Saturday, April 11, 2015

Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History

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.


On April 25th from noon to 3PM From My Shelf Books & Gifts will be hosting a duel author event with William P. Robertson and Jeffrey Stayton. William P. Robertson is the author of the Bucktail series and Jeffrey Stayton is the author of the recently published This Side of the River.

This Side of the River tells the story of a group of young, angry Confederate widows who band together at the end of the Civil War, take up arms, and march north to Ohio to burn down the home of General William Tecumsah Sherman.

It draws from the rich tradition of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love as it interweaves themes of gender, revenge, and redemption. It's a masterfully-written debut from a bold new literary voice.

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