Monday, April 17, 2017

Booknotes: Locomotives Up the Turnpike

New Arrival:
Locomotives Up the Turnpike: The Civil War Career of Quartermaster Captain Thomas R. Sharp, C.S.A. by David L. Bright (Author, 2017).

Most readers have surely read at least something about the Confederates dragging captured B&O locomotives up the Shenandoah Valley early in the war for use elsewhere. I seem to recall the operation being the object of some amount of controversy, too, with claims put forth that the event never occurred. Anyway, the man tasked with the job was a Virginia railroad superintendent named Thomas R. Sharp, and Bright's Locomotives Up the Turnpike is the first book-length study of the topic.

From the description: "Sharp hired dozens of men and hundreds of horses and wagons to haul the rolling stock south on the Valley of Virginia Turnpike, from Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry to Winchester to Strasburg. Seventeen locomotives and well over 100 cars were hauled over the country roads to intersections with the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad, then on to Richmond."

The book also documents Sharp's later career. "By the summer of 1863, Sharp had been assigned to be the superintendent of the Charlotte & South Carolina Railroad, a critical road in the supply chain supporting Richmond and the main Confederate army. Later, Sharp was given responsibility for coordinating the railroad transportation of all of central and western South Carolina. As Gen. Sherman approached, in 1865, Sharp assisted in the evacuation of Columbia, and then worked to improve the railroads between Charlotte and Salisbury, N.C."

Four appendices are included. The first addresses the doubters, the second the question of a similar event that might have occurred at an earlier time, and the third describes in detail the locomotives saved. The last appendix comprises a series of manpower rosters of those that served under Sharp during his various wartime assignments. Original cartography and full-color artist renderings of six locomotives were created by Andrew Hall for the volume. On a related note, the author also runs the Confederate Railroads website.

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