Monday, June 3, 2019

Booknotes: Targeted Tracks

New Arrival:
Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865 by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and Cooper H. Wingert (Savas Beatie, 2019).

In terms of strategic importance during the Civil War, the Cumberland Valley Railroad does not rank alongside the Baltimore & Ohio, Memphis & Charleston, Mobile & Ohio, and the like, but it was a regionally important transportation asset that was attacked by Confederate forces on multiple occasions between 1862 and 1864. Its wartime history is told in Scott Mingus and Cooper Wingert's Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865.

I had to refresh my memory of where exactly this railroad ran through southern Pennsylvania and thankfully the book has a good map tracing its course from Hagerstown, Maryland to Harrisburg. Just beyond the capital it branched off in two directions. Several cities and towns of well-known Civil War import lie along this Cumberland Valley pathway, including Chambersburg and Carlisle.

From the description: "Because of its proximity to major cities in the Eastern Theater, the Cumberland Valley Railroad was an enticing target for Confederate leaders. As invading armies jostled for position, the CVRR’s valuable rolling stock was never far from their minds. Northern military and railway officials, who knew the line was a prized target, coordinated—and just as often butted heads—in a series of efforts to ensure the railroad’s prized resources remained out of enemy hands. When they failed to protect the line, as they sometimes did, Southern horsemen wrought havoc on the Northern war effort by tearing up its tracks, seizing or torching Union supplies, and laying waste to warehouses, engine houses, and passenger depots."

As mentioned before and strongly implied by the title, Confederate forces recognized the logistical significance of the CVRR and made several attempts to damage it over the course of the war. "The line was under direct threat by invading Confederates during the Antietam Campaign, and the following summer suffered serious damage during the Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864, Rebel raiders burned much of its headquarters town, Chambersburg, including the homes of many CVRR employees. The railroad was as vital to residents of the bustling and fertile Cumberland Valley as it was to the Union war effort."

Targeted Tracks "is grounded on the railway’s voluminous reports, the letters and diaries of local residents and Union and Confederate soldiers, official reports, and newspaper accounts. The primary sources, combined with the expertise of the authors, bring this largely untold story to life."


  1. Thanks Drew. It is a fascinating book, and emphasizes yet again the importance of logistics to the campaigns we study.

  2. Thank you, Drew! Much appreciated!


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