Train Kept ‘a Rollin’, All Night Long

8 06 2012

The following exchange took place a good while back, strangely enough on the Book Me, Danno! page. I keep meaning to post it so folks can read it and I can find it more easily, and I’m finally doing that now.

Just found your interesting site and thought you might help me with a problem.  I am working on a history of Co. I, 9th Alabama Infantry and I am confused about why they were delayed and missed the Battle of Manassas.  Do you know the true story about why the train carrying them to Manassas was delayed?

Thanks and have a great day.

Ronald Pettus

My reply:

The 9th Alabama was certainly not the only regiment of Johnston’s army that did not make it to the field in time to take part in the battle.  While the move to Manassas from Winchester began on July 18th around noon the first troops, Jackson’s, didn’t reach Piedmont Station, 17 miles away, until sometime before 9 the next morning when they entrained for Manassas.  Bartow’s men didn’t leave until about 6 PM on the 19th, so we can figure about 9 hours for the round trip if the train didn’t stop.  Bee’s men, along with Johnston, left on the 20th around 7 AM so it figures that the trains did not run constantly, maybe took about a 4 hour break.  Smith stayed at Piedmont to move men.  Bee and Johnston arrived at Manassas around noon on the 20th, so that’s a 5 hour one way trip.  According to Elzey, his brigade left Piedmont at “daylight” on the 21st and after much delay reached Manassas around noon.  No other troops arrived between Bee and Elzey (Smith), so it figures the trains did not run from the time they got back from Manassas on the 20th until daylight on the 21st.  You’ve got to figure at least a nine hour round trip, so the best case for another load of men arriving in Manassas would have been 9 PM on the 21st.

Most sources say the 9th was delayed by “an accident”, but I don’t have any details on the specifics of an accident.  Perhaps it occurred after Bee arrived at Manassas and before Elzey left Piedmont.

This sequence of events probably deserves its own post.

And now it has it.

If anyone out there has more info on this topic, please chime in.

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One response

10 06 2012
Cooper Wingert

This is not to leave info, but I just wanted to say how grateful and amazed I am about this site, Harry. You put a lot of time and effort into this, and made many hard to find resources on the first major battle of America’s greatest war easily accessable in this big techno-21st Century. Truly, I thank you.

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