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As the war progressed and the lethality of rifled muskets became all too evident, soldiers' attitudes changed toward using cover in combat. Naval events at Hampton Roads, Va., which included a duel between the ironclad vessels Monitor and Merrimack, convincingly illustrated the efficiency of iron plating in stopping projectiles. Shortly thereafter, "monitor fever" swept the nation as ironclad enthusiasts lobbied for the construction of a huge ironclad fleet. Army officers also caught this fever, and ironclad railroad cars soon appeared across the nation. Fittingly, troops called them railroad monitors, to honor the Federal vessel that inspired the fever.
The first railroad monitors resembled iron boxcars. Light artillery pieces were fired from hatches cut in the hull. Small-arms apertures cut in the sides allowed infantrymen to supplement the fire of the main guns. The car's armor was only thick enough to withstand small-arms fire, however, so commanders generally relegated the boxcar-shaped monitors to areas known to be infested with partisans.
Railroad monitors carried several infantrymen. However, firing artillery and muskets from within the cramped confines of a railroad car must have been confusing and dangerous. Ultimately, monitors carried riflemen with repeating rifles inside the car, which had an artillery piece mounted on the top of the car that commanded all sides of the train. This arrangement separated the infantry from the artillery while substantially increasing fire power, but at least one unimpressed reporter referred to it as a "hermaphrodite."
Another means of segregating the infantry from the artillery was the rifle car. Rifle cars resembled ordinary boxcars, but their shielding was placed inside the cars. Musket apertures on all sides offered their crews wide fields of fire for small arms. Like the artillery-bearing railroad monitors, rifle cars could guard key railroad features, protect repairmen, supervise railroad guards and escort supply trains. Just as rifle monitors foreshadowed modern tanks, rifle cars were early versions of infantry fighting vehicles.
Along with rifle cars came a new type of railroad monitor that used thick, sloped iron casemates that could deflect light artillery projectiles--an important capability when Confederate horse artillery lurked nearby. These new railroad monitors resembled elongated pyramids and were the same shape as casemated ironclad vessels (turrets were not used with the light artillery on railroad monitors, though armored railroad cars in subsequent conflicts did use turrets). With their thick armor and cannons, these railroad monitors were similar to modern tanks.
Rifle cars and monitors coupled to a locomotive formed an ironclad (or armored) train. A simple ironclad train consisted of a locomotive and a railroad monitor. Optimally, however, an ironclad train employed a number of cars in a specific sequence as had the armed trains. A railroad monitor rode at each end of the train. Coupled to these were rifle cars, with the locomotive and tender positioned in the middle. This march order distributed firepower evenly, provided mutually supporting small-arms and artillery fire, and afforded the locomotive some protection. Not all ironclad trains had the same number of cars, but this efficacious march order became the ideal for armored trains subsequently used by many nations. Indeed, modern armored forces today use a similar combined-arms approach of mutually supporting firepower, although the vehicles operate independently rather than being coupled together in units, and, of course, are not limited to the rails.
To read the full article check http://www.paradesquare.ca/railway/us_civil_war.htm
Last edited on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 12:08 am by Hellcat