Thursday, November 7, 2013

Railroads in the Pelican State

There were not many railroads in the trans-Mississippi during the war; railroad development in that region would be one of the major events of the late nineteenth century. Scholarly works on trans-Mississippi railroads during the war are limited in
number, but one of the better ones is Lawrence E. Estaville, Jr.’s, Confederate Neckties: Louisiana Railroads in the Civil War (1989). The author packed a lot of information in just 123 pages. The Confederacy, according to Estaville, had 8,800 miles of railroad tracks when the war started with 395 of those miles in Louisiana. There were a dozen railroad companies in the State ranging from only a half mile for the Southern Pacific to the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern’s eighty-eight miles of track.

Based on a solid array of primary sources, Estaville shows how some of these railroads played an important role in the Confederacy’s supply network. Others, such as the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern became targets of military raids. Former Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard became the railroad’s superintendent after the war and did a remarkable job of rebuilding that line. Confederate trans-Mississippi railroads faced many challenges such as a lack of iron railing. When General E. Kirby Smith wanted a rail line to be completed between Marshall, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana, the Southern Pacific took up some their track in east Texas and began building the line eastward from Waskom, Texas, toward Shreveport. Eleven miles were completed before the effort was abandoned due to the Union’s Red River campaign in the spring of 1864. Enhanced by twelve maps, Estaville’s book is a solid recounting of its subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment