Shiloh Troop Train AAR
During the week of March 26, I left to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh (or Pittsburg Landing) in western Tennessee. The 8-day, 2,000 mile round trip included 2 days on the Shiloh Troop Train and a 3-day reenactment near the original battlefield.
On Monday the 26th, I flew to Kansas City, where I spent the night, and boarded the Shiloh Troop Train Tuesday morning at Union Station with about 250 other reenactors. I carried only my knapsack and two haversacks, an unusual luggage configuration that definitely got the "hairy eyeball" from the TSA at the airport. However, I managed to get through security without any problems. I got my entire uniform, including Brogans into the knapsack, along with an issue blanket, gum blanket, and some other items. The haversacks carried my mess kit, other essentials, and some things to do on the train, like period playing cards and a reproduction copy of Harpers Weekly. Because of the complexities involved with bringing a musket and bayonet on the plane, I decided to portray a musician on the train ride and was only packing my fife, which simplified things considerably.
I thought this was to be a Union only event, as the train ride recreated the arrival of Union troops at the battle of Shiloh via steam locomotive. However, the riders included Union, Confederate, and civilian reenactors and the 19-piece Frontier Brigade Band performing as the 1859 Marine Band, dressed in very authentic, bright red uniforms. They played at the stops and were an interesting bunch to talk to. Here is a YouTube video of them performing at the reenactment:
The train was pulled by the last steam locomotive still operating, Union Pacific (UP) #844, and included a flat car carrying artillery pieces for the reenactment, one of which was a cannon that had actually been used in the war. The engine flew both Union and Confederate flags and commemorated not only the arrival of troops at this battle, but also the 150th anniversary of the UP Railroad. As a result, the entire Troop Train experience was underwritten as a big PR event by UP to the tune of $1.5 million (according to the rumor mill). The reenactors paid only $44 each for their meals, and UP picked up the tab for everything else.
The recently refurbished passenger cars were from the Golden Age of rail travel, the 1930s, 40s and 50s--not like today's Amtrack, which is essentially like riding a bus. These cars had large, comfortable seats you could sleep in, and the train included dining cars and observation decks. The general had his own car with a kitchen, bedroom, and meeting area. All the passenger cars had names. I rode in the "Katie Flyer." Here is a YouTube video of the train arriving in Jefferson City, MO:
I fell in with the 77th PA for the train ride, who made me feel right at home (the real 77th PA fought at Shiloh, but actually arrived on the second day). One of them had a book about the 77th PA at Shiloh published in the early 1900s and written by survivors of the battle. I read most of it during the trip. The train made several stops along the way, such as Jefferson City, MO, where the band played and the reenactors interacted with spectators. All along the route, people turned out to see the train and the reenactors--UP had been publicizing the trip for a while and train enthusiasts and the general public were at almost every crossroad, video cameras in hand.
At one point, we passed an elementary school near the tracks, and the entire school turned out with students, teachers, and staff waving as we went by. For the riders, there was lots of waving to the spectators, soaking up the scenery in the observation cars, chatting with the other riders, and plenty of time to reflect on how the soldiers must have felt on their way to battle back in the day.
At one point when I was reading the Harpers Weekly and the fellow next to me was writing in his period journal, a guy with a big, fancy camera took our picture--I hope no one catches the date on the paper. It's the only one I had, and it was from 1863!
When the train arrived in Marion, AR, I hitched a ride with a Confederate artillery unit (Farris Battery) to the Shiloh reenactment site. They were a great bunch and went out of their way to help me out.
It was an interesting, unique, and relaxing trip--one that will probably never be repeated in my lifetime. However, sitting on a train for two days is, well, sitting on a train for two days. By the time it was over, I had plenty of energy built up and was ready to get to the reenactment.
I'd be interested to hear from others who were on the train...also to see any pictures you may have taken--I didn't have room to pack a camera.