Rescue by Rail: Troop Transfer and the Civil War in the West, 1863

Pickenpaugh, the best sort of amateur historian, combines academic thoroughness and journalistic clarity, merging Civil War and railroad history in highly readable fashion. He describes the movement of the XI and XII Corps of the Union’s Army of the Potomac from Virginia to Tennessee in the fall of 1863 to help lift the siege of Chattanooga. He covers the prewar history of all the railroads involved, their ordeals during the war (nobody could have convinced a Union railway operator that Confederate cavalry raiders were “marginal” combatants), and the achievements in organization, planning, and logistics required for the movement. Contributors to those achievements included Secretary of War Stanton, General Grant, the corps and division commanders, dozens of railroad personnel, and thousands of individual soldiers, whose accounts of everything from accidents to lavish feasts laid out for them by towns on their way are extensively quoted. The narrative also includes a contrasting account of the ordeal of Longstreet’s corps, traveling over the Confederate rails to Chickamauga.

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Product Description

Between 23 and 25 September 1863 the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps of the Army of the Potomac were sent across the Appalachians to strengthen Union troops in the struggle for supremacy in Eastern Tennessee. The Battle of Chickamauga—a Confederate victory that just missed being a complete Federal rout—had ended, exhausting both armies and leaving Union troops perilously bottled up in Chattanooga. Upon the prodding of newspaperman Charles Dana, who was on the scene, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton resolved to provide Union commander General William Rosecrans with reinforcements sufficient to hold that key town. After a late-night meeting with Lincoln and other cabinet members, Stanton’s proposal to send more than twenty thousand men to Chattanooga by rail within a week was adopted.

This is the story of that first great Federal troop movement by rail and of the corresponding Confederate transfer of General James Longstreet’s troops a few weeks previously. The contrast between the two operations points up the Union advantages in technology, infrastructure, and mobility that would offset the Confederate advantage of interior lines.

Product Details

Hardcover: 244 pages
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 1st Ed. edition (August 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803237200
ISBN-13: 978-0803237209
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

One thought on “Rescue by Rail: Troop Transfer and the Civil War in the West, 1863

  1. Paul Huff says:

    Dear Roger,
    You spoke to us once before when your book on Camp Chase was coming out.
    It was the Cuyahoga Valley CWRT picnic at Glendale Cemetery in Akron.
    We need a speaker for December 11, 2013 and I was wondering if you were available and what it would cost?
    Seeing as this year marks the 150th Anniversary of both Chickamauga and Chattanooga, a “Rescue by Rail” talk would be great.
    Paul Huff / Vice-President Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table

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