Manassas, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
World’s First Military Railroad
Just in front of you ran the world’s first military railroad, which connected Manassas Junction and Centerville.
In October 1861, after the First Battle of Manassas, the 40,000-man-strong combined Confederate force of Gens. P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston established winter quarters at Centerville, closer to Washington. The army needed more than 120,000 pounds of provisions for the men and 26 pounds of forage per animal daily. Supplies came here on trains to Manassas Junction, then were transferred to wagons and hauled to Centreville on the Manassas-Centreville Road. Despite efforts to “corduroy” the road (“pave” it by laying hewed logs side by side), heavy autumn rains made it a red-clay quagmire. The exhausted horse and mule teams ate as much forage as they carried, and many animals sank so deeply in the mud they could not be extracted
Soldiers did the work at first, but Johnston decided that “those duties are injurious to us by reducing our numbers” of troops from necessary patrols, drills, and equipment maintenance. He ordered Quartermaster Barbour to advertise in Richmond for railroad workers, and by mid-December, Barbour had hired slaves to cut ties while awaiting the rails that Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had “appropriated” from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. To speed the work, they laid ties at twice the standard interval, directly on mounded earth with no gravel underneath to stabilize them. The small bridge over Bull Run barely rose above the water. The six-mile-long railroad was completed on February 17, 1862. Ironically, just six days later, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Johnston to withdraw from northern Virginia to defend Richmond.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails, and the Virginia, Wartime Manassas Walking Tour marker series.
Location. 38° 45.075′ Touch for map. Located in the middle of the block between Center and Church Streets, when traveling north on West Street. Marker is in this post office area: Manassas VA 20110, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Manassas 1900 (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Wartime Manassas (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Opera House (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Wartime Manassas (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Wartime Manassas (about 400 feet away); Site of Manassas Junction (about 500 feet away); Manassas 1906 (about 500 feet away); Defenses of Manassas (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Manassas.
More about this marker. A small drawing on the upper left shows earthworks around Manassas and the railroad lines, captioned “Earthworks guarding the junction of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the abandoned Confederate Branch Military Railroad to Centreville.”
In the lower center is a drawing showing the corduroy road construction, “Dwindling timber supplies around Manassas Junction were used to corduroy roads in the manner shown here.”
On the lower right a photograph showing “Ruins of Confederate military railroad bridge over Bull Run, March 1862. Photo by Timothy O’Sullivan.”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. Military Railroad Terminus Marker. (Submitted on September 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Images of Civil War Railroads. (Submitted on September 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Categories. • Railroads & Streetcars • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,575 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 11, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.