Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence, and Reconstruction / Edition 1

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During Reconstruction, an alliance of southern planters and northern capitalists rebuilt the southern railway system using remnants of the Confederate railroads that had been built and destroyed during the Civil War. In the process of linking Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia by rail, this alliance created one of the largest corporations in the world, engendered bitter political struggles, and transformed the South in lasting ways, says Scott Nelson.
Iron Confederacies uses the history of southern railways to explore linkages among the themes of states' rights, racial violence, labor strife, and big business in the nineteenth-century South. By 1868, Ku Klux Klan leaders had begun mobilizing white resentment against rapid economic change by asserting that railroad consolidation led to political corruption and black economic success. As Nelson notes, some of the Klan's most violent activity was concentrated along the Richmond-Atlanta rail corridor. But conflicts over railroads were eventually resolved, he argues, in agreements between northern railroad barons and Klan leaders that allowed white terrorism against black voters while surrendering states' control over the southern economy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The story is captivatingly written, briskly paced, and contains a wealth of detail.

Journal of Southern History

Nelson's truly innovative insights, solid research, and narrative skill make his book a significant and welcome contribution.

American Historical Review

[Nelson] offers a new perspective on North-South relations during the era of Redemption.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

[I]t is a sparkling example of scholarship that moves effortlessly across the boundaries of business, social, and political history.

Journal of American History

[A] fine study, which offers new and fresh interpretations and does so by integrating a range of disciplines.

Civil War Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807848036
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/1999
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Reynolds Nelson is assistant professor of history at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
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Table of Contents


1. Forcing Nature: An Iron Confederacy Surveyed and Graded
2. The Confederacy Serves the South(ern)
3. Connections: Political Reconstruction and the Public Fiction of the Air Line, 1865-1871
4. The Pennsylvania Railroad's Consolidation, and the Return of the Confederacy
5. Alamance: A Trenchant Blade
6. Pockets Full of Executions: The Railway Corridor in South Carolina
7. Public Fictions
8. A Railway Redemption
Conclusion: An Ironic Confederacy
Select Bibliography


1. Core Railway Lines from Atlanta to Richmond, 1868
2. Proposed Line from Washington to Atlanta, 1867
3. Southern Railway Security Company Lines, 1871


Union soldiers at the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad depot
Convict laborers, probably on the Western North Carolina Railroad
Railway workers near Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Conflict over Reconstruction portrayed as a railroad accident
The U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps
Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Thomas A. Scott's Union Station in Washington, D.C.
"A Political Discussion"
"Electioneering at the South"
White men whipping a black female
African American men outside an "eating saloon" in South Carolina
Western North Carolina Klansmen surrounding Republican John Campbell
Freed people in South Carolina outside the offices of the Freedman's Bureau
The lobby of the Kimball House
Slaves at work on the North Carolina Railroad
Advertisement for the Atlanta & Richmond Air Line
A new steam-powered cotton gin in Aiken, South Carolina

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