Colonel Thomas A. Scott
June 14, 2010
A native Pennsylvanian, Colonel Thomas A. Scott (1823-1881) was Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad when he was called to Washington to serve the War Department during the Civil War. The Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton knew of Scott's executive capabilities and appointed him Assistant Secretary of War in charge of transportation and telegraph lines. The railroads played an important role throughout the Civil War, transporting troops and supplies. This made the railroads strategic resources for both the north and the south, as well as targets. The railroads were not entirely connected to one another and were not standardized, the rails were varying widths. The northern lines were more developed than the southern lines giving the north a distinct advantage, although they did not utilize at first. However, after a startling defeat of the Union Army at the First Battle of Bull Run, where the Confederates won in part due to troops which arrived last minute by train, the north began to realize the potential of the railroad.
Stanton introduced the 1862 Railroad Act which placed the railroads and telegraph lines under government jurisdiction and established the United States Military Railroad. Civilian railroad experts were given military status. Frank Thomson (1841-1899) was a railroad man whose talents attracted the attention of Colonel Scott. Scott appointed Thomson to be his chief assistant.