The real gap between the two railroad systems.

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
"A feature commonly found in general history books on the American Civil War is a set of statistics comparing the resources of North and South at the time of secession. Although such statistics may vary from source to source, they invariably show that the North enjoyed major advantages in terms of population, industrial capacity, wealth, and railroads. A careless reader might infer from these statistics that the Confederate States of America was doomed and the outcome of the Civil War decided before the first shot was fired. Even the more prudent reader might assume that these resource disparities were causal factors in the Confederacy's defeat. However, such assumptions overlook the fact that the war lasted four bloody years, and ultimately approximated the modern notion of "total" war. If the Confederacy's resource disadvantages were truly as debilitating as the statistics suggest, the war should have ended much earlier than it did."

I've attached the U.S. Army War College instructor's paper from which the quote came. A very interesting read to anyone interested.
it doesn't mean any particular outcome was inevitable. There were plenty of companies that resented the US making war on their former customers. Similarly there were many shipping companies that did want the cotton trade disrupted, or the Atlantic shipping traffic transferred to iron hulled British built ships. It does imply that if the federal government and the Republican party demonstrated it could win the war, the railroad companies, their employees and vendors, would throw in behind the US, and the war would end soon and in complete military victory. That is what happened beginning in September of 1863.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
it doesn't mean any particular outcome was inevitable. There were plenty of companies that resented the US making war on their former customers. Similarly there were many shipping companies that did want the cotton trade disrupted, or the Atlantic shipping traffic transferred to iron hulled British built ships. It does imply that if the federal government and the Republican party demonstrated it could win the war, the railroad companies, their employees and vendors, would throw in behind the US, and the war would end soon and in complete military victory. That is what happened beginning in September of 1863.

I'm sorry, this post doesn't make any sense to me. Who wanted the Atlantic shipping trade transferred to British built ships? American companies, or British companies?

FWIW, the U.S. merchant fleet was pretty well destroyed by Confederate Commerce Raiders, Semmes, Maffitt, etc. Survivors re-flagged their ships in Britain to take advantage of neutrality at sea.

The second largest battle of the War was at Chickamauga, Georgia in the latter half of September 1863 and was a Confederate victory. You're saying this demonstrated to railroad companies the War would end soon and they should throw their support behind the North?

Again, I'm sorry, but I'm not tracking the reasoning behind any of this.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
FWIW, the U.S. merchant fleet was pretty well destroyed by Confederate Commerce Raiders, Semmes, Maffitt, etc. Survivors re-flagged their ships in Britain to take advantage of neutrality at sea.
It fell from about 2.5 million tons to 1.5 million tons. That is a 40% reduction.
Huge yes, but a merchant fleet of 1.5 million tons is hardly destroyed.
Also about 75% of the lost tonnage was ships sold. Not destroyed.

The biggest effect of the merchant raiders, was not the ships they destroyed, but the much higher cost in insurance.

By 1870 the tonnage was up to 2.6 milllion tons again.
The real drop came the next 30 years. Where the fleet was down to abut 800.000 tons by 1900.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The British already had an advantage in shipping by 1860. If the railroad economy grew, railroads, the cities they serviced, and the industries that supported the railroads would bid for all the investment capital and hold a vast amount of political power. The traditional power of east coast shipping would disappear.
The US steamship and steamboat industry was in decline as soon as the California Gold Rush ended. The success of the Panama railroad also decreased the demand for service around the Horn of South America.
Chickamauga? Give me a break. Unlike Lee in Pennsylvania, Rosecrans only retreated to the Tennessee/Georgia border. In 5 weeks it was clear that the Confederates could not expel what had become Thomas' army from Chattanooga. In another 30 days it was the US that expelled the Confederates from Chattanooga.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It fell from about 2.5 million tons to 1.5 million tons. That is a 40% reduction.
Huge yes, but a merchant fleet of 1.5 million tons is hardly destroyed.
Also about 75% of the lost tonnage was ships sold. Not destroyed.

The biggest effect of the merchant raiders, was not the ships they destroyed, but the much higher cost in insurance.

By 1870 the tonnage was up to 2.6 milllion tons again.
The real drop came the next 30 years. Where the fleet was down to abut 800.000 tons by 1900.
Why buy a risky ship that will become obsolete in 10 years when the alternative is a city bond, or a bond from a railroad that links two fast growing cities?
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The gap was very large before the Civil War began. At the conclusion of the Civil War the US was not about to subsidize railroad redevelopment in the Confederate section of the country ahead of the enormous subsidies to the railroads linking the states in the west and Pacific coast that had remained loyal.
@DaveBrt asserts that the lines, rails and engines left behind by the US army were cheap and expendable. That made the gap even greater. Being locked out of the US railroad industry for 4 years, and not having a revenue base to finance railroad reconstruction was a disaster for the southern areas.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Was it possible for the confederates or later during reconstruction to sell southern railroads to the British as a way to bring in capital investment. The British were heavily invested in Argentine rail system at one point.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
It fell from about 2.5 million tons to 1.5 million tons. That is a 40% reduction.
Huge yes, but a merchant fleet of 1.5 million tons is hardly destroyed.
Also about 75% of the lost tonnage was ships sold. Not destroyed.

The biggest effect of the merchant raiders, was not the ships they destroyed, but the much higher cost in insurance.

By 1870 the tonnage was up to 2.6 milllion tons again.
The real drop came the next 30 years. Where the fleet was down to abut 800.000 tons by 1900.

Well OK, I'm not at home and can't look up the actual figures, so this will have to stand, for now.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Some of the railroads were private companies. But in many Midwestern and western states, there was no careful distinction between private and public interests in developing railroads. In Pennsylvania, the railroads were nearly state enterprises.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The war gets to September 1863 and the man running the railroad system in the west is Daniel McCallum, a civilian railroad man with a temporary army rank. The private railroad executive officers run the transfer of Howard's and Slocum's divisions to the west, not army officers.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Was it possible for the confederates or later during reconstruction to sell southern railroads to the British as a way to bring in capital investment. The British were heavily invested in Argentine rail system at one point.
After the war, the U. S. had use for the roads, and held them possibly as an indemnity for debt. They would not sell to the British, their rivals on the world market. During the war, the confederates would have had to bargain with future profits, which was not a good investment at the time.
Lubliner.
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Some of the railroads were private companies. But in many Midwestern and western states, there was no careful distinction between private and public interests in developing railroads. In Pennsylvania, the railroads were nearly state enterprises.
In the South, all the railroads were private companies, except for the Western & Atlantic RR (Atlanta to Chattanooga) which was owned and run as a branch of the Georgia government.

Many of the Southern railroads had been built with state grant money (usually a certain number of dollars per mile, to be paid when the bed was ready for the iron and the money to be spent for the rail only) or state loans (secured by bonds or shares of the railroad, to be returned to the railroad when the loan was paid off). This use of loans secured by stock produced the habit of requiring a certain number of the directors be appointed by the governor. These directors appear to have rarely been involved in the railroad's affairs, usually just watching out for the state's interests at the annual meetings.

The loans and state directors gave the appearance to the North that many of the roads were state owned. This fiction of state ownership was used by at least one North Carolina road against the Confederate government to prevent the impressment of its rails and rolling stock.
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
The war gets to September 1863 and the man running the railroad system in the west is Daniel McCallum, a civilian railroad man with a temporary army rank. The private railroad executive officers run the transfer of Howard's and Slocum's divisions to the west, not army officers.
Likewise, the Confederacy used railroad men to ensure the government got what it needed from the railroads. All three of the heads of the Railroad Bureau were railroad men -- one was President of the Wilmington & Weldon RR and had a politician's background, the next was a railroad president and builder for his whole life, and the last had been in the administration of the Central (of Georgia) RR and owner and editor of a Savannah newspaper.

The next level down in the Confederate organization -- the men who actually did the work -- were railroad men anywhere from engineer/mechanic up to Superintendent of the Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville and Presidents of the Atlantic & North Carolina RR and of the Memphis & Charleston RR.

The Confederacy controlled their railroads by indirect methods -- withholding details of needed skilled workers, withholding iron production for wheels and other items, setting the rates of reimbursement for services, and by having Quartermasters or Transportation Agents at important points working to ensure that the government freight got top priority in space allocation.

With only a few exceptions, the railroads were always run by their own employees and officers. Even in the exceptions (East Tennessee & Virginia RR and Charlotte & South Carolina RR), the roads hired the government men to run their operations for a period of time.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It fell from about 2.5 million tons to 1.5 million tons. That is a 40% reduction.
Huge yes, but a merchant fleet of 1.5 million tons is hardly destroyed.
Also about 75% of the lost tonnage was ships sold. Not destroyed.

The biggest effect of the merchant raiders, was not the ships they destroyed, but the much higher cost in insurance.

By 1870 the tonnage was up to 2.6 milllion tons again.
The real drop came the next 30 years. Where the fleet was down to abut 800.000 tons by 1900.
You are exactly correct. It wasn’t the physical damage done to the US flagged vessels by the Southern commerce raiders, it was insurance rates that drove owners to reflag them.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Most Southern RR’s were 25-50 miles long. They were, by design, not connected to other RR lines. There were also deliberately incompatible gages. That meant that freight had to be transferred from one terminus to another & reloaded in a laborious, time consuming fashion. What small capacity the many short lines possessed was committed to what we would recognize as regularly scheduled commuter service. None of the short lines had the facilities to upgrade maintenance due to the increased demand of wartime traffic. Numerous Southern RR’s ceased operations for lack of maintenance of equipment or track.

An example that had real world impact was the “Goat Road” that ran from Cowan TN to the coal mines atop the Highland Plateau. That short line RR had specially engineered engines that could handle the steep climb up Monteagle Mountain. The coal the mountain engines hauled filled the tenders of N&CRR engines going between Nashville & Chattanooga. In June 1863, those engines had been out of service for many weeks. That had a direct impact on Bragg’s ability to supply his army. It also affected the lift capacity of the RR during his retreat to Chattanooga.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Likewise, the Confederacy used railroad men to ensure the government got what it needed from the railroads. All three of the heads of the Railroad Bureau were railroad men -- one was President of the Wilmington & Weldon RR and had a politician's background, the next was a railroad president and builder for his whole life, and the last had been in the administration of the Central (of Georgia) RR and owner and editor of a Savannah newspaper.

The next level down in the Confederate organization -- the men who actually did the work -- were railroad men anywhere from engineer/mechanic up to Superintendent of the Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville and Presidents of the Atlantic & North Carolina RR and of the Memphis & Charleston RR.

The Confederacy controlled their railroads by indirect methods -- withholding details of needed skilled workers, withholding iron production for wheels and other items, setting the rates of reimbursement for services, and by having Quartermasters or Transportation Agents at important points working to ensure that the government freight got top priority in space allocation.

With only a few exceptions, the railroads were always run by their own employees and officers. Even in the exceptions (East Tennessee & Virginia RR and Charlotte & South Carolina RR), the roads hired the government men to run their operations for a period of time.
Both sides found out that they needed an entire additional army to run the railroad system. The work was very labor intensive and dangerous without the risks of war. Each railroad industry had its own command systems, and the companies competed for workers and managers, just like the army commanders competed for resources.
I think they were was a heavy drift of free white men northward, to where the companies were bigger, the pay was better, and the draft sat more lightly on the white population. It did not matter in the first 20 months of the war, but after March of 1863 it began to matter as engines and track began to depreciate.
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Most Southern RR’s were 25-50 miles long. They were, by design, not connected to other RR lines. There were also deliberately incompatible gages. That meant that freight had to be transferred from one terminus to another & reloaded in a laborious, time consuming fashion. What small capacity the many short lines possessed was committed to what we would recognize as regularly scheduled commuter service. None of the short lines had the facilities to upgrade maintenance due to the increased demand of wartime traffic. Numerous Southern RR’s ceased operations for lack of maintenance of equipment or track.

An example that had real world impact was the “Goat Road” that ran from Cowan TN to the coal mines atop the Highland Plateau. That short line RR had specially engineered engines that could handle the steep climb up Monteagle Mountain. The coal the mountain engines hauled filled the tenders of N&CRR engines going between Nashville & Chattanooga. In June 1863, those engines had been out of service for many weeks. That had a direct impact on Bragg’s ability to supply his army. It also affected the lift capacity of the RR during his retreat to Chattanooga.
Almost all the railroads that mattered were in the 75 to 150 mile range. The very short roads (Clinton & Port Gibson, Blue Ridge, etc) rarely connected to the main lines or were leased or operated by the main lines.

The gauge issue won't die!!! There was only one outlier, the Montgomery & West Point RR deliberately used a different gauge from those it connected to. The only other gauge issue was between the two large blocks of roads -- one of narrow gauge and one of broad gauge (as they called them). This issue was no different that any other gauge question throughout the world -- there were reasons for starting with one gauge and usually the roads stayed with that gauge (and influenced new construction that would interact with the existing road to use that same gauge) until later than our period.

Connection between the 2 blocks of roads caused breaking bulk at Charlotte, Wilmington, Lynchburg, Petersburg, and Richmond --the interface between the Virginia/North Carolina block and the rest of the South.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Both sides found out that they needed an entire additional army to run the railroad system. The work was very labor intensive and dangerous without the risks of war. Each railroad industry had its own command systems, and the companies competed for workers and managers, just like the army commanders competed for resources.
I think they were was a heavy drift of free white men northward, to where the companies were bigger, the pay was better, and the draft sat more lightly on the white population. It did not matter in the first 20 months of the war, but after March of 1863 it began to matter as engines and track began to depreciate.
The rail road regiments in the Army of the Cumberland have been the subject of numerous books & articles. It makes for amusing reading because both the engineering/construction & operating personnel made it very clear that they did not put up with army protocols.

As I write this at the end of March 2021, weekend severe weather washed out roads & killed four people in Nashville TN. RR’s tracks in Middle TN during the 1860’s were constantly being washed out. Bridges & culverts over wide swaths of territory could all be destroyed in a single intense storm event.

The Union response to the threat weather events posed to the free flow of traffic on the RR’s was robust in the extreme. During the winter & spring of 1862, Bragg abandoned his rail link to his base in Northern Alabama. While mountains of freight rolled down the L&NRR, Bragg wore out his animals & wagons in a vain attempt to supply his army.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The rail road regiments in the Army of the Cumberland have been the subject of numerous books & articles. It makes for amusing reading because both the engineering/construction & operating personnel made it very clear that they did not put up with army protocols.

As I write this at the end of March 2021, weekend severe weather washed out roads & killed four people in Nashville TN. RR’s tracks in Middle TN during the 1860’s were constantly being washed out. Bridges & culverts over wide swaths of territory could all be destroyed in a single intense storm event.

The Union response to the threat weather events posed to the free flow of traffic on the RR’s was robust in the extreme. During the winter & spring of 1862, Bragg abandoned his rail link to his base in Northern Alabama. While mountains of freight rolled down the L&NRR, Bragg wore out his animals & wagons in a vain attempt to supply his army.
Almost all the railroads that mattered were in the 75 to 150 mile range. The very short roads (Clinton & Port Gibson, Blue Ridge, etc) rarely connected to the main lines or were leased or operated by the main lines.

The gauge issue won't die!!! There was only one outlier, the Montgomery & West Point RR deliberately used a different gauge from those it connected to. The only other gauge issue was between the two large blocks of roads -- one of narrow gauge and one of broad gauge (as they called them). This issue was no different that any other gauge question throughout the world -- there were reasons for starting with one gauge and usually the roads stayed with that gauge (and influenced new construction that would interact with the existing road to use that same gauge) until later than our period.

Connection between the 2 blocks of roads caused breaking bulk at Charlotte, Wilmington, Lynchburg, Petersburg, and Richmond --the interface between the Virginia/North Carolina block and the rest of the South.
Railroads in that era were not built to connect. Even roads of similar gauge did always connect. The railroads were just beginning to learn that lower costs and better service produced by cooperation meant more revenue for all the companies. The process had already advanced in the telegraph industry, as Western Union was monopolizing most of the main connections.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Almost all the railroads that mattered were in the 75 to 150 mile range. The very short roads (Clinton & Port Gibson, Blue Ridge, etc) rarely connected to the main lines or were leased or operated by the main lines.

The gauge issue won't die!!! There was only one outlier, the Montgomery & West Point RR deliberately used a different gauge from those it connected to. The only other gauge issue was between the two large blocks of roads -- one of narrow gauge and one of broad gauge (as they called them). This issue was no different that any other gauge question throughout the world -- there were reasons for starting with one gauge and usually the roads stayed with that gauge (and influenced new construction that would interact with the existing road to use that same gauge) until later than our period.

Connection between the 2 blocks of roads caused breaking bulk at Charlotte, Wilmington, Lynchburg, Petersburg, and Richmond --the interface between the Virginia/North Carolina block and the rest of the South.
I suppose “matter” is in the eye of the beholder. The short lines were the farm to market feeder lines that brought goods to the longer haul lines that connected to Atlanta & other nodes. When they stopped running or the animals needed for transfer were requisitioned, food rotted for lack of transportation. The same thing happened when short lines were connected to long lines. Their rolling stock was commandeered effectively ending their operation.

The taxes in kind of corn & etc that CSA commissary officers gathered were left to spoil because of the lack of capacity on short lines.
 
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