of peace to organize a corps specially to work the military railroads in time of war, because in peace these same men gain all the necessary experience, possess all the daring and courage of soldiers, and only need the occasional protection and assistance of the necessary train-guard, which may be composed of the furloughed men coming and going, or of details made from the local garrisons to the rear.

For the transfer of large armies by rail, from one theatre of action to another by the rear--the cases of the transfer of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps--General Hooker, twenty-three thousand men--from the East to Chattanooga, eleven hundred and ninety-two miles in seven days, in the fall of 1863; and that of the Army of the Ohio--General Schofield, fifteen thousand men--from the valley of the Tennessee to Washington, fourteen hundred miles in eleven days, en route to North Carolina in January, 1865, are the best examples of which I have any knowledge, and reference to these is made in the report of the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, dated November 22, 1865.

One other point worth noting. In describing his operations at Goldsboro, NC,  Sherman compared the capacity of a train on the tidewater to the mountainous of Georgia.

 I returned to Goldsboro' from Newbern by rail the evening of March 30th, and at once addressed myself to the task of reorganization and replenishment of stores, so as to be ready to march by April 10th, the day agreed on with General Grant. ... The railroads to our rear had also been repaired, so that stores were arriving very fast, both from Morehead City and Wilmington. The country was so level that a single locomotive could haul twenty-five and thirty cars to a train, instead of only ten, as was the case in Tennessee and Upper Georgia.
Work is continuing on the Aquia line too. Over the past three weeks I have been making wire armature trees. These are quite time consuming to make. I'll do a post about them later when I have them installed.

May 24, 2012

Destroying Railroads



Michigan engineers destroying track in Atlanta using the
Haupt's hooks and levers. This photo also
shows a nice close up of the turnout frog.
As I am finishing up reading Sherman's memoirs I am struck by how much importance he attached to  destroying the southern railroad network. Thomas discusses this in his book and I mentioned this in an earlier post.  

I find it interesting and somewhat contradictory that he was able to take his army of 60,000 men across Georgia without any railroad link to the rear with a primary objective to destroy railroads and other industrial capacity of his opponent. 

This ability to break the connection with his own rails to his supply sources was because his march was really a giant raid. (The military defines a raid as an operation to or mission with a specific purpose but not intended to capture and hold terrain.) His army was able to forage easily on the previously undisturbed countryside of Georgia.

The first night out we camped by the road-side near Lithonia. Stone Mountain, a mass of granite, was in plain view, cut out in clear outline against the blue sky; the whole horizon was lurid with the bonfires of rail-ties, and groups of men all night were carrying the heated rails to the nearest trees, and bending them around the trunks. Colonel Poe had provided tools for ripping up the rails and twisting them when hot; but the best and easiest way is the one I have described, of heating the middle of the iron-rails on bonfires made of the cross-ties, and then winding them around a telegraph-pole or the trunk of some convenient sapling. I attached much importance to this destruction of the railroad, gave it my own personal attention, and made reiterated orders to others on the subject.
Nevertheless, once his army reached the sea, he reestablished supply lines with the north mostly relying on ships though he also rebuilt some of the rail lines in South and North Carolina. I don't think a comparable march could have been made in Northern Virginia in 1864 as the countryside would not support the forage needs of the army.   

In observing previous raids by both Union and Confederate cavalry, Sherman was unimpressed by the damage they did and with the ease at which both sides could repair them.  He came to believe that to really destroy a railroad required the dedicated effort of a large body of infantry supported by pioneers. These pioneers would use the hooks and levers developed by Haupt.

This next passage describes how effective the hooks and levers were in wrecking a railroad. He contradicts his earlier passage by saying the hooks were more effective than heating and bending around a tree - the so called, "Sherman's Neck Ties."

I have been so busy lately that I have not yet made my official report, and I think I had better wait until I get my subordinate reports before attempting it, as I am anxious to explain clearly not only the reasons for every step, but the amount of execution done, and this I cannot do until I get the subordinate reports; for we marched the whole distance in four or more columns, and, of course, I could only be present with one, and generally that one engaged in destroying railroads. This work of destruction was performed better than usual, because I had an engineer-regiment, provided with claws to twist the bars after being heated. Such bars can never be used again, and the only way in which a railroad line can be reconstructed across Georgia is, to make a new road from Fairburn Station (twenty-four miles southwest of Atlanta) to Madison, a distance of one hundred miles; and, before that can be done, I propose to be on the road from Augusta to Charleston, which is a continuation of the same. 
While most civil war campaigns were fought within 20 miles of a rail  or river line, some of the most memorable campaigns, such as Sherman's March to the sea, Grant's Vicksburg Campaign and Lee's two invasions of the north were conducted for long periods without rail or riverine logistics support. In all these cases the armies were marching across relatively unspoiled terrain that allowed for foraging.




These active scenes of destruction are largely absent from my railroad as I model a line when it was competently rebuilt and under heavy service. Instead I show the aftermath of destruction and the quickly rebuilt nature of the line. Nonetheless,  I think the destruction of a piece of railroad would make a good subject for a diorama.




Union soldiers burning water tanks and their pump houses at Jarret's Station south of
Richmond. This is not on Sherman's march, but it is one of the only views of a railroad water pump house I
 have been able to find.

May 16, 2012

Logistics and Railroads in Sherman's Atlanta Campaign

In reading Gen W. T. Sherman's Memoirs I came across this discussion of the role of railroads and logistics planning for the 1864 Campaign for Atlanta. There is much information in here that an ACW model railroader would find interesting, particularly the discussion of foreign road cars in use by the USMRR.

The great question of the campaign was one of supplies. Nashville, our chief depot, was itself partially in a hostile country, and even the routes of supply from Louisville to Nashville by rail, and by way of the Cumberland River, had to be guarded. Chattanooga (our starting-point) was one hundred and thirty-six miles in front of Nashville, and every foot of the way, especially the many bridges, trestles, and culverts, had to be strongly guarded against the acts of a local hostile population and of the enemy's cavalry. Then, of course, as we advanced into Georgia, it was manifest that we should have to repair the railroad, use it, and guard it likewise: General Thomas's army was much the largest of the three, was best provided, and contained the best corps of engineers, railroad managers, and repair parties, as well as the best body of spies and provost-marshals. On him we were therefore compelled in a great measure to rely for these most useful branches of service. He had so long exercised absolute command and control over the railroads in his department, that the other armies were jealous, and these thought the Army of the Cumberland got the lion's share of the supplies and other advantages of the railroads. I found a good deal of feeling in the Army of the Tennessee on this score, and therefore took supreme control of the roads myself, placed all the army commanders on an equal footing, and gave to each the same control, so far as orders of transportation for men and stores were concerned. Thomas's spies brought him frequent and accurate reports of Jos. E. Johnston's army at Dalton, giving its strength anywhere between forty and fifty thousand men, and these were being reenforced by troops from Mississippi, and by the Georgia militia, under General G. W. Smith. General Johnston seemed to be acting purely on the defensive, so that we had time and leisure to take all our measures deliberately and fully. I fixed the date of May 1st, when all things should be in readiness for the grand forward movement, and then returned to Nashville; General Schofield going back to Knoxville, and McPherson to Huntsville, Thomas remaining at Chattanooga.
On the 2d of April, at Nashville, I wrote to General Grant, then at Washington, reporting to him the results of my visit to the several armies, and asked his consent to the several changes proposed, which was promptly given by telegraph. I then addressed myself specially to the troublesome question of transportation and supplies. I found the capacity of the railroads from Nashville forward to Decatur, and to Chattanooga, so small, especially in the number of locomotives and care, that it was clear that they were barely able to supply the daily wants of the armies then dependent on them, with no power of accumulating a surplus in advance. The cars were daily loaded down with men returning from furlough, with cattle, horses, etc.; and, by reason of the previous desolation of the country between Chattanooga and Knoxville, General Thomas had authorized the issue of provisions to the suffering inhabitants.
We could not attempt an advance into Georgia without food, ammunition, etc.; and ordinary prudence dictated that we should have an accumulation at the front, in case of interruption to the railway by the act of the enemy, or by common accident. Accordingly, on the 6th of April, I issued a general order, limiting the use of the railroad-cars to transporting only the essential articles of food, ammunition, and supplies for the army proper, forbidding any further issues to citizens, and cutting off all civil traffic; requiring the commanders of posts within thirty miles of Nashville to haul out their own stores in wagons; requiring all troops destined for the front to march, and all beef-cattle to be driven on their own legs. This was a great help, but of course it naturally raised a howl. Some of the poor Union people of East Tennessee appealed to President Lincoln, whose kind heart responded promptly to their request. He telegraphed me to know if I could not modify or repeal my orders; but I answered him that a great campaign was impending, on which the fate of the nation hung; that our railroads had but a limited capacity, and could not provide for the necessities of the army and of the people too; that one or the other must quit, and we could not until the army of Jos. Johnston was conquered, etc., etc. Mr. Lincoln seemed to acquiesce, and I advised the people to obtain and drive out cattle from Kentucky, and to haul out their supplies by the wagon-road from the same quarter, by way of Cumberland Gap. By these changes we nearly or quite doubled our daily accumulation of stores at the front, and yet even this was not found enough.
I accordingly called together in Nashville the master of transportation, Colonel Anderson, the chief quartermaster, General J. L. Donaldson, and the chief commissary, General Amos Beckwith, for conference. I assumed the strength of the army to move from Chattanooga into Georgia at one hundred thousand men, and the number of animals to be fed, both for cavalry and draught, at thirty-five thousand; then, allowing for occasional wrecks of trains, which were very common, and for the interruption of the road itself by guerrillas and regular raids, we estimated it would require one hundred and thirty cars, of ten tons each, to reach Chattanooga daily, to be reasonably certain of an adequate supply. Even with this calculation, we could not afford to bring forward hay for the horses and mules, nor more than five pounds of oats or corn per day for each animal. I was willing to risk the question of forage in part, because I expected to find wheat and corn fields, and a good deal of grass, as we advanced into Georgia at that season of the year. The problem then was to deliver at Chattanooga and beyond one hundred and thirty car-loads daily, leaving the beef-cattle to be driven on the hoof, and all the troops in excess of the usual train-guards to march by the ordinary roads. Colonel Anderson promptly explained that he did not possess cars or locomotives enough to do this work. I then instructed and authorized him to hold on to all trains that arrived at Nashville from Louisville, and to allow none to go back until he had secured enough to fill the requirements of our problem. At the time he only had about sixty serviceable locomotives, and about six hundred cars of all kinds, and he represented that to provide for all contingencies he must have at least one hundred locomotives and one thousand cars. As soon as Mr. Guthrie, the President of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, detected that we were holding on to all his locomotives and cars, he wrote me, earnestly remonstrating against it, saying that he would not be able with diminished stock to bring forward the necessary stores from Louisville to Nashville. I wrote to him, frankly telling him exactly how we were placed, appealed to his patriotism to stand by us, and advised him in like manner to hold on to all trains coming into Jeffersonville, Indiana. He and General Robert Allen, then quartermaster-general at Louisville, arranged a ferry-boat so as to transfer the trains over the Ohio River from Jeffersonville, and in a short time we had cars and locomotives from almost every road at the North; months afterward I was amused to see, away down in Georgia, cars marked "Pittsburg & Fort Wayne," "Delaware & Lackawanna," "Baltimore & Ohio," and indeed with the names of almost every railroad north of the Ohio River. How these railroad companies ever recovered their property, or settled their transportation accounts, I have never heard, but to this fact, as much as to any other single fact, I attribute the perfect success which afterward attended our campaigns; and I have always felt grateful to Mr. Guthrie, of Louisville, who had sense enough and patriotism enough to subordinate the interests of his railroad company to the cause of his country.



May 11, 2012

Potomac Creek Plus





Remember when this scene looked like this?

May 7, 2012

Spin casting

Vulcanizer, melting pot and spin caster set up in my shop
First rubber mold



(For some unknown reason Google has been deleting images from my blog. I do not know why this is happening. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Last year I ordered a spin casting set-up from Conley Casting Supply, in Warwick, RI. It took several months for the machines and supplies to be delivered. Then I had to make some master parts to try to cast, which required a new Sherline lathe and drill press. Last weekend I finally got it all going making my first mold and cast parts.

The mold process went well. The silicone rubber cures at 300 degrees, so it is possible to use acrylic masters.

I made three types of cannon barrels: 12 pound Napoleon, 3 inch Rifle, and a 10 pound Parrot rifle, a set of cannon wheels and stanchions for my model of the Ironclad Passaic. I added some of my PRR signal targets as I am out of stock of my brass ones.  I also put some out of production parts from other manufacturers in the mold to see how they worked out. These were wooden barrels, a switch stand and a figure.

Once I had the rubber cured, I inspected the mold and removed the masters.  I had a little rubber stick to the hub area of the wheels, but otherwise it worked great. I made a mistake and forgot to insert the center plug for the pour hole when I set up the mold. That was a minor problem that I corrected by cutting the pour hole. However, it did leave the mold thinner and therefore weaker and the rough bottom of the cut out area created some turbulence that affected the mold filling.

Then came the tricky part of cutting gates and vents. I tried cutting the gates on the bottom and the vents on top, but that was much harder than I expected as I inadvertently ended up with some gates crossing over vents,

Next I melted some pewter. I loaded the mold in the spin caster and poured the metal. At first only one cannon barrel filled. So I cut some more gates and kept pouring. As the mold warmed up, I got better yield. I also increased the spin speed. After about 30 pours I have the parts in the photo above. The pour hole of the mold started breaking up and the fill rate was not as good, so I may need to retire this mold.

Overall there was almost no flash and the the shrinkage was negligible. There was some squash distortion.  I never did get the PRR signals to fill properly. The parts are just too thin. But everything else worked pretty well.  The cannons had the best yield. They had direct gates. The side loading gates did not fill as well.

All in all a good first test. The cannons will be an Alkem Scale Models product. As no one currently makes true 1/48th scale ACW field artillery. The chassis will be laser cut wood with separately applied detail parts.  Here is a photo of a pilot model gun in a revetment at Potomac Creek. I still need to do some tweaking of the details.