- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (October 25, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300141076
- ISBN-13: 978-0300141078
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,691,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America Hardcover – October 25, 2011
"The Other Woman" by Sandie Jones
“The Other Woman is an absorbing thriller with a great twist. A perfect beach read.” ― Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of "The Great Alone" Pre-order today
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
William G. Thomas is professor of history and the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives in Lincoln, NE.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The age of the railroad lasted a long time and did much to shape our country; we in the era of planes and computers tend to forget that. I rode the train overnight from Atlanta to Louisville in 1959 to my grandfather's funeral. I don't think we even thought about flying or driving. When I rode the Cardinal from Charlottesville to Cincinnati in 1973, the era of railroading was clearly over, and the railroad was a somewhat backward, somewhat bizarre way of moving from one place to another (the trip cost me $20). Even the bus was more popular, and the railroad carried with it unique challenges: I stood behind singer Burl Ives at the Los Angeles Amtrak station in 1974, who cancelled his ticket to Chicago when he found out they put him in a compartment over the wheels. His last words were: "C'mon, let's go to the airport." I continued on to Chicago, seeing as I was travelling in a seat, no overnight accomodations: LA to Chicago, about $95. Clearly, by the 1970s, the grand railroad had been reduced to a minor, somewhat idiosyncratic player in American transportation. Thomas's book goes a long way to remind us of the once mighty power of the iron rails that girded the land, won a war and set the stage for the modern mess we now find ourselves in.
I read this book with a great deal of interest. It is well-written, well-researched, and well-argued. It stands in clear opposition to the idea that the South was a backward, slave-driven agricultural society, moving away from the emerging modern world. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Thomas shows, the South was eagerly embracing modern technology (it had ever since Whitney's cotton gin, in fact) as long as it could carry its slave system into the new world. And it sure tried. Thank goodness men such as Grant, Sherman and Lincoln persevered. Read all about it in this fine book.
I found the research excellent. But, the work is lacking in maps to support the narrative. Thus It is not as valuable a work as I had hoped. Dr. Michael J. Deeb
Like Edgar Turner's earlier book, Victory Rode the Rails: The Strategic Place of the Railroads in the Civil War, Thomas' book takes a look at the role that railroads had in the making and shaping of the war and reconstruction. It is a fascinating look that combines traditional research with new techniques like word cloud analysis and web based interactive maps. As such it offers new insights.
The book has comparatively little detail on the tactical situation and the operations of the railroads during the struggle. Instead the book focuses on the overall economic and sociological environment of the U.S. and its railroads with an emphasis on the railroads of the south. In doing so he takes head-on the role that slavery had in railroad development, a topic that Turner and many others glossed over.
The first chapter of the book begins with the word "slavery" and then a description of Frederick Douglas' escape from slavery via the railroad. He describes how the "Underground Railroad" was not just a figure of speech. There was a literal component as many slaves used the real railroads and or rail lines as escape routes.
He goes on to describe how the question of slavery affected every issue in the U.S. politics. Thomas spends a good portion of the text discussing the role that slavery had in the economy of the south. Later he discusses the effects of emancipation on railroads and reconstruction. There is also an interesting discussion of the role that foreign investment had in US railroad development and how slavery ultimately affected that.
Thomas focuses on the southern railroad view point. While Turner discusses how the northern trans-Appalachian east-west trunk lines united the Midwest to the Northeast, Thomas discusses more how southern railroads both depended on slavery for construction and development while at the same time strengthening the importance of slavery in the southern economy. Thomas Kornweibel covers this in his book, Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey but Thomas takes the point further. He states, "Southern railroads became some of the largest slave holding and slave employing entities in the south." Thomas argues that Southern railroad development created a vicious cycle where slave-based railroad construction led to increased economic development that in turn needed slaves to operate. With both forces needing more slaves, the value of slaves inflated and slaves became the dominant asset of the southern economy.
He also describes how southerners used railroads to help reconcile the seeming paradox of slavery's existence in a modern society, a point that David Blight covers more generally in his epic work, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. This passage from Thomas' companion web site summarizes the idea.
"Railroads and telegraphs changed the ways white southerners thought about their region. These technologies altered the landscape of the South, linked cities and sub-regions into a rapidly expanding network, and brought the majority of white southerners into close access of the railroads. The modernizing influences of these developments came hand-in-hand with the expansion of slavery in the 1850s. White southerners increasingly saw their region as advanced, modern, and technologically sophisticated. Their adaptation of slavery to railroad construction and operation only encouraged a sense of confidence about the progress."
While Thomas argues that railroads made southerners more confident about their economic system and future, others argue that railroads made sectional conflict more likely. Senator William Seward made this remark about the role railroads would have in the coming war in his famous "Irrepressible Conflict" Speech in 1858.
"Hitherto, the two systems have existed in different States, but side by side within the American Union. This has happened because the Union is a confederation of States. But in another aspect the United States constitute only one nation. Increase of population, which is filling the States out to their very borders, together with a new and extended network of railroads and other avenues, and an internal commerce which daily becomes more intimate, is rapidly bringing the States into a higher and more perfect social unity or consolidation. Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results."
When it comes to the actual conduct of the war, Thomas has little discussion of individual battles of campaigns. Instead Thomas focuses on the overall strategy and tenor of the war and how it gradually became a total war with railroads as both the facilitator and target of operations.
Thomas maintains that the South initially made better strategic use of its railroads, offering the battles of First Manassas and Shiloh as two examples where southerners used railroads to implement the Napoleonic axiom of "interior lines" for strategic advantage. But as the war wore on attrition, lost territory, and a lack of railroad industrial capacity reduced the South's ability to use its railroads. Meanwhile, the North expanded its own network including passing the transcontinental Pacific Railroad Act. It even absorbed and rebuilt parts of the South's network for its own use under the aegis of the U.S. Military Railroad.
Thomas includes a more detailed analysis of Sherman's Georgia campaign as he offers Sherman as an example of a leader that understood the true nature of "railroad strategy" and what it would take to win the war. Thomas states that Sherman, being a former surveyor, and Lincoln, experienced with many railroad law cases, were two of a small group of leaders that innately grasped the strategic importance of railroads - that railroads were not just important for supplying an army, but also in supplying the country and hence the rebellion. Thus the railroads network and its underlying economy became the target. Grant, Sherman and Sheridan launched campaigns in 1864 to implement the total railroad war strategy. These Union leaders were willing to abandon their dependence on their own rail lines in the short term to accomplish the overall goals of breaking the South's rail network, its economy and by extension its ability to maintain the rebellion.
His discussion of how guerrilla warfare as practiced by raiders such as Morgan and Mosby and targeted against the railroads led to an increased level of savagery. He writes, "To be trapped in a burning railroad car, to be caught by a guerrilla unit, to be robbed and left for dead on the tracks became a different form of violence for Americans, distinct from the violence that led to death on the battlefield."
He describes how, "the Union Army began clear-cutting and removing all timber within one mile of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad," as one less extreme response, though other less restrained leaders suggested jailing and executions of families suspected of supporting guerrillas. These brought to mind parallels to the U.S. Army experience in Vietnam and Iraq.
The concluding chapter on reconstruction is also very interesting. Thomas points out that after the war, the USMRR rebuilt all the lines it operated and handed them over to the original owners. He states that some southern railroads where actually better off after the war than when they started except for the value lost to their emancipated slaves.
Finally, I found the footnotes extremely interesting.
Overall, I found this book to be a well researched and provocative look at the role of railroads in the Civil War. It definitely changed some of my perspective on how I view the subject. It is well worth reading.