Lurton Dunham Ingersoll.

A history of the War department of the United States. With biographical sketches of the secretaries online

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'Report of Provost-Marshal-General Fry, 1866, p. 69.
30* X


of military railroads. This branch of the service was
peculiarly the creation in the beginning and peculiarly
under the direction of the War Department through-
out the war. It may almost be said that Secretary
Stanton conducted it in person. Certainly he would
not allow under any circumstances the least inter-
ference with the management of the roads by officers,
high or low, not connected therewith. This branch
of the service was established by the following order :

"War Department,
"Washington City, D.C., February II, 1862.

"Ordered That D. C. McCallum be, and he is hereby, appointed
military director and superintendent of railroads in the United
States, with authority to enter upon, take possession of, hold and
use all railroads, engines, cars, locomotives, equipments, append-
ages, and appurtenances, that may be required for the transport
of troops, arms, ammunition, and military supplies of the United
States, and to do and perform all acts and things that may be
necessary and proper to be done for the safe knd speedy transport

"By order of the President, commander-in-chief of the army
and navy of the United States.

" Edwin M. Stanton,

"Secretary of War."

The following is the conclusion of special orders
number 337, issued from the War Department No-
vember 10, of the same year:

" Commanding officers of troops along the United States mili-
tary railroads will give all facilities to the officers of the roads,
and the quartermasters, for unloading cars so as to prevent any
delay. On arrival at depots, whether in the day or night, the cars
will be instantly unloaded, and working parties will always be in
readiness for that duty, and sufficient to unload the whole train at

" Commanding officers will be charged with guarding the track,


sidings, wood, water-tanks, etc., within their several commands,
and will be held responsible for the result.

"Any military officer who shall neglect his duty in this respect
will be reported by the quartermasters and officers of the railroad,
and his name will be stricken from the rolls of the army.

" Depots will be established at suitable points, under the direc-
tion of the commanding general, and properly guarded.

" No officer, whatever may be his rank, will interfere with the
running of the cars as directed by the superintendent of the road.

" Any one who so interferes will be dismissed from the service
for disobedience of orders.

" By order of the Secretary of War.


"Assistant Adjutant- General. ' '

These orders, which might to some appear tO be
unnecessarily rigid, were simply just. The nature
of the service upon the military railroads was pecu-
liarly hazardous, and their successful management
demanded great technical skill as well as administra-
tive capacity. Several attempts made by army and de-
partment commanders to operate railroads had been
made and in all instances had resulted in signal fail-
ure. Upon the success of the railroads in forward-
ing supplies and transporting troops largely depended
the success of our armies in the field. " I hazard
nothing," says Colonel McCallum, in his general re-
port of May 26, 1866, on the military railroads oper-
ated during the war, " in saying, that should failure
have taken place either in keeping the lines in repair,
or in operating them. General Sherman's campaign,
instead of proving, as it did^ a great success, would
have resulted in disaster and defeat ; and the greater
the army to supply, the more precarious its position.
Since the end of the rebellion, I have been informed
by railroad officers who were in the service of the


enemy during the war, ' that they were less surprised
at the success of General Sherman, In a military point
of view, than they were at the rapidity with which
railroad breaks were repaired, and the regularity
with which trains were moved to the front ; ' and it
was only when the method of operating was fully
explained that it could be comprehended." ^

It was just and wise, therefore, to prevent all in-
terference with the men of skill and experience who
had these roads in charge.

The first railroad operated by the government was
that between Washington and Alexandria, Virginia,
a distance of only seven miles. From the time of
his appointment as military director and manager
of railroads until the beginning of 1864, Colonel
McCallum was engaged in the construction and
operation of roads for the Army of the Potomac
in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, in the last
two States but for brief periods on occasion of their
invasion by the Confederates. At one time or another
during the course of the war, nearly all of the prin-
cipal railroads of Virginia were operated, at least
over part of their course by Colonel McCallum and
the officers and men serving under him. Many
miles of road were constructed and reconstructed,
many bridges built and again rebuilt; for two or
three times the principal roads built and operated
in aid of the Army of the Potomac were destroyed
by the enemy for great distances. In aid of General
McClellan in the Peninsular campaign ; of General
Pope in the second Bull Run campaign ; of General
McClellan in the campaign of Antietam ; of Generals

'Page 35.


Burnside and Hooker in the operations of the autumn,
winter, and spring of 1862-63 ; of General Meade in
the campaign of Gettysburgh ; the assistance of the
government railroads was of the greatest value.

The military railroad corps in the East being now
thoroughly organized, drilled, and equipped, Colonel
McCallum was ordered to the West near the close
of the year 1863, and accordingly made headquarters
for the time being at Nashville. Colonel McCallum
found matters pertaining to the railroads in a lament-
able situation. He was soon empowered with full
authority over all railways in possession of the gov-
ernment or that might from time to time be taken
possession of by the military authorities in the de-
partments of the Cumberland, the Ohio, the Ten-
nessee, and of Arkansas, and immediately proceeded
to organize a corps of experienced men and to in-
augurate practical reforms and practical hard work
in the important interest of which he had charge.
The following communication from Secretary Stanton
to " the manufacturers of locomotives in the United
States "will indicate the vigorous measures that were
in progress in the military railroad department in that
part of the country where General Sherman was
making ready for his grand campaign of the year :

"War Department,
" Washington City, March 23, 1864.

"Gentlemen: Colonel Daniel McCallum, general manager of
government railways in the Department of the Cumberland, of the
Ohio, and of the Tennessee, has been authorized by this Depart-
ment to procure locomotives without delay for the railways under
his charge.

" In order to meet the wants of the military departments of the
government you will deliver to his order such engines as he may


direct, whether building under orders for other parties, or other-
wise, the government -being accountable to you for the same. The
urgent necessity of the government for the immediate supply of
our armies operating in Tennessee renders the engines indispensa-
ble for the equipment of the lines of communication, and it is
hoped that this necessity will be recognized by you as a military
necessity, paramount to all other considerations.
"By order of the President.

"Edwin M. Stanton,

" Secretary of War."

Colonel McCallum states that the requisitions of
this order were met by all in a spirit of zealous patri-
otism, and that many locomotives and large numbers
of cars were delivered at Nashville in an unprece-
dentedly short time. Hence he was able not only to
keep General Sherman's army of about one hundred
thousand men, with sixty thousand animals, constantly
furnished with supplies, but also to rebuild the road
leading to Atlanta about as rapidly as the army
moved, and to repair several other roads in northern
Alabama and Tennessee, of the greatest importance
to military operations in that part of the country and
to the citizens thereof

The total number of miles of military road operated
was two thousand one hundred and five not including
those roads which were used temporarily by the army
in case of emergency, as in Maryland in 1862 and in
Pennsylvania in 1 863. The number of engines was
four hundred and nineteen, and of cars six thousand
three hundred and thirty. The greatest number of
men employed at the same time during the war was
twenty-four thousand nine hundred and sixty-four.
"The difference between civil and military railroad
service," says Colonel McCallum, "is marked and


decided. Not only were the men continually ex-
posed to great danger from the regular forces of the
enemy, guerillas, scouting-parties, etc., but, owing to
the circumstances under which military railroads
must be constructed and operated, what are con-
sidered the ordinary risks upon civil railroads are
vastly increased on military lines. The hardships,
exposure, and perils to which train-men especially
were subjected during the movements incident to an
active campaign, were much greater than that en-
dured by any other class of civil employes of the
government — equalled only by that of the soldier,
while engaged in a raid into the enemy's country.
It was by no means unusual for men to be out with
their trains from five to ten days, without sleep,
except what could be snatched upon their engines
and cars while the same were standing to be loaded
or unloaded, with but scanty food or perhaps no food
at all for days together while continually occupied in
a manner to keep every faculty strained to its utmost.
Many incidents during the war, but more especially
during the Atlanta campaign, exhibited a fortitude,
endurance, and self-devotion on the part of these
men not exceeded in any branch of the service." ^

' Col. McCallum's Report on the Mil. R. R's. of the U. S., 35,
printed in Appendix pt. 2, to vol. IV., Ex. Doc. H. R. XXXIX
Cong. 1st sess., 1865-66. I am indebted to this interesting re-
port for the main facts in the above narrative, and to Col. L. P.
Wright, of Chicago, sojourning at the Capital — who was for a
considerable period superintendent of long routes in Tennessee —
for other interesting statements. The rapidity with which rail-
roads were repaired when destroyed by the enemy was remark-
able. Thus, in the autumn of 1864 Hood utterly destroyed 25
miles of road from Resaca northward. He had destroyed 10


During the months of August and September
1865 all the military railroads in the United States
were delivered up to their owners respectively or to
the States in which they were located. There had
been expended in their construction, operation, roll-
ing-stock, etc., the sum of 142,462,142.55. The sale
of the property on hand, and the moneys which had
been received from private parties for transportation
amounted to $12,623,965.83, making their net cost to
the government 129,838,176.72.

An act of Congress of the 31st of January 1862
authorized the President when in his judgment the
public safety might require it " to take possession of
any or all the telegraph lines in the United States,
their offices and appurtenances." As this law would
only be put in execution for war purposes, it placed
the entire telegraphic system of the country at the
command of the Secretary of War. But from the
beginning of the war telegraph lines had been con-
structed by the army as it advanced against the
enemy or into portions of the country where there
were no telegraphs. For the construction of these
military telegraphic lines, their repair and operation,
large sums of money were annually voted by Con-
gress. The War Department thus came to be di-
rectly connected by one or more wires with every
considerable army in the field. The largest apart-
ment in the Department building — the apartment
used for the Library after the war and till the
destruction of the old building — was used as the
telegraph office. It was well crowded with instru-

miles farther south. On the eighth day trains were running as
usual. Col. Wright relates many interesting incidents of the kind.


ments, and there was no time, day, night, or Sunday,
in which some of the operators were not required to
be present, the night corps, however, not being so
large as that for the labors of the day.

In this apartment President Lincoln and Secretary
Stanton spent no little time almost daily and nightly
during the years of their intimate personal and offi-
cial relations, dictating dispatches to different com-
manders at the theatre of war or receiving news
directly from them. Thus, by the aid of the benefi-
cent invention of Morse, the President and Secretary
were constantly about as well informed with respect
to the situation of all the Union forces in the field
as if they had been individually present among them.
Thus it was that reinforcements and supplies could
always be furnished wherever needed with a prompt-
itude never before known in military operations.
After Lieutenant-General Grant assumed direct com-
mand of the Army of the Potomac and general com-
mand of all the armies of the United States, he daily
received all the intelligence received at the War
Department, and thus he, too, all the time had a
perfect knowledge of the whole situation. Constant
and full communications were also sent to General
Sherman except when he was beyond the reach of
the telegraph. And to these two illustrious states-
men and these two illustrious captains the country is
very largely indebted that the Union was not de-

The matter of the exchange of prisoners was at

'The number of miles of military telegraph constructed during
the war was 15,389, with a total expenditure for constructing and
operating of ^3,219,400.


different times the source of great trouble and annoy-
ance to the Secretary of War, not only, but to Pres-
ident Lincoln, whose wonderfully kind-hearted nature
was constantly pained by a knowledge of the suffer-
ings of our captive soldiers in the prisons of Rich-
mond, Andersonville, Salisbury, and elsewhere. By
general orders of the War Department, of Septem-
ber 25, 1862, the general cartel for the exchange of
prisoners which had been agreed upon was published,
as follows:

"War Department, Adjutant-General's Office,

" Washington, September 25, 1862.

" The following is the cartel under which prisoners are ex-
changed in the existing war with the Southern States :

"Haxall's Landing on James River, Va., July 22, 1862.

"The undersigned, having been commissioned by the authorities
they respectively represent to make arrangements for a general
exchange of prisoners of war, have agreed to the following ar-
ticles :

"Article i. It is hereby agreed and stipulated that all prisoners
of war held by either party, including those taken on private
armed vessels known as privateers, shall be discharged upon the
conditions and terms following :

" Prisoners to be exchanged man for man and officer for officer ;
privateers to be placed upon the footing of officers and men of the

" Men and officers of lower grades may be exchanged for officers
of a higher grade, and men and officers of different services may
be exchanged according to the following scale of equivalents:

"A general commanding in chief or an admiral shall be ex-
changed for officers of equal rank or for sixty privates or common

"A flag officer or major-general shall be exchanged for officers
of equal rank or for forty privates or common seamen.

"A commodore carrying a broad pennant or a brigadier-general
shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank or twenty privates or
common seamen.


"A captain in the navy or a colonel shall be exchanged for offi-
cers of equal rank or for fifteen privates or common seamen.

" A lieutenant-colonel or a commander in the navy shall be ex-
changed for officers of equal rank or for ten privates or common

" A lieutenant-commander or a major shall be exchanged for of-
ficers of equal rank or for eight privates or common seamen.

" A lieutenant or a master in the navy or a captain in the army or
marines shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank or six privates
or common seamen.

" Master's mates in the navy or lieutenants and ensigns in the
army shall be exchanged for officers of equal rank or four privates
or common seamen.

" Midshipmen, warrant officers in the navy, masters of merchant
vessels, commanders of privateers, shall be exchanged for officers
of equal rank or three privates or common seamen.

" Second captains, lieutenants, or mates, of merchant vessels or
privateers, and all petty officers in the navy and all non-commis-
sioned officers in the army or marines, shall be severally exchanged
for persons of equal rank or for two privates or common seamen ;
and private soldiers or common seamen shall be exchanged for
each other man for man.

" Article 2. Local, State, civil, and militia rank held by persons
not in actual military service will not be recognized, the basis of
exchange being the grade actually held in the naval and military
service of the respective parties.

" Article 3. If citizens held by either party on charges of dis-
loyalty or any alleged civil offence are exchanged, it shall only be
for citizens. Captured sutlers, teamsters, and all civilians in the
actual service of either party, to be exchanged for persons in simi-
lar position.

"Article 4. All prisoners of war to be discharged on parole in
ten days after their capture and the prisoners now held and those
hereafter taken to be transported to the points mutually agreed
upon, at the expense of the capturing party. The surplus prison-
ers not exchanged shall not be permitted to take up arms again,
nor to serve as military police or constabulary force in any fort,
garrison or field-work held by either of the respective parties,
nor as guards of prisons, depots, or stores, nor to discharge any
duty usually performed by soldiers, until exchanged under the pro-


visions of this' cartel. The exchange is not to be considerei com-
plete until the officer or soldier exchanged for has been actually
restored to the lines to which he belongs.

"Article 5. Each party, upon the discharge of prisoners of
the other party, is authorized to discharge an equal number of
their own officers and men from parole, furnishing at the same
time to the other party a list of their prisoners discharged and
of their own officers and men relieved from parole ; thus enabling
each party to relieve from parole such of their own officers and
men as the party may choose. The lists thus mutually furnished
will keep both parties advised of the true condition of the ex-
change of prisoners.

"Article 6. The stipulations and provisions above mentioned
to be of binding obligation during the continuance of the war,
it matters not which party may have the surplus of prisoners, the
great principles involved being, 1st. An equitable exchange of
prisoners, nw.n for man, officer for officer, or officers of higher
grade exchanged for officers of lower grade, or for privates ac-
cording to the scale of equivalents ; 2d. That privateers and officers
and men of different services may be exchanged according to the
same scale of equivalents ; 3d. That all prisoners, of whatever
arm of service, are to be exchanged or paroled in ten days from
the time of their capture, if it be practicable to transfer them to
their own lines in that time ; if not, as soon thereafter as prac-
ticable ; 4th. That no officer, soldier, or employe in the service
of either party is to be considered as exchanged and absolved
from his parole until his equivalent has actually reached the lines
of his friends ; 5th. That the parole forbids the performance of
field, garrison, police, or guard, or constabulary duty.
"John A. Dix, Major- General.
"D. H. Hill, Major- General, C. S. A.


"Article 7. All prisoners of war now held on either side, and
all prisoners hereafter taken, shall be sent with all reasonable de-
spatch to A. M. Aikens's, below Dutch Gap, on the James River,
Virginia, or to Vicksburgh, on the Mississippi River, in the State
of Mississippi, and there exchanged or paroled until such ex-
change can be effected, notice being previously given by each
party of the number of prisoners it will send, and the time when


they will be delivered at those points respectively ; and in case
the vicissitudes of war shall change the military relations of the
places designated in this article to the contending parties so as to
render the same inconvenient for the delivery and exchange of
prisoners, other places, bearing as nearly as may be the present
local relations of said places to the lines of said parties, shall be
by mutual agreement substituted. But nothing in this article
contained shall prevent the commanders of two opposing armies
from exchanging prisoners or releasing them on parole at other
points mutually agreed on by said commanders.

"Article 8. For the purpose of carrying into effect the fore-
going articles of agreement, each party will appoint two agents,
to be called agents for the exchange of prisoners of war, whose
duty it shall be to communicate with each other, by correspond-
ence or otherwise, to prepare the lists of prisoners, to attend to
the delivery of the prisoners at the places agreed on, and to carry
out promptly, effectually, and in good faith all the details and
provisions of the said articles of agreement.

"Article 9. And in case any misunderstanding shall arise in
regard to any clause or stipulation in the foregoing articles, it is
mutually agreed that such misunderstanding shall not interrupt
the release of prisoners on parole, as herein provided, but shall
be made the subject of friendly explanations, in order that the
object of this agreement may neither be defeated nor postponed.

"John A. Dix, Major- General.

"D. H. Hill, Major- General, C. S. A.
" By order of the Secretary of War :

"L. Thomas, Adjutant- General."

Upon the just and equitable principle of this cartel
of the exchange of man for man and officer for
officer, exchanges proceeded as rapidly as was prac-
ticable notwithstanding the advantage was with the
Confederates. This grew out of the fact that the
prisoners of war in the hands of the Unionists,
having been well fed and comfortably clothed and
quartered were able to enter service immediately

after their exchange ; whereas very many of the
3, »


prisoners held by the Confederates, having been ill
fed, ill quartered, and ill clothed, were in a situation
entirely unfit for service. There are few more heart-
rending scenes in all history than were those of the
return of different bodies, in very considerable num-
bers, of our Union soldiers who had been confined
in Confederate prisons. This practical inequality,
notwithstanding the theoretical justice of the cartel,
at one time caused General Grant to order all ex-
changes peremptorily stopped, as being neither less
nor more than a reenfqrcement of the enemy.

In 1863, a very serious difificulty arose as to non-
combatants held by us as prisoners on account of
the war, the Confederates demanding that they all
be unconditionally delivered up, and that the Union-
ists enter into an agreement to make no more such
arrests ! ^ Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, Union
commissioner of exchange, remarked that the effect
of this would be to relieve all citizens engaged in
treason and rebellion from all proceedings, as if no
treason had been or could be committed, and refused
the demand. The trouble was finally settled by the
Confederates quietly yielding their demand.

There came near being a more serious difficulty
on the subject of the exchange of colored troops, the
Confederates undertaking to discriminate against
them. General Grant settled this matter in a very
soldier-like way, saying : " No distinction whatever
will be made in the exchange between white and col-

Online LibraryLurton Dunham IngersollA history of the War department of the United States. With biographical sketches of the secretaries → online text (page 26 of 43)