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"Civil War Logistics - A Study of Military Transportation " Topic


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496 hits since 28 Oct 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Trajanus29 Oct 2017 9:20 a.m. PST

Just had the new Earl J. Hess book (as above) delivered. Looks like it will be a good read for anyone looking for more than Battle & Campaign studies to round out their Civil War reading.

We often forget in our admiration of Generals and Military Glory that armies have to eat and need ammo. This book sets out to show how that stuff got there.

River, Rail, Costal shipping and Wagon Trains are all featured, along with the attempts made to stop them from working. Could be an interesting departure from reading about the exploits of some obscure unit out in the farside of nowhere!

Looking forward to a proper read.

Ryan T29 Oct 2017 9:47 a.m. PST

Thanks for this mention of Hess's new book. I have always been impressed with both the quality and quantity of his work. Good thing Christmas is coming. Now if he would only do a book on cavalry tactics.

14Bore29 Oct 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

For me logistics of armies is the hardest to get a grasp of. Miles of wagon trains, traffic jambs all moving at a snails pace compaired to today.

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

Great. Another thing to add to the book pile!

I will be purchasing it shortly.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 10:35 a.m. PST

"Logistics is the stuff that if you don't have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as."
- General Nathaniel Green, Quartermaster, American Revolutionary Army

Trajanus29 Oct 2017 11:47 a.m. PST

Now if he would only do a book on cavalry tactics.

LOL! Good one Ryan. Not if he has been reading our thread on on the matter, he'd be running in the other direction with justified concerns for his sanity! :o)

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 12:06 p.m. PST

Rail nets (good in N, poor in the S) another reason
CSA did not do well.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 12:40 p.m. PST

Amateurs study tactics

Professionals study logistics

One of the best books on Ancients I read was a doctoral thesis on the logistics of Alexander the Great's campaigns – really helps to understand the practical limits of Ancient campaigns

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 1:38 p.m. PST

Just as an example, the federal 3rd Corps, on the march during the Gettysburg campaign, would have taken up almost 20 miles of road, had it marched together, and along one road.

The infantry and artillery would have taken up about 2.75nm to 3nm, with the rest being the corps trains (Ammunition, Commissary, QM, medical, regimental, brigade and divisional baggage, etc.

One of the reasons that battles are fought within 3 days march of rail heads (or rivers, etc) is the amount of food required by both men and animals.

A man gets about 3lbs of rations/day. Now, just considering hard bread, a man is authorized 1lb/day. Whether it is drawn or not,it still must be available for issue.

Thus, a 300 man battalion gets 300lbs/bread/day. The Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg runs, say, 85K men. That's 85K lbs/bread/day. 42.5 tons/day of bread. that's 43 wagons of bread, per day, each and every day.

Water, too, was a requirement, and the army sent scouts ahead to locate suitable water supplies along the route of march. The army couldn't march altogether, as it would drain all the wells along the way if it did.

There's a reason for that old axiom: "Amateurs discuss tactics, while professional discuss logistics".

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 2:54 p.m. PST

Frederick, I agree. Was very good

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2017 8:02 p.m. PST

A third + for Engels' "Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army."

RudyNelson29 Oct 2017 8:42 p.m. PST

My suggestion is on
Y for the serious researcher. Unusual topics like this or others can be found in many locations . It is easier now than it used to be to find them.
You can find papers written on many unusual topics at colleges. Sometimes masters and doctoral papers can br found on file at the university library. Sometimes they are on file at the history department.
These do become the property of the university during the process and most are available to the public.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Oct 2017 3:56 a.m. PST

Logistics had a critical effect on tactics as well. Most people claim that it was the increased effect of the rifle which caused the armies to entrench at every opportunity in the second half of the war. And while I'm sure there is some truth to this, what most people miss is the fact that rail and ship delivered supplies made it possible for an army to entrench and stay in place indefinitely without starving. In past wars, armies were forced to forage to feed themselves. They COULDN'T sit still for weeks and months without starving (unless they were being supplied by sea). Eventually they would have to come out into the open or starve. Not so any longer in the Civil War.

Trajanus30 Oct 2017 7:40 a.m. PST

what most people miss is the fact that rail and ship delivered supplies made it possible for an army to entrench and stay in place indefinitely without starving

Well up to a point. The ANV weren't exactly dining like kings prior to Chancellorsville and let's face it, one of the reasons for the Gettysburg campaign was that Lee still needed Drive Thru for 70,000! :o)

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Oct 2017 8:53 a.m. PST

Clearly the Confederates had some hard times. But the ANV was able to hold out at Petersburg for nine months. A Napoleonic army couldn't have stayed in one spot like that for nine weeks (maybe not nine days).

donlowry30 Oct 2017 8:57 a.m. PST

Rail nets (good in N, poor in the S) another reason
CSA did not do well.

Well, the USA also had to use the Southern rail net when it moved into the South!

doug redshirt30 Oct 2017 9:58 a.m. PST

What is interesting is if you look at the railroads in 1850. The South had the advantage. You could take trains from South Carolina to Washington D.C.. The North couldn't get troops to D.C. by rail or across the Midwest to St. Louis either. The South should have fought the war in 1850.

RudyNelson30 Oct 2017 10:21 a.m. PST

Rail nerd were bad in the South. One example is that in Alabama, one rail line from Atlanta to Montgomery had two or three different gages and when it got into Alabama, there were nine gage changes on the short route to Montgomery. This m ant that every time the cars got to a new gage the gage on the cars wheels had to be changed or the cargo had to be unloaded and reloaded.
The delays were extensive.

DJCoaltrain30 Oct 2017 4:24 p.m. PST

The rail net of the South went from the interior to the coast, but not across the South as much. The North rail net moved across the North. The main reason being the need to get produce and product from origin to the sea for export. Also, sometimes the southern rail tracks were just strips of iron/steel laid flat upon wooden rails. Easy to fix, but easy to disrupt. unicorn

wpilon Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2017 5:33 p.m. PST

Well, the USA also had to use the Southern rail net when it moved into the South!

Not really, the USMRR massively rebuilt captured CS lines and even built a trunk line from City Point to the Petersburg drive lines.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2017 6:31 p.m. PST

Wpilon has it, Don. Even tho' Haupt resigned in Spring,
1863 after only one year, the cadre he created was able
to carry on and transform the shoddy Southern rail
system as Grant moved South.

Rudy's post points out one of the greatest hindrances
to the South's 'rail net', that of different gauges
even within the same Southern state.

Bill N30 Oct 2017 9:28 p.m. PST

Certain deficiencies on the Southern rail network are overstated.

The South had different rail gauges, but so did the north. In the north common gauges included standard gauge, Pennsy gauge, 4'10" gauge in New Jersey and Ohio and 6' gauge. IIRC Hooker's trip west in 1863 involved travel on 3 different gauges, standard to the Ohio River, 4'10" across Ohio, standard across Indiana and 5' through Kentucky and Tennessee. The trip also involved water transportation across the Ohio River twice. Travel from New York to Washington would require a ferry ride across the Hudson plus depending on the route travel on three gauges or travel on two gauges and a ferry ride. Travel from Baltimore to New York would require changing to broad gauge in Elmira.

Most southern railroads east of the Mississippi were built to either standard gauge of 5. gauge. It was possible to travel 5' gauge continuously from Richmond, Norfolk or Savannah to Louisville, Columbus Ky, Memphis, Vicksburg, Mobile and New Orleans. Except for a break at Augusta at the start of the war you could do the same from Charleston. Standard gauge lines ran from the Potomac at Alexandria to Charlotte and Wilmington, although that trip had cross breaks in Richmond and Petersburg. Some of these cross town breaks were closed during the war. With different track gauges there were places in the south were roads of different track gauges met, including Richmond, Petersburg, Wilmington, Charlotte, West Point (GA) and Montgomery. As noted the same situation existed in the north.

Much is made of the condition of southern railroads, but again the same could be said for northern roads. The Northern Central at the start of the war was in the midst of an upgrade, and was dealing with inadequate bridges, single track and some strap rail from its early days. IIRC the line from Baltimore to Washington at the start of the war was still single tracked. Car sizes on the PW&B were limited due to clearances.

At the outset of the war the biggest advantage northern rail had was its much greater capacity. Most of the northern trunk lines were inferior to the south's 5' gauge trunk line, but the north had several of them, all equipped with more locomotives and cars.

During the war four things combined to undermine the southern rail network. The first was the failure of roads to adequately cooperate. The second was the demand for southern manpower for the army took away men needed to operate and maintain the railroads. The third combination of the blockade and the demand for resources for the army took away resources needed to maintain and improve the southern rail network. The fourth was U.S. military operations cutting rail lines, destroying equipment and manufacturing facilities. The western end of the south's 5' gauge trunk line was cut at Corinth in 1862, and the center was cut when Chatanoaga and Knoxville fell in 1863.

donlowry31 Oct 2017 8:15 a.m. PST

Not really, the USMRR massively rebuilt captured CS lines and even built a trunk line from City Point to the Petersburg drive lines.

Even when/where true, this took time, as well as resources and labor. But it would have been convenient for the Federals if the South had had a better network of railroads for them to use as they advanced.

I might also point out that the Confederates made a habit of damaging the railroads as they retreated, and Confederate cavalry did all the damage it could on raids behind Union lines.

Even tho' Haupt resigned in Spring,
1863 after only one year, the cadre he created was able
to carry on and transform the shoddy Southern rail
system as Grant moved South.

That's a Virginia-centric point. Consider the Army of the Cumberland: The main reason Rosecrans had to make long pauses between each advance was to repair the captured stretch of railroad up to his front. At Chattanooga he was dangling at the end of a RR line that stretched back through Tenn and Ky to the Ohio River before connecting to the "superior" Northern railroads. (Actually, there was no direct connection at either end.) A bit longer than a trunk line from City Point to Petersburg. And when Sherman advanced into Georgia he extended that line even more.

BTW: I believe Haupt resigned in the fall of '63, not the spring; he was still on the job during the Gettysburg campaign.

The Northern railroads were certainly useful for Northern industry, and for getting supplies to the major depots in Washington, Cincinnati and St. Louis (tho rivers probably carried more than the rails), but from the depots to the armies, they had to use the Southern RRs (and rivers).

Trajanus31 Oct 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

One thing I will be looking to see as I read through Hess's book (although it may be a detail) is any mention of the South's Locomotives.

That is to say, I've read many times of how the South had no locomotive works within their territory at the start of the war and often wondered just how many they needed to either build or rebuild and couldn't.

I'm sure that they must have had some wear out, get captured or wrecked. Although the only major destruction I can think of was during Wilson's Raid in '65. Just how much did this lack of a facility effect their railroad operations over time?

Bill N01 Nov 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

That is to say, I've read many times of how the South had no locomotive works within their territory at the start of the war and often wondered just how many they needed to either build or rebuild and couldn't.

Tredegar in Richmond had built a number of locomotives for several different railroads in the years leading up to the ACW. Smith & Perkins' Virginia Locomotive Works in Alexandria had produced locomotives for the Pennsylvania RR as well as for Virginia railroads, but had shut down just before the war.

This doesn't tell the entire story. Locomotive shops that the railroads maintained were capable of doing most required repairs, and some could even rebuild or construct locomotives, assuming they had the artisans, the materials and the financing to do so. Several roads had locomotives built at their company shops on their rosters, and older locomotives were likely at least partially rebuilt. There were also a number of operations in the south that could produce cars, subject to the same qualifications. Those qualifications are the key. because for most of the war too many of those artisans were serving in the army or in war related industries, those materials were in short supply, and financing was questionable.

As the war progressed Confederate railroads had more and more locomotives which were inoperable or were operating at less than full potential due to seriously deferred maintenance. The same could also be said for the track. Having more prewar locomotive manufacturing facilities in the south would not have altered that picture much, because chances are good the Confederacy would have drafted the artisans into the army and converted the facilities for war production. The South's short term needs always came first.

donlowry01 Nov 2017 1:19 p.m. PST

Many of the RR men of the South had Union sympathies, anyway. Down in Mississippi Grant was often brought good intelligence of Rebel movements by Southern RR men (engineers, conductors, etc.). And the head of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac RR was a Union spy.

Trajanus01 Nov 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

My God, was there anything the Tredegar Iron Works didn't do!

Bill N01 Nov 2017 4:11 p.m. PST

To give you an idea of how important Tredegar was, the head of the company became a Brigadier General in the Confederate army. After the Seven Days he was released to return to Tredegar because they felt he was more important there.

Axon0302 Nov 2017 5:42 a.m. PST

I recommend "Victory Rode the Rails" by George Edgar Turner for a really good survey of the railroads and their effects on the conduct of the war. Of course it needs more maps, but a great read on the subject.

Trajanus02 Nov 2017 6:19 a.m. PST

To give you an idea of how important Tredegar was, the head of the company became a Brigadier General in the Confederate army. After the Seven Days he was released to return to Tredegar because they felt he was more important there.

That's interesting, I knew a Joseph R. Anderson from A.P. Hill's Division at Gaines's Mill, had no idea it was the same person!

donlowry02 Nov 2017 8:15 a.m. PST

I knew a Joseph R. Anderson from A.P. Hill's Division at Gaines's Mill

I didn't know you were that old!

Trajanus02 Nov 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

Yeah,I got this picture in the attic, what can I say? :o)

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