Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, January 18, 2008


This is coolbert:

“'til Stoneman’s cavalry came, and tore up the tracks again” - - “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

Railroads have played an integral part in military operations ever since the time of the American Civil War.

[as I have said before, the American Civil War is considered by most historians to be the first MODERN WAR! Use of mass transportation - - railroads, steam ships, rapid means of communications - - telegraph, mass production of weapons on an assembly line, industrialized basis, etc.]

Railroads allowed combat commanders to move men and equipment intact over large distances and in short order in a manner hitherto deemed impossible!!

Denying your opposition the use of railroads for military operations was an important tactic employed primarily by Federal forces during the years 1861-1865.

Union forces in particular became very adept and workmanlike in their ability to destroy entire MILEAGES of Confederate railroad track

Read an account of how “Yankee” forces destroyed in one-fell-swoop, twenty miles of Confederate railway, IN ENTIRETY, irrevocably!! This would include destruction of telegraph poles and lines adjacent to the track, and any railway associated buildings!

The result, rails heated and wrapped around a tree trunk, were referred to as “JEFF DAVIS NECKTIES”!!

[named after Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. If you ever visit the Lincoln Museum, Springfield, Illinois, you can actually see one of these “neckties”!! An actual length of tree trunk from the period, with a heated rail wrapped around it! In some parts of the American South, these are called Sherman neckties!]

The Germans too, during World War Two [WW2], also were very adept and workmanlike in their ability to destroy railroad tracks.

Employed a “device” called a track plough. A “machine” [has the appearance of a claw, hook, talon] that would tear up the railroad ties! Leave behind a path of destruction over which NO train could pass.

"known as a Schienenwolf ('rail wolf') or Schwellenpflug ('sleepers plough')) is a rail vehicle which supports an immensely strong, hook-shaped 'plough'. It is used for destruction of rail track in warfare, as part of a scorched earth policy, so that it becomes unusable for the enemy."

[railroad ties are called “sleepers” in Europe!]

Particularly was used by German forces during retreat. Deny advancing allied and Soviet forces the use of railways during continued Soviet/American/British offensive operations. To rebuild a section of railroad track destroyed by a “rail wolf” would NOT have been a simple process! MUCH more laborious and time-consuming than what you would assume!




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