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This is a single suspension bridge from my historical inventory of suspension bridges. Follow the Inventory link for more information about the inventory.
1861 Gauley River
Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, USA (Gauley River)
Bridgemeister ID:2123
Principals:John W. Murphy
Status:Destroyed, 1862
Main cables:Wire (iron)
  • Don Sayenga writes:
    "It was built in great haste out of military necessity utilizing abutments and piers of an earlier wooden bridge that had been burnt by a unit of the Confederate Army commanded by Gen. John B. Floyd. This occurred just after the fight known as the Battle of Carnifex Ferry on September 10, 1861. Later the Confederate Army recaptured the bridge location and burnt the new one also. The designer/builder was John W. Murphy (1828-1874) who was working as an engineer in Alabama when the war began in 1861. He held a Civil Engineer degree from Rensselaer. Murphy's concept involved multiple factory-made wire ropes as main cables combined with wooden bracing. The exact location of the bridge seems to have been called the New River Cliffs but I haven't found this on a map. Photos of the bridge came into the possession of Prof. George Plympton, an associate of Murphy's in the latter part of his career. Plympton presented a paper about bridges in 1894 reported by The Railroad Gazette August 24. The photos were given to the Gazette - one of their artists converted the photos to pen-and-ink drawings for publication in the issue of November 9, 1894, p. 773."
    Don transcribed the following:

    The Railroad Gazette, August 24, 1894, Page 579.
    "Prof. Plympton then related two reminiscences of bridge building between 1852 and 1861...The other instance was the building of a military suspension bridge over the Gauley River in 1861. The government called for a bridge of sufficient strength to permit the passage of General Rosecrans corps, allowing twenty-four days' time. The abutments and piers of the former bridge remained in good condition. Murphy submitted an original plan, which was accepted. The plans were drawn up by Mr. Murphy on the cars, while he was traveling to Washington to submit his ideas to the United States army en gineers. The plans were accepted and Murphy at once went to work. Four one-inch wire ropes, laid side by side, formed his cables. A pyramidal tower was constructed of heavy timbers, and in place of suspending rods a loosely-formed truss was hung upon the cable without fastening. This truss, connected with the floor of the bridge, was finished on the 22nd day after receiving the order to build."
    Proceedings of the Franklin Institute, October 21, 1874, Page 306.
    "It was a suspension bridge 520 feet in length, 10 feet roadway, consisting of three spans, supported by eight cables. There was some doubt in the mind of the commanding officer that it would answer the purpose...To test it ...he asked that a battalion be ordered to make a charge over it, which was done, to the satisfaction of the General in afterwards passed and repassed the whole command as long as they occupied that portion of the country. A change of base put it into the possession of the Confederates who burnt it down."
  • An article in the July 15, 1951 edition of The Charleston Daily Mail describes the bridge and its demise:
    "After the Confederate forces had retreated and burned the old covered bridge, the Federal engineers constructed a make-shift bridge across the Gauley. There are pictures in existence showing this light, cable bridge erected on the old piers of the original bridge. This structure was cut down Sept. 11, 1862, when the Federals retreated from an attack by Confederate Gen. W. W. Loring, who routed the Unionists from the valley for a brief time."
  • Jakkula has an 1862 entry for "Gauley River Bridge" with little information, citing the American Railroad Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1472, July 2, 1864, p.651: "A suspension bridge built over the Gauley River, Virginia, by the Government in 1862." It is unclear if this reference is for the same bridge.

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