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  • | Photograph

    African American wood choppers’ hut on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad

    African American wood choppers’ hut on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Black men, many of them formerly enslaved on the South’s railroads, chopped timber for railroad ties, bridges, and fuel for the U.S. Military Railroads. Stationed at remote camps, such as this, they also faced the constant danger of Confederate partisan and guerrilla raids.

  • | Map

    Railroads and war zone counties, 1861–1865

    If the presence of the Union army and/or a battle constituted a war zone, then only in Virginia did the Civil War’s destruction touch the majority of counties. Vast sections of the South remained out of the war zone, but over the course of the war destruction tended to follow closely along the pathways of the major lines of communication and transportation. From Paul F. Paskoff, “Measures of War: A Quantitative Examination of the Civil War’s Destructiveness in the Confederacy,” Civil War History, Vol. 54, No. 1 (March 2008). (Reproduced with permission of Paul F. Paskoff)

  • | Book

    Phelps's Travellers' Guide Through the United States

    This pocket atlas listed over 700 railroads, steamship lines, and canals in the United States and their routes of service, state by state. Frederick Douglass probably consulted a rudimentary timetable in the Baltimore newspaper or one posted at the depot for the Baltimore to Philadelphia route, described here twelve years after Douglass made his escape from slavery on the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad.

  • | Photograph

    Baltimore & Ohio Railroad artist excursion, 1858

    Following its 1857 grand banquet, the B & O hosted an artists’ excursion in 1858 to show off its dramatic vistas and massive tunnels. The men and women took turns riding precariously on the cowcatcher, Harper’s Weekly reported, to get a "better view of the grand scenes which were opening before and around them . . . such was the confidence felt in the steadiness and docility of the mighty steed."

  • | Photograph

    Confederate guns, Pensacola Bay, 1861

    Columbiad guns of the Confederate water battery at Warrington, Fla., near Pensacola, February 1861. With the railroad to Pensacola under construction and finally completed in May, the Confederates could move large guns and troops more quickly to the coast.

  • | Illustration

    "Repairing Railroad, etc"

    The U.S. Military Railroads rebuilt the South’s railroads in the closing months of the war. African American railroad workers cut timber, broke rock, and hauled gravel for the grading. Their experience on the railroads as trackmen and laborers, as well as firemen and brakemen, continued after the war. In 1880 over 50 percent of all railroad workers in Virginia were black; in Pennsylvania, by contrast, railroad workers were almost uniformly white.

  • | Photograph

    African American Laborers on the U.S. Military Railroad in Northern Virginia, c. 1862 or 1863

    From the beginning of the Civil War, African Americans worked on the railroads, transferring their labor to the Union cause.

  • | Illustration

    Alfred R. Waud, "A Guerrilla", 1862

    When guerrillas attacked Union forces, the northern public was outraged. Confederate guerrillas and partisan rangers attacked the railroad and telegraph systems, opening up the war to civilians and exposing the remorseless nature of the national conflict. Their activities played a central role in the war.

  • | Photograph

    Contrabands at Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 1862

    In the Peninsular Campaign, Federal forces encountered thousands former slaves who sought freedom and work in the Union army camps. Even if slaves fled slavery, their status was unclear in the first year of the war. In July 1862 Congress declared such refugees from slavery “forever and henceforth free.”

  • | Illustration

    Keywords appearing in all Union officers’ correspondence in the 1862 Peninsular Campaign

    Keywords appearing in all Union officers’ correspondence in the 1862 Peninsular Campaign; the larger the word, the more often it appeared in their writings. Compiled from U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Gettysburg, Pa.: National Historical Society, c. 1971–1972), Vol. 11 (Part III), 1–384. (Voyeur Tools [copyright 2009] Steffan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, v. 1.0; graph by Trevor Munoz and the author [September 2009]. This image was generated using Wordle, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.)

  • | Photograph

    Savage’s Station, headquarters of General George B. McClellan, June 27, 1862

    McClellan used the Richmond & York River Railroad to position his massive Army of the Potomac just a few miles from Richmond.

  • | Photograph

    Ruins at Manassas Junction, March 1862

    Numerous railroad hubs in the Confederacy became sites of repeated fighting, both large- and small-scale. Here, the ruins were the work of the Confederate Army as it abandoned its forward position in northern Virginia to protect Richmond.

  • | Photograph

    Cumberland Landing, Federal encampment on the Pamunkey River, Virginia, May 1862

    Federal Encampment on the Pamunkey River, Va., May 1862. Union soldiers came into the South by steamer and train in the first year of the war. They closely observed the landscape, assessing and comparing it to their northern communities.

  • | Photograph

    Wreck of blockade runner, Sullivan’s Island, S.C.

    Blockade runners became increasingly sophisticated, taking advantage of the latest technological innovations to achieve maximum speed. For Confederates, the blockade--combined with shortsighted Confederate policies of self-reliance--slowed time and cut off communication with the world of nations, damaging Confederate transatlantic ties and claims of modern progress.

  • | Illustration

    Pickets of the 1st Louisiana “Native Guard” Guarding the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad

    United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) recruiters in 1863 fanned out along the railroads, especially in Tennessee, stopping at depots along the route to sign up soldiers. Over 180,000 black men volunteered and enlisted for service in the U.S.C.T. Both white regiments and U.S.C.T. units found themselves guarding railroads and watching for guerrillas.

  • | Photograph

    Depot at Hannover Junction, PA

    Northern railroad stations became places to gather for news and information. President Abraham Lincoln passed through Hanover Junction in November 1863 on his way to Gettysburg for the opening of the national cemetery. Crowds gathered to meet the president.

  • | Photograph

    "Long Bridge" over the Potomac River, 1864

    The original footbridge across the Potomac was replaced with this railroad bridge in 1864 by the U.S. Military Railroads, connecting Washington, D.C., with the army’s growing camps, hospitals, and defenses near Alexandria, Virginia.

  • | Illustration

    Alfred R. Waud, "Ruins of the Bridge over the Shenandoah River, Loudon Heights Beyond", 1864

    The partisan war in Loudon County, Virginia, turned especially violent in the fall of 1864. Confederate forces under John S. Mosby captured and killed Union soldiers in retaliation for the burning of civilian homes, and Union general George A. Custer responded by hanging seven of Mosby’s men. Then, on November 6, 1864, Mosby executed several more Union soldiers in response. The fighting took place along the Manassas Gap Railroad line and its bridges.

  • | Photograph

    Bird’s Eye View of Machine Shops, with East Yard of Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Alexandria, Va., [1861-1865]

    In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, African Americans seized the opportunity to work and to travel. Visible just to the left of the railroad shop smokestack and roundhouse stood the old Price and Birch "Slave Pen" at 1315 Duke Street.

  • | Photograph

    Boxcars with Refugees at Railroad, Atlanta, Ga., 1864

    With the capture of Atlanta, General William T. Sherman’s army seized an important rail hub for the Confederacy. This image of refugees and African Americans, sitting on rail cars with their possessions, indicates the massive displacement that came with the war.