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Railroads of the Civil War


Over the course of the first half of the nineteenth century, America would find itself following two increasingly divergent tracks: an industrialized North and an agricultural South. By 1860 railroads were firmly entrenched in our culture, reshaping our cities and steering us through the industrial age towards worldwide prominence. From sleepy post towns to the largest east coast cities, the distant hooting of the locomotive whistle drew ever closer and louder, filling listeners with fascination while brightening the eyes of profit-driven industrialists. But this admirable invention, lavishly adorned in brass and iron trimmings, was about to take on a new and deadly role. America’s regional differences would result in a spectacular collision over slavery, and between 1861–1865, the nation fought a savage war. The “iron horse” became a major weapon in the first war fully dependent on railroads. Moreover railroads would escalate and prolong the war, leading to its terrible carnage. Trains were used to move troops rapidly and over great distances, completely changing military strategy. Trains were also used as mobile artillery, armed with large-caliber cannons that could pound cities and fortifications. Trains were a crucial means for supplying the armies on both sides, and it was the severing of the railway lines providing food and munitions to the Army of Northern Virginia that led to Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

"In Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History, " Michael Leavy uses compelling period photographs and drawings and a rich narrative to reevaluate and illuminate the role of railroads in the Civil War. In addition to identifying details about the various trains and ancillary equipment and buildings in the illustrations, the author explains how trains influenced the outcome of battles and the war in general. 

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About the Author

MICHAEL LEAVY is a professional artist specializing in mural painting and the author of nine books of history. His interest in the Civil War and railroads goes back over forty years, and he regularly gives interviews and lectures on the subject.

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