VIDEO: Stonewall’s Train Trick May-June, 1861 by Jim Surkamp TRT: 3:56
From the very beginning of the war, the Confederacy was greatly in need of rolling stock for the railroads. We were particularly short of locomotives and were without shops to build them. Colonel Jackson, appreciating this, hit upon a plan to obtain a good supply from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Its line was double-tracked, at least from Point of Rocks to Martinsburg, a distance of 25 or 30 miles. We’ve not interfered with the running of trains, except on the occasion of the arrest of General Harney, but the coal traffic from Cumberland was immense, as the Washington Government was accumulating supplies of coal on the seaboard. These coal trains passed Harper’s Ferry at all hours of the day and night and thus furnished Jackson with the pretext for arranging a brilliant scoop. When he sent me to Point of Rocks, he ordered Colonel Harper with the 5th Virginia infantry to Martinsburg. Jackson then complained to President Garrett of the Baltimore & Ohio that the night trains eastward-bound disturbed the repose of his camp and therefore requested a change of schedule that would pass all eastbound trains by Harper’s Ferry between 11:00 and 1:00 o’clock in the daytime. Mr. Garrett complied and, thereafter, for several days, we heard the constant roar of passing trains for an hour before and after noon; but, since the empties were sent up the road at night, Jackson again complained that the nuisance was as great as ever; and, as the road had two tracks said he must insist that the westbound train should pass during the same two hours as those going east. Mr. Garrett promptly complied and we then had, for two hours every day, the liveliest railroad in America, Now, one night, as soon as the schedule was working at its best, Jackson sent me an order to take a force of men across to the Maryland side of the river. The next day at eleven o’clock – and letting all westbound trains pass ’till twelve o’clock to permit none to go east; and, at twelve o’clock to obstruct the road so that it would require several days to repair it.
Jackson then ordered the reverse to be done at Martinsburg. Thus, he caught all the trains that were going east or west between these two points and these he ran up to Winchester thirty-two miles on the branch road where they were safe and once they were removed by horsepower to the railway at Strasburg. I do not remember the number of trains captured (386) but the loss crippled the Baltimore and Ohio Road seriously for some time and the gain to the scantily stocked Virginia roads of the same gauge was invaluable.