Jackson and the Locomotive Haul -- Whose Idea?

   Several accounts of Jackson's locomotive haul start with Jackson realizing how valuable these Baltimore & Ohio RR locomotives can be for the South and dreaming up the method of hauling the locomotives to the Manassas Gap RR. He is then credited with getting together the team to do the job. Historian Edward Hungerford's centennial history of the B&O RR is a classic example of this story:

"Slowly a great idea formulated itself within his mind. If only some of the best of the locomotives could be moved down upon those Southern railways. ... Over the turnpike; as he had done with the little Harpers Ferry engines, from Winchester to Strasburg. True it was that the distance from Martinsburg through Winchester to Strasburg (thirty-eight miles) was considerably longer, but the highway was good and the thing was possible. At any rate, one bright morning in July, he arranged to take the first of the engines out over the turnpike. A picked group of about thirty-five men, including six machinists, ten teamsters and about a dozen laborers, had been told of the task. They were placed under the immediate charge of Hugh Longust, an experienced and veteran railroader from Richmond. Longhust reported in turn to Colonel Thomas R. Sharp, at that time ranked as captain and also as acting quartermaster-general in the Confederate Army."

   Hungerford's story has several faults that should be identified before progressing. There is no evidence that any earlier operation had moved "little Harpers Ferry engines" (see Jackson and the Earlier Locomotive Haul). The first locomotives hauled over the roads appear to be the two from Leesburg to the Manassas Gap RR. The men moving the locomotives had been hired in Richmond by Sharp and Longest (Diary of Thomas R. Sharp 1861). Sharp was not an officer in the Confederate Army until October 15, 1861 (Diary of Thomas R. Sharp 1861), he never rose above the rank of Captain and he was an assistant quartermaster. Hungerford provides no footnotes or bibliography and appears to base his entire account of the events on the article by Ernest Shriber, Stealing Railroad Engines {here}.
   The problem with the whole story of Jackson dreaming up the hauling of the locomotives is that there is nothing in writing to indicate this is the genesis of the operation. The first mention I have found of this plan is in the orders from the Quartermaster General to civilian Thomas Sharp to move the locomotives, along with the QM General's idea as to the size of force necessary to do the work (NA, QM 6-18B-61). No document mentions Jackson having any hand in the operation. Additionally, when the movement was started, cars and machinery were moved south for weeks before a B&O RR locomotive was moved --strange, if the whole operation had been thought up to remove locomotives. Also, the first locomotives were captured one month before Sharp was given the job, a serious waste of time when the enemy is so close. Additionally, Sharp says that the task had been given to him by the Quartermaster General and that the QM General was considered his Commanding Officer, not Jackson (NA, RRB 12-31A-62).
   So where did the idea originate to haul the locomotives this way? With no written evidence, I believe that the President, Secretary of War or Quartermaster General had been in agreement with General Lee that the Alexander, Loudoun &  Hampshire RR locomotives should be saved (OR Series 1, Vol. 2, Page 866, OR Series 1, Vol. 2, Page 858). Since these locomotives had been run to the western terminus of that line, Leesburg, Lee was probably trying to find a way to get them South. The presidents and/or superintendents of the Virginia Central RR and the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac RR were probably consulted and one of them came up with the idea that was used. The idea was not completely radical -- I have seen advertisements in New Orleans newspapers in 1861 that show 4 horses abreast in an ad for a heavy lift moving company.
   Why was Thomas Sharp given the job of hauling the rolling stock? Reading his biography (Biography of Thomas R. Sharp) shows he must have been well known to the railroad management community in Richmond, having held jobs on all of the Richmond railroads in the last ten years. Whoever suggested the ideal of hauling the rolling stock almost certainly knew Sharp, probably knew that he was available and suggested him as the best man available for the job.
   A variation of the Jackson story is that Sharp thought it up and sold the idea to the War Department. There is nothing in writing to indicate this. Sharp did not travel to the Valley area until after he was given the assignment. Also, the Quartermaster General sent Sharp a letter telling him how many oxen would be needed to pull the locomotives (NA, QM 6-18-61), indicating that Sharp had not known how many would be required and that the QM General consulted with someone else and got this information.
   Byron Farwell, in "Stonewall: A Biography of General T. J. Jackson," published in 1993, agrees that Jackson did not originate the idea and that Sharp was sent from Richmond to take over the project (without saying whose idea the project was).