A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
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December 22, 2010

Notes from Visit to National Archives, Dec 22, 2010

I am compiling my notes from a visit to the National Archives tonight. I did two pulls today. The first looked at the Provost Marshall records and telegrams from Aquia Landing. The second was for more documents from Record Group 92, the USMRR Operations in Virginia.

I. During the time I am modeling BG Patrick's Brigade served as the Provost Marshall at Aquia Landing. The Provost was quite busy at this time as most of the Army was in winter quarters and no fighting was going on. Most of the messages and letters I reviewed dealt with assigning and changing guard and fatigue (work) details. Without going through all the documents in detail, here are some common themes and nuggets of interesting information.

A. Deserters were using ships at Aquia Landing to escape the Army. The Provost was quite busy with catching, jailing and moving deserters.

B. One or more ships were used as a prison at Aquia Landing.

C. There were several messages from the Quartermaster to the Provost requesting more guards for the wharf and or debating the sufficiency of the guards assigned. The Quartermaster was frequently concerned with theft of government goods.

D. Controlling who could ride the railroads and steam ships was a topic of concern for the Provost and the Quartermaster. One letter from General Hooker, the Commander of the Army, detailed instructions for selling newspapers on the wharf, railroads and ships.

E. Several messages discussed the disposition and strength of troops assigned to guard the railroad stations and bridges. I made copies of two reports that detailed men, fortified works, cannon and other details of the security forces. I even found a small hand drawn map stuck in the messages showing the locations of redoubt defending Aquia landing. The report mentions that at least one gunboat was assigned to cover gaps in artillery coverage over a swampy area.

F.  A document titled, "Instructions for the Guidance of Officers at Aquia" included:
  1. How to handle discharged regiments
  2. Office on Duty to be present on arrival of boats
  3. Keeping the wharf clear
  4. Who is allowed on the wharf
  5. The roles of the mail agent
  6. The officer of the guard to examine all passes to Washington
  7. What passes are good
  8. Division and brigade passes
  9. Those without proper passes
  10. Respect to be paid to officers
  11. Have a patrol present before each train departs
  12. Keep Strict watch on laborers
  13. Instructions respecting lights
  14. Provost Marshall to have a guard
  15. Officers to set an example for men (w/re to appearance and conduct)
  16. Prisoners to report for police work (police means to pick up litter, nothing changes in the military!)
  17. Privies - the covers basic sanitation rules. Most waste to be dumped in the river at a particular spot.
  18. Disposal of offal of sutlers shops, kitchens and restaurants
      G.  I found the letter at the right from General Hooker to BG Patrick, Provost Marshall requesting that if possible separate quarters on ships and separate railroad cars be designated for use by officers.  Guards would be assigned to insure that enlisted men did not use these designated facilities.  It also states that  officers only had to show their passes to other commissioned officers. 

      H. There was a regular mail ship that ran to Washington. Only certain clerks and persons could ride this ship.

      II. Record Group 92 had documents more directly related to the railroad. One of the files had hundreds of letters to Ada Anderson, the USMRR Superintendent. It seems that W.W.Wright Aquia Creek Superintendent, and J.B. Clough, Chief Engineer, wrote a daily letter to Anderson. The subjects were somewhat dry and typically covered administrative subjects, request for supplies, pay, personnel issues and often discussions of chain of command disputes. J.B.Clough had several letters were he discussed the use of oxen. Apparently the oxen were in great demand and he expended a great deal of time tracking and managing the animals.  I only found one letter that mentioned engineering details of the Potomac Creek bridge. It discussed a design change in the arch size that required new and longer iron truss rods.

      Several of Clough's letters discussed plans for the bridge over the Rappahannock River, assuming that the Army would continue to move south. Overall I found Clough's handwriting hard to make out. 

      The file also contained several letters from Haupt and McCallum to Anderson. Here are examples asking Anderson for summary reports.

      Probably the most useful data I saw tonight was contained in the Report of Operations at Alexandria Rail Road Wharf. These monthly reports list a highly detailed day-by-day description of the traffic in and out of the wharf. These reports show that the car ferries to Aquia Landing usually ran down one day and returned the next. The barge and ferry names are listed as well as the road numbers of the cars transported.

      There are reports for  most months until the summer of 1865 (there are some gaps). They include traffic to City Point in 1864 and 1865 as well as Wilmington, NC in 1865. They show that car ferries did run from Alexandria to City Point during Grants siege. The sheet at the right is a good example of the type of information contained in these reports.

      Finally I copied some conductor reports for switching in the station at Washington DC.  Note the shorthand code for showing car type given on the bottom of the sheet. On the back of one of these sheets was a note describing how the train had killed a cow, but did not damage the equipment. I guess Washington, DC has changed quite a bit. I haven't seen too many cows downtown lately.

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