Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category

Modern Views of the City Point and Army Line Yard Location

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Taken November, 2017, This View From the Bluff Views the Location of the City Point and Army Line Engine House

Taken November, 2017, This view shows where part of the City Point and Army Line yard was located

This picture was taken from the bluff, where the impressive row of barracks were located. The First Baptist Church of City Point is located there now. The bluff at the far side of the picture is where the railroad hospital was located. After taking this and several other pictures, a resident asked me if I was with the company that was planning some development there. I said no, I was interested in Civil War history. He said that was understandable. Maybe I should have asked him what was up, but felt that I didn’t want to disturb the residents any more than I already had done.

Here is a famous view taken from the same general location during the Civil War.

Water tanks and bluff where railroad hospital was located

Water tanks and bluff where railroad hospital was located

Here is a modern view of the cut leading to the yard.

Cut leading to City Point Termnial

Cut leading to City Point Termnial

The US Military Railroad laid 3 parallel tracks in this cut.

My overall impression is that there wasn’t a lot of extra space at City Point. Everything seems like it must have been squeezed pretty tightly together.

Another Book about Lincoln at City Point and a Correction

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
two Lincoln at City Point books

two Lincoln at City Point books

The book, “Abraham Lincoln At City Point” was written by national park historian, Donald C. Pfalz and published in 1989. My new book, “Lincoln’s Greatest Journey” was written by Noah Andre Trudeau and published in 2016.

Both books contain a remarkably similar account of Lincoln’s stay at City Point in late March and early April of 1865. I would say that Pfalz’s book is a bit more scholarly in nature. Trudeau’s book is written more for general consumption and contains more background information about what was happening with the war in general and at the Petersburg front in particular.

Despite the duplicate subject matter, for someone modeling City Point during this period in time, I can’t imagine not picking up both volumes. There aren’t really that many books that use so much ink describing what was going at at City Point, at the time.

Now, for the correction. A while back, I made this post describing a theory I had about about Lincoln’s travel to the front on March 25th.

Though I still think that Mr Pfanz was wrong in his assessment that the train took them to Patrick’s station, I was missing some information, and didn’t read the train reports closely enough.

My assessment was also wrong. I should have investigated further, but it turns out that Meade’s HQ was near the Aikin’s house, which was near Parke’s station. Here is crop of Michler’s map of the Petersburg fortifications, showing the area from Meade’s HQ to Fort Wadsworth, the area that Lincoln’s party visited. I have labelled the area of Parke’s and Warren’s station, which are not noted on Michler’s original map.

Lincoln's Visit to the Front

Lincoln’s Visit to the Front

It’s interesting that the train report that Bernard Kempkinski found in the National Archives doesn’t list a Parke Station at all. I suppose it was more of whistle stop, rather than a regular station. I now believe that Lincoln’s party probably left the train at Parke Station and went directly to Meade’s HQ, which would have have been proper protocol for a commander visiting his subordinates army. However, if Parke Station didn’t have the facilities to unload the horses that were brought along, the most logical first stop would have been Warren Station.

Meade’s HQ area is where Lincoln’s party saw the prisoners from the fight for Fort Stedman. I finally realized why there would be prisoners so far from where the fighting took place, which was part of my confusion in the past. Meade’s army would have had provisions and procedures for handling prisoners. During the Civil War, the army’s provost guard HQ was usually near army HQ. Most likely, all prisoners the army captured, were sent to a holding area somewhere near the provost guard HQ for processing. This is why the prisoners from the fight at Stedman were marched to near the Aiken house.

I don’t believe that Lincoln actually saw the battlefield around Stedman, itself. Since they were so far from the big fight at Stedman, I’m not really sure how many dead and wounded that Lincoln saw that day. However because of all the fighting going on across the front that day, it’s very likely that some wounded and perhaps a few men that had expired from their wounds were in the area that Lincoln visited.

From Meade’s HQ, it would have been a fairly short ride by horseback to review part of the fifth corps and then on to Fort Wadsworth. There, the party could have obtained distant views of fighting going on in the area. From Fort Wadsworth, the group could easily have proceeded down the line to Patrick’s station, before returning to City Point on the train.

I think that Trudeau’s book describes this trip to the front, pretty well, though I’m kind of skeptical about how many dead and wounded men were seen by the group.

City Point Rail Yard then and now

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Here are a couple of views of the US Military Railroad Yard at City Point.

Rail Yard at City Point circa 1865

Rail Yard at City Point circa 1865

This one was probably taken in the winter of 1865.

Former Railyard at City Point Nov- 2017

Former Railyard at City Point Nov- 2017

This is the approximate same view in November of 2017.

First Pass of a Mantua General Repaint

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

First see this old old blog post about the remotoring and change to the drawbar that I did a few years ago.

I am not a master modeler, but more recently, I’ve been working on changing an old Mantua General Locomotive over to the paint scheme of a US Military Railroad Norris type locomotive. With City Point being my main area of focus, I found some really good images of the Govener Nye, and decided to use that locomotive as my prototype.

The original paint job was severely chipped and probably not very great to start with. I stripped the old paint off with lacquer thinner and then repainted. Here is the result.

Generic USMRR Locomotive - paint based on Govenor Nye, a Norris built 4-4-0

Generic USMRR Locomotive – paint based on Govenor Nye, a Norris built 4-4-0

I used an ancient can of Humrol #96 RAF blue that was left over from my days as a wargamer for the Russian iron, and am very pleased with the result. Other paints were from what I had on hand. I’m not all that happy with the green, but it will do for now. Decals are from Microscale’s Eastern USMRR set.

Besides the repaint here are some other things that I have done with this locomotive.

I added a DCC decoder using a Digitrax DZ-123 Z scale decoder, which can handle the 1 AMP motor. At this time, I don’t plan on adding sound to my Civil War locomotives, thinking that an external sound system will be more impressive. For example, I’m contemplating having an actual whistle that will be controlled with the DCC throttle, just like any other locomotive with a built in sound system.

I also added an engineer to the cab, but he is not very visable.

After mucking around for a bit trying to make the Matua supplied wood pile look more realistic, I ended up replacing the wood in the tender. I scored the sides of some round toothpicks with a fine tooth metal cutting sabre saw blade. Then I stained them and then cut them to size using a end cutting pliers. After positioning them losely on the tender, I used diluted elmers glue to attach them to the top of the tender.

What’s up next? I will add a line so the miniature engineer can ring the bell. I’m considering adding a working headlamp, but that may wait for a later date. I also need to program the speed tables for the DCC decoder. I will probably add a small magnet to the smoke/steam, so it can be removed when the locomotive is shut down, yet be a little more firmly attached when the locomotive is in motion.

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.