Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History

Overview

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...

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Overview

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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594161193
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/15/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 921,246
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    Well Written and Informative

    This book turned out to be more than I expected. It includes Mary Lincoln, Anna Custis Lee, a home-sick band leader, panicked citizens hurrying to the last trains as their city is bombarded. The author includes a lot of information and--thankfully--does not linger too long on any one aspect; keeping the narrative moving. One review on this page says there is sloppy spelling but the author put in telegraphs, orders and other messages exactly as they were written. I think it gives the work more authenticity. There must be over over 200 photos that, combined with the text, give a thrilling view of the war. Overall the book is an eye-opener and has me seeing things a bit differently. Mr. Leavy certainly put a lot of work--and heart--into it. I have other Westholme Publishing works. They specialize in military subjects. They really hit the mark with this one. I highly recommend it and let your children read it. The author sums up the war passionatley but realistically.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Photos

    To a world moving by muscle, wind or river current steam changed everything, freeing and speeding movement in ways we cannot image. While riverboats captured the romantic image of steam, the realities of drought and winter limited their usefulness. Railroads were the ultimate application of steam. After a shaky start, railroads gain acceptance and popularity. As they grew and expanded, trips that took weeks took days. A world of possibilities and opportunities opened and America grabbed every one of them! Bright young men went into railroading, investors lined up to buy bonds, towns vied to be on the rail line. Companies started thinking in terms of how far they were from a railroad.
    By 1860, railroads are a major feature of the American landscape moving goods and passengers between towns. The nation lacked a uniform integrated system but worked around breaks and different gauges. With the war, railroads become both a necessity and an objective. This book looks at railroads and the Civil War.
    While not a "coffee table book" this oversized illustrated book could work as one. The basic format of the six chapters is ten to fifteen pages of text followed by an equal number of photographs and illustrations. These photographs are both a revelation and a joy for anyone interested in machines, buildings or dress. While the working photos are staged and this would be an event, they reflect what is happening. They open a window on how muscle cleaned up after a wreck or a raid. The engines and rolling stock pictures show us a time when workmanship and decorations were very different. The photographs of the tracks, tunnels, bridges and depots convey the investment railroads required.
    The books six chapters provide a balanced look at America's railroads and the war. This New Appliance of War is a history of the development and acceptance of railroads. Rails across the Potomac is a general survey of Northern railroads. Where Rivers Meet looks at Harpers Ferry, the B&O, the Chesapeake & Ohio, and the Ohio Canal. Railroads in the Land of Jubilee look at Southern railroads. A Sea of Rubble looks at the destruction caused by the war. Bound for Springfield, looking at Lincoln's funeral train. A Bibliography and index complete the book
    This is a sit and read or sit and look book, depending on your mood. I spent more time looking than reading.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    This is a Keeper!

    I found the book very informative and was compelled by the author's research and passion to give serious consideration to aspects of the war that I may never have known about. As a college student, I feel I am sometimes mis-informed on the causes of the war. Mr. Leavy stretches the canvas to include not only trains but a compelling overview of the conflict that is so reasoned it is hard to disagree with, especially since he uses quotes from historical figures ie: Lee, Sherman and Lincoln. The book is not a historical slog with pages of unending data. It reads smoothly and the photos are fantastic. From lonely backwood flagstops to the massive Atlanta railroad station, I felt involved and not just an observer. Again, the 100s of photos are often powerful. A particulalry moving image shows a young suffering soldier. The author describes the monumental tasks of moving tens of thousands of troops over numerous railroads to reach important battles. His discussion of wounded soldiers returning home on trains during demobilization cut to the soul. Members of Christian and benevolent socities awaited arriving trains. They borded the passenger cars and sought returning soldiers. They provided water, re-banadaged wounds--there were thousands of amputees--and helped soldiers across town to make rail connections. This is an unusual book. Something about it sticks to my ribs. I know I will reach for it many times in the years to come. Well done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    Powerful

    I was drawn to Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History, by its beautiful cover. I expected to see the same old re-hash but a flip through suggested it held new stuff so I bought it. As a train and Civil War buff, I was not disappointed. In-fact, I can't stop thinking about certain parts of it. Within its stories of bravery, adventure, humor, disaster and triumph, Leavy inserts powerful and often deeply moving moments that make the whole thing quite real. The photos are terrific and there are a lot I've never seen before. I was taken by Leavy's plain talking assessment of things and he convincingly backs up his assertion that railroads led to the wars escalation, duration and horrible carnage. Moreover I found the book to be more than just railroads, piston pressures and iron rail. Leavy encapsulates the war briefly and effectively. Good read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    Action packed.

    I received the book for Christmas and just got around to reading it during one of our nightly winter blasts and decided to order another copy from B&N for a friend. I read the reviews and decided to toss in my 2 cents.I agree with one reviewer that the book is indeed memorable and will provide years of satisfaction. It is a good size--not some heavy coffee table affair that is hard to handle. I was impressed at how the author included seemingly disparate subjects that at first seem outside the issue of railroads in the war. He weaves them all together to give a surprisingly comprehensive view of the conflict--everything from the Confederate Constitution, the mechanics of wet-collodin photography to Mary Custus Lee dying in near homelessness after viewing her Arlington mansion one last time. It all gave humainty to a subject that could easily have been narrowly focused. The many photos are great and the writing brings the vivid colors, sound and atmosphere evoked from a bold Civil War painting. The overall subject was clearly approached with passion but with a restraint that kept things "on track." I could tell the author wanted to go off on subjects that he was interested in but pulled back before it became foolish. His conclusions are fresh and backed up with convincing research usually in quotes from the histoical figures involved. His descriptions of Stonewall Jackson's brave and unrelenting raids on the B&O, including blowing up the Harpers Ferry railroad bridge, are quite exciting. A last thought. If the author reads my review--would you consider a novel on the subject? I would love that. Many thanks and good luck with any future projects.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2011

    Sloppy; needs a good editor.

    Very sloppy. Many errors in punctuation and correct word choice; e.g., used 'in access" when he meant 'in excess.' If the writing is incorrect, how can one trust the facts? A pity, because the book had promise.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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