number in civil life, while the stimulus imparted by the war to the business of Northern railroads had greatly enhanced the value of the services of those who remained at their posts, thus rendering the home demand for skillful labor far in advance of the supply. When the large number of men necessary to equip these military lines were sought for it was extremely difficult to induce who were really valuable to leave secure positions and enter upon a new untried field of action.
The difference between civil and military ecided. Not only were the men continually exposed to great danger from the regular forces of the enemy, guerrillas, scouting parties, &c., but owing to the circumstances under which military railroads must be constructed and operated, what are considered the ordinary risks upon civil railroads are vastly increased on military lines.
The hardships, exposure, and perils to which train men especially were subjected during the movements incident to an active campaign were much greater than that endured by any other class of civil employes of the Government-equaled only by that of the soldier while engaged in a raid into the enemy's country. It was by no means unusual for men to be out with their trains from five to ten days without sleep, except what could be snatched upon their engines and cars while the same were standing to be loaded or unloaded, with but scanty food, or perhaps no food at all, for days together, while continually occupied in a manner to keep every faculty strained to its utmost. Many incidents during the war, but more especially during the Atlanta campaign, exhibited a fortitude, endurance, and self devotion on the part of these men not exceeded in any branch of the service. All were thoroughly imbued with the fact that upon the success of railroad operations in forwarding supplies to the front depended in great part the success of our armies; that, although defeat night be the result if supplies were abundantly furnished, it was evident there could be no advance without; and I hazard nothing in saying that should failure taken place, either in keeping the lines in repair or in operating them, General Sherman's campaign, instead of proving, as it did, a great success, would have resulted in disaster and defeat; and the greater the army to supply the more precarious its position. Since the end of the rebellion I have been informed by railroad officers who were in the service of the enemy during the war that they were less surprised at the success of General Sherman in a military point of view than they were at the rapidity with which railroad breaks were repaired and the regularity with which trains were moved to the front; and it was only when the method of operating was fully explained that it could be comprehended.
In the beginning of the war military railroads were an experiment, and although some light as to their management had been gleaned by the operations of 1862 and 1863, yet so little progress had been made that the attempt to supply the army of General Sherman in the field, construct and reconstruct the railroads in march war regarded by those who had the largest experience, and who had become most familiar with the subject, as the greatest experiment of all. The attempt to furnish an army of 100,000 men and 60,000 animals with supplies from a base 360 miles distant by one line of single-track railroad, located almost the entire distance through the country of an active and most vindictive enemy, is without precedent in the history of warfare, and to make it successful