American Civil War Supply Trains for Kids
Any army needs weapons, food, and other supplies. As usual during the Civil War, the North was in a much better position to deliver supplies than was the South.
The North: The North used railroads to carry men, heavy weapons, and other supplies. But each army had to carry with them supplies to use on a daily basis. Those supplies were carried in supply trains. Supply trains were made up of wagons, horses, mules, and teamsters who were the drivers. A teamster was a soldier and his job was very dirty and dangerous. When a wagon was empty, the teamster was sent back to a supply base to reload and return to the march or the camp. A teamster had to reload his wagon with the same type of supply he had carried before. If he hauled ammunition, when his wagon was empty, his job was to go and get more ammunition. Sherman's army had one of the largest supply trains in the Union. Sherman's supply train consisted of over 5,000 wagons, 800 ambulances, 28,000 horses and 32,000 mules. His supply train stretched for miles, as did many supply trains that served the Northern regiments.
The South: In the South, supply systems soon broke down. The South did not have the iron it needed to repair damaged railroad tracks. It was left to wagon trains to haul supplies. When wagons broke down, the South did not always have the material they needed to fix them. Horses died pulling wagons, exhausted from heavy loads. As the war continued, the shortage of wagons and of horses became ever more severe. This left military commanders with starving Confederate soldiers and starving Union prisoners. Rebel forces began stealing from farms in the South, in some cases, leaving nothing left for the farmer's family to eat. Finally, the Confederate army was starved into surrender at Appomattox, which ended the war.