began to destroy West Pointís strategically valuable assets
soon after taking
control of the town.
This included their primary mission - the transportation routes. West Pointís 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
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 Wilsonís troops eastward created a compromise to the operating
efficiency of the rail yard.
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rolling stock was withdrawn to Atlanta.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
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 couldnít be sent back to the west. The Federals
had advanced from the west, held all points on the rail line to the west,
and LaGrangeís 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 cityís 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.
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.
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
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.
Joe Keith, Jr., "Aftermath: Written for the
130th Anniversary of the Battle of West Point"