The real gap between the two railroad systems.

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
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.
Most road were well aware of the advantages of connecting, BUT the owners of the roads lived in the towns where the roads did/not connect and had to be aware of the desires of their friends, neighbors and fellow stockholders to have the fire-breathing monsters kept out of town and to have the passenger and freight go through town. As the owners became separated from individual towns (ie as the roads consolidated and became much larger) it became easier to find ways to connect and ignore the townspeople's concerns.

Several examples of per-war connections are at Savannah, Columbia and Charleston. Other towns quickly allowed connections under the wartime needs -- Memphis, Petersburg and Richmond are examples.
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
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.
Tax in kind spoiled on the platforms of even large station on major lines because of the lack of rolling stock compared to the requirements. See http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Major_Smith's_Commissary_Reports.htm.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
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.
Its also untrue that the Confederacy did not have good RRs or did not make good use of them. The opposite is true. The Confederates generals demonstrated what could be achieved operationally with a little help from the railroads. What is true is that railroads and engines of that era were built to wear out. Technology was moving fast and maintenance and improvement were expected expenses.
It was after about 20 months that it became clear that one of the enormous advantages of Henry Clay's American system was the major producers were domestic and the economy could not be effectively blockaded.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Most road were well aware of the advantages of connecting, BUT the owners of the roads lived in the towns where the roads did/not connect and had to be aware of the desires of their friends, neighbors and fellow stockholders to have the fire-breathing monsters kept out of town and to have the passenger and freight go through town. As the owners became separated from individual towns (ie as the roads consolidated and became much larger) it became easier to find ways to connect and ignore the townspeople's concerns.

Several examples of per-war connections are at Savannah, Columbia and Charleston. Other towns quickly allowed connections under the wartime needs -- Memphis, Petersburg and Richmond are examples.
The union station movement seems to have started in Indianapolis in 1848. The railroads started to get the message as traffic picked up.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The difference in the two transportation sectors was much larger than stated in the ratio of track mileage. And it got more distorted as the Confederacy lost access to the navigable rivers and it could no longer import engines from New Jersey or from England. The imbalance grew as the war progressed, and in the recovery period, the northern railroads had the men and the money to catch up on maintenance. The Midwestern system grew dynamically and western railroads gained huge and corrupt subsidies. By the time the former Confederate states had recovered partially from the war, the imbalance was obvious. There was no movement to renew hostilities.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The railroad industry illustrates why more cotton exports by the Confederate states and more purchasing power in Europe would not have made much of a difference. The railroad equipment still would have to run the blockade and be distributed in the south. By June of 1862 the US blockade was good enough to keep all the ships big enough to carry such material out of the Confederate ports.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
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.

Insurance rates are determined by damage done. Again, I'm not home and can't look up the figures, but bottom line, Confederate Commerce Raiders chased the U.S. merchant fleet out of the Atlantic Ocean.

There's really no practical difference between a canon and an insurance underwriter's bill, based upon the former.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Insurance rates are determined by damage done. Again, I'm not home and can't look up the figures, but bottom line, Confederate Commerce Raiders chased the U.S. merchant fleet out of the Atlantic Ocean.

There's really no practical difference between a canon and an insurance underwriter's bill, based upon the former.
You are making a distinction without a difference. Ships were reflagged & went about their business. Pretty ironic since the CSA commerce raiders were, for all practical purposes, British.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Insurance rates are determined by damage done. Again, I'm not home and can't look up the figures, but bottom line, Confederate Commerce Raiders chased the U.S. merchant fleet out of the Atlantic Ocean.

There's really no practical difference between a canon and an insurance underwriter's bill, based upon the former.
Cool. Except US investors had a very attractive alternative and could invest in US bonds.
The faster steam ships, with iron hulls, could either take all the high end mail and passenger traffic, or haul bulk cargo back to Britain more efficiently, because they were bigger.
New York owners of the older steamships could sell out and invest in other options.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
And has little to do with railroads. The Confederacy had about 20 months to win, or the fact that their rail system did not have domestic vendors was going to start to pinch on their economy.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Early in the war the diversion of U. S. ships to guard merchant vessels had some effect, which continued until enough were built and bought to man the blockade and perform chase operations, without adverse consequence. All this took money beyond the insurer's pocket. So there was an economic ripple.
Lubliner.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, 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.
When I first came in to Chattanooga I was on foot. I came through the Ocoee into Benton, then to Athens, Decatur, Cottonport, Dayton, and through Sale Creek into Soddy-Daisy. While in Soddy, there was a huge gorge (North Chickamauga Creek) I wanted to explore to the west, and I ventured up that route for 5 or 6 days. Along the highway on the north side was a sign saying Monteagle, and it had a camping area or day park for hikers to proceed up that 'goat road' you mention (I think I am right). There was a working mine way up at the top as the road ascended. The problem was the creek bed was so much further down as a hiker progressed up that road, it became impossible to draw water from below. One had to carry their own. Unless I have this mixed up with Montlake, which is possible, but still the area sounds similar in detail. This was September and October of 1999.
Lubliner.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
There's really no practical difference between a canon and an insurance underwriter's bill, based upon the former.
There is a big difference.
A destroyed ship no longer exist. Fewer goods can be moves across the Atlantic.

A ship that transfer its flag to the UK because of insurance cost, can still move goods across the Atlantic and can after the war transfer its flag back.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The gap was very large. But the Confederate railroads were in good shape in '61 and '62. When Farragut returned to the Mississippi in 1863 and got the Hartford into the confluence of the Red with the Mississippi, the Confederacy lost communication with the western side of the Confederacy.
It was after that the strain on the Confederate railroads of having to support congregations of men, horses and mules, began to show.
The states of Virginia and North Carolina had good railroads at the start of the US Civil War. But there weren't built to support an industrial city the size of wartime Richmond, and the 60-80 thousand man army that was defending it. Richmond was not Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York or Boston. And Richmond did not have the domestic vendors to gear up for the wartime demands.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The critical factor was that Union RR capacity increased as the war went on & CSA RR assets went into steeper decline. The Nashville depot dispatched a train an hour 24/7 on the N&CRR. The repair shop in Chattanooga built new engines. Rolling stock from RR’s all over North East were used to support the Atlanta Campaign. Nothing like that happened on CSA RR’s.

In 1864, the US Army Quartermaster had 11,000 brown water & shallow draft vessels. It was the integration of the riverine, canal & rail assets that made the US logistical system work.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The critical factor was that Union RR capacity increased as the war went on & CSA RR assets went into steeper decline. The Nashville depot dispatched a train an hour 24/7 on the N&CRR. The repair shop in Chattanooga built new engines. Rolling stock from RR’s all over North East were used to support the Atlanta Campaign. Nothing like that happened on CSA RR’s.

In 1864, the US Army Quartermaster had 11,000 brown water & shallow draft vessels. It was the integration of the riverine, canal & rail assets that made the US logistical system work.
If the real gap is included in the story, then the course of the war after July 1863 is easier to explain. The Confederates could win tactically. First Bragg, then later Lee and even Forrest, achieved tactical victories which were costly to the US. However the Confederates losing strategically as one by one the engines went into the shop and could not be rebuilt, and the track wore out even where there was no military damage.
It would also explain why Atlanta, a relatively small railroad town in 1861, became so important. These railroad towns, with their machine shops and skilled mechanics were like locomotive garages. The railroads had to have them to operate. Losing them accelerated the decline of the Confederate logistical system.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
If a historian understood the imbalance in the systems, they would understand why the rails in Louisiana were picked up and shipped back to Marshall, TX, and why before Sherman headed east from Atlanta, the rails from the part of the USMRR that was not wanted, were picked up and shipped back to Tennessee. Railroad iron became a very important commodity in the south, because it could not pass through the external blockade and the US generals would not permit it to pass through the internal blockade.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There is a big difference.
A destroyed ship no longer exist. Fewer goods can be moves across the Atlantic.

A ship that transfer its flag to the UK because of insurance cost, can still move goods across the Atlantic and can after the war transfer its flag back.
A ship that is burned is an insurance claim. A ship that is sold becomes a deposit usually in a British bank, that can be converted to US currency and invested in war bonds.
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
It seems that the confederates for ideological reasons were tardy in taking the aggressive measures needed. Clearly there was a lack of manpower for building and rebuilding track which could have been remedied by the purchase of 40 or 50 thousand slaves by the war department. As for production Tredegar should have been contracted to focus on rail, engine production and Selma on heavy artillery.
Cotton and tobacco plantations had plenty of slaves that could have been purchased by forced sale at prices determined by the war department with payment via a six month bond.
 
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