History : Oct-Nov 2015
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION brought the power of steam to trans- portation, changing almost every aspect of society, including war- fare. Trains were used extensively in the Civil War, allowing rapid deployment of large armies and weapons to distant battlefronts. Railroad junctions like Chattanooga became crucial strategic hubs. THE AGE OF STEAM UNION RAILROAD MORTAR, ”THE DICTATOR,” DURING THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA, 1864 THE TRAIN REVOLUTION On September 15, 1830, travel changed forever with the introduction of the world’s first passenger train service. Stephenson’s Rocket (below) carried passengers from Liverpool to Manchester. AKG/ALBUM XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX by rail. “When this shall have been done,” wrote Secretary of State William Seward to those break- ing ground in Omaha,“disunion will be rendered forever after impossible.” The great transcontinental railroad inaugurated during the Civil War was made possible by an earlier conflict, the Mexican-American War. This had concluded in 1848 with a treaty that ceded to the United States the vast area through which the Union Pacific and Central Pacific would eventually run, including the future states of California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming. During the 1850s, expeditions launched by the U.S. Army surveyed the future Union Pacific– Central Pacific route and several other possible pathways to the Pacific. Up along the Canadian border blizzards and avalanches in the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range made the pros- pects of laying tracks so far north extremely problematic. In the South, politicians like sena- tor and former secretary of war Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who would later become president of the Confederacy, favored a route through Texas. As he and others pointed out, the southern route offered perfect conditions for railroad builders, including mild winters and level terrain for much of the way. However, critics noted that it lacked the crucial ingredients of water and timber, and passed through few settlements of any size or importance. What good would come, asked Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Mis- souri, from building a railroad across country “so utterly desolate, deserted, and God-forsaken that Kit Carson says a wolf could not make his living on it?” Benton himself favored a route run- ning almost due west from St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, but surveyors of that path came up against a daunting barrier in the Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado Territory. In any case, Northern politicians were wary of a route originating in Missouri—a slaveholding Border State whose loyalty to the Union was in doubt as the Civil War loomed—and dead set against funding any railroad that would connect the potentially hos- tile Deep South to the mineral wealth BRIDGEMAN/ACI MEDFORDHISTORICALSOCIETY/CORBIS/CORDONPRESS During the building of America’s railways, tracklaying became a methodical process that on level ground could be carried out quickly and efficiently.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016