Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Locomotives Up the Turnpike, by Dave Bright

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 2, 2017

 

cover168I’m pleased to announce the availability of a new volume, Locomotives Up the Turnpike: The Civil War career of Quartermaster Captain Thomas R. Sharp, C.S.A., by my friend and colleague, Dave Bright. From the Amazon description:

 

When the Civil War began, the railroads of the Confederate States had the immense job of collecting the men, supplies and equipment needed to create a government and its armed forces. Railroads had never been used in the direct support of a war and the new nation soon learned that its railroad resources were far short of what would be needed. Thomas R. Sharp, a young Richmond-based railroad superintendent was tapped by the new government to haul to the Confederate railroads the cars and locomotives captured by the future Stonewall Jackson from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad near Martinsburg, Virginia.

Sharp hired dozens of men and hundreds of horses and wagons to haul the rolling stock south on the Valley of Virginia Turnpike, from Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry to Winchester to Strasburg. Seventeen locomotives and well over 100 cars were hauled over the country roads to intersections with the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad, then on to Richmond.

The locomotives had been burned before Capt. Sharp could begin to haul them, and he had to essentially take them apart to reduce the weight to be hauled. This led to Sharp being assigned to repair the locomotives, as well as haul them. While some repairing was accomplished in Richmond, most was done in the Confederate Locomotive Shop, in Raleigh, created and run by Sharp.

By the summer of 1863, Sharp had been assigned to be the superintendent of the Charlotte & South Carolina Railroad, a critical road in the supply chain supporting Richmond and the main Confederate army. Later, Sharp was given responsibility for coordinating the railroad transportation of all of central and western South Carolina. As Gen. Sherman approached, in 1865, Sharp assisted in the evacuation of Columbia, and then worked to improve the railroads between Charlotte and Salisbury, N. C. Capt.

Sharp’s story has never been told before and is a unique adventure.

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Dave is the creator of the Confederate Railroads website, that is a unique and valuable reference for anyone interested in rail transportation in the South. I was pleased and honored to be asked to contribute illustrations and maps (a section of the Richmond map, above) to Locomotives Up the Turnpike, and I hope others will enjoy this unusual and, until now, untold story.

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10 Responses

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  1. Robert Nelson said, on March 2, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I will definitely have to order it. I’ve always been fascinated by “The Great Locomotive Heist.” Sections of the Valley Pike are still referred to as Stonewall Jackson’s Railroad.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 3, 2017 at 9:03 am

      I don’t think Dave’s book covers the Andrews Raid directly, but if you haven’t read it I’d recommend Russell Bonds’ Stealing the General. It’s the best work focusing on that event I’ve come across — extremely thorough.

      • Robert Nelson said, on March 4, 2017 at 4:12 pm

        Sorry, I was referring to Jackkson’s “Great Locomotive Heist,” not the Andrews’ raid. Yes, “Stealing the General” is a great book and an easy read.

  2. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on March 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I am constantly amazed at the new scholarship coming out about the war, even 150 years after its conclusion. This is just another example. Thanks for the head’s up on your friend’s book, Andy. I’m going to have to put this on the “To Read” list.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 3, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      It’s a pretty remarkable story. The Confederacy had a severe shortage of both locomotives and rolling stock, with almost no capacity to build more. So when they captured a bunch of Baltimore & Ohio equipment, they said, “look here, Captain Sharp, can you haul these locomotives and rail cars over forty miles of dirt roads down the Shenandoah Valley?”

      And he did.

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on March 3, 2017 at 8:27 pm

        Remarkable. Just hauling a single railcar – never mind a locomotive or several locomotives – over a dirt road 150-plus years ago would have been an arduous task. Definitely a must-read book.

  3. Robert Nelson said, on March 4, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’m really looking forward to getting this book. Some say it never happened. Some say the locomotives were pulled from Martinsburg all the way to Winchester. Still others that McClausland made it all up. I’ve always been fascinated with railroads. My grandfather operated a pile driver for the CB&Q and after he lost his arm in an accident ran a turn bridge over the St. Croix River at Prescott, WI. I wrote a story about him for the “Zephyr” published by the Burlington Northern Historical Society. Only think I’ve ever had published. I remember riding in the cab of a big steam engine from Prescott up to St. Paul and then back on another freight. What a memory for a 10-year old kid and his grandfather.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 4, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      “Some say the locomotives were pulled from Martinsburg all the way to Winchester.”

      They were just gettin’ warmed up.


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