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Victory Rode the Rails: The Strategic Place of the Railroads in the Civil War Paperback – September 1, 1992

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A professor of history at Pennsylvania State University, Gary Gallagher is the editor of Lee the Soldier (1996).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803294239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803294233
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. on August 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
As the title describes this book provides an extremely well written analysis of the decisive significance the railroad had on both the start and outcome of the American Civil War. While the content is authoritative it reads like a novel and I had difficulty putting it down.
I found the early chapters that discuss how the socio-economic environment, created in large part by the railroad, helped foster the events leading to the outbreak of hostilities particularly insightful. The chapters describing the events that took place around Washington and Baltimore in the early years of the war are incredible. Turner's tight prose describing the political shenanigans and war profiting in the Lincoln cabinet shows that little has changed in Washington in the 125 years
I only wish that the book contained better maps of the regions covered.
This book is a must read for American Civil War historians and rail buffs
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The title and subtitle of this well-researched book nearly tells the whole tale. The North entered the War of Secession with huge advantages in logistics, and the new name of warfare in 1861 was engineering. Not only did the North have far more miles of track, along which to transport the enormous armies mobilized with their huge burdens of equipment, but also the Northern rail system was better integrated and flexible. Southern railroads chiefly ran from hinterlands to ports without interlinkage. There were nightmares of incompatible rail gauges and services to the engines. The thesis of this book is that superior railroads provided the margin of Union victory; even if this seems simplistic, the author makes a good and detailed case.

Grant beat Lee, as he had already beaten every commander the Rebels could throw at him in the west, by recognizing the mechanics of the new warfare. Grant's victory at Vicksburg was above all a triumph of military engineering, and Vicksburg was of course the battle that saved the war. Lee made what he could out of the Virginia railroads, particularly in hastening back and forth to Harper's Ferry, but the effort to keep openthe single rail supply line from the south to Richmond consumed more forces than the Secessionists could afford. The defense of Richmond was a huge and telling mistake from the logistical prospect of modern warfare. Lee fought Napoleon's battles; Grant fought Eisenhower's. Ironically, at Antietam and Gettysburg, mediocre generals beat Lee at his own game, leaving nothing for Grant but the bloody mopping up of the Slaveocracy's desperate stubbornness.
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Format: Paperback
The history of the Civil War is intimately tied with the spread, refinement and development of new technologies. From iron-clad ships to rifled artillery to aerial observation, the military effort expended by North and South changed the face of the industry in the United States. Victory Rode the Rails looks at one aspect of this change -- the railroads and how they helped the North win the war.
From the early skirmishes in Baltimore to the final rail movements surrounding the surrender at Appomattox, Turner does a magnificent job of making the railroads of the 1860s come to life. By keeping his focus on the railroads and their role in the various campaigns, Turner highlights a side of the war that is commonly glossed over in histories that focus on battle tactics.
Starting with the differing North/South attitudes towards railroads prior to the war, which left the CSA with a rail network that was ill prepared for the rapid dispersal of troops and supplies that the war required, Turner celebrates the business plans, engineering feats and supply marvels that allowed the Northern commanders to continue their advances even as Southern troops worked to destroy the rails, and vice versa.
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VICTORY RODE THE RAILS is a great addition to my library. Since retiring from teaching at Spartanburg High School I have keep myself active by teaching American History classes at Spartanburg Community College. So, this book has added a great deal of information for my class lectures on trains in the South and their usage during 'The War Between the States,' 'The War of Northern Aggression,' 'The War of Southern Secession,' 'The American Civil War,' etc. I have enjoyed reading the various stories about the role these 4-4-0 locomotives and the different types of rail cars played in helping generals make plans to utilize these iron behemoths. The maps and the black and white pictures add to the awe of these trains and various lines being tapped to rush troops or supplies to a 'hot spot' around the Confederacy. A most enjoyable book which train buffs and historians should appreciate. Ben L.
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