Segments in this Video

Civil War and the Iron Horse (01:57)


The Civil War was the first large-scale conflict to use the Iron Horse as a weapon. A major factor in the North's victory was their control of the railroads.

Early American Railroads (01:22)

Early railroads were a mess. There were 300 independent railroads. Tracks had different gauges. Trains were dangerous; tracks became the scenes of many head-on collisions.

Abraham Lincoln's Train Ride (01:18)

The most talked about rail journey was President-Elect Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington DC for his inauguration. An assassination plot was discovered, forcing Lincoln to "sneak" into the city a different way and at a different time.

Railroads and Corruption (02:10)

Not only were railroads desperately inconvenient and disconnected, opportunists often made matters worse. The Secretary of War owned a railroad, and he arranged for Union troops to travel on his trains; he overcharged the government, too.

Importance of Railroads (02:24)

The North had the advantage over the South regarding railroads. Even so, the earliest uses of trains in the war were debacles. Railroads made the difference between winning and losing at Bull Run.

Railways and Telegraph Act (01:25)

After almost a year of mismanaging its railroads, the North acted to bring some order to the chaos. On January 31, 1862, Congress passed the Railways and Telegraph Act; this enabled the North to use any railroad at established rates of compensation to the owners.

Military Railroad (02:05)

Lincoln wisley appointed Daniel C. McCallum the military Director and Superintendent of railroads. Destroying the enemy's railroads and equipment became an important strategy for both sides during the war.

Herman Haupt and Military Transportation (03:49)

Herman Haupt became Chief of Construction and Transportation for the United States military railroad. He revolutionized military transportation in the United States.

Great Locomotive Chase (05:40)

The Great Locomotive Chase was a military raid by Union soldiers that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia. They stole a locomotive and three cars. Relentlessly pursued, they were finally caught and executed.

Failure of Southern Railroads (02:58)

The failure of railroads in the South to effectively support the military campaign has to do with its philosophy of laissez faire. As the war progressed, attacks against the railroads became more intense and more sophisticated.

Railroad Destruction Genius (01:40)

Herman Haupt, a veritable genius when it came to railroads, invented a "pipe bomb" that was easy to install and could bring down wooden bridges of any size. He knew that any locomotive could be stopped with a cannon ball through its boiler.

Bloodiest Railway Battle (01:52)

In the Civil War, for the first time, battles fought over rail lines became enormous. In October 1862, in Corinth, Mississippi, the Union took control of the nexus of the north/south, east/west rail line. It was among the bloodiest of the railway battles.

Union Army and Superior Railroads (02:46)

At the start of the Civil War, railroads were mismanaged and clogged, but they slowly evolved into the main arteries of the war machine. Ultimately the Union controlled the western theater of the war because of superior railroads.

Rebuilding Rail Lines and Bridges (02:25)

The North learned to build bridges and repair ruined rail lines almost overnight. During the Atlanta Campaign alone, over 100 bridges and 100 miles of track were repaired for immediate use. This demoralized the South. Prefabricated bridges were the North's brilliant strategy.

Strategic Target: Atlanta (01:40)

Atlanta was a key federal target in the South and a major railroad center. Before he evacuated the city, General Hood of the Confederate army destroyed most of the railroads and equipment before the Union's General Sherman could get to it.

Sherman's March to the Sea (01:47)

General Sherman's stated reason for the epic march to the sea was to "make Georgia howl." He destroyed everything that the military used on its path on the march. He rendered every railway useless to the South.

"The Dictator" (02:32)

To hurry the war to its conclusion, the North devised a fearsome weapon called the Dictator at the siege of Petersburg. It was mounted on a rail car and threw a 15-inch shell up to five miles. Gen. Grant and Union troops destroyed every piece of railroad equipment in Richmond.

Funeral Train (01:24)

By the war's end one thing was clear to military men--the train had changed the way battles were fought. On April 12, 1865, the Civil War ended. After President Lincoln's death, his body was taken by train to Springfield, Illinois.

Credits: Trains at War (02:16)

Credits: Trains at War

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Trains at War (Civil War Journal)

Part of the Series : Civil War Journal
3-Year Streaming Price: $129.95



The History Channel’s acclaimed series, Civil War Journal, takes viewers beyond the battles and into the personal stories of the War Between the States. Drawing on diaries, photographs and dramatic re-enactments, the intimate side of the epic conflict is exposed. This episode looks at how superior railroads give the Union an advantage, moving men and materiel as the Confederates couldn’t. Part of the series Civil War Journal. Distributed by A&E Television Networks. (45 minutes)

Length: 44 minutes

Item#: BVL42584

Copyright date: ©1997

Closed Captioned

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