You are on page 1of 9



After the war of 1812 the US was in a state of decline with the White House

getting burned. However, due to the efforts of Congress to implement the American system in

place to fix the US economy. This would mean connecting the Western rural farms to the East

manufacturing factories using water canals and railroads. The railroads would lead to the

swift development of cities in the west such as Chicago and Detroit. The transportation of

supplies using railroads would continue all the way through the Civil War. In the Civil War

the use of railroads would help the war effort of the Union by allowing them to supply their

troops with clean uniforms, weapons, and sustenance; railroads would provide a way for

troops getting transported to the front lines at fast time with armored trains but would become

key targets of sabotage on both sides of the war.

The railroads allowed for the transportation of various amounts of supplies to the front

war battles. Through the transcript of the Pacific Railway Act the Union had passed a law that

allowed the government to take possession of any telegraph or railroad line in the United States.

This allowed for the Union government to transport many supplies to key areas of conflicts in the

east with speed while the South was unable to do this due to their weak government and being

unable to apprehend the southern railroads for that would be a violation of their citizen’s rights

and that their railroads were in poor condition. Battles such as Antietam had as many as 23,000

casualties and an estimated 3,650 dead according to History. This battle would require the need

of new supplies such as medical equipment and sustenance for these wounded soldiers.

According to MDDI saws, prosthetics, and probes were used by medics to treat the wounded.

These instruments of healing were manufactured in the northern factories and when equipment

was needed, they would be transported via railroad to these medics that were applying

amputations. Admittedly, they would reuse the same tools over all the patients but these railroads

allowing for the transportation of supplies after the battle greatly improved the morale and troops

after battle. These medics would be most useful in the Battle of Gettysburg, America’s bloodiest

battle. After the battle regiments would go around writing down the names of their fallen

comrades in battle. An example of this would be the manuscript document Unknown List of

killed and wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. The casualty rates for the Union would be 3,155

and there was a total of 14,529 union wounded. To treat the great amount of wounded many

medics came to the aid of these soldiers via railroads. The railroads would serve in keeping these

wounded veterans alive and make the war less damaging to the morale of the Union’s citizens.

Another supply that the railroads would provide to the front lines was weapons.

According to Digital History there were over 1.3 million workers in the manufacturing field in

the Union. These factories produced the number one product needed in the war, guns. According

to historynet the Union had a total of 2 million soldiers and so at the bare minimum 2 million

guns, but it was most likely that spares were built so the total amount was most likely triple of

that number. These guns had to be transported from northern factories to the soldiers in the front

line, so the use of railroads was vital. In the Railroad depot, Nashville 9 railroad engines with

various other cars are seen having carts filled with supplies. Soldiers would typically unload the

supplies and resupply the troops with fresh new guns and give back the old broken ones that

could have malfunctioned in previous combats. These supplies could have been used in the

Battle of Nashville. In this battle the Confederates had launched the offensive onto the Union and

laid siege. The Union had an army of 55,000 troops already stationed there and with supply

routes established by the railroads giving them supplies they were able to repel the enemy and

win a victory for the Union. These daily supplies were guns and artillery with superior numbers

were all advantages the Union had when it came to win the battle.

The Union would have to feed their troops to keep them fighting in the civil war. Most

of the agricultural production for the Union was found in the Western States but most of the

brutal battles were fought in the East so they had to find a way to feed the thousands of soldiers

in the East and various other areas around the country. They connected the production of crops

and the locations these soldiers through railroads. A great need of logistics would be required to

feed and ration out enough food for the duration of the war. In the early stages of the war the

soldiers were fed beans, rice, sugar, salt, and vinegar in a certain amount across many rations.

These foods were able to sustain the Union soldiers for prolonged battles. An example of a

prolonged engagement would be the Siege of Vicksburg. This siege would last from May 18-

July 4 and the Union General Grant would starve out the enemy by cutting them off from their

supply line. The union supply line was undisturbed allowing for massive amounts of rations for

all of the Union soldiers. The Confederates would be forced to surrender under Grant’s demands

and be under parole compared to unconditional surrender since he did not want to feed 30,000

soldiers.From the autograph letter signed Sayles, Sumner to Isora Sayles has the first hand

witness of the 30 to 40 thousands troops surrendering to Grant and his military practices. The use

of the railroads were able to give the Union an advantage in prolonged engagements and extend

their supply lines all the way into enemy territory.

The railroads had allowed for drafted soldiers to be transported to the front lines of battle

at a fast speed. The draft would be issued by the government called the Enrollment Act which

caused many men to participate in the Civil War. Across many states there would be call to bear

arms such as Call for troops from Ohio. Each state would be required to draft a certain amount of

soldiers dependent on the population of the state. These newly recruited soldiers would undergo

drills and once they finished their training they would be sent to the main regiments. The soldiers

would travel to these armies via the railroad and most regular troops were in the box cars or

flatbed cars. A newly formed regiment fighting in the front lines would be the 54th regiment.

This army was comprised mostly of African American soldiers and would participate in many

battles in the front lines. The 54th regiment would fight courageously until their deaths at Fort

Wagner. The North had 71% of the United States population and this would allow them to refuel

the lost numbers of death they had when compared to the South. Combining the efforts of the

railroads and the recruitment of soldiers the Union was able to transport newly recruited soldiers

to the front lines swiftly.

Railroads will not only be used for the transportation of guns or supplies but have trains

that would carry devastating weapons aboard them such as Gatling guns, motors, or cannons. An

armored would be made by having a locomotive and attaching rifle cars or monitors onto the

locomotive. They were usually built out of metal and would be able to deflect light artillery

projectiles and provide great support to the soldiers nearby. An example of this would be the

only armored train tasked with defending the railroads against confederate forces attempting to

sabotage the Union’s supply line. The armored train had a howitzer and 50 opened slots designed

for protecting the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Wilmington Railroads. Admittedly these armored

cars weakness was artillery which made them easy targets to blow up and destroy. Cheaper

versions of the armored train were the Railroad battery before Petersburg. The battery had

cannons attached to it and made it light and time efficient way of transporting the cannons across

the battlefields when compared to horses. They could also in case of an emergency fire from the

battery to oncoming enemies. The railroads became a much more complicated tool in the civil

war due to it not just transporting supplies and soldiers across the battlefield but now having

devastating machines of power going down them filled with man killing machines.

The railroads were so important to the Union’s success that they would focus on

protecting their supply lines but also sabotage the enemy’s railroads. In Four soldiers on

railroad tracks would have Union soldiers taking attentive care of the railroads. The railroads

was an important factor of the war for they would have soldiers keeping eye out for enemy

saboteurs. Due to the South attempting to cripple the Union’s supply line the Union decided to

give some payback to the Confederates. The Union soldiers would pull up the enemy rails,

heating them until they bent, or tying tree trunks around them. These actions would slow down

and damage the Confederates supply logistics and now time of supplies would be more difficult

for them. When the Union gained more land as they began to win the war they forced the

military soldiers to construct a military bridge for more supply line through the railroad. Such as

Military bridge across the Chickahominy, Virginia. Railroads became such a significant role in

the war that they resulted to sabotaging the process of the work.

In the Civil War the use of railroads aided in the victory of the Union by letting them

efficient supply lines and advanced technological vehicles. Uses of the trains in the Civil War for

transporting goods would continue throughout the Spanish American War. In the Spanish

American war, most factories were not in the West so they had to transport their weapons and

supplies to the west so ships could deliver them to where the battle was happening which was in

the Pacific.


Primary Sources

Lincoln, Abraham. “Transcript of Pacific Railway Act (1862).” Our Documents - Interstate Commerce Act (1887),


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World War I | Gilder

Lehrman Institute of American History,

“The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World War I | Gilder

Lehrman Institute of American History, 3 July 1863,


Lincoln, Abraham. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World

War I | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 5 Sept. 1863,


Sumner, Sayles. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World

War I | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 11 July 1863,


Russel, Andrew. “Armored Train Car.” American Civil War Forums, 8 July 2018,

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World War I | Gilder

Lehrman Institute of American History,

“The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World War I | Gilder

Lehrman Institute of American History,


Gardner, Alexander. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of

World War I | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 1862,

across-chickahominy-virginia .

Secondary Sources

“Railroads of the Confederacy.” American Battlefield Trust, 23 July 2018,


“Railroads In The Civil War.”,

“Railroad's Critical Role in the Civil War.” HistoryNet, 9 Aug. 2016,

Keating, Dennis. “Railroads in the Civil War.” Slavery Cause the Civil War, 2017,

Arrington, Benjamin. “Industry and Economy during the Civil War (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks
Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 23 Aug. 2017,

Editors of Publications International, Ltd. “Railroad Expansion.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 19 May 2008,

Editors, “Battle of Antietam.”, A&E Television Networks, 27 Oct. 2009,

Anonymous. “10 Medical Devices Used During the Civil War.” MDDI Online, 17 Aug. 2017,

“The South's Economy.” Digital History, 2016,

“Civil War Soldiers.” HistoryNet, 2004,

“Battle of Nashville Facts & Summary.” American Battlefield Trust, 13 Oct. 2018,

“Gettysburg Casualties (Battle Deaths at Gettysburg).” HistoryNet,

“Food During the Civil War (from Tar Heel Junior Historian).” Weapons in the War of 1812 | NCpedia,

Editors, “Second Battle of Bull Run.”, A&E Television Networks, 5 Apr. 2011,

“The Ten Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War.” The Great Courses Daily, 9 July 2018,

Editors, “Siege of Vicksburg.”, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009,

“Soldier Life.” Civil War Academy, Civil War Academy,

“Battle of The Wilderness Facts & Summary.” American Battlefield Trust, 7 July 2017,

“Black Soldiers in the U.S. Military During the Civil War.” National Archives and Records Administration, National
Archives and Records Administration,

“North and South.” American Battlefield Trust, 18 Oct. 2018,

Alaska, Uss. “Armored Train Car.” American Civil War Forums, 8 July 2018,

“Civil War Railroads - Sept. '96 America's Civil War Feature.” HistoryNet, 28 Sept. 2016,