Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 1863: The Confederacy begins to tear up its own railroads

Track maintenance on a Southern railroad

After nearly two years at war, the Confederacy faced a serious shortage of iron and steel for munitions, cannon, armor plate, and replacements for worn out railroad rails. On this day 150 years ago, the Confederate government began the process of identify which existing railroads could be "dispensed with" so their iron rails could be torn up and recycled in order to provide armor for ironclads or replacement rails for more critical railroads.
SPECIAL ORDERS,
ADJT. AND INSP. GENERAL'S OFFICE, No. 18. Richmond, Va., January 22, 1863.

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V. Iron for the completion of public vessels being indispensable, and not within the reach of the Government through the ordinary sources, Colonel W. M. Wadley, assistant adjutant-general, and Major I. M. St. John, chief of the Niter and Mining Bureau, are appointed to act, with an officer to be designated by the Navy Department, as a commission to examine and advise on what railroads in the Confederate States the iron on their tracks can best be dispensed with. In making this inquiry the commission will be governed by the public interest, and will leave out of consideration all roads and portions of roads required for military operations and defenses, and also such as are indispensable in conveying supplies for the public use. They will also, remembering that the iron rails which can be advantageously removed as far as suitable may be needed for the maintenance of the roads indispensable to military operations, inquire and report the best means of ascertaining the iron suitable for such roads and apportioning the same, and the rails removed may be exchanged for equivalents in value of more defective rails to be rolled and used for naval purposes.

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By command of the Secretary of War:

JOHN WITHERS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

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