Been Workin’ on the Railroad

The New York Times Opinionator Disunion series published my piece this morning “Been Workin’ on the Railroad.” This piece tells the story of Samuel Ballton, an enslaved railroad worker, who leaves slavery and joins the Union Army in the spring of 1862 during McClellan’s Virginia campaign.

For more on black railroad workers in the Civil War go to the Railroads and the Making of Modern America web site:

1. Timeline and Map of African American railroad workers incidents in the Civil War
2. The resources site for “The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America”
3. Letters, maps, documents, and images about slavery and Southern railroad development.

About William Thomas

William G. Thomas III is a professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities. He teaches digital humanities and digital history, 19th century U.S. history, the Civil War, and the history of slavery.
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5 Responses to Been Workin’ on the Railroad

  1. Tom Moore says:

    Thanks so much for your inspiring story about Samuel Ballton. I could see a great motion picture about this man.

  2. wthomas says:

    Yes, the fact that he returned to Westmoreland County and he and his wife recrossed the lines is inspirational and, well, romantic!

  3. Aydincik says:

    Thanks so much for your inspiring story about Samuel Ballton. I could see a great motion picture about this man.

  4. Thanks so much for your story Been Workin’ on the Railroad

  5. Elaine D. McClammy nee Ballton says:

    Thank you so very much. This man was my forefather. I feel quite
    proud to have his blood in my veins. I hope he knows my sons
    are both graduates of Yale University and are carrying on his good work.

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