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.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

December 28, 2010

Two Interesting Letters from J. B.Clough and W. W. Wright

One of the great things about publishing this blog is the feedback I get from the readers. A few weeks ago I was delighted to receive a email from Jim Clough. His great-great grandfather was J. B. Clough,  Chief Engineer of the USMRR railroads in Virginia. He was the engineer responsible for the USMRR A&F line in the period I am modeling. I was unaware of J. B. Clough until his descendent Jim Clough brought him to my attention.

After a quick search, I found that there are many letters from J. B. Clough in the National Archives. Most were written to Ada Anderson, his friend and boss in Alexandria. I posted some of J. B. Clough's letters earlier.

Here is another very interesting letter written after the battle of Chancellorsville. I transcribed this letter below. Underlined portions are words I can not make out for certain.

Aquia Creek  May 10, 1863
A.    Anderson, Chief Engr.
I have just returned from Falmouth. I find the Army substantially in the same position it was before the fight commenced – and one would hardly know there had been a great battle except that the boys are now wide awake they don’t own they are whiped (sic). I have been about among the camps and stayed last night with a Battery that was in the thickest of the fight. They are all ready to move again. I think it will be ten days before a move is made.
I think I can put in a Y a little below Falmouth siding. I will put the instruments on to it tomorrow. I think I would be wise to move the oxen back to their old quarters. Sigger lending send as usual. Please answer by telegraph if this meets your wishes. Mr Franklin says Mr Wright was for using our timber. I take it that the timber is to remain where it is.
J.B. Clough

Three things are of interest to me in the letter. First, Mr Clough reports that the Army is is good spirits after the brutal battle and ready to move out. Second, in preparation for the assumed continued move south, he suggests that they put a "Y" in at Falmouth. Third, the issue of the oxen pops up again at the end of the letter.

Jim Clough wrote to me the following note about a letter JB Clough wrote to his wife on the same day,

I can add a bit as he (Joel B Clough)  wrote to his wife on May 10, 1863.   The battery he stayed with was 1st NY Artillery where a family friend Lester Richardson was assigned.    Lester had written Joel when Joel was at Potomac Creek. Since the 1st NY Artillery was stationed close to that location they got together there several  times during that period.    Joel said in the letter that two were killed and eleven wounded from Lester's Battery during the battle.

The fact about the "Y" is very important, as it tells me that there was no "Y" there before the battle, which is the period I am modeling. The idea of improving the facility at Falmouth implies that the Army intended to stay there and perhaps launch a second offensive. This was made moot by R.E. Lee's decision to advance to Gettysburg.

Sixty-foot Shad Belly Bridge at
Alexandria Shops
In a note related to the continued Union offensive, I found in the records from the Alexandria Railroad Wharf that on May 2, the USMRR shipped 12 pairs of prefabricated shad belly trusses on railroad barge number 6 towed by the steam tug "Kirkman." These bridges were to be used in the rebuilding of the RF&P south of Fredericksburg. I had read in a secondary source that USMRR had shipped these prefabricated bridges, but this confirms it. From a modeling perspective this is exciting, because a flat car loaded with a prefabricated bridge will make a very interesting model.

This letter is from W. W. Wright to Ada Anderson details a request for a flag and flag pole for the USMRR. According to the letter, the men of the USMRR were motivated to buy and display a flag after President Lincoln's visit to Aquia Creek in April, 1863. But this will be no ordinary flag. Wright calls or a thirty-foot flag on a 100- foot tall, two stage mast. That would be over two feet tall in O scale. I did not see this flag pole in any photos, so it is possible it did not get built. But for now I plan to add a 100 foot flag pole to the scene at Aquia Landing.

Note that President Lincoln visited Aquia Creek on three occasions November 26-27, 1862, April 4-7, and May 6-7, 1863. It was the November 1862 visit that inspired the "cornstalks and bean pole" comment.

It is the fascinating history involving people like Lincoln, Haupt, Anderson, Clough and Wright, and even Hooker and R. E. Lee, that make this such an attractive railroad for me to model.

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