The (Railroad) Bridges of York County
Brig. General Herman Haupt
I enjoyed the talk on the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Civil War given recently by Ivan E. Frantz, Jr. at the York Civil War Round Table. I was especially impressed by Brig. General Herman Haupt and his fantastic engineering of railroad bridges and the speedy repairs his men made to the bridges destroyed by the Confederate invaders of York County.
Wondering, as always, if he had any other York County area connections, I did a little searching. Turns out, he certainly did.
Haupt was born in Philadelphia in 1817. He graduated from West Point in 1835, later resigning his commission to become a railroad engineer. An article on Haupt by Richard F. Snow in the Feb/Mar 1985 issue of American Heritage says that his railroad work brought him to York and Adams counties. Snow says that during Haupt’s 1840 work on the York and Wrightsville Railroad, he became leery of the latticework bridges and found that engineers had never attempted calculating the strain of bridge trusses. As a result he set about calculating and writing his authoritative work General Theory of Bridge Construction, published in 1851.
Haupt found more than engineering inspiration in the area. In 1838 he married Ann Cecelia Keller of Gettysburg, daughter of Lutheran minister Benjamin Keller. They eventually had eleven children. He stayed in Gettysburg for a while after that, teaching at Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) college and operating the Gettysburg female seminary in the 1840s.
He became Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad, but went back into the military during the Civil War, becoming Chief of the Bureau of United States Military Railroads. In that capacity, he quickly put his Construction Corps to work to repair the Northern Central, Gettysburg & Hanover and Western Maryland lines to get supplies to Gettysburg and move wounded soldiers to hospitals in the area.
Haupt’s December 1905 obituary in the New York Times mentioned that he was the oldest living graduate of West Point at the time. Perhaps fittingly, he succumbed to an apparent heart attack in New Jersey–while traveling between Jersey City and Newark–on a Pennsylvania Railroad train.
Click here to read Scott Mingus’s blog post about taking the wounded from Gettysburg to Baltimore and York.
Click here for more of my posts on York County and the Civil War.
Click here for my posts on railroads and York County.