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      Battle Of
       West Point
 After the Battle

Railroad Destroyed


Federal troops began to destroy West Point�s strategically valuable assets soon after taking control of the town. This included their primary mission - the transportation routes.  West Point�s railroads would suffer the most.  The cessation of the rail system would cripple the south's ability to transport resources for war.

        The use of the rail system in West Point had always been a cumbersome and complicated process.   Transporting goods across the dock platform from one train to another took manpower and time.  In many cases, the goods had to be sheltered to await the next train.  On either side of the loading platform, the Montgomery & West Point Railroad with a track width of four feet and eight inches, joined the Atlanta ~ West Point Railroad, with a track width of five feet.  This difference in gauge widths caused every train passing through the area to be completely offloaded and then reloaded onto the equipment of the other line. This was a time consuming process and  had caused many problems. 

        For weeks, the advancement of Wilson's troops had forced many Alabamians to flee eastward.  They arrived in West Point via rail line.  Train loads of equipment, supplies, refugees and Confederate troops had been sent eastward toward, and eventually to, West Point on the Montgomery & West Point Railroad.

        The movement of trains through West Point was expedited as quickly as possible to handle the mass movement.  Alas, all the flurry of activity created a backlog of trains.   Storage sheds, warehouses, and sidings filled as  trains scurried through the area.  The movement of Wilson�s troops eastward created a compromise to the operating efficiency of the rail yard.

        As Wilson�s troops approached Montgomery on the 11th, every piece of equipment on the line was loaded and sent eastward toward and to West Point; and then returned as far westward as possible to reload and return again. The reverse process had continued on the West Point to Atlanta side until April 12 and the surrender of Montgomery. At that time, almost all the remaining A&WPRR rolling stock was withdrawn to Atlanta. A very smal1 remnant of equipment continued to operate but only at the southernmost end, in and around West Point. This move to protect the remaining rolling stock of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad effectively turned the bottleneck in West Point into a dead end.

        Train after train continued to arrive in West Point from the west. But now, there was nowhere else to send them, and no time to off-load the cargo and hide it. Rolling stock, cargo and passengers could not be sent north. No rolling stock remained that would accommodate the five foot gauge of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad. It couldn�t be sent back to the west. The Federals had advanced from the west, held all points on the rail line to the west, and LaGrange�s troops had destroyed the railroad to the west between Opelika and West Point as they had advanced on the city on the 16th and early in the day on the 18th.

        On the morning of April 16th, the city�s two rail yards, and the freight depots downtown, were already overflowing with rolling stock and cargo. In addition, on the 15th and early morning of the 16th, large shipments of hospital stores and evacuated wounded reached West Point by rail. The more seriously wounded or ill were taken to the local hospitals. Cargo, if possible, was moved to the freight depots, or for the most part left in or on the cars by which it had been delivered. Fully-loaded flat cars and boxcars were parked on every inch of available track throughout West Point.  

        Therefore, this massive accumulation of railroad stock and stores on the sidings or in the rai1road warehouses was just waiting for the taking and was easily captured when Fort Tyler fell and the meager garrison there was taken prisoner.

        All facilities, stock and inventory at northern rail yard (located where the railroad tracks today cross over Highway 29, just northeast of the Confederate cemetery) were destroyed. Choice Thrower, the yard master, was killed here immediately after the fail of Fort Tyler while trying to get his engines out of the congested rail yard before they could he captured.

        At the downtown rail yard and adjacent freight depots just to the south of the main passenger depot, the Federals began to burn all they had captured there. Plumes of smoke rose high into the sky from both locations and were visible for miles.

        However, the hotel building, which was the property of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad and the adjacent passenger shed, owned jointly by the Atlanta & West Point and Montgomery & West Point railroads fared better.

Next Page    Chattahoochee House



Joe Keith, Jr., "Aftermath: Written for the 130th Anniversary of the Battle of West Point"