Sherman's neckties

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Some "Sherman's neckties" . The photo clearly shows that those rails have been bent, not twisted as Sherman ordered them to be.

Sherman's neckties were a railway-destruction tactic used in the American Civil War. Named after Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army, Sherman's neckties were railway rails destroyed by heating them until they were malleable and twisting them into loops resembling neckties, often around trees. Since the Confederacy had limited supplies of iron, and few foundries to roll the rails, this destruction was very difficult to repair. They were also called Sherman's bow ties,[1] Sherman's hairpins or Jeff Davis hairpins.

The neckties were created in accordance with an explicit order from Sherman in his Atlanta Campaign, dated July 18, 1864:

... twisting the bars when hot. Officers should be instructed that bars simply bent may be used again, but if when red hot they are twisted out of line they cannot be used again. Pile the ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface becomes spiral.

After three days, only one Confederate railroad line leading into Atlanta remained intact. Not all rail destruction followed Sherman's order; in May 1863, Arthur Fremantle wrote in his diary that near Jackson, Mississippi, he saw piles of bent rails on cold embers, but does not say they were twisted.

On the left of this photo by G.N. Barnard, four men with crowbars seem to be twisting a rail, following Sherman's orders.

Sherman's neckties were also a feature of Sherman's March to the Sea, a campaign designed to bring total war, serious destruction, to the Confederate States of America. Sherman implemented "scorched earth" policies; he and Union Army commander Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy's strategic, economic, and psychological capacities for warfare were decisively broken.

In the early days of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of late 1864, the Confederates employed similar tactics against Sherman's supply line, the Western and Atlantic Railroad from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The rails deformed by fire were known to the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee as "Old Mrs. Lincoln's Hair Pins."[2]


  1. ^ Cox, Jacob D. (January 30, 2003). "The March To The Sea/Franklin And Nashville". Retrieved July 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ Sword, pp. 53-54.