Archiver > OH-FOOTSTEPS > 1999-10 > 0939948674

From: "Maggie Stewart" <>
Subject: Fw: Bio History -- Know your Ohio -- Ohio in the Civil War -- pt 4.
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 20:51:14 -0400

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From: kathi kelley <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 1999 6:49 PM
Subject: Bio History -- Know your Ohio -- Ohio in the Civil War -- pt 4.

Contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives
by Darlene E. Kelley
Oct 14,1999
Historical Collections of Ohio
>From the diaries of S.L. Kelly
Know Your Ohio
by Darlene E. Kelley
Ohio in the Civil War -- part 4.

Railroads-- and etc

As the war progressed and the lethality of rifled muskets became all too
evident, soldiers' attitudes changed toward using cover in combat. Navel
events at Hampton Roads, Va., which included a duel beteen ironclad
vessels Monitor and Merrimack, convincingly illustrated the efficiency
of iron plating in stopping projectiles. Shortly thereafter, " Moniter"
fever swept the nation as ironclad enthusiasts lobbied for the
construction of a huge ironclad fleet. Army officers also caught this
fever, and ironclad railroad cars soon appeared across the nation. Ohio
was one of the first to use this method. Fittingly, troops called them
railroad "Monitors". in honor of the Federal Vessel that inspired the
fever. The first railroad monitors resembled iron boxcars. Light
artillery pieces were fired from hatches cut in the hull. Small-arms
apertures cut in the sides allowed infantrymen to suppliment the fire of
the main guns. The car's armor was only thick enough to withstand
small-arms fire. however, so commanders generally relegated the
boxcar-shaped monitors to areas known to be infested with partisans.
Railroad monitors carried several infantrymen. However, firing artillery
and muskets from within the cramped confines of a railroad car must have
been confusing and dangerous. Ultimately. montors carried riflemen with
repeating rifles inside the car, which had an artillery piece mounted on
the top of the car that commanded all sides of the train. This
arrangement separated the infantry from the artillery while
substantially increasing fire-power, but a least one unimpressed
reporter from Ohio referred to it as a " hermaphrodite." Another means
of segregating the infantry from the artillery was the rifle car. Rifle
cars resembled ordinary boxcars, but their shielding was placed inside
of the cars. Musket apertures on all sides offered their crews wide
fields of fire for small arms. Like the artillery-bearing railroad
monitors, rifle cars could guard key railroad features. protect
repairmen, supervise railroad guards and escort supply trains. Just as
rife monitors foreshadowed modern tanks, rifle cars were early versions
of infantry fighting vehicles. Along with rifle cars came a new type of
railroad monitor that used thick, sloped iron casemates that could
deflect light artillery projectiles-- an important capability when
Confederate horse artillery lurked nearby. These new railroad monitors
resembled elongated pyramids and were the same shape a casemated
ironclad vessels ( turrets were not used with the light artillery on
railroad monitors, though armored railroad cars in subsequent conflicts
did use turrets). With their thick armor and cannons, these railrad cars
were similar to modern tanks. Rifle cars and monitors coupled to a
locomotive formed an ironclad ( or armored) train. A simple ironclad
train consisted of a locomotive and a railroad monitor. Optimally,
however, an ironclad train employed a number of cars in a specific
sequence as had armed trains. A railroad monitor rode at each end of the
train. Coupled to these were rifle cars, with the locomotive and tender
positioned in the middle. This march order distributed firepower evenly,
provided mutually supporting small-arms and artillery fire, and afforded
the locomotive some protection. Not all ironclad trains had the same
number of cars, but this efficacious march order became the ideal for
armored trains subsequently used by many nations. Indeed, modern armored
forces today use a simular combined-arms approach of mutually supporting
firepower, although the vehicles operate independantly rather being
coupled together in units, and, of course, are not limited to the rails.
While armor might protect rolling stock from projectiles, explosive
devices planted in the railroad posed serious threats to trains of all
types. Those torpedoes ( known today as mines ) included simple
artillery shells with percusson fuses as well as specially constructed
pressure-detonated contrivances filled with gunpowder.When buried in the
roadbed under a crosstie, torpedoes could be detonated by a passing
train. Some torpedoes, especially those using arillery shells, lifted
locomotives completely from the tracks and shattered freight cars.
Because of the many hazards that might be present on the tracks, some
Federal locomotives pushed loaded flatcars over the rails to inspect the
tracks or to detonate torpedoes before the valuable locomotive passed
over them. These flatcars, known today as control cars, pusher cars, or
monitor cars ( not to be confused with railroad monitors), also
protected locomotives from rams.
Another method of preventing attacks on Federal trains was to put
hostages wit Confederate sympathies on th trains. Some Federal
commanders even issued draconian decrees threatening to deport local
inhabitants or destroy their farms if depredations occurred on local
Beligerents also used other vehicles on the railroads. Handcars-- small
but utilitarian vehicles--were used to inspect rails, transport
important personnel and evacuate the wounded. They also helped troops
escape superior forces and reconnoiter in fluid tactical situations. In
this role they were far more stealthy than locomotives, although they
lacked a locomotive's speed and protective cab. Some handcars were large
enough to transport several men, including guards, and were valuable
mode of transport if a locomotive was unavailable. In one instance, a
large handcar carried a 10-pounder Parrott gun to duel with a much
larger Confederate railroad battery.
Since operable locomotives were at a premium during the war, it was not
always economical to use them on missions for which a smaller vehicle
would suffice. The Federals therefore applied off-the-shelf technology
to warfare, using recently developed steam passenger cars
( self-propelled railroad coaches) to inspect the tracks and deliver pay
to isolated posts. On such missions, the cars carried some interior
armor that protected the steam engine as well as the crew, making the
steam passenger cars forerunners of self-propelled armored railroad cars
or, as the Russians called them, rail cruisers. These heavily armed
railroad cars proved good substitutes for armored trains, since several
cars were not dependant on a single locomotive for mobility.
Civil War railroad operations were characterized by the widespread use
of locomotives and rolling stock to support armies tactifully as well as
logistically. Americans set precedents for a variety of modern armored
fighting vehicles, including armored railroad cars, armored trains,
railroad batteries and other railroad weapons. Moreover, tanks, armored
personnel carriers, engineer vehicles and self-propelled artillery can
also claim American railroad weapons as their conceptual ancestors and
Ohio certainly did their part in its concept.
To be continued in part 5.

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