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  • | 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.

  • | Photograph

    Military Railroad Bridge over Potomac Creek, 1864

    This bridge was destroyed and rebuilt several times. In May 1862 General Irwin McDowell employed hundreds of contraband laborers, who replaced the bridge in nine days. Here, in May 1864, the U.S. Military Railroads, again with large numbers of black freedmen, constructed the bridge in forty hours. Photographs such as this one indicated the complexity, cost, and scale of the bridges across many of the South?s rivers and also conveyed the precarious, and sublime, ways the railroad was thought to defy nature.

  • | Photograph

    Fortified Railroad Bridge Across Cumberland River, Nashville, Tennessee, 1864

    Confederate guerrilla forces, often operating as regular cavalry units, attacked Union-controlled railroad lines. They shot into trains, destroyed tracks, took prisoners, killed Union soldiers, and burned bridges. Union commanders responded by developing block houses and fortified bridges to protect the vulnerable lines, equipping trains with special armor, recruiting loyal local citizens to ferret out guerrillas, and dispatching special counterinsurgency cavalry units to track down the Confederate guerrillas.

  • | 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.

  • | Photograph

    General William T. Sherman at Fort No. 7, Atlanta, Ga., overlooking Chattanooga Railroad lines, 1864

    Sherman recognized the importance and vulnerability of railroad corridors. In September 1862 Sherman ordered an expedition to ?destroy? the town of Randolph, Tennessee, because guerrillas had fired on Union steamships from the banks of the Mississippi River. In 1864 he adopted similarly hard measures to protect the railroads during his Atlanta Campaign.

  • | Photograph

    No. 1. Steam engines "Telegraph" and "O. A. Bull," Atlanta, Ga., 1864

    No. 1. Steam engines ?Telegraph? and ?O. A. Bull? remained in position amid the ruins of a Confederate roundhouse in Atlanta in 1864. The South possessed some of the most beautiful depots and railroad facilities in the nation in 1861. Sherman?s campaigns sought to dismantle the Confederate railroad system and in so doing deny any claim to modernity and progress. African American workers stand atop the old Georgia Railroad flatcar.

  • | Photograph

    Ruins of the Blue Ridge Railroad Tunnel near Crozet, Virginia

    The ruins of the Blue Ridge Tunnel, as it appears today. The Blue Ridge Railroad and Blue Ridge Tunnel were built by the state?s Board of Public Works. When the railroad company?s chief engineer, Claudius Crozet, requested slave labor, the board had to decide whether the state should purchase slaves for the project. The tunnel has long since been abandoned, but the brick and stonework is the original, much of it slave-built.

  • | Photograph

    Long Bridge, 2010

    When Kate Brown crossed the Potomac River on this bridge in 1868 and was forcibly removed from the ladies? car in Virginia, the Washington Monument was only half-completed. Brown?s work at the U.S. Capitol placed her in contact with powerful Republican Party lawyers and politicians. Her lawsuit against the company went to the U.S. Supreme Court five years later.