Today’s blog post comes from Hannah Fenster, summer intern in the Public Affairs Office of the National Archives.
Herman Haupt wasn’t hurting for hair.
The scruff that framed his face and eyes contributed to his imposing persona—which was so stubborn that he often refused the help of other people so he could accomplish a task more quickly.
The intense gaze radiating from under Haupt’s thick eyebrows analyzed many a difficult situation involving Northern railroad strategy and bridge reconstruction during the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago this month, from July 1 to July 3, 1863, Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg used Haupt’s refurbished Western Maryland Railroad to supply Gen. George G. Meade’s army.
Haupt only began assessing and controlling the situation on July 1—but he was the perfect choice to lead the effort.
Not only did he have a steely, goal-driven personality, but he had lived in the Gettysburg area in his younger pre-beard years, and he had been the chief engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad before his appointment as colonel. His familiarity with the geography and with the railroad business ensured that his transport system exceeded expectations in moving the injured to Baltimore and transferring daily supplies to the battlefield.
Haupt and the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps are particularly well known for assembling bridges with limited time and supplies. After an 1862 visit to Virginia, Abraham Lincoln marveled, “That man Haupt has built a bridge four hundred feet long and eighty feet high, across Potomac Creek, on which loaded trains are passing every hour, and upon my word, gentlemen, there is nothing in it but cornstalks and beanpoles.”
What else can we learn from Haupt’s neatly combed hair and stylish Civil War–era beard and mustache? His grooming indicates that he took this photo seriously.
He did so with good reason, because the photographer was the famous Mathew Brady, who is largely responsible for the visual documentation of the Civil War used today. The National Archives contains 6,066 of Brady’s photographs, which offer windows into Civil War topics from railroads to bearded fashion trends.
This blog post was adapted from David A. Pfeiffer’s article “Working Magic with Cornstalks and Beanpoles: Records Relating to the U.S. Military Railroads during the Civil War” in the Summer 2011 issue of Prologue magazine. It also draws from “Facial Hair Friday: Tribute to Mathew Brady.”