THE BALTIMORE and OHIO RAILROAD
in the CIVIL WAR
Let us turn back to an April day about
80 years ago, and imagine ourselves at Apoomattox
Court House, about to witness the surrender of the
Confederate Army to the Federals. The staff officers
of both the Grand Army of the Republic, nnd the army
of the Confederate States of America were assembled
awaiting the meeting of General Lee and General Gra
Now to most readers, the story from this point
is commonly accented fact. Lee surrendered his army,
his arms, and his equipment to Grant, so the history
goes. However, according to some of the stories
which I have gathered ctions of the coun 4 -
where I have snent much time, General Lee never
surrendered to General Grant. Lee immaculately attired
in Confederate full dress, met Grant, the latter
taring a sloppy T nion field unifc: , ad General
,, thinking Grant to be the butler, handed him
his sword. The foregoing is based on heresay, and
not on historical fact, and for that reason, I am
desirous of not being Quoted. On the other hand,
as of which version of the ending of the
war the reader prefer?, the fac^ re a that the
exc f the fl"ord ended four years bitter
struggle and conflict of the War Between the State?.
Any student of American history will readily
agree that there is a multitude of reasons and causes
of this y/ar offered by the historians and other
authorities, however, since I profess no excertional
knowledge of the cause, I will simply Ignore any and
all motives which may have precipitated the conflict.
Regardless of the causes, or effects of this war,
there Is one conclusion which can definitely be
de as a result of the struggle. This- war was
first one i^ which railroads were used as a means
of tr" .-tation of troops anr° materials, and the
fir here the telegraph aided, speedy communication.
From the use of this new, quicker means of
transportation, the absolute feasibility and
necessity of rapid trooo movement was shown, TCo
greater proof of this statement Is needed than L re
events cf the past three years of war.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had t]
distinction of bping no J le first railroao,
also the ^aln railroad to take part in the
Civil War. ears followi fcs founding were
uneventful. Frederick was reached in 1R32; Harpers
Ferry, in 1834: Washington, In 1835: and finally,
In 1853, almost twenty-five years after the first
ground "breaking, the Baltimore and Ohio reached
its first objective; the Ohio River, at Wheeling.
Two years after reaching Wheeling, trains were
ng from Baltimore through to Cincinnati. This
was the end of expansion for some time, for the next
years were very hard and trying ones for the new road.
On October 17, 1859, the first rumblings of the
approaching conflict were heard when John Brown made
- raid on Warners Ferry. On that night, Brown
storned and eastbound express at Harners Ferry Station,
held it up all night and csn?f sat discomfort to
its nassenrjers. In the confusion, a sorter and the
telegraph operator were billed, and several others
injured. Colonel Robert E. Lee was sent to Harpers
Ferry with the entire Tarine Corns, then ninety strong.
snuffed t v :e revolution, and hung John , but
the first snark of Civil War had been struck.
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Main
Stem of the railros capt >ed by the Confedera 4 -
ter the Federal forces arpers stroyed t
1 and rifle woi-*.s there, and hastily fled the
to' eneral St 11 Jackson helned himself t
four engine 1- , small € t, at Harpers
Bm over a brarch line to Winchester;
from t , down the '.
way. The s ■•■-■- laced on
the rails of t .assa? ay, which connected
Lth the Virginia Central, and in turn, entire
railway system of the" Co. y.
"lowing this, Ja r took the
troying the railroad pre artlnsbu. .
consisting of fort;, ] ' es d three
and rive cars. a was a terrific waste, is !
Confederacy sor^lj ed rolll stock. Bed
in Jackaon's mi: ( , ' ce b sre
little that could be tie,
salvage u sslble, and Jackson ordered ^ugh Lonsust,
vetero rail - ~ Richmond, to tinder
se half-burned locoi er ^f
it mile? of turnr
^trasbur . l" : e engines were atA-Inned a:
one bj one, d< He valley b; ms c C horses.
At tiroes, the i =;re forced to help the hi
-imep, all mov id to be stopped
whi" orkers foug] be Yankees. At Strasburg,
the e ' ss were re a? ed, . " he
was blunder In i~ done by bo 4- ' °s on
K ain St" . hey took rails, t*e^s, .Tikes, plat*^,
cars, In fact everything wl Ich would move, or could be
ad put It In service, )nly to
of r side down and take 11 back. If
it cor jt be moved, it was destroyei d ^11
use. J burned, and used to h< etal to be
out of recognition, % culverts, <=nd
.leral right- of- way received special attention
from the wreckers. One of their favorit- ie
bridge; acx'oas the Potomac at Harpers
poyed I'snj l! p ?
not only by ' armies, by t^e unruly Fotomac,
>uld si; enl; swell it? b« and tg
everything in Its path. Tel- "ions,
and other property were destroyed. The tiain S ;
crossed many a by both armies In the cou~
of the four year's struggle.
e Baltimore and Ohio was vital to the life
of the Union, for it was the only line from the
West with a direct line into Washington. The orownii
ent of the system in the way of service to
the n was the transportation of the Eleventh
and Twelth Army Corps from I Rappahannock River
Line, -ittanooga, Tennessee, a distance of
fourteen hundred miles. In eleven days. However,
even this was eclipsed fifteen months later, when
the Twenty-third Army Corps, seventeen thousand strong,
i on the banks of the Tenessee River, was needed
i-o help drive the last spike into the coffin of the
Confederacy. They were brought over t v, e route
as before, and in spite of flood, blizzard, broken-
down motive power, cars, and trackage, this job was
accomplished in less time than before.
The Baltimore and Ohio had one more serviee to
perform for the great war-time president, Abraham
Lincoln. Thi s was Indeed a very sad service, for it
is the Baltimore and Ohio that carried the President's
body from Washington. This untimely death was greatly
mourned, and the ranks of the mourners did not stop
at the imaginary Mason- Dixon Line.
In 1865, the War Between the States was brought to
a close, and the entire nation was faced with the
unpleasant task of reconstruction. The Confederate
soldiers returned to a ruined and bitter South. Its
great plantations were devasted, the few small industries
were snuffed, its public offices were overrun with corrupt
politicians, and its rails were retarded for twenty years.
Dixieland was destined, even to this day, not to regain
the position it had enjoyed previous to the war.
From this sad conflict, many lessons were learned;
as already mentioned, the advisability, if not necessity
of troop and supply transportation by rails, at that time
the only quick means. In addition, the merit of the
telegraph as a speedy method of communication was proven.
Indeed the truth of the statement of Nathan Buford Forrest ,
Confederate cavalaryman, was definitely borne out. He said,
and rather crudely so, "The feller that gits thar fustest
with the mostest men, wins the battle'. 1
However, more important than any of these results is
the one which we all look to pride with today. From the
ruins of a nation, practically torn apart by internal strife,
rose a new movement - to the West, and it was soon shown
that the United States was a confederation of states ,
bound from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the
Gulf to the Lakes, into one inseperable union, and one of
the greatest binders was the steel rails of the trans cont-