Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Soon to be Sherman's Neckties: The Montgomery and West Point Railroad

The Montgomery and West Point Railroad (M and W P RR).  My ancestors Timney (Watts) Warren Phillips, Henry Hill Freeman, his wife Elizabeth (Turner) Freeman, and their daughter Nannie Freeman, among other relations, were in Cotton Valley at this time.  Closeup from "Colton's Alabama" by Joseph Hutchins Colton, published in New York by Colton and Co. c. 1861, from the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library, available through Alabama Maps
If you don't know where Cotton Valley, Macon County, Alabama is, just think Tuskegee (now famous for its university, George Washington Carter, and courageous airmen), which is about 10 miles directly up the road.  Macon county had two railroads crossing through about 1861, the Mobile and Girard Railroad, and the Montgomery and West Point Railroad.  Not surprisingly, the main crop in this county was cotton.

The railway (found between Montgomery and La Grange) in context with other Confederate railroads.  Railroads of the Confederacy, from The West Point atlas of the Civil War / compiled by the Department of Military Art and Engineering, the United States Military Academy; chief editor, Vincent J. Esposito. Image from wikipedia.
"Local News Items: Company D," Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia), 9 Apr 1861, issue 165, vol III, page 3; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 1 Sep 2015).

Since it could transport soldiers and supplies, the M and W P R.R. was targeted for destruction by the Union during the Civil War.  According to the Wikipedia article:
During the Civil War, the railroad was raided in July 1864 by 2,500 Union cavalry troops under the command of Lovell Rousseau. Staged out of Decatur, Alabama, Rousseau's force managed to take or burn a large quantity of supplies at Opelika, to destroy 30 miles of track, and to burn railroad stations and warehouses at Montgomery and West Point, by July 17.[2]
In April 1865 a far more destructive raid, Wilson's Raid, wrecked all of the remaining rolling stock of the railroad.[3] After the war, the railroad was repaired and reopened for traffic. The M&WP was merged into the Western Railway of Alabama in 1870.
Destroying the railroad tracks included tying the metal into what became known as Sherman's neckties, which ideally left the material unrepairable.

"Atlanta, Georgia. Sherman's men destroying railroad," photographer George N. Barnard, from negatives : glass, stereograph, wet collodion, Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/item/cwp2003005432/PP/ : accessed 1 Sep 2015).

A much more exciting depiction of Sherman's men destroying a railroad.
Felix Darley and Slexander Ritchie, "Sherman's March to the Sea," digital image from engraving, 1868, Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/item/2003679761/ : accessed 1 Sep 2015).

Since we didn't grow up knowing this side of the family (my mom was adopted), I unfortunately have no family stories that were passed down to me about my ancestors' experience with this part of the Civil War.  Timney died in December 1863.  Henry Hill Freeman was on the Macon County census list in 1866, so I think he and his family were likely in the area during the destruction of the railway.

I couldn't find Alabama newspaper articles covering these events, but Georgia still had functioning newspapers:
"Raid on the Montgomery and West Point Railroad," 29 Jul 1864, Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), issue 1360, page 2; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 1 Sep 2015).
cont'd from above

By 1865, the Boston Evening Transcript reported the following:
"Gen. Wilson's Raid in Georgia," 1 May 1865, Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts), page 4, col. 2; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 1 Sep 2015). 

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