GENIUS OF THE MILITARY RAILROADS
Brigadier General Herman Haupt

Haupt
    There was nothing average about the intelligence of a young man from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who had graduated from the United States Military Academy at the age eighteen. His interest was in the railroad system, and a scant few months after leaving West Point, Herman Haupt pursued the course of Railroad Engineering. It was his designs that were adapted for most of the lines running from New England south to Pennsylvania.

     Attempting to establish order out of mayhem with the railroad systems in the Virginia theatre of operations, the United States War Department had asked for Herman Haupt's professional expertise. He was not impressed with military rank and offered to serve without it, yet found the rank of colonel a convenience in that he was able to get things done. He entered the army bound by his own agreement to stay only as long as his services were necessary. Politically personal reasons existing between he and the government in Massachusetts, dictated that his priorities exceeded those of the national government. These conditions were met and accepted by the Secretary Edwin McMasters Stanton.

    In the late summer of 1862, he was thus ordered to embrace the responsibilities of all the railroads within the operations of the Army of Virginia. In a personal interview with the General In Chief two weeks after his commission to brigadier general, Haupt outlined for him the vision he had of the Department of Military Railroads. The responsibilities would include: a current table of what railroads are in possession of the Federal Government, how far they can expect to operate along any particular line, the state of their condition, the logistics of rolling stock, the prices of materials and supplies and whether a judicious economy existed or extravagant character of expenditures. It was an indispensable service the war managers could not live without.
Stanton
     While tending to his duties in the field and adjusting to the various personalities of general officers all about him, the Pennsylvanian could spot a disaster in the making. He reported his own opinions of the tactical situation, having warned the War Department of the forthcoming disasters at both 2nd Bull Run and Fredericksburg, yet being ignored and allowing history to take on a different course.

    His crew engaged in bridge reconstruction in and around the Gettysburg area in early July 1863, opened a supply line on the Western Maryland Railroad, and reopened the Northern Central Railroad for the easy extraction of the wounded to Hanover Junction.

     The Engineer had honored his own contract with the Federal Government to the letter of his own law, until September 1, 1863 when the Secretary of War ordered all officers to formally accept their commissions otherwise they would be vacated. To this Haupt responded in writing that: "I have uniformly declined to accept military rank unconditionally, and have given you my reasons for itů" His loyalty to the government remained, offering to continue on in a civilian role, however, this proved to be most unacceptable. On September 14th, Secretary of War Stanton would respond in turn: "You are hereby relieved from further duty in the War Department, you will turn over your office, books, paper, and all other property in your control belonging to the United States to Colonel D. C. McCallum, Superintendent of Railroads."

     It was the end of a short but spectacular Civil War career. Congress had not been pleased with The Secretary of War's handling of the matter, however, Herman Haupt quietly returned to his civilian role without further comment.




Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2001

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