Engineers during the American Civil War for Kids and Teachers - Herman Haupt Illustration

American Civil War, Engineers

The North: The North was fortunate to have the construction ability of the frontiersmen on their side. Using the skills of these men, the North formed an Engineer Corps. The Corps was staffed with men who had built forts, roads, bridges, and railroad tracks. The Union made good use of an extremely talented engineer named Herman Haupt. Haupt had graduated from West Point Academy at age 18. He had resigned from the army before the Civil War, but agreed to come back into the war effort as long as he had no uniform, no military title, and no pay beyond his personal expenses. The War Office agreed. Just the same, Herman Haupt soon became General Herman Haupt.

Haupt taught his men how to build prefabricated bridge parts. He fortified existing bridges with defensive towers. He used slaves in areas the Union controlled in the South as labor to dismantled plantation houses for building materials. Loaded trains ran back and forth over a bridge Haupt built that Lincoln is quoted as saying "was built of nothing but beanpoles and cornstalks". Haupt pontoon bridges, with floating boats about 20 feet apart, held together with rails and dirt. One of the most of his accomplishments was to design a way to straighten bent rails so railroad track could be quickly repaired. He also created instruction manuals that were distributed to the Union army that showed how to rip up and wreck Confederate railroad tracks. He was incredible! 

The South: The South formed the Confederate Engineer Bureau, but it was not nearly as successful as the engineer corps in the North. The South lacked the leadership the North enjoyed. There was a shortage of materials. The South did not use slaves as construction workers, which limited their manpower. The South did not have the iron necessary to repair necessary railroad tracks as the North destroyed them. 

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