Georgia trip Labor Day weekend 2009 009

Brotherton cabin, Chickamauga Battlefield

Confederate President Jefferson Davis decided in September 1863 to send two divisions from Gen. James Longstreet’s Corps in Virginia to help Gen. Braxton Bragg in northwest Georgia against the federal threat there.

Lafayette McLaws’ Division, which included Francis Marion Poore in the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, was one of the two. John Bell Hood’s Division was the other.

Library of Congress photo (cwpb 02123)

Library of Congress photo (cwpb 02123)

To get to Bragg, Francis and his comrades would have to depend on the South’s decrepit railroads.

Hood’s men boarded the first trains on September 9 at Orange Court House and Louisa Court House. Francis and the rest of the troops in McLaws’ Division boarded trains the next day.

Francis and the other 12,000 troopers had to take a body-rattling, roundabout route to get near Chattanooga. The most direct route of 540 miles went across Virginia through Knoxville. That trip might have been completed in two days.

But Knoxville had been captured by the Yankees. So Francis and his comrades had to take the long way around. They traveled 925 miles from Richmond by way of Petersburg, Virginia; Weldon, Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and Augusta, Atlanta, Dalton and finally Ringgold, Georgia. They used no less than 11 different railroads.

The South’s broken down rolling stock made the trip even more miserable for Francis and the others. In order to move such a large body of troops, every type of railroad car had been pressed into service. Soldiers packed onto miles of passenger, baggage, mail, box and platform cars. On open platform cars the men slept in rows with their gray blankets pulled over their heads, a scene that reminded some observers of mummies. The closed cars carried as many men on top as inside.

Francis more than likely did not know that his younger brother John F. Poore was headed for the same battlefield. John had enlisted in the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment.

John and his comrades who boarded Mobile and Ohio Railroad cars at Enterprise, Mississippi, traveled nearly as roundabout route as Francis in Longstreet’s Corps. No railroad connected Central Mississippi with Central Alabama.

So the train took the troops first to Mobile. In the Port City, John and his comrades boarded boats for a short trip across Mobile Bay because there were no railroad bridges across the delta estuary. The boat then traveled up the Tensas River to the train station at the Tensas community in Baldwin County.

Here John and the other troops boarded the first of at least eight more railroads that took them northeastward through the Alabama towns of Pollard, Montgomery and Opelika, and then through the Georgia towns of West Point, East Point, Atlanta, Etowah, Cartersville and Dalton. Late on the afternoon of September 17, the train carrying Gregg’s Brigade chugged into Catoosa Station near Ringgold, Georgia.

John’s older brother Francis didn’t arrive at Catoosa Station until sometime on September 18.

In writing about your ancestors in the Civil War, have you looked into the railroads that carried them into battle for stories about their experiences?