Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History"

The logistical, strategic, operational, and tactical (in the form of armored trains and rail guns) military uses of railroads are not exactly neglected subjects by Civil War publishers. While it is true that the narrative covering these important facets of rail history in Michael Leavy's Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History (Westholme, 2010) is familiar and largely of generalist appeal, where Leavy's work truly shines is in his deft selection of accompanying images, many of which have never been published before.

The photographic reproductions in the book are clear and large in size. Photos and text are organized into chapters by theme. Historical background of rail development in the country is provided, as well as general surveys of the northern and southern rail nets. Specific lines of critical importance, such as the Baltimore & Ohio, are singled out for more detailed treatment. Materially, everything is covered from equipment (e.g. engines, tenders, rolling stock) to the bridges, stations, and roundhouses essential to their operation. The destruction visited upon the tracks, equipment, and supporting structures is another prominent theme and image source. The reader is finally left with the Lincoln funeral train. Railroads of the Civil War should have points of interest for many readers, regardless of knowledge base.

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