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A few days after the Battle of Shiloh, U.S. Grant notified recently-arrived Henry Halleck of intelligence from a "trusted source" IRT Rebel plans to cross the Tennessee River at Florence, march north, and attack Savannah. Grant proposed an expedition to cripple the bridge at Florence; and if possible, destroy the Bear Creek Bridge of the M&C R.R. east of Iuka. Halleck approved the operation, and on the evening of April 12th General Sherman led a brigade of infantry and 100 cavalrymen aboard two transports; and in company with timberclads Tyler and Lexington proceeded up the Tennessee River... but the bar at Chickasaw Bluff halted the progress of the expedition. Sherman landed his force at Chickasaw Landing at 7 next morning and rushed south. Drove away the Rebels guarding Bear Creek Bridge. Tore up the rails for five hundred feet west of the bridge. Burned the bridge. Then melted the collected-up railroad iron over a raging bonfire...

Satisfied, and with few casualties, Sherman ordered his force back aboard the transports and returned to Pittsburg Landing evening of April 13th. Next day, he made his report to Grant (via Rawlins) [Papers of US Grant volume 5 pages 41-43].

Sherman had finally cut that railroad line (although General Ormsby Mitchel had beaten him by two days, cutting the M&C R.R. at Huntsville.) And the two rumored Confederate gunboats were still lurking somewhere upriver from Chickasaw. So the only real significance of the Expedition: Sherman bent up his first of many irreplaceable Confederate rails. (Over 90% of rails used by the Confederacy were imported from England.)

Ozzy

Image result for sherman bowtie

 

From Harper's Weekly of 1864, one of the more elaborate designs...

 

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Jim and Roger

Image result for sherman bent rail from wikipedia

Although not taken at Big Bear Creek the above image captures the usual method of bending up rail lines: they melted under their own weight from the heat of a blazing fire. I imagine the more elaborate "creations" wrapped around stumps and sturdy trees were done by bored soldiers, simply for the visual effect.

It is said that bits of torn up rail from Sherman's activities can still be found in the pine forests of Georgia, and I would expect that British steel rail of 1860 -- that escaped the scrap drives during 1939-1945 -- is easily distinguished from lengths of rail forged after the war:

http://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3076/2503495753_f4fc372d49_b.jpg   Sherman-bent rail uncovered in Georgia by "The Goat Whisperer."

Ozzy

 

N.B.  Just to show an effort to "straighten" a bent rail with a screw jack... (wonder how many per day he managed?)

http://www.minecreek.info/railroad-tactics/images/8793_8_32-sherman-atlanta-campaign-bent-rails.jpg  from minecreek.info

 

 

 

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Was there really a need to bend up the lengths of rail?

As most everyone is aware, General Lew Wallace sent a battalion of cavalry (5th Ohio Cavalry) west to to cut the Mobile & Ohio Railroad shortly after settling his 3rd Division into Crump's Landing. A half-mile length of trestle over a swamp was destroyed, and the rails removed and tossed into the swamp north of Purdy on the 12th of March 1862. In a letter written March 16th from Bethel Springs, Confederate Lieutenant Benjamin J. Gaston (then of the First Alabama Battalion; but which became 25th Alabama Infantry prior to Shiloh), Gaston remarks "that the damaged track ten miles from here has been restored, and trains are running across it again." [See below link, letter No.35, page 3.]

Not a bad effort: half a mile of damage repaired in four days. (How many days were required for Buell to repair the damaged bridge over Duck Creek?)

Ozzy

Attached reference links to fifty letters written by Lt Gaston, on file at University of Alabama. SDG member Stan Hutson first brought these letters to our attention  ten months ago:  http://acumen.lib.ua.edu/u0003/0003915?page=1

 

 

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