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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The Civil War


David C. McCallum.
Map of United States Military Rail Roads, Showing the Rail Roads Operated During the War from 1862-1866, as Military Lines.
New York: J. Bien, 1866.

This map from 1866, created as part of the final report on the operations of the United States Military Railroads, shows the vast scope of operations during the Civil War. The Union Army was able to seize, rebuild, re-equip, staff and maintain railroads from the Atlantic to the Mississippi in order to supply their armies in the field while simultaneously fighting the Confederacy with hundreds of thousands of troops.


Nathan B. Abbott.
View of Military Post Cowan, Tennessee.
New York: Henry C. Eno, 1863.

The 1860’s would see American railroads used directly in military operations during the Civil War. This lithograph, based off of art done by a Connecticut soldier, shows a Union Army post in Cowan, Tennessee, which was along the railroad line between Nashville and Chattanooga. Images like this combined the latest technology of the day, the railroad, with the current events of the Civil War and were highly profitable for their publishers.

Item 54 HE 2791 .R57 A57 1862 Annual Report_1.jpg

Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.
Annual Report of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Company for the Year Ending Sept. 30, 1862.
Richmond, VA: Ritchie & Dunnavant, 1862.

Primary source material from railroads in the Confederacy is difficult to find. Even annual reports, like this one, are harder to acquire than their Union counterparts. The line was partially destroyed, partially occupied by the enemy, and partially under its own control. The changing fortunes of war against the Confederacy would eventually lead to the line being heavily damaged and it would enter the post-war world as a shell of its former self.

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John Letcher.
Communication from the Governor Transmitting Resolutions of Railroad Convention Relative to Protection of Bridges, etc.
Richmond, VA: James E. Goode, 1862.

Virginia’s railroads saw significant damage at the hands of the Union Army. In many cases this took place during brief raids against vulnerable infrastructure and the railroads had no way to defend themselves. This document is a request from the governor for legislation to allow railroads to create their own guard forces to protect their lines. It shows how quickly the railroads were considered military targets and underscores their vulnerability.

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Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Time Book for the Running of Trains.
Baltimore: John Murphy & Co., 1864.

Civil War timetables are uncommon and this is an excellent example of not only a railroad timetable from the Civil War, but one from a Northern railroad that found itself on the front-lines of the war. The B&O was the southernmost of the Northern trunk lines and the only one that ran through Confederate territory. It was damaged multiple times throughout the war by Confederate forces, making this an extremely interesting piece.

Item 53 HE 1780 .A75 1861 On Medical Provision for Railroad Accidents.jpg

Edward S. F. Arnold.
On Medical Provision for Railroad Accidents.
New York: Examiner Printing Office, 1861.

Railroad technology allowed for the development of faster and heavier locomotives, hauling more and heavier cars at greater frequencies than before. Accidents were inevitable. By the 1860’s railroad accidents were injuring or killing scores of passengers and crew each year. Arnold proposed a novel solution: have surgeons living along railroad lines be “on call” to respond to railroad accidents and provide care and treatment on site, a forerunner of today’s emergency medical services.

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William Pittenger.
The Great Locomotive Chase.
Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Co., 1910.

The Great Locomotive Chase is one of the most famous stories of Civil War railroading. Some of this fame is due to the daring nature of the raid, and much of it is due to works like this by William Pittenger, one of the members of the Andrews Raiders who survived the war. This is a third edition of Pittenger’s memoir and has some excellent cover art and helped keep the story of the Andrews Raid in the public mind into the 20th Century.

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Edwin Stanton.
Letter of the Secretary of War...
Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1864.

While appearing to be a mundane piece of correspondence, this document discusses the emancipation of enslaved people on a train in Missouri by soldiers of the 9th Minnesota Infantry. Unfortunately, Missouri was not under the coverage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the liberation was undone. This caused an uproar in the Senate and required Secretary of War Stanton to report on the incident with this letter.

Item 58 HE 2321 .L7 N68 1862 Pittsburgh Fort Wayne Chicago Railroad Notice to Shippers of Live Stock.jpg

Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad.
Notice to Shippers of Live Stock.
Place of Publication Unidentified: The Company, 1862.

This piece shows the increase in rates that affected railroad customers during the war. Railroads North and South soon found their train capacities pushed beyond their limits and prices rose along with demand for railroad service. One additional note to this piece is the announcement that foreign railroad cars were now being carried on the railroad, something that would have been very uncommon in the 1850’s but was now a necessity due to the war.