November 10, 2011

Amateurs Talk Strategy; Professionals Talk Logistics.

Location: Perryville, MD, USA
Here's a post that brings my avocation a little closer to my vocation, and hits on three significant (and basically lost to history) happenings that impacted both the lives of people living in Lancaster during the Civil War and the execution of the Union war effort.

Reading and Columbia Railroad Building, Columbia (Source)
Reading and Columbia Railroad Stock Certificate (Source)

First, construction began in 1861 on the Columbia and Reading Railroad, which ran across northern Lancaster County primarily to complete a New York-Baltimore connection and allow for the more direct shipment of coal from Pennsylvania's mines to Baltimore and beyond.  Discussions and legislative work dated to 1857, and a note in the November 2, 1861, Daily Evening Express stated almost twenty miles of track were ready to be laid and bonds were about to be issued.  The railroad would be completed in late 1863.  Here's a quick history of the Columbia and Reading Railroad.  If you want to dig deeper, the digitized Columbia Spy looks to have some really good information if you simply search "Columbia and Reading Railroad."

Union Army Wagon Train (of Telegraph Corps near Richmond, VA) (Library of Congress)
Second, Lancasterians in late 1861 often witnessed the unusual site of droves of mules being driven through the county on their way to Perryville, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River just 5-10 miles beyond Lancaster County's border with Maryland.  Perryville was the site of major U.S. Army quartermaster operations, which employed a good number of teamsters and carpenters from Lancaster County (DEE 11/4/1861).  Many men from Lancaster's communities of African-Americans, who were not employed as combat soldiers until 1863, appear to have served as teamsters or in support roles at Perryville.  Very interesting accounts of operations there--and later with the Army of the Potomac--were written by a soldier with the pen name "R" for publication in the Lancaster Examiner and Herald.  His first letter from Perryville was published on October 30, 1861, and others followed every two or three weeks (always on Page 3) which you can find by browsing through subsequent editions of the Examiner and Herald.  Here's an excerpt from that first letter:
The operation of breaking the mules for the teams seems to be the most attractive feature of the place.  This department is under the charge of a Mr. Emmonds, assisted by about thirty colored men.  About thirty teams are turned out daily.  The mules are put into a small pen, from which they are driven into stocks or stalls.  Here they are secured somewhat on the Rarey plan, with a rope to each front leg, one round the back, through which one of the ropes on the front leg is passed.  The bridle and collar are then put on, the collar by unbuckling it at the top.  After this they are let into another apartment to receive the rest of the the harness.  Most of them rare and pitch furiously, but are immediately brought to the ground by men at the ropes.  This is continued until the mules submit.  Some yield at once.  Others require more time.  After being subdued, the rest of the gears are put on, and the rope taken off one of the legs.  As soon as hooked into the wagon, the remaining rope is also removed.  Broken mules are taken for the saddle and line, and are hitched in before the new ones are brought to the wagon.  As soon as the team is full, which is usually fitted up in from ten to fifteen minutes, two of the colored men drive it round, with two wheels checked, until the mules are quiet, when it is given into the teamster's charge.  The new wagoner continues driving it every day, with one, if necessary, both wheels locked, until he has perfect control of his team.  The gears, mules, line, &c., are arranged precisely like the Conestoga or Lancaster county farm teams.  The driver rides the left hind mule, with a single line attached to the leader.  The mules are not beaten during the process of breaking, as has been generally reported, though some drivers may occasionally abuse them while working with them.  That some "hard swearing" is sometimes indulged in may by inferred from the remark of one of the Germans from Lancaster, who is here as a teamster, that all the mules had one name--"Soon uv a beatch!"
From Hardtack and Coffee

Finally, I've noticed a good number and wide variety of war-related contracts being noted in Lancaster's newspapers of late 1861 along with advertisements for workers.  Shoes, clothes, lumber for bridges, rifles (and I think cannons from Safe Harbor's iron works), and wagons all were supplied from Lancaster.  One that got a good bit of attention was an order for 100 army wagons completed basically in November 1861 by Cox & Co. at the corner of S. Duke and E. Lime, which the Daily Evening Express noted "is giving employment to a large number of workmen; and has set to work much otherwise unemployed machinery."  (11/7/1861)  In a November 30 article, the Express praised the wagons' quality  and commented, "The principal object was to give employment to a large number of mechanics, and to distribute some $10,000 in this community."  The wagons passed inspection with flying colors, and fifty teams of six mules each traveled from Perryville to Lancaster on December 17 to retrieve the wagons (DEE 12/17). 

Detail of William L. Gill stereoview of S. Duke St, showing carriage manufacturer Cox & Co. (vws)
See original stereoview here.

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