Fremantle's Trip on Confederate Railroads

British Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle reported on his 3-month visit to the Confederacy in a book entitled "Three Months in the Southern States, April - June 1863".
   Fremantle entered the Confederacy at the southern tip of Texas and traveled to Richmond, then to Gettysburg (where he witnessed the battle) and then through the lines and back to England. Below are his published comments on traveling on 23 railroads in the Confederacy, extracted from the entire work.
     29th April, Wednesday.--  We crossed the Colorado river, and reached Alleyton {, Texas}, our destination, at 7 P. M. This little wooden village has sprung into existence during the last three years, owing to its being the present terminus to the railroad {the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado RR}.

    30th April (Thursday.)--I have to-day acquired my first experience of Texan railroads.

        In this country, where every white man is as good as another, by theory, and every white female is by courtesy a lady, there is only one class. The train from Alleyton consisted of two long cars, each holding about fifty persons. Their interior is like the aisle of a church, twelve seats on either side, each for two persons. The seats are comfortably stuffed.

        Before starting, the engine gives two preliminary snorts, which, with a yell from the official of "all aboard," warn the passengers to hold on; for they are closely followed by a tremendous jerk, which sets the cars in motion.

        Every passenger is allowed to use his own discretion about breaking his arm, neck or leg, without interference by the railway officials.

        People are continually jumping on and off whilst the train is in motion, and larking from one car to the other. There is no sort of fence or other obstacle to prevent "humans" or cattle from getting on the line.

        We left Alleyton at 8 A. M. and got a miserable meal at Richmond at 12.30 {48 miles in 4.5 hours -- about 11 mph, including stops}.

        Richmond is on the Brazos river, which is crossed in a peculiar manner. A steep inclined plane leads to a low, rickety, trestle bridge and a similar inclined plane is cut in the opposite bank. The engine cracks on all steam, and gets sufficient impetus in going down the first incline to shoot across the bridge and up the second incline. But even in Texas this method of crossing a river is considered rather unsafe.

        We changed carriages at Harrisburg and I completed my journey to Houston on a cotton truck {on the Houston Tap & Brazoria RR}.

        I reached Houston at 4.30 P. M. {about 10 mph, including stops}.

     2d May, Saturday.--I left {Houston} by railroad for Galveston {53 miles on the Galveston, Houston & Henderson RR}.

        At 1 P. M., we arrived at Virginia Point, a téte-de-pont at the extremity of the mainland. The railroad then traverses a shallow lagoon (called Galveston Bay) on a trestle-bridge two miles long; this leads to another tete-de-pont on Galveston island, and in a few minutes the city is reached.

     4th May (Monday.)-- I left Houston by train for Navasoto {, Texas} at 10 A. M.

        Arrived at Navasoto (70 miles) at 4 P. M. {about 12 mph, including stops}.

     8th May (Friday.)--We reached Marshall{, Texas} at 3 A.M. and got four hours sleep there. We then got into a railroad {Memphis, El Paso & Pacific RR} for sixteen miles, after which we were crammed into another stage.

     18th May, Monday.--On getting up this morning, every thing appeared very uncertain, and a thousand contradictory reports and rumors were flying about.

        At 8 o'clock I called on Captain Matthews, and told him my earnest desire to get on towards Johnston's army at all risks. He kindly introduced me to the conductor of a locomotive, who offered to take me to within a few miles of Jackson {, Mississippi}, if he was not cut off by the enemy, which seemed extremely probable. At 9 A. M. I seated myself, in company with about twenty soldiers, on the engine, and we started towards Jackson.

        At 5 P. M. the conductor stopped the engine, and put us out at a spot distant nine miles from Jackson; and as I could procure no shelter, food, or conveyance there, I found myself in a terrible fix.

        At this juncture a French boy rode up on horseback, and volunteered to carry my saddle-bags as far as Jackson, if I could walk and carry the remainder.

        Gladly accepting this unexpected offer, I started with him to walk up the railroad, as he assured me the Yankees really had gone; and during the journey, he gave me a description of their conduct during the short time they had occupied the city.

        On arriving within three miles of Jackson, I found the railroad destroyed by the enemy, who after pulling up the track, had made piles of the sleepers, and then put the rails in layers on the top of these heaps; they had then set fire to the sleepers, which had caused the rails to bend when red hot; the wooden bridges had also been set on fire, and were still smoking.


        Jackson, the capital of the State of Mississippi, is a place of great importance. Four railroads meet here, and have been destroyed in each direction for a distance of from three to five miles.

     23d May, Saturday.--General Johnston, Major Eustis and myself left Canton {, Mississippi} at 6 A. M. on a locomotive for Jackson {227 miles on the Mississippi Central RR}.

        Before we had proceeded twelve miles we were forced to stop and collect wood from the roadside to feed our engine.

        We were put out at a spot where the railroad was destroyed, at about four miles from Jackson. We reached Jackson, much exhausted, at 9.30 A. M. {there is an error here -- he did not make it from Canton to Jackson in 3.5 hours}

        At 3.30 P. M. I left Jackson in a Government ambulance, in company with Capt. Brown of General Johnston's staff. I had taken the precaution of furnishing myself with a pass from Colonel Ewell, the adjutant general, which I afterwards discovered was absolutely necessary, as I was asked for it continually, and on the railroad every person's passport was rigidly examined.

        We drove to the nearest point at which the railroad was in working order, a distance of nearly five miles.

        We then got into the cars at 6 P. M. for Meridian {on the Southern (of Mississippi) RR}. This piece of railroad was in a most dangerous state, and enjoys the reputation of being the very worst of all the bad railroads in the South. It was completely worn out, and could not be repaired. Accidents are of almost daily occurrence, and a nasty one had happened the day before.

        After we had proceeded five miles, our engine ran off the track, which caused a stoppage of three hours. All male passengers had to get out to push along the cars.

      24th May, Sunday.--We reached Meridian at 7.30 A. M. with sound limbs, and only five hours late.

        We left for Mobile at 9 A. M. {134 miles on the Mobile & Ohio RR}, and arrived there at 7.15 P. M. {about 13 mph, including stops}. This part of the line was in very good order.

        We were delayed a short time, owing to a "difficulty" which had occurred in the up-train. The difficulty was this. The engineer had shot a passenger, and then unhitched his engine, cut the telegraph, and bolted up the line, leaving his train planted on a single track. He had allowed our train to pass by shunting himself, until we had done so without any suspicion. The news of this occurrence caused really hardly any excitement amongst my fellow travelers; but I heard one man remark, that "it was mighty mean to leave a train to be run into like that." We avoided this catastrophe by singular good fortune.

        I cut this out of a Mobile paper two days after:--

        "ATTEMPT TO COMMIT MURDER.--We learn that while the up-train on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was near Beaver Meadow, one of the employees, named Thomas Fitzgerald, went into one of the passenger cars and shot Lieutenant H. A. Knowles with a pistol, the ball entering his left shoulder, going out at the back of his neck, making a very dangerous wound. Fitzgerald then uncoupled the locomotive from the train and started off. When a few miles above Beaver Meadow he stopped and cut the telegraph wires, and then proceeded up the road. When near Landerdale station he came in collision with the down train, smashing the engine, and doing considerable damage to several of the cars.*

        * This is a mistake.

     It is thought he there took to the woods; at any rate he has made good his escape so far, as nothing of him has yet been heard. The shooting, as we are informed, was that of revenge. It will be remembered that a few months ago Knowles and a brother of Thos. Fitzgerald, named Jack, had a re-encounter at Enterprise about a lady, and during which Knowles killed Jack Fitzgerald; afterwards it is stated that Thomas threatened to revenge the death of his brother; so on Sunday morning Knowles was on the train, as stated, going up to Enterprise to stand his trial. Thomas learning that he was on the train, hunted him up and shot him.-- Knowles, we learn, is now lying in a very critical condition."

        By the intercession of Captain Brown, I was allowed to travel in the ladies' car. It was cleaner and more convenient, barring the squalling of the numerous children, who were terrified into good behavior by threats from their negro nurses of being given to the Yankees.

     26th May, Tuesday.--{On leaving Mobile,} I was only just in time to catch the 12 o'clock steamer for the Montgomery Railroad {the Mobile & Great Northern RR, followed by the Alabama & Florida (of Alabama) RR}.

        I got into the railroad cars at 2 30 P. M.; the pace was not at all bad, had we not stopped so often and for such a long time for wood and water. We traveled all night.

     27th May, Wednesday.--Arrived at Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, at daylight, and left it by another railroad at 5.30 A. M. {on the Montgomery & West Point RR} We met three trains crammed full of soldiers for Johnston's army. They belonged to Breckinridge's division of Bragg's army, and all seemed in the highest spirits, cheering and yelling like demons. In the cars today I fell in with the Federal doctor who was refused leave to pass through General Johnston's lines; he was now en route for Richmond. He was in full Yankee uniform, but was treated with civility by all the Confederate soldiers.

        I had to change cars at West Point {to the Atlanta & West Point RR} and at Atlanta. At the latter place I was crammed into a desperately crowded train for Chattanooga {on the Western & Atlantic RR}. I traveled again all night.

     28th May, Thursday.--I arrived at Chattanooga, Tennessee, at 4.30 A. M.

        After breakfasting, I started again at 7.30, by train, for Shelbyville {on the Nashville & Chattanooga RR}, General Bragg's headquarters. This train was crammed to repletion with soldiers rejoining their regiments, so I was constrained to sit in the aisle on the floor of one of the cars. I thought myself lucky even then, for so great was the number of military, that all "citizens" were ordered out to make way for the soldiers; but my gray-shooting jacket and youthful appearance saved me from the imputation of being a "citizen." Two hours later the passport officer, seeing who I was, procured me a similar situation in the ladies' car, where I was a little better off. After leaving Chattanooga the railroad winds alongside of the Tennessee river, the banks of which are high, and beautifully covered with trees--the river itself is wide, and very pretty; but from my position in the tobacco juice I was unable to do justice to the scenery. I saw stockades at intervals all along the railroad, which were constructed by the Federals, who occupied all this country last year.

        On arriving at Wartrace at 4 P. M., I determined to remain there, and ask for hospitality from General Hardee, as I saw no prospect of reaching Shelbyville in decent time. Leaving my baggage with the Provost Marshal at Wartrace, I walked on to General Hardee's headquarters, which were distant about two miles from the railroad.

     31st May, Sunday.-- At 2 P. M. I traveled in the cars to Wartrace, in company with General Bragg and the Bishop of Georgia. We were put into a baggage car, and the General and the Bishop were the only persons provided with seats. Although the distance from Shelbyville to Wartrace is only eight miles, we were one hour and ten minutes in effecting the trajet, in such a miserable and dangerous state were the rails {on the Nashville & Chattanooga RR}.

     5th June, Friday.--I left Shelbyville at 6 A. M.{on the Nashville & Chattanooga RR}, and arrived at Chattanooga at 4 P. M. {about 10 mph, including stops} As I was thus far under the protection of Lieutenant Donnelson, of General Polk's staff, I made this journey under more agreeable auspices than the last time.

        I left Chattanooga for Atlanta {on the Western & Atlantic RR} at 4.30 P. M. The train was much crowded with wounded and sick soldiers returning on leave to their homes.

     6th June, Saturday.--Arrived at Atlanta at 3 A. M. {138 miles, about 13 mph, including stops}, and took three hours' sleep at the Trout House. After breakfasting, I started again for Augusta at 7 A. M. {on the Georgia RR}, (174 miles;) but the train had not proceeded ten miles before it was brought up by an obstruction, in the shape of a broken-down freight train, one of whose cars was completely smashed. This delayed us for about an hour, but we made up for it afterwards, and arrived at Augusta at 5.15 P. M. {about 19 mph, not counting the hour delay}.

        At some of the stations {in Georgia} provisions for the soldiers were brought into the cars by ladies, and distributed gratis. When I refused on the ground of not being a soldier, these ladies looked at me with great suspicion, mingled with contempt, and as their looks evidently expressed the words, "Then why are you not a soldier?" I was obliged to explain to them who I was, and show them General Bragg's pass, which astonished them not a little. I was told that Georgia was the only State in which soldiers were still so liberally treated--they have become so very common everywhere else.

     7th June, Sunday.--  I left Augusta at 7 P. M. by train for Charleston {on the South Carolina RR}. My car was much crowded with Yankee prisoners.
     8th June, Monday.--I arrived at Charleston at 5 A. M. {about 14 mph, including stops}.

     15th June, Monday.-- I left Charleston by rail at 2 P. M. I declined traveling in the ladies' car, although offered that privilege--the advantage of a small amount of extra cleanliness being outweighed by the screaming of the children, and the constant liability of being turned out of one's place for a female.

     We reached Florence at 9 P. M. {having traveled on the Northeastern RR at about 4.5 mph, including stops}, where we were detained for some time owing to a break-down of another train. We then fought our way into some desperately crowded cars {on the Wilmington & Manchester RR}, and continued our journey throughout the night.

     16th June, Tuesday.--Arrived at Wilmington at 5 A. M., and crossed the river there in a steamer. I was obliged to go to the Provost Marshal's office to get Beauregard's pass renewed there, as North Carolina is out of his district; in doing so I very nearly missed the train.

        I left Wilmington at 7 A. M. {on the Wilmington & Weldon RR} The weather was very hot and oppressive, and the cars dreadfully crowded all day. The luxuries of Charleston had also spoiled me for the "road," as I could no longer appreciate at their proper value the "hog and hominy" meals which I had been so thankful for in Texas. We changed cars again at Weldon {onto the Petersburg RR}, where I had a terrific fight for a seat, but I succeeded; for experience had made me very quick at this sort of business. I always carry my saddlebags and knapsack with me into the car.

     17th June, Wednesday.--We reached Petersburg at 3 A. M., and had to get out and traverse this town in carts, after which we had to lie down in the road until some other cars were opened. We left Petersburg at 5 A. M. {on the Richmond & Petersburg RR, making 11 mph} and arrived at Richmond at 7 A. M., having taken forty-one hours coming from Charleston.

        The railroad between Petersburg and Richmond is protected by extensive field works, and the woods have been cut down to give range. An irruption of the enemy in this direction has evidently been contemplated.

     20th June, Saturday.-- We took the train {from Richmond} as far as Culpepper {,Virginia}, and arrived there at 5.30 P. M., after having changed cars at Gordonsville {being on the Virginia Central RR first, then the Orange & Alexandria RR}.

        In his late daring raid, the Federal General Stoneman crossed this railroad, and destroyed a small portion of it, burned a few buildings, and penetrated to within three miles of Richmond; but he and his men were in such a hurry that they had not time to do much serious harm.