October 17, 2017

General Burnside and the Extra Train

Herman Haupt describes how he and the USMRR responded to General Burnside's request for a special train on the Aquia Line. This excerpt is from Haupt's memoirs.

Not with standing the assurances of General Burnside that the regular transportation should not be interfered with, he would frequently telegraph the Superintendent to hold a train for his accommodation, and then compel it to wait for several hours until he made his appearance. This caused an abandonment of the schedule, and threw all the trains into confusion. 
As a remedy, I ordered that an engine, under steam, should be kept constantly at Falmouth subject to the General's orders. On one occasion a train had become derailed, and the special engine had been sent to render assistance. While absent on this service and. impatient of delay, General Burnside walked down the road to meet it. As it was night, the engineer did not recognize him and passed him on the way, then returned, took him up and carried him to Aquia Creek.  
Upon entering the office in an irate mood, he demanded of the Superintendent why he had disobeyed his orders. Wright handed him my telegram, saying, "Here are my instructions," upon reading which, the General turned on his heel with the remark, "it is a nice condition of things if the General in command of an army can be snubbed by a brigadier." The General knew that the action was proper, and did not allude to it in any of our subsequent interviews. 
On receiving the report of the Superintendent concerning this incident, the following answer was returned : 
WASHINGTON, D. 0., January 24, 1863. 
Wm. W. Wright, Superintendent R.f F. & P. R. R.  
DEAR SIR: Your communication of yesterday enclosing fourteen telegrams on the subject of the delay of a special train ordered for the accommodation of General Burnside, was received by messenger today. You report the fact that when a special train is required at a particular hour, the party is not always, and not even generally, ready to use it at that hour; that in the case referred to the train was ordered at 9:30P.M., and the General did not arrive until 11:10 P. M. at the Falmouth depot; that an accident having occurred which blocked the road at Stoneman's, the engine of the special train was sent to clear it, and being away when General Burnside arrived, was the cause of much dissatisfaction.  
You ask for instructions to govern your action in future cases that may occur, and desire to be informed whether the track is to be kept clear for a special train and all other business suspended until it has passed. 
I answer unhesitatingly, no. The regular and most important duty of the railroads is to forward supplies to the army. To accomplish this, the most indispensable requisite is exact punctuality in running schedule trains. Every Superintendent knows this, but no one but the Superintendent of a Military Railroad can appreciate it to its full extent, or realize the difficulties which do not exist elsewhere. 
General Burnside is one of the most reasonable and practical men I have ever met, and he will not expect impossibilities. He does not, with the multiplicity of his own duties, understand yours. All you have to do is to conform to the established rules, furnish extras whenever General Burnside orders them, if it is in your power to do so, but extras must keep out of the way of schedule trains, unless the Commanding General expressly orders all other business which conflicts with the special to be stopped. If this is done, obey the order and straighten out the confusion which will ensue as soon as you can. The responsibility of failure elsewhere in consequence of it will not rest with you; you will have your record straight. 
Your action, as exhibited by the communication forwarded and accompanying telegrams, is approved. 
Yours respectfully, 
H. HAUPT, Chief of Construction and Transportation. 

I cannot find similar reference material for when General Hooker was in command, which is the time period I am modeling. So on the layout, we'll assign the Engine Osceola to this task. Every now and then, we will run it as an extra when the commander requests.

Another special event that we could model would be a visit from the President. It will be a fun op session when we run the POTUS train.

Events like these are some of the things that make modeling a civil war era military railroad so fascinating and dare I say, fun.


1 comment:

  1. Not sure if it matters, but Burnside was treasurer of the Illinois Central prior to the Civil War, so railroad operations and issues may not have been as completely unfamiliar to him as Haupt's note indicates. (Or perhaps Haupt meant "The general has other things to think about than your problems..."

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