Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category

Retracing Abraham Lincoln’s Footsteps

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

A month or so, ago, Bernie Kempkinski, made a post in the Yahoo, Civil War Railroad’s and Modeling group. This post had links to images of actual train reports from the City Point and Army Line Railroad during March and early April, 1865. Train reports list the times that trains passed the various stations on the line. Presumably the stations telegraphed trains movements back to City Point as they occurred. Bernie had found these reports in the National Archives.

The dates of the reports that Bernie found, coincide with the final days of the siege of Petersburg and include March 25th, 1865, the day of the battle of Fort Steadman, and Abraham Lincoln’s visit to the front lines at Petersburg. Having a great interest in what was going during those days at City Point and Petersburg, I had previously purchased a book by Donald Pfanz, “Abraham Lincoln at City Point”. This books details Lincoln’s day by day activities during his time at City Point and vicinity during March and early April, 1865.

Of course the first thing I had to do, was to see if the train Lincoln took to see the front on March 25th, was listed in the train report for that day. Pfanz’s book reports that the Lincoln party took a train at around noon. Sure enough, in the report there is a special train arriving at Pitkin Station, the next station up the line from City Point at 12:30 – that must have been Lincoln’s train.

However this is where things get interesting. Pfanz writes that the Lincoln party went to Patrick Station, and then mounted horses and ambulances to visit Meade’s HQ. Pfanz writes that they arrived at Meades HQ around 1:00PM. He goes on to write that the party viewed a number of Confederate prisoners from the battle, then went to Fort Wadsworth to see the Sixth Corp take some advanced works in front of Boydon Plank Road.

This story hardly could be the truth. Patrick Station is a mile beyond Warren Station, and Fort Wadsworth is between these two, and all are several miles down the track from Fort Stedman and Meade Station, which I presume was close to Meade’s HQ. The special train arrived at Warren Station at 2:00PM, long after Lincoln is said to have visited Meade’s HQ.

I think it is more likely that the Lincoln party changed to ambulance and horse at Meade’s station, viewing the killed, wounded and prisoners from the battle of Fort Stedman near that location. Then they road down the line to Fort Wadsworth, from which they viewed the attack of the Sixth Corps. Afterward, they could have reboarded the train at Patrick Station for the return trip to City Point.

Mike Willegal

“Stonewall” Jackson’s Raincoat

Friday, November 13th, 2015

“Stonewall” Jackson was shot by his own men while in the front lines doing some scouting while wearing this rain coat.

How come I don’t remember anyone, pointing out that from a short distance or in the haze, smoke and confusion of battle that “Stonewall” Jackson’s Raincoat would look almost identical to a Union Officer’s Frock coat. Seems like a poor choice of clothing for the occasion.

I’m just saying…

Civil War Controversy: The Relieving of General Warren Before Five Forks

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

A while back, I created a web page with some of my views on controversial topics of American Civil War history. The first topic talks about my view of the efficiency of Army of Potomac Corps commanders in both 1864 and 1865. One of the most controversial changes was on April 1, 1865, when General Phil Sheridan relieved General Warren of command of the V corps. To this day, the correctness of this decision is debated by civil war buffs.

The website has a number blog entries covering both sides of the controversy. What is especially interesting is reading the blog entry covering messages between various Union generals on May 30th and April 1st.

My view is that Generals Grant, Meade and Sheridan had every right to relieve Warren. In my view, Grant didn’t trust Warren to do the right thing in a crisis. The messages captured in the Official Records clearly indicate that Generals Grant and Meade were attempting to micro-manage Warren’s actions. If Grant had confidence in Warren, I believe that he would have given Warren general directions to work with Sheridan in order to turn the Confederate left and cut the South Side Railroad. A commanders lack of confidence in a subordinate should be enough to justify removing a person from such an important role.

Whether Warren was a competent corp commander or not, really is quite a different discussion. Even if he was actually the best corps commander in the world, if he didn’t have the confidence of his boss, relieving him of command, was the right thing to do. No commander should be saddled with a subordinate that he can’t trust in a crisis.

Well Known Game Designer, John Hill, has Died

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

It’s sad to see another icon of the wargaming world, has died. I found out today that well known game designer John Hill has died on January 12th, at age 71.

I was deeply involved in wargaming in the mid to late 70’s and spent many hours playing his most well known game, “Squad Leader”. He also designed a popular Civil War Miniature’s rule’s set called “Johnny Reb”.

So Who Wrote that Anti-Bellum (Pre Civil War) Love Letter?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It was U. S. Grant, future leader of the Union Armies during the Civil War and President.

So what kind of man was Grant.

As you might guess, all accounts indicate his family life had an almost storybook quality about it, always being faithful to his wife, Julia, and being a loving father.

Grant was a no-nonsense type man. As a general during the war, he formed strong opinions of the people around him and whenever possible, acted upon these opinions, putting those he trusted in positions of authority, and casting aside those he didn’t trust. He was extremely demanding, and had high expectations of those under him. I believe his success as overall leader of the Union armies was largely due to his ability to find and promote people of great ability to execute his plans.

Though known as a poor president, his politics were those of a radical republican, and his administration was challenged by the extreme difficulty of reconstructing a shattered nation. Though the Confederate soldiers put down their weapons, most of them never changed their political views. His liberal views toward the freedman, and strong will, rubbed many people the wrong way. Though he was extremely popular in his time, once the “lost cause” movement gained a toehold, his generalship and politics were roundly criticized. Recent scholars have been more kind to him.

Which Civil War General Wrote this Letter to his Sweetheart.

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I had to share this – I have changed some of the names to make it harder to figure out the answer..

Corpus Christi Texas
Jan. 12th 1846

My Dear Nancy,

I have just been delighted by the receiving a long and interesting letter from the one I love so much and from the tone of her letter I am left with the hope that for the remainder of the time that we two are not one, she will be punctual in answering my letters. You do not know the pleasure it gives me to receive letters from you my Dear Nancy or you would write oftener. I write to you very often besides answering all your letters. You beg of me not to resign: it shall be as you say Nancy for to confess the truth it was on your account that I thought of doing so, although all the letters I get from my father are filled with persuasion for me to resign. For my own part I am contented with an army life, all that I now want, to be happy is for Nancy to become mine, and how much I would sacrifice if her parents would give now their willing consent. By Spring at farthest I hope to see the 4th Infy (You know that I have transferred from the 7th to the 4th) settled and that too on the Mississippi river, unless something should take place to give us active employment. Has Mr. Reeves ever delivered you the letters sent by him. It is astonishing Nancy what a place Corpus Christi has become. Already there are two Theaters and a printing office every night there is a performance play at one or the other. It seems strange to hear you talking of sleigh riding, for here we have although it is January weather warm enough for light clothing. Such a thing as a sprinkle of snow is rarely seen at Corpus Christi.

From my last letter you will see that I have been on a long trip through Texas and that I think the country beautiful and promising. If it should turn out after all that my Regiment should be retained here (it is not the opinion of any one that it will be kept) I could have but little to complain of. Your letter. and indeed all your letters, show your willingness to accompany me to any permanent Military post. It is very pleasant to hear such confessions from the one we love and in return I have to say that I would make any sacrifice for my Nancy’s happiness. But what an uninteresting letter I am writing you it seems to me that the more I write the worse I get.—I have not heard from Fred, since I have been in Texas. I have written to him once and I think twice since he wrote to me last. Tell him he must write soon. Fred is now about 3d for promotion. There has been two resignations at Corpus Christi that he has not heard of.—Mr. Ridgely and Mr. Sykes have gone to St. Louis on a sick leave; if I had known sooner that they were going I would have sent a letter by them.

I have written you several letters that remain unanswered so I shall look for another letter in every Mail. Give my love to all at White Haven. Soon I hope to see you again my dear dear Nancy and let us hope that it will be to never separate again for so long a time or by so great a distance.

Your Devoted

A Clue…
Mary Lincoln supposedly once said of this man
“He is a butcher and is not fit to be at the head of an army. Yes, he generally manages to claim a victory, but such a victory! He loses two men to the enemy’s one. He has no management, no regard for life.”

In case you can’t figure out who the author of the letter was, I’ll add another post in a day or two with the answer.

Engine House Mock Up

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Using photoshopped, colorized images of the side, entrance and roof of the real engine house, I have created a HO scale mock up of 2 sides of the engine house and one side of the roof. Images were printed on matte paper on an inkjet printer and glued to foam core board. The engine house was actually 150 feet long by 50 feet wide – this is a true HO scale mock up, so its a little over 20 inches long and 7 inches wide. I will likely improve the look of the mock up in the future with a thinner roof made with cardboard or plastic instead of foam core and some detail parts and add the cupola that belongs on the roof. I have found that Grandt Line makes 6 over 6 windows that should made a nice upgrade over the printed windows. Any edges of the foam core that show will be painted over.

engine house mock up ii

engine house mock up ii

A front view gives a little better perspective of how the mock up looks next to a Mantua General.

engine house mock up with track plan

engine house mock up

Finally a view of this section of the layout with the rough track plan highlighted in yellow with photoshop. This gives an idea of the proportions of this part of the layout. The water tanks would be just to the side of the engine.

engine house mock up track plan

engine house mock up track plan

The open space towards the bottom of the image will contain a bit of the bluff that was on both sides of the cut that lead to the wharf. The next module to the right side will contain a piece the end of the trench line that protected City Point, as well as some crossovers on the incoming tracks.

Engine House colorization version 2

Saturday, May 17th, 2014
engine house side-version 2

engine house side-version 2

I hope that this is the final version, as I have other projects to pursue. Changes include coloring railroad trucks, the engine and most noticeably the wagon. I also slightly “weathered” the roof and tweaked things around the foliage. The color I’m least confident of, is the wagon box. I made it blue to match quartermaster wagon colors, but it’s just a wild guess. The red wagon and railroad wheels were very common at the time, so at least they are plausible.

Next thing I’m going to try to do is to build a model engine house with foam core board covered with printed (colorized) images of the actual engine house.

Colorized City Point Engine House Picture

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Just learned how to colorize a black and white image with photoshop. It’s easier than I thought it would be. Though this image is just a hack job, it shows what it possible. It also can be used to help pick the colors in my actual model.

Colorized Engine House Picture

Colorized Engine House Picture

Let me know what you think of the color choices.

First Mantua General Remotoring Experience

Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Mantua Remotoring

Mantua Remotoring

I generally followed Al Muellers recommendations for replacing the drive line – though I did have difficulty drilling and soldering the music wire into the brass rod on the engine side. The tender side was easier, since I drilled the smaller hole and used it as a pilot hole for the motor shaft. This caused the drive wire to be lined up with the shaft, even if it wasn’t perfectly centered in the brass rod.

The shortened drawbar was cut out of scrap PCB material. The copper side is cut, so that there is no short circuit between the tender and the cab.

The other thing I changed was mounting the Nichibo PC-130 motor. I found I had a couple of screws that fit the mounting holes on the face of the motor. I presume that these are a metric size. I decided to use some scrap sheet metal to make a mount. It is bent at a 90 degree angle and using a #6 screw, mounted to the tender floor, opposite the hole that is used for feeding track power back to the tender. This provides a solid mount that, if necessary, can easily be removed or adjusted. I will eventually add DCC, but not sound, as I am looking at developing an external sound system, which will be able to produce far more dramatic effects that the small speaker in a tender could produce.

The Nichibo PC-130 motor produces incredibly improved low speed operation. I’m just amazed at the dramatic difference that this made. I haven’t yet calculated scale top speed using a traditional 12 volt power pack, but I’m guessing that it is way below capabilities of a real 4-4-0. Since I’m only modeling the yard and port, where speed would be low anyway, I’ll probably live with it.

I have some more things to do with the locomotive.

  • improve tender truck electrical pickup
  • replace front truck and tender wheels
  • address an issue with tractive effort, which seems inadequate at this point – perhaps more weight is all that is needed
  • add tender couplers – may use knuckle couplers initially in order to do some testing, but eventually I want to use link and pin
  • paint and detail as Liet. Gen Grant