North Carolina Civil War Railroads and Railroad Battles

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The Wilmington-Weldon Railroad ran between Wilmington, NC, and Richmond, VA; it was also one of the most important supply routes for the Confederacy.
 
"A great point would be gained in any event by the effectual destruction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad." United States Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, January 7, 1862

North Carolina Civil War Railroads Map
northcarolinarailroads.gif
Courtesy North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

North Carolina and Civil War Railroads and Railroad Battles:

Recommended Reading: Railroads of North Carolina (Images of Rail). Description: Since the opening of the first permanent railway in 1833, hundreds of railroad companies have operated in North Carolina. Rail transportation, faster and more efficient than other methods of the era, opened new markets for the products of North Carolina’s farms, factories, and mines. Continued below…

Over the years, North Carolina rail companies have ranged in size from well-engineered giants like the Southern Railway to temporary logging railroads like the Hemlock. Cross ties and rails were laid across almost every conceivable terrain: tidal marshes, sand hills, rolling piedmont, and mountain grades. Vulnerable to the turbulent and unregulated economies of the day, few railroad companies escaped reorganizations and receiverships during their corporate lives, often leaving tangled and contradictory histories in their passing. About the Author: Compiled by rail enthusiast Alan Coleman, this volume uses vintage photographs and information drawn from business records and other sources to capture the railroad companies that made their mark on North Carolina. Coleman is a technical writer/illustrator who resides with his wife in Hickory. He is a member of the Southern Railway Historical Association and the Norfolk and Western Historical Society and pursues his interest in model railroading through the Piedmont and Western Railroad Club of Valdese.

 

Recommended Reading: Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor. Description: "The Great Locomotive Chase has been the stuff of legend and the darling of Hollywood. Now we have a solid history of the Andrews Raid. Russell S. Bonds’ stirring account makes clear why the raid failed and what happened to the raiders."—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Continued below...

On April 12, 1862 -- one year to the day after Confederate guns opened on Fort Sumter -- a tall, mysterious smuggler and self-appointed Union spy named James J. Andrews and nineteen infantry volunteers infiltrated north Georgia and stole a steam engine referred to as  the General. Racing northward at speeds approaching sixty miles an hour, cutting telegraph lines and destroying track along the way, Andrews planned to open East Tennessee to the Union army, cutting off men and materiel from the Confederate forces in Virginia. If they succeeded, Andrews and his raiders could change the course of the war. But the General’s young conductor, William A. Fuller, chased the stolen train first on foot, then by handcar, and finally aboard another engine, the Texas. He pursued the General until, running out of wood and water, Andrews and his men abandoned the doomed locomotive, ending the adventure that would soon be famous as The Great Locomotive Chase, but not the ordeal of the soldiers involved. In the days that followed, the "engine thieves" were hunted down and captured. Eight were tried and executed as spies, including Andrews. Eight others made a daring escape to freedom, including two assisted by a network of slaves and Union sympathizers. For their actions, before a personal audience with President Abraham Lincoln, six of the raiders became the first men in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest decoration for gallantry. Americans north and south, both at the time and ever since, have been astounded and fascinated by this daring raid. Until now, there has not been a complete history of the entire episode and the fates of all those involved. Based on eyewitness accounts, as well as correspondence, diaries, military records, newspaper reports, deposition testimony and other primary sources, Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor by Russell S. Bonds is a blend of meticulous research and compelling narrative that is destined to become the definitive history of "the boldest adventure of the war."

 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in the Carolinas (Hardcover). Description: Dan Morrill relates the experience of two quite different states bound together in the defense of the Confederacy, using letters, diaries, memoirs, and reports. He shows how the innovative operations of the Union army and navy along the coast and in the bays and rivers of the Carolinas affected the general course of the war as well as the daily lives of all Carolinians. He demonstrates the "total war" for North Carolina's vital coastal railroads and ports. In the latter part of the war, he describes how Sherman's operation cut out the heart of the last stronghold of the South. Continued below...

The author offers fascinating sketches of major and minor personalities, including the new president and state governors, Generals Lee, Beauregard, Pickett, Sherman, D.H. Hill, and Joseph E. Johnston. Rebels and abolitionists, pacifists and unionists, slaves and freed men and women, all influential, all placed in their context with clear-eyed precision. If he were wielding a needle instead of a pen, his tapestry would offer us a complete picture of a people at war. Midwest Book Review: The Civil War in the Carolinas by civil war expert and historian Dan Morrill (History Department, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historical Society) is a dramatically presented and extensively researched survey and analysis of the impact the American Civil War had upon the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, and the people who called these states their home. A meticulous, scholarly, and thoroughly engaging examination of the details of history and the sweeping change that the war wrought for everyone, The Civil War In The Carolinas is a welcome and informative addition to American Civil War Studies reference collections.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War Railroads: A Pictorial Story of the War Between the States, 1861-1865 (Hardcover: 192 pages) (Publisher: Indiana University Press). Description: With more than 220 black and white photographs from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and private collections across the country, this is the essential pictorial guide for all those interested in the role of the Iron Horse in the American Civil War. Like all wars, the Civil War was not all gunfire and panic. It was supply and transport, trains and trouble on the line, men in Blue and Gray fighting against almost unbelievable odds with lumbering, woodburning engines. Continued below...

About the Author: George B. Abdill, Civil War Railroads: A Pictorial Story of the War Between the States, 1861-1865, before his death, was a railroader's writer--A working hoghead on the Southern Pacific's Portland Division and historian of the great days of steam. His special gift was as a collector of truly remarkable photographs illustrating the pioneering days of the railroads. And he had a special place in his heart for military railroaders since he, himself, served with the 744th Railway Operation Battalion during World War II, running his engine in France, Belgium, and Germany. He had first-hand knowledge of railroading under fire.

 

Recommended Reading: The Railroads of the Confederacy (400 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press: April 15, 1998). Description: Originally published by UNC Press in 1952, The Railroads of the Confederacy tells the story of the first use of railroads on a major scale in a major war. Robert Black presents a complex and fascinating tale, with the railroads of the American South playing the part of tragic hero in the Civil War: at first vigorous though immature; then overloaded, driven unmercifully, starved for iron; and eventually worn out—struggling on to inevitable destruction in the wake of Sherman's army, carrying the Confederacy down with them. Continued below...

With maps of all the Confederate railroads and contemporary photographs and facsimiles of such documents as railroad tickets, timetables, and soldiers' passes, the book will captivate railroad enthusiasts as well as readers interested in the Civil War.

 

Recommended Viewing: American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad (2003) (PBS) (120 minutes). Description: Go behind-the-scenes of one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: the building of a transcontinental railroad across the United States. Completed in only six years by unscrupulous entrepreneurs, brilliant engineers, and legions of dedicated workers, the Transcontinental Railroad left a horde of displaced, broken Native Americans in its wake. See how the railroad helped shape the politics and culture of mid-19th century America.

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: North Carolina Civil War Railroad Battles and Bridge Burners History, List of North Carolina Railroad Battles Details Maps, Railroad Battle History Map, Rail lines of Tennessee, Cumberland Gap, and the Smoky Mountains Facts, Photo, Picture, Photograph.

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