The articles that mention the Centreville Railroad
universally list Capt. Sharp as having "built" the road.
The Centreville Railroad was a 5-mile road built to
sustain the Confederate Army of Potomac in its 1861-62 winter
quarters at Centreville, Va. The road was the first Military
Railroad built by the Confederacy and served for about 2 weeks
from completion to General Johnston's evacuation of the Centreville
position enroute to Yorktown.
| The chronology of the road, as thus far
found in the records, is:
|Nov. 11, 1861
||The Richmond Dispatch reported that there was
a plan to build a railroad from Gainesville, on the Manassas
Gap RR, to Centreville. This would have been an easier
route, but much longer than the one actually built (about 18
miles vs. 5 miles).
||The Richmond Examiner reported that laborers
were being hired through the Quartermasters' office to build
a railroad from Manassas to Centreville. It was estimated
that the job would require two months to complete.
||The Raleigh Standard reprints a report from
the Petersburg Express that the Quartermaster Department is
hiring negroes in Petersburg and sending them to work on the
road. General Johnston was adamant in requesting even more
negroes than had already been sent to him.
||The Richmond Dispatch reported that contracts
had been entered into for building the railroad from
Manassas to Centreville. The road had been surveyed and was
now being leveled. The distance was reported to be 6 miles
-- 4 from Manassas Junction to Bull Run and 2 from there to
||Sharp visited Richmond. He hired an
accountant/bookkeeper who stayed with him for almost 3
||Sharp was given an order, by Genl. T. J.
Jackson, to turn over 4 miles of Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad track at Strasburg, subject to Genl. Johnston's
orders. This was done, requiring the entire month of
||Sharp was appointed Acting Chief Quartermaster
of the Valley District, due to the illness of the appointed
officer. He was, thus, a member of Genl. Jackson's staff for
|Jan. 25, 1862
||The Quartermaster General ordered Sharp to
resume his operations against the B&O RR as soon as
||Sharp arrived in Richmond with his family. He
had made the run from Winchester to Richmond several times
during his operations against the B&O RR.
||As usual, Sharp reported to the Quartermaster
General, and this time was issued orders to "supervise
the construction of the Rail Road between Manassas and
Centreville," according to the written orders given him
by Genl. Johnston, or "complete the railroad from
Manassas Junction to Centreville," from Sharp's diary.
||Sharp arrived at Manassas and was given his
orders, just mentioned.
||After an inspection of the area, on this day,
Sharp says he "took charge of the work."
||Sharp left Manassas for Richmond, then
||Sharp was back in Manassas
|Feb. 14 - 16
||Sharp was in Richmond
|Feb. 17 - 26
||Sharp remained in Manassas and on the railroad
||Sharp bought about 125 yards (both tracks) of
old flat rail from the Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac RR. The invoice says that the rail was used on the
Centreville RR, perhaps as a siding at Centreville.
|Feb. 27 - March 1
||Sharp made a flying trip to Winchester to pack
up his personal effects and ship them to Richmond
||Sharp returned to Manassas and was given
orders by Genl. Johnston to run the Centreville Railroad
||Sharp left Manassas on the last train, with
Genl. Johnston, as the Confederate army evacuated the
| The above chronology makes it clear that
someone else was behind the building of the Centreville RR. It was
obvious to everyone that the muddy road from Manassas to Centreville
would have to be replaced with rail. Someone selected the route,
surveyed it, started leveling it and started hiring laborers for it
-- all while Sharp was in Winchester, busy as Department
Quartermaster and salvager of the Baltimore & Ohio RR.
| I believe that Sharp returned to
Richmond to place his wife and 6-week old child in safer quarters
and to make his usual report to the Quartermaster General. The QMG
took the opportunity of his being present to order him to get that
Centreville Railroad finished (and get Genl. Johnston's complaints
stopped). Sharp understood the importance of the work and reported
to Manassas two days later, took two days to take over the work, and
then immediately left for Winchester (to get the clothing necessary
for living in the field, to give instructions to keep the B&O RR
work going while he was away and to turn over his Departmental
Quartermaster accounts to the returned Quartermaster).
| Clearly, the road was under construction
before Sharp became involved. During his inspection, Sharp also saw
that the work could proceed without him being present for several
days (i.e. there was a competent person supervising the work and the
plan was sound enough to continue with). Even after returning to
Manassas, he still took a 2-day trip to Richmond (perhaps to arrange
for the purchase of the flat rail from the RF&P RR) and was able
to take another 2-day trip to Winchester for the rest of his
| Sharp was given the responsibility of
seeing that the road was completed. He was the man-in-charge on-site
during the last three weeks of construction, but could not have done
much more than try to carry out the previous plan as well as
| Did Capt. Sharp "build" the
Centreville Railroad? He did not design it, did not do the early
work, but did oversee the conclusion of the work. Somewhere, there
is an unrecognized engineer, perhaps from General Johnston's army, who performed those early tasks, and
probably continued to work under Sharp, when he took over.