Monday, March 23, 2015

Getting between the Confederate Capitals

One aspect of the War that has always been of interest to me is the role of transportation. In our world, we can easily travel from place to place, and find ourselves irritated when traffic, weather, mechanical issues, or accidents delay or divert our journeys or cause us to change forms of transport.  However, throughout the nineteenth century, including the four years of the war, travel was often complex and convoluted. Yet, it often came with a surprising variety of choices, and sometimes at greater speed than we would expect of a world without interstates or the internal combustion engine.   Most travel was conducted not from point A to Point B, in a single vehicle, but from one rail station, dock, or coach  stop to another, with multiple changes of transport in between.

This is true when looking at the various cities that served as a Confederate capital. When the delegates arrived in Montgomery, a few undoubtedly rode on horses or arrived by carriages. The majority came by train or by riverboat. When the first session was over, they left by the same means. In May 1861, when Jefferson Davis and a few others set out for Richmond, it was a trip that took only three days. Davis left on May 26, and arrived in Richmond on May 29. Save for the occasions when he rode out to inspect the troops in the defenses around Richmond, Davis resorted to rail travel. This includes when Davis visited the fields of Manassas in July 1861, and when he visited the Army of Tennessee in late 1863.

The Confederate government took to the rails on the night of April 2, 1865. The engine that pulled the train from Richmond to Danville was the Charles Sneddon. When Davis chose to abandon Danville, he set out on one train bound for Greensboro, but that engine broke down, leaving the president and cabinet alone in the darkness while a new engine was retrieved from Danville. When it came time for Davis to move from Greensboro to Charlotte, he was forced to take to the horse once again. Stoneman's raiders had wrecked many of the lines in and around Greensboro.

The image above is of the Charles Sneddon - the train last train out of Richmond. 

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