The real gap between the two railroad systems.

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
A few years ago, I came across one of John Keegan's books about the CW. One chapter in particular intrigued me. I discussed the South's RR's. There was a map that at a single glance explained the South's deficiency. What we would think of as a simple route from a to b was anything but.

When Longstreet was dispatched to reinforce Bragg, you would assume a simple direct route due south to Augusta Ga then straight over to Atlanta and finally straight up to Chattanooga. There were gaps which would have necessitated detraining and marching to pick up the rail again. At least some of the troops and equipment would have swung all the way to Charleston on the coast. Not to mention that due to the differences in track gauges, even if there was rail coming into and out of a given town necessitating completely unloading and reloading all the men and supplies.
You are right. Another choke point was the increased loss of draft animals to the army. The drayage needed to haul trainloads of supplies from one side of town to the other was in critical decline. No wagons & miles, no rail road.
 

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.
Gauge could be changed. And was changed, when the labor force was available. What was possible for the Kentucky railroads utilized by the US Army was difficult or impossible for the Confederate system. Again, its a labor force issue. The US had a larger industrial work force to begin with. It had women workers in light industry, more immigrants by 1863 and larger numbers of freedmen and freed women, filling in thousands of support positions in the US economy.
 

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.
This is McCallum's description of the Nashville rail yard:
1620827716177.png

https://books.google.com/books?id=4...llum United States Military Railroads&f=false p.19
By 1864 Andrew Johnson must have looked a genius in Nashville. The city had to have been flush with railroad money and military money. There was everything from warehouses, to theaters and even legalized prostitution. Store owners and banks had to be making money under those circumstances.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
As I read through McCallum's end of war report, it becomes obvious that Andrew Johnson had become a very important figure by October 1863. He remained loyal to the US and unlike Sam Houston, Johnson was not isolated among secessionists. Nashville was Johnson's capital and railroad money was pouring into Nashville. Knoxville was Johnson's political home, as well as the birthplace of David Farragut. Once Burnside got as far as Knoxville, Burnside's reputation was restored. Anything that would have released Bragg from Chattanooga and allowed him to swallow up Burnside's force was not going to be allowed to stand. Whether Rosecrans ever intended to evacuate Chattanooga, any loose talk of that nature was fuel that Dana could use to undermine General Rosecrans.
The entire logistical system in Kentucky and Tennessee was being redesigned to make it an important theater, second only to Virginia.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
As I read through McCallum's end of war report, it becomes obvious that Andrew Johnson had become a very important figure by October 1863. He remained loyal to the US and unlike Sam Houston, Johnson was not isolated among secessionists. Nashville was Johnson's capital and railroad money was pouring into Nashville. Knoxville was Johnson's political home, as well as the birthplace of David Farragut. Once Burnside got as far as Knoxville, Burnside's reputation was restored. Anything that would have released Bragg from Chattanooga and allowed him to swallow up Burnside's force was not going to be allowed to stand. Whether Rosecrans ever intended to evacuate Chattanooga, any loose talk of that nature was fuel that Dana could use to undermine General Rosecrans.
The entire logistical system in Kentucky and Tennessee was being redesigned to make it an important theater, second only to Virginia.
I haven’t read anything in Dana’s reports about an evacuation plan. It is hard to imagine what such a plan would have amounted to
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I haven’t read anything in Dana’s reports about an evacuation plan. It is hard to imagine what such a plan would have amounted to
It is difficult to believe it could have been anything other than an offhand remark. But then Joe Hooker was in the theater and Hooker would not have been pleased with what he saw the westerners had to put up with in terms of logistical support, compared to the way things were back east. Rosecrans' problems escalated once Hooker got to Bridgeport, while General Hooker was waiting for his livestock and wagons.
If Hooker said anything it might have along the lines of: you call this a railroad?
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It is difficult to believe it could have been anything other than an offhand remark. But then Joe Hooker was in the theater and Hooker would not have been pleased with what he saw the westerners had to put up with in terms of logistical support, compared to the way things were back east. Rosecrans problems escalated once Hooker got to Bridgeport, while General Hooker was waiting for his livestock and wagons.
If Hooker said anything it might have along the lines of: you call this a railroad?
Everybody said that. The Sanitary Commission communications a filled with vivid descriptions of what a ramshackle outfit the N&CRR was. When the president of the RR fled south in his private car there were 1,300 broken rails on the line. The light British rails used by the N&C couldn’t handle the early wartime traffic.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Everybody said that. The Sanitary Commission communications a filled with vivid descriptions of what a ramshackle outfit the N&CRR was. When the president of the RR fled south in his private car there were 1,300 broken rails on the line. The light British rails used by the N&C couldn’t handle the early wartime traffic.
Its hard to know what transpired. But Hooker and the easterners had to be vividly aware of the difference between the Ohio and Indiana roads and the Tennessee Road.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Richmond was not Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York or Boston.
...or...

03 / Brooklyn / New York / 266,661 (not counted as part of NYC in those days)
06 / New Orleans / Louisiana / 168,675
07 / Cincinnati / Ohio / 161,044
08 / St. Louis / Missouri / 160,773
09 / Chicago / Illinois / 112,172
10 / Buffalo / New York / 81,129
11 / Newark / New Jersey / 71,941
12 / Louisville / Kentucky / 68,033
13 / Albany / New York / 62,367
14 / Washington / District of Columbia / 61,122
15 / San Francisco / California / 56,802
16 / Providence / Rhode Island / 50,666
17 / Pittsburgh / Pennsylvania / 49,221
18 / Rochester / New York / 48,204
19 / Detroit / Michigan / 45,619
20 / Milwaukee / Wisconsin / 45,246
21 / Cleveland / Ohio / 43,417
22 / Charleston / South Carolina / 40,522
23 / New Haven / Connecticut / 39,267
24 / Troy / New York / 39,235

...all having a larger population than Richmond according to the 1860 census...

25 / Richmond / Virginia / 37,910

So Richmond had the transportation that her 38,000 needed and could support. Given the circumstances under which that number exploded, there was no way to create a more robust system...or keeping the one she had at peak performance levels.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 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.

Sir, Possibly - but their big competitor was a gent named JP Morgan who cobbled a bunch of lines together after the war, got the financing for refurbishment, and put them on a path of sustained profitability. He also had Euro investors. So if you are a British investor, do you try to take control yourself or spread your eggs into many baskets and let JP do the heavy lifting?

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 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.

Sir, to enact these measures the Confederacy would have had to have a powerful, national government that could override the individual and state protectionisms in the furtherance of the national good. Unfortunately for the CSA, that would have been a '...bridge too far...'

As you said, 'ideological reasons'

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
The railroad system in the northern states of the United States at the start of the US Civil War was the largest railroad system in the world. Because of its shear size, the railroad system supported its own iron makers, and 3 major locomotive manufacturers.
Although the commonly stated ratio of US mileage to Confederate mileage is 9:21, or 3:7, the actual difference was much greater.
The northern states had 5 times the locomotives of the Confederacy:
Compared to the Union the Confederacy had one-third of the freight cars, one fifth of the locomotives, one eighth of rail production, one tenth of the telegraph stations and one twenty fourth of locomotive production. These numbers have led some to say the Confederate rail system was inferior to that of the Union.
https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/a-railroad-war.html
In fact, the US system was five times the size of the Confederate system in terms of traffic. The process of using telegraph communication to run busier and tighter schedules, was already started in the northern states. Similarly as early as 1848 the railroads in the north began to study ways to improve service by cooperating.
How could the northern railroads run so many trains?
Large sections of right of way were double tracked.
View attachment 395612
https://www.jstor.org/stable/1888813?seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
As General Omar Bradley is famously said to have said: "Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics."
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Sir, Possibly - but their big competitor was a gent named JP Morgan who cobbled a bunch of lines together after the war, got the financing for refurbishment, and put them on a path of sustained profitability. He also had Euro investors. So if you are a British investor, do you try to take control yourself or spread your eggs into many baskets and let JP do the heavy lifting?

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
The British essentially owned the Southern rail system already. Rail construction in the US was heavily financed by British banks. The US did not have enough iron production to supply the industrial expansion & build rail roads. For example, the Nashville & Chattanooga RR had been built with British rails. RR engines were imported from G.B. as well.

The British had been implacable foes of slavery for generations. It was the enormous sums owed by Southern rail roads to British banks that motivated the otherwise inexplicable efforts by elements of the upper class to recognize a slaveocracy; something that would have been abhorrent under ordinary circumstances. They didn’t give a fig about the CSA, they just wanted their money back.

Following the money almost always leads to the correct source.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
...or...

03 / Brooklyn / New York / 266,661 (not counted as part of NYC in those days)
06 / New Orleans / Louisiana / 168,675
07 / Cincinnati / Ohio / 161,044
08 / St. Louis / Missouri / 160,773
09 / Chicago / Illinois / 112,172
10 / Buffalo / New York / 81,129
11 / Newark / New Jersey / 71,941
12 / Louisville / Kentucky / 68,033
13 / Albany / New York / 62,367
14 / Washington / District of Columbia / 61,122
15 / San Francisco / California / 56,802
16 / Providence / Rhode Island / 50,666
17 / Pittsburgh / Pennsylvania / 49,221
18 / Rochester / New York / 48,204
19 / Detroit / Michigan / 45,619
20 / Milwaukee / Wisconsin / 45,246
21 / Cleveland / Ohio / 43,417
22 / Charleston / South Carolina / 40,522
23 / New Haven / Connecticut / 39,267
24 / Troy / New York / 39,235

...all having a larger population than Richmond according to the 1860 census...

25 / Richmond / Virginia / 37,910

So Richmond had the transportation that her 38,000 needed and could support. Given the circumstances under which that number exploded, there was no way to create a more robust system...or keeping the one she had at peak performance levels.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Gavin Wright explained why railroads changed politics in the US. The northern states became like a giant real estate concern. Farm land and town development became a central issue to both financial people and the ordinary developer and farmer. Towns and cities were springing up all over the northern states and politicians were investing in the town real estate, just like everyone else. Railroads were the tool that linked these towns together and made the real estate valuable.
The northern states wanted the fastest national growth possible. That growth was based on both domestic and international immigration. Both types of immigrants were interested in moving to paid labor states and territories. They were generally discouraged from moving to areas that permitted coerced labor. Under these circumstances abolitionist rhetoric gained much additional support.
But in the southern states, a large fraction of wealth was owing slaves and the future production potential of the slave population.
The powerful people in the south wanted which ever mode of western expansion was going to protect the future of slavery, and expectations about the future of slavery. The powerful people knew that in a world in which Great Britain, the British Empire, and the northern US had moved on to wage labor, and succeeded, slavery was an anachronism. If that perception became widespread, there would be sell off and the price bubble on slave labor would collapse.
Without railroads the southern areas would never had to have faced this conflict or would have prevailed politically when they did face it. But in the northern areas, the railroads, the commercial interests, the ordinary town developers and even the farmers, wanted their real estate to increase in value as fast as possible. That meant slavery should be confined to the southern areas, and the political power of the slave owners should be limited to what they had in 1850.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Sir, to enact these measures the Confederacy would have had to have a powerful, national government that could override the individual and state protectionisms in the furtherance of the national good. Unfortunately for the CSA, that would have been a '...bridge too far...'

As you said, 'ideological reasons'

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
During the Civil War the men running state governments were using state rights' principals to circumvent the central government. North Carolina ran its own blockade runner operation, and Texas was semi-independent for much of the war.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
The US did not have enough iron production to supply the industrial expansion & build rail roads.

Antebellum Rail production

Mill / Location / Annual capacity in tons

Montour / Danville PA / 13,000
Rough and Ready / Danville PA / 4,000
Lackawanna / Scranton PA / 16,000
Phoenix / Phoenixville PA / 20,000
Safe Harbor / Safe Harbor PA / 15,000
Pottsville Iron Works / Pottsville PA / 3,000
Trenton Iron Works / Trenton NJ / 15,000
Massachusetts Iron Works / Boston, Mass / 15,000
Mount Savage / Mount Savage MD / 12,000
Great Western Iron Works / Brady's Bend PA / 12,000
New Works / Pittsburgh PA / 5,000
Washington Rolling Mill / Wheeling VA / 5,000
Crescent Iron Works / Wheeling VA / 5,000
New Mill / Portsmouth OH / 5,000
Cambria Iron Works / Cambria PA / 5,000

And in the South...

Tredegar / Richmond VA / 5,000

British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production / % of US production

1853 / 410 / 88 / 465%
1854 / 337 / 108 / 312%
1855 / 195 / 139 / 140%
1856 / 165 / 180 / 92%
1857 / 156 / 162 / 96%
1858 / 30 / 164 / 18%
1859 / 125 / 195 / 64%
1860 / 138 / 205 / 67%
1861 / 28 / 190 / 15%

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692 / 73%

British imports to America drastically increased after the 1840s boom of UK building peaked. Brit manufactures had excess capacity and an overseas market that couldn't get enough.

Source - British Investment in American Railways 1834-1898 by Dorothy R. Adler. A book recommended to me by @DaveBrt

While reading American Railroads and the Transformation of the Ante-bellum Economy by Albert Fishlow, came across an interesting stat. After the 1840s boom of British building, UK manufactures had excess capacity and looked to the export market to for relief. "Assessed value per ton fell from $51.01 in 1847 to $26.32 in 1850." Source in the book noted as - 'American Railroad Journal, XXIX (1856) 490'

Imports of railroad products was very important to American lines. Germany (Krupp) also exported a tremendous amount of supplies to the US. In 1851, one of Krupp's most profitable products (because of exports to the US) was their seamless railway tyres - which is the symbol of the company.

Source - The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War by William Manchester

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
The British essentially owned the Southern rail system already. Rail construction in the US was heavily financed by British banks. The US did not have enough iron production to supply the industrial expansion & build rail roads. For example, the Nashville & Chattanooga RR had been built with British rails. RR engines were imported from G.B. as well.

The British had been implacable foes of slavery for generations. It was the enormous sums owed by Southern rail roads to British banks that motivated the otherwise inexplicable efforts by elements of the upper class to recognize a slaveocracy; something that would have been abhorrent under ordinary circumstances. They didn’t give a fig about the CSA, they just wanted their money back.

Following the money almost always leads to the correct source.
This is a very misleading post.

Southern railroads were built by using local slave labor in place of cash, by sale of shares of stock, and by the sale of bonds. Many annual reports list the share holders and the number of their shares -- they are almost all locals and interested local governments (cities and counties) and benefiting local railroads.

State governments supported railroad construction by land grants and monetary payments for the completion of sections of track (usually for 25-mile increments). States also use hypothication to provide money -- the state would give the RR state bonds for the RR to sell (at par) after giving company bonds to the state as collateral. The RR paid the state interest on the RR bonds and then redeemed them when they matured. Some of these state bonds were sold by the RRs in Europe. After the war, both state and railroad men went to Europe and got their creditors to hold their bonds to maturity.

During the 1850's, railroads were very opinionated regarding where to get their rails -- in the North or in Wales. Pricing, quality and availability were all important in the purchase decisions.

The last British locomotive that I see in the war-time lists was received in America about 1847. British locomotives were not suitable to the American railroads and were completely run out of the market by US manufacturers.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This is a very misleading post.

Southern railroads were built by using local slave labor in place of cash, by sale of shares of stock, and by the sale of bonds. Many annual reports list the share holders and the number of their shares -- they are almost all locals and interested local governments (cities and counties) and benefiting local railroads.

State governments supported railroad construction by land grants and monetary payments for the completion of sections of track (usually for 25-mile increments). States also use hypothication to provide money -- the state would give the RR state bonds for the RR to sell (at par) after giving company bonds to the state as collateral. The RR paid the state interest on the RR bonds and then redeemed them when they matured. Some of these state bonds were sold by the RRs in Europe. After the war, both state and railroad men went to Europe and got their creditors to hold their bonds to maturity.

During the 1850's, railroads were very opinionated regarding where to get their rails -- in the North or in Wales. Pricing, quality and availability were all important in the purchase decisions.

The last British locomotive that I see in the war-time lists was received in America about 1847. British locomotives were not suitable to the American railroads and were completely run out of the market by US manufacturers.
That is not the conclusions of the papers I read. I am not conversant enough with the subject to argue the details. The information I have on British banks financing Southern RR’s comes from sources I trust. Finance really isn’t my thing, so will leave it at that.

The purchase of lightweight British rails for the N&CRR is fully documented & had dire consequences during the Civil War. That is what happened.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Antebellum Rail production

Mill / Location / Annual capacity in tons

Montour / Danville PA / 13,000
Rough and Ready / Danville PA / 4,000
Lackawanna / Scranton PA / 16,000
Phoenix / Phoenixville PA / 20,000
Safe Harbor / Safe Harbor PA / 15,000
Pottsville Iron Works / Pottsville PA / 3,000
Trenton Iron Works / Trenton NJ / 15,000
Massachusetts Iron Works / Boston, Mass / 15,000
Mount Savage / Mount Savage MD / 12,000
Great Western Iron Works / Brady's Bend PA / 12,000
New Works / Pittsburgh PA / 5,000
Washington Rolling Mill / Wheeling VA / 5,000
Crescent Iron Works / Wheeling VA / 5,000
New Mill / Portsmouth OH / 5,000
Cambria Iron Works / Cambria PA / 5,000

And in the South...

Tredegar / Richmond VA / 5,000

British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production / % of US production

1853 / 410 / 88 / 465%
1854 / 337 / 108 / 312%
1855 / 195 / 139 / 140%
1856 / 165 / 180 / 92%
1857 / 156 / 162 / 96%
1858 / 30 / 164 / 18%
1859 / 125 / 195 / 64%
1860 / 138 / 205 / 67%
1861 / 28 / 190 / 15%

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692 / 73%

British imports to America drastically increased after the 1840s boom of UK building peaked. Brit manufactures had excess capacity and an overseas market that couldn't get enough.

Source - British Investment in American Railways 1834-1898 by Dorothy R. Adler. A book recommended to me by @DaveBrt

While reading American Railroads and the Transformation of the Ante-bellum Economy by Albert Fishlow, came across an interesting stat. After the 1840s boom of British building, UK manufactures had excess capacity and looked to the export market to for relief. "Assessed value per ton fell from $51.01 in 1847 to $26.32 in 1850." Source in the book noted as - 'American Railroad Journal, XXIX (1856) 490'

Imports of railroad products was very important to American lines. Germany (Krupp) also exported a tremendous amount of supplies to the US. In 1851, one of Krupp's most profitable products (because of exports to the US) was their seamless railway tyres - which is the symbol of the company.

Source - The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War by William Manchester

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
But was that the result of free trade, or oligopolistic behavior by the British producers dumping product on the US market at the producers' marginal cost in order to drive the US producers out of business? They called it free trade, but how much of it was rent seeking behavior?
 
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