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Civil War Train Wrecks

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by whitworth, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. whitworth

    whitworth Sergeant Major

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    I was researching a particular train wreck during the Civil War and found this site.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rail_accidents_(before_1900)#1863
    List of rail accidents (before 1900)

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    September 3, 1861 – Platte Bridge Railroad Tragedy, Missouri, United States; between 17 and 20 killed after bushwhacker sabotage of bridge supports.

    February 19, 1863 – Chunky Creek Train Wreck of 1863; A Mississippi Southern train headed for the battlefield at Vicksburg, where the Confederate forces are in desperate need of reinforcements in the defense of the city against the assault of Sherman and the Union Army, derails on a damaged bridge and falls into an icy creek. At least 40 passengers killed, others drowned, some rescued from the water by soldiers of the First Battalion of Choctaw Indians, stationed nearby

    July 15, 1864 – The Shohola train wreck kills over 60 people in a head-on collision between a coal train and a train carrying Confederate prisoners-of-war.

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  3. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    Some boggies from the Shohola wreck still lay at the bottom of the ravine where the train fell. There was a thread that discussed this wreck in great detail. Should have been archived.

    The victims were buried at Elmira along with their PoW comrades. A stone memorial stands above their gravesite.
  4. 1SGDan

    1SGDan 1st Lieutenant

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    Cpt James Sligh of the 1st Michigan engineers was so badly hurt in a train wreck at Tullahoma Tn on Oct 23, 1863 that he later died (Nov 15, 1863). Cause of the wreck was attributed to enemy activity.
  5. civilwartalk

    civilwartalk Lieutenant General Owner & Webmaster

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  6. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Oh, I thought Whitworth was talking about Davis and the government again.

    :O o:

    Never mind. Ding dong. Ding dong.
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  7. rhp6033

    rhp6033 First Sergeant

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    I'd be surprised if there weren't a fair number of train wrecks during that era. The state of metalurgy and manufacturing during that era meant that the amount of repeated stress a particular steam engine and it's undercarriage could take was the subject of considerable speculation. Steam boiler explosions - on ships and locomotives - weren't that uncommon. Heck, even the sinking of the USS Maine in Havanna harbor, several decades later, was probably caused by a boiler explosion than a Spanish mine or torpedo. So even in peacetime you would have quite a number of accidents caused by either boiler explosions, undercarriage failures, braking failures, or track failures. (No, I don't have any statistics of peacetime railroad accidents nearby, it WOULD be interesting to do a comparison).

    Add to the normal peactime dangers the increased dangers caused by the war: a mulitiplication of train traffic along existing tracks, enemy "wrecking", deferred maintenance (especially in the South), tired and over-worked workers from engineers to telegraph operators, as well as attempts to keep some military traffic "secret" or frequently changing schedules to confuse the enemy (and incidently, sometimes your own side), and you have the proverbial "accident waiting to happen".

    (I was at an industry conference last month were a speaker had an animated presentation showing how an increase in production results in quality rejections at a much greater pace than the increase in production rate might indicate, so I guess I'm a bit fixated on the issue right now).
  8. Miles Krisman

    Miles Krisman Private

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    There was also a train wreck in April 1862, of a Confederate troop train carrying the men of the 6th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

    "As the crowded train upon which I sat rushed under a full head of steam down grade on this single track, it was met by another trtain of empty cars flying with great speed in the opposite direction. The crash of the fearful collision and its harrowing results are indescribable. Nearly every car on the densely packed train was telescoped and torn in pieces; and men, knapsacks, arms, and shivered seats were hurled to the front and piled in horrid mass against the crushed timbers and ironwork. Many were killed, many maimed for life, and the marvel is that any escaped unhurt."

    Source: "Reminiscences of the Civil War" by General John B. Gordon, page 52
  9. Mosin

    Mosin Sergeant Civil War Photo Contest
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    One of the more publicized incidents of a steamship boiler explosion was the SS Sultana shortly after the war.
    To say this ship was overcrowded is a major undestatement. With a capacity of some 400 people, on the night of the explosion it was carrying well over 2,000. These men were on there way home from Confederate prison camps.
    Total deaths, from initial explosion and then later on from drowning, hypothermia and burns are estimated at 1,700.
    I find this incident particularly tragic. The men had went of to war, were at some point taken prisoner and sent off to camps for the duration of the war. Surviving Andersonville and Cahaba prison camps, these men were finally going home to see their families. For many onboad this would be their last night.
  10. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVI/1 [S# 22]
    SEPTEMBER 14-17, 1862.--Siege of Munfordville and Woodsonville, Ky.
    No. 2.--Report of Col. Cyrus L. Dunham, Fiftieth Indiana Infantry.
    LOUISVILLE, KY., September 30, 1862.
    SIR: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to an order from Major-General Gilbert, I, on the 13th instant, at 11 p.m., left the depot of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad with six companies of the Fiftieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers and one company (K) of the Seventy-eighth Indiana (attached to the Fiftieth, for duty), in all 446 strong, rank and file, for Green River, near Munfordville, to re-enforce Colonel Wilder in the defense of that point. The train ran very slowly until some distance below Elizabethtown, when I went forward and earnestly urged the engineer to greater speed,, assuring him that it was all-im-portant for us to reach Green River before daylight. He did increase the speed as far as safety would permit. Just below Bacon Creek, about 7 miles from Green River, the train stopped for wood. I immediately passed along the cars, aroused the men, and bade them stand by their arms in readiness for any emergency, as we were approaching dangerous ground. I took position on the engine, and the train moved cautiously forward. We had proceeded about a mile when we ran upon a portion of the track which had been undermined by the enemy, and slid to one side in such a manner as not to make the injury apparent to the engineer or myself. The train was thrown off, and several of the cars completely wrecked; yet, strange to say, not a man or a horse was seriously injured. The men seemed inspired with even greater confidence, as if feeling themselves under the especial protection of all overruling Providence. They were immediately formed in line of battle, an instantaneous attack being expected. The woods, which skirted the sides of the road were promptly reconnoitered. No enemy appearing, the regiment was put in rapid march for Munfordville, presuming that the road had been destroyed to prevent re-enforcements from reaching that place. We had not proceeded far before cannonading was heard in that direction. It had now become daylight, and the men deposited their knapsacks and blankets in a thicket by the road-side and moved on rapidly. We soon met crowds of frightened and fleeing citizens, from whom no satisfactory information could be got of the situation of affairs at or of the forces investing our works. When within 3 or 4 miles of the place we were met by an intelligent citizen of my acquaintance, who informed me that a cavalry force of the enemy, at least 2,000 strong, and a battery of artillery were posted some distance this side of the river and covering the road approaching our works, which were upon the south bank; that guns were also so planted upon both banks of the river as to cover the bridges, and that he deemed it impossible for us to pass them and get in. But, nothing daunted, our little force made a detour to the right, and, by keeping under the cover of the woods and corn fields and down ravines, eluded the enemy, and reached the river just below the bridges and opposite our works. Here a momentary halt was made, under the cover of the woods, to close up the column and give the men a little rest. They then plunged into and forded the river at the double-quick between the two bridges, the first notice the enemy having of our approach being the hearty cheers of our beleaguered troops in the works. Fortunately for us the guns of the enemy upon the northern bank bearing upon the crossing had just before, by a well-directed fire from our own, under Lieutenant Mason, been silenced, and from those upon the southern side he had only time to throw a shell or two at our rear as it disappeared under cover of the bank, resulting only in slightly wounding one man. His cavalry came dashing down upon us in an attempt to cut us off, but only in time to be as hastily driven back by our little band, who promptly turned and fired upon them.

    We found the engagement still progressing. By General Gilbert's written order the command was to go according to seniority, and I being the senior officer, Colonel Wilder promptly tendered me the command, but I as promptly refused to assume it, feeling that to do so during the progress of the engagement would be ungenerous in me and unjust to him, but I placed myself and my forces under his command. He has reported the proceedings of that day.

    On Monday, the 15th, I assumed command. The enemy had under cover of the night withdrawn from before us, the infantry and artillery to Cave City and the cavalry up the river. Work upon the intrenchments was at once resumed and pushed forward with vigor that day, the night following, and in fact throughout all the affair of Tuesday. Wagons were sent to the wrecked train for the provisions upon it, and steps successfully taken, by the aid of Mr. William Gibson, a patriotic Union citizen of Munfordville, of whom I cannot speak in too high praise, to bring in the ammunition which had been upon it, but which the loyal men of the neighborhood had carried to the wood and concealed. Efforts were also made to repair the telegraph line. Messengers were sent to different points northward to communicate to the headquarters in this city our situation, inform them that we expected a renewal of the attack by a largely increased force, and ask re-enforcements. Messengers, with a like object, I was informed, had been sent by Colonel Wilder to Bowling Green. I regarded the place as of great importance to the Government and made every effort to save it. Monday night re-enforcements, under command of Colonel Owen, Sixtieth Indiana, were received from Lebanon Junction, consisting of a part of the Sixtieth Indiana, 420 men, including one company (I) of the Twenty-eighth Kentucky, Lieutenant Conaway, which had been attached to it for duty; a part of the Sixty-eighth Indiana, Colonel King, 570 men, and six pieces of the First Ohio Artillery, 150 men, Captain Konkle in command.

    [extensive excerpt]
    Our loss, 1 officer (Lieutenant Burton) and 6 privates wounded (one private mortally and Lieutenant Burton dangerously, a musket-ball passing through both legs and shattering a bone of one). The enemy's loss was over 100, said to be 105.
    The forces under my command during this affair were those mentioned by Colonel Wilder in his report and the re-enforcements thereto hereinbefore noticed.
    I am, respectfully,
    C. L. DUNHHAM. Colonel,
    Commanding U.. S. Forces at Green River.
  11. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/3 [S# 45]
    Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, And Department Of The East, From June 3 To August 3, 1863.
    UNION CORRESPONDENCE. ETC.--#9
    MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MD.,
    June 19, 1863--9 a.m.
    Major-General SCHENCK, Baltimore, Md.:
    We have a heavy cavalry force in the vicinity of the wrecked train, and there should be no difficulty in removing it. The railroad agents should understand that the road and its agents must take some risks, and should at least evince as much enterprise as they seem to exact of us. All these trains could have gotten off safely, but they divided the risk, and lost one out of three.
    DAN. TYLER,
    Brigadier-General.
    ------------
    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/3 [S# 56]
    UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN KENTUCKY, SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, MISSISSIPPI, NORTH ALABAMA, AND NORTH GEORGIA, FROM OCTOBER 20, 1863, TO DECEMBER 31, 1863.--#4
    NASHVILLE, November 8, 1863.
    Maj. Gen. U. S. GRANT:
    I will manage to send a train from here this p.m., to run to Decherd and start from there to-morrow a.m. for Fayetteville. It would not be safe to run over the road for the first time at night. The track is in bad order and covered with grass so that an engine would have great difficulty in getting along. There is no water or wood station between Decherd and Fayetteville. I would have sent the train from here last night, so that it would have started from Decherd this a.m., but we had no engine and the track was blocked up by a wrecked train just north of Christiana. Answer if the above-mentioned arrangement will answer.
    FRANK THOMSON,
    Superintendent.
    -----
    O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXXIX/2 [S# 79]
    UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN KENTUCKY, SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, AND NORTH GEORGIA (THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN EXCEPTED), FROM OCTOBER 1, 1864, TO NOVEMBER 13, 1864.(*)--#30
    THOMPSON'S STATION, November 10, 1864.
    Brigadier-General REILLY,
    Commanding First Brigade, Spring Hill:
    SIR: The command was delayed in getting forward as I expected by a wrecked train near here. Henderson and Casement are now camped here, and will probably have to remain till some wagons come down from Nashville. If you are short of rations telegraph immediately to Captain Hentig, care of Colonel Treat, Nashville, Saint Cloud Hotel, telling him by my order to send supplies by train. I expect the road to be clear to you this evening, and will move my headquarters down in the morning so as to be near the telegraph. Let me know how you are situated.
    Yours, &c.,
    J. D. COX,
    Brigadier-General, Commanding.
    ----------
  12. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    OFFICE CHIEF ENGINEER AND GENERAL SUPT.
    MILITARY RAILROADS OF VIRGINIA,
    Alexandria, Va., July 1, 1865.
    Brig. Gen. D.C. MCCALLUM,
    Director and General Manager
    Military Railroads United States, Washington, D.C.:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to submit a report of operations in the U.S. Military Railroad service, Department of Virginia, from July 1, 1864, to June 30, 1865. My superintendency of this department did not commence until November 11, but to render this a complete record of main events, I commence with the fiscal year, July 1, 1864.
    [extensive excerpt]
    CAR REPAIRS.
    The work accomplished in the car repair department has been large and thorough. Mr. Herrick perfected a wrecking car which enabled him to clear and pick up a wrecked train very speedily. This train has picked up 530 wrecked freight-cars and 16 wrecked engines since January 1, 1865, and brought them to Nashville for repairs. During the remainder of the fiscal year nearly as many more were also saved. During the same period this train has picked up and brought in from trains destroyed by fire, 294 car-loads of wheels, axles, bridge irons and railroad iron along the lines of road centering in Nashville. Most of these wrecks were caused by guerrillas placing obstructions upon the track or displacing rails. The car department has worked an average force of nearly 800 men per month during the year. This force, in addition to the buildings erected and completed during the fiscal year before described, have repaired and rebuilt during the last six months of the year at Nashville, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Stevenson, Johnsonville, and Clarksville, 13,429 cars, and during the first six months more than half as many more, making a total of 20,000 cars repaired, rebuilt, and fitted for hospital and troop cars during the year. The amount of material cast in the iron and brass foundry during the last six months of the year was 1,053,945 pounds iron castings, 46,139 pounds brass castings, making an average per month of 175,000 pounds of iron and 7,500 pounds of brass castings. This is too large an average for the whole fiscal year, though it is believed that 225,000 pounds of iron and 10,000 pounds of brass castings per month will not be too large. It is impossible to condense and specify the amount of work done upon the long lines of roads centering in Nashville so as to show what has actually been done. The emergencies of military service have often allowed no time for proper orders of transportation of troops, stores, refugees, prisoners, &c., to be issued, so that many hundred trains have been run and many thousands of troops and refugees carried for which we have no credit. The work has been done in the midst of war, running through a country filled with enemies, so that the ordinary risks of railroad management have been enormously increased and the expenses largely extended. But in the midst of all this danger the coolness, bravery, and daring of the men in every department, from the highest official to the humblest laborers, have been worthy of praise. At the close of this fiscal year it gives me great pleasure to state that throughout the whole length of the lines of military railroads controlled and operated by me there is every facility to perform well and efficiently every duty that may be required. The roads are in first-rate order, the bridges for the most part are permanent structures of the best description, and the water stations in perfect order. The amount of rolling-stock is sufficient for all work required, and in good order. The machine-shops and repair-shops are as complete as could be desired.

    I cannot close this imperfect and desultory report without expressing my obligations to the following gentlemen for the zeal, fidelity, and intelligence with which they have co-operated with me on all occasions in their departments of duty: J. B. Van Dyne, assistant superintendent; George H. Hudson, superintendent; A. W. Dickerson, W. R. Gifford, A. J. Cheeney, W. W. Tuttle and A. Watts, in the freight department; Col. John C. Meginnis, general engineer district; Stephen Hobbs, engine dispatcher; J. W. Wallace, engine dispatcher; John Trenbath, auditor; George Herrick, superintendent car repairs; R. H. Nagle, master carpenter; H. Elliott, master machinist; Messrs. Hebard, Nash, Lyman, Caryl, Craig, Gardiner, Jones, Kingsley, and Jenkins, in the road repair and bridge repairs. With F. J. Crilly, the efficient and gentlemanly chief quartermaster of military railroads, my relations have been most pleasant, while the co-operation of Major-General Thomas, General Donaldson, and Capt. S. B. Brown has been always harmonious with the railroad authorities.
    All of which is respectfully submitted.
    W. J. STEVENS,
    Superintendent, &c.
    -----
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  13. frankconrad

    frankconrad Corporal

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    This report shows the Unions ability to retreave and repair that I believe the CSA didn't have
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  14. tmh10

    tmh10 Captain

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    Even more impressive as the CSA railroads ran in a different gage than the Northern rails if my information is correct.
  15. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    When Union forces overran parts of the CSA, they would reset the tracks to the standard gauge as part of the military railroad system, leaving the old CSA with a more efficient transportation system. During the retreat to Appomattox, April 3nd to 9th, about 70 miles of the Southside RR became "standardized".
  16. tmh10

    tmh10 Captain

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    Yes that is what I have been able to find out. Do you know if the Union RR men were able to adapt the CSA equipment to the standard gage?
  17. whitworth

    whitworth Sergeant Major

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    The discussion certainly has become far greater than the original post. And we certainly are no longer tied to the battle books of old(my choice of words), with so much access to information now on the internet.
    I was thinking, if only the confederate founding fathers had been able to see some of those letters on the military railroads, written late in the war, in 1860, they may have thought secession was not a very wise decision.

    But war has a way of speeding up technology. I was thinking of WWI. The first airplane was invented in the U.S., but in 1917, by the time the U.S. got into the war, all their military aircraft was obsolete. So far had airplane technology come.
    And the Civil War certainly made the use of railroad technology, the telegraph, the then modern logistics and its support, the use of which had not been seen before in war.
  18. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles First Sergeant Forum Host

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    While transcribing a list of Confederates buried at a Texas Hospital in Enterprise, MS, I found a note that several had died as a result of a train wreck.

    Five members of 19th S. Carolina were Killed or Mortally
    wounded at railroad accident at Enterprise on April 12, 1862.


    Here is my webpage of CSA dead.
    Reference Source: "Our Heritage", Vol 29, No. 3, April 1988

    Texas Confederate Cemetery in Enterprise, Mississippi


    Link: http://www.custermen.com/DixieBoys/TexasCemeteryA.htm

    I also recall some officer from a regiment of one of my ancestors dying in a train wreck at Duckhill, MS---I believe that was right. I'll see if I can locate that info.

    Steve
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  19. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Found one of my relatives on that site. Thanks!
  20. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    Both locomotive and steamboat boilers had a tendency to explode so many train wrecks were caused by his as well as ill-maintained tracks and roadbed.
  21. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles First Sergeant Forum Host

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    Cool, jets. That roster of deceased soldiers was found in a Texas genealogy periodical. I typed it up many years ago. This was a hospital that was established and run by a Texas organization so it was referred to as a Texas hospital. But it treated soldiers who were transferred out of Vicksburg battles.

    A neighbor of my wife had an original letter from their ancestor that was written at this hospital.

    Years after posting it, I found someone who showed me photos of a memorial to the soldiers buried there. Many have Unknown Soldier headstones but there are a few who have their names on the headstone. Check that out. Check out the photos on this site.

    http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc/enterprise.htm

    Steve

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