Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Railroad Generalship

with 8 comments

Following up on yesterday’s post  “Were the North and South Evenly Matched….on the Rails,” which is essentially about railroad management during the American Civil War, I wanted to add some additional information and links that will allow further exploration if you are so inclined.

Arguably one of the greatest advantages the North had was in one Herman Haupt (1817 – 1905), a “brilliant railroad engineer” recruited in May of 1862 by General D. C. McCallum to assume duties as Military Director and Superintendent of the USMRR (United States Military Railroad). Haupt was given the rank of Colonel and Lincoln gave him broad, albeit frequently challenged, powers.[i]

Henry Haupt

Photo Above: A.J. Russell, photographer. Gen’l H. Haupt, ca. 1862 or 1863. LOT 9209, no. 21 LC-DIG-ppmsca-10341
Photo Below: Haupt’s torpedo for quickly wrecking wooden bridges CALL NUMBER: LOT 9209, no. 57 [P&P]

More than any other, Haupt should receive credit for shaping and building the USMRR. He developed general guidelines for using the railroads to provide supplies for the Army of the Potomac. During the fall of 1862, Haupt experimented with methods of destroying and repairing railroads and rail briHaupt's torpedo for quickly wrecking wooden bridgesdges. He developed a torpedo that could destroy a standard Howe Truss bridge, a U-shaped device that could quickly and easily destroy rails by twisting them, and new and faster ways to lay and repair track. Haupt and his engineers also experimented with new ways of bridge construction. As a result, preassembled bridge trestles were mass-produced and then transported in boxcars to areas where bridges needed repair or replacement. The rebuilding of bridges and track after Confederate raids was a never-ending process. Haupt also developed ambulance cars with surgeons and special equipment that increased the chances of survival for the wounded.[ii]

This quote is from the report summary of the archaeological dig of the Alexandria, Virginia United States Military Railroad Station, a fascinating look at one of the busiest sites of the war.

By the war’s end, there were 10,000 men in the United States Military Railroad service. Many were ex-slaves.

Photo Below: Military railroad operations in northern Virginia: men using levers for loosening rails. REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-USZ62-90111

men using levers for loosening rails

Dr. Christopher R. Gabel (OSU and Command and General Staff College) has written an interesting piece titled “Railroad Generalship: Foundation of Civil War Strategy” available here.

A bibliographical listing of works dealing with railroads during the Civil War (and other American conflicts) is available here.

© 2007 L. Rene Tyree

[i, ii] THE BONTZ SITE (44AX103) THE UNITED STATES MILITARY RAILROAD STATION (44AX105) Report Summary by Shirley Scalley, accessed online 1/20/2008 at http://oha.alexandriava.gov/archaeology/pdfs/bontz8.pdf


8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is one of the most interesting ACW posts I’ve encountered in quite some time. Haupt is often mentioned in passing, but seldom with any depth. Thanks for a quick study.


    Mannie Gentile

    January 23, 2008 at 11:36 pm

  2. Mannie,

    Thanks for note. Glad the post hit the mark.

    Haupt was certainly an interesting fellow and a person who can be said to have truly made a difference.


    Rene Tyree

    January 24, 2008 at 2:29 am

    • Another great article regarding Herman Haupt was in teh Sept 1996 issue of Military History Magazine. It went a bit more in depth about this great civil engineer (as well as an interesting article about Lord Baden Powell before he entered his second career that we’re mostly aware of)

      Joe Sefcik

      November 10, 2009 at 10:15 pm

  3. In searching for a photo of Roy Edgar Appleman (East of Chosin – the unknown part of Chosin Reservoir) I came across your blog and also happened onto your “military railroad” postings. Here is a good bio of Haupt: Francis A. Lord. Lincoln’s Railroad Man: Herman Haupt. Teaneck NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1969.

    Leaving aside MacArthur, Ned Almond was a major leadership failure in Korea(starting in Italy with the 92nd Infantry Division). You may already have it as a reference: The Korean War: An Annotated Bibliography. Compiled by Paul M. Edwards. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. See http://www.koreanwarcenter.org.

    I noted you have a virtual bookshelf: I suggest you check out http://www.librarything.com – wonderful cateloging/booklovers site. Under “search” “members” (far right side) you can see my in-progress library under “dgrapes”.

    Seems like military history is/has become a recognized academic discipline – about time as it all started with Thucydides.

    Del Grapes

    Del Grapes

    December 24, 2008 at 10:24 pm

  4. Del,

    Thanks for the great information! I will definitely add the link on the Korean War Center. I was aware of it and know Professor Paul Edwards (not well) but am amazed that such a great resource is available so near where I live.

    On the Library Thing, I wish I could integrate into WordPress.com hosted site. One of my fellow bloggers recently added mylibrarything and seems to work with wordpress.

    Take care!


    Rene Tyree

    December 26, 2008 at 11:19 am

  5. I was delighted to discover your article about my father’s great-grandfather. I will add it to my Haupt memorabilia. His achievements were many and remarkable.

    Charlene Haupt Mitchell

    November 25, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    • Charlene,
      Thanks so much for stopping by Wig-Wags and saying hello. Your great-great-grandfather was, by all of read, quite a remarkable man. Very nice to make your virtual acquaintance.

      Best regards,


      Rene Tyree

      November 29, 2009 at 11:59 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: