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Transcontinental Railroad and Jefferson Davis

Discussion in 'Railroads and Steam Locomotives' started by Blessmag, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Blessmag

    Blessmag Captain

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    A friend of mine is allowing me to share this with the forum.


    "The Primary Cause of the War for Southern Independence:

    The 1845-1861 Sectional Competition for the

    Footprint of the First Transcontinental Railroad

    "[Lutzweiler's thesis] is arresting" --Eugene Genovese

    "I agree [with Lutzweiler's thesis]" --Stephen Ambrose

    "I defy anyone to show me that the South would have seceded, if Congress had awarded it the footprint of the first transcontinental railroad." --William Barney

    "I would like to read your book." --William Goetzmann

    "In 1861 the furthest thing in the world from the mind of Jefferson Davis was the transcontinental railroad." --Robert Durden

    By
    James Lutzweiler
    2018

    The title of this steaming book tells in a single sentence the much fuller story that follows it. It represents a tectonic shift in Civil War studies. While it does not totally discount slavery or its expansion as important factors in the origination of the 1861-1865 War between and against the States, as did historian Charles Beard, it does assign slavery a lesser role in the coming of the conflict. But it does prioritize the inexplicably far lesser understood role of the transcontinental railroad in a very different kind of race war: a race to the Pacific.

    The idea for this revolutionary book first came to me from an unknown eavesdropper. One day in the late 1970s or 1980s I was expatiating on the Civil War with someone whom I cannot now remember. An equally unknown fellow was eavesdropping on my informal lecture to a friend. My lecture was the traditional view of slavery as the primary factor in the coming of the war, a view I had ingested in the 1950s as a Yankee youngster from Pennsylvania at Lincoln Grade School in Dixon, Illinois. At some point in my lecture the eavesdropper, uninvited, interjected, "Son, that was a railroad war." And then he disappeared as unnoticeably as he had arrived unobserved by my side. In that instant, my frontal lobes were fertilized with a thought that has never left me. I had absolutely no idea what in the world he meant, as will be the case with those who initially encounter this thesis. Now I think I know exactly what he meant, as I hope those who explore these pages rooted in his fascinating observation will know, too.

    I began serious work on this subject in 1994 when I enrolled in the Master's program in American history at North Carolina State University. I intended to write my thesis on this subject. I was temporarily distracted from my primary quest, but ultimately very well-served, by a long-since-dead New Haven Negress named Emily D. West. Emily turned out to be a totally lost and overlooked primary factor in the Texan's victory over the Mexicans in the lesser-known but overwhelmingly significant pre-cursor to the Civil War: the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. For over one hundred years after that battle not a single historian ever even heard of Emily D. West, let alone considered her to be what Sam Houston, the winning commander of that battle, called her, namely, the "probable" cause of his victory. My takeaway from Emily was that historians could be just as ignorant about the primary cause of the War for Southern Independence. Thus, analogically, it is my claim in the pages of this book that the major historians of the American Civil War (James McPherson, William Freehling, et al.) have entirely overlooked the first transcontinental railroad as the "probable" cause of what is certainly correctly called "The War for Southern Independence," whatever else it might be correctly called. That's what President and King, Andrew Jackson, called it in prospect; and that is what I am constrained by the evidence to call it.

    Robert Durden, Duke University's celebrated historian, represents perfectly the many historians who have missed this emphasis upon the railroad. Upon graduation from North Carolina State University in 1997, I applied to Duke University to write a PhD dissertation on the transcontinental railroad as this primary factor. I met with Robert Durden as a prospective dissertation advisor. When I presented my view to him, Dr. Durden sympathetically smiled at what he perceived to be my delusion, and he said, "In 1861 the transcontinental railroad was the furthest thing in the world from the mind of Jefferson Davis." For reasons I explain in my book, I knew he was absolutely wrong; however, at the time I did not have a simple smoking gun at hand. Not long thereafter, I did. I immediately went to the Congressional Record for January 1861 and began reading. On January 5, 1861, I found a speech in the Senate by Jefferson Davis in which speech this celebrated Southerner pled with Congress to place the first footprint of the transcontinental railroad "where the finger of nature" had shown it must go --namely across the American south (and, not so disinterestedly, not so far from his Brierfield plantation, slightly south of Vicksburg) and on to San Diego to capture the wealth of China for his section of the country. That fact and many others like it led me to believe that Durden and his intellectually incestuous Southern historians had no idea what they were talking about. After engaging personally and by mail with others of them, I knew I was right.

    Yet I discovered that I was not totally alone. In visiting personally with William Barney of the University of North Carolina, I found a truly sympathetic listener. Barney had written a book entitled The Road to Secession: A New Perspective on the Old South (New York: Praeger, 1972). He told me that if in the 1990s he were writing that book again, he would have included the emphasis I was invoking. He added, "I defy anyone to show me that the South would have seceded, if Congress had awarded it the footprint of the first transcontinental railroad." So do I defy. This book doubles as a gauntlet of that defiance. When slavery laureate Eugene Genovese reviewed just one chapter of this book, he called it "arresting." With that bouquet I knew my own "New Perspective on the Old South" had to see more of the light of day.

    In light of this encouragement by Genovese and others, I sent proposals off to various university presses. Though none accepted it, most were encouraging that it should be published. However, one in particular was downright discouraging. Its editor wrote that I did not give slavery its due. Another wrote that he did not like my use of "War for Southern Independence," as it was obviously a "Civil War." However, I was not and am not looking for publishers to tell me what the facts are. I cannot change the obvious facts in the face of fears by publishers that it might be a tough sell. While I wrote it to sell (and to instruct), selling the thesis is not my major concern. Getting the thesis right and exposed to the harshest criticisms out there is my primary objective. It was a War for Southern Independence and the transcontinental railroad was indeed at the very least a primary factor, even if it was not THE primary factor for which I argue. The purpose of this book is not to answer every last question about the subject, but it is designed to answer the major question of how the steam engine and the millions of cars behind it trumped slavery itself or its expansion as a factor. It should be viewed simply as an opening wedge in a debate to get the discussion on the table and to see if any neo-abolitionists can derail it. I don't think they can. They certainly have not so far.

    One reason I argue that otherwise very good historians have missed my emphasis is because I have noted how few of them have many, if any, references to the transcontinental railroad and the Pacific Railroad Surveys at all in their indices or contents. It is as if the only antebellum literature with which they are familiar is Uncle Tom's Cabin. I do not recall a single reference in any Civil War book to the Pacific Railroad Surveys; and yet by comparison this work created by Jefferson Davis dwarfed Harriet Beecher Stowe's magnum opus. Even Abraham Lincoln had Davis's thirteen fat volumes in his personal library.

    This book, then, is my own magnum opus. I intend to expand upon it and polish it until I can expand and polish no longer. In retrospect, I can see in some sense how I was raised with the contextual requirements to write it. I was raised within blocks of the Illinois Central railroad for which company Abraham Lincoln was an attorney. A few blocks away were the tracks of the transcontinental Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, both of which fired my young imagination as if it were a boiler on one of its steam engines. But even with both railroads in full view, I never connected their dots until some unknown eavesdropper connected them for me. I hope I can connect them for you.

    This 350-page signed Limited Edition publication by Schnappsburg University Press is presently available in loose-leaf or bound format. Loose-leaf copies are $50.00. Bound copies are $75.00. They can be ordered from the undersigned by snail mail, email, text or telephone.


    James Lutzweiler
    101 Thornwood Road
    Jamestown, North Carolina 27282
    336-686-2043
    stjimbow@gmail.com
     
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  3. DaveBrt

    DaveBrt Sergeant Major

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    Oh boy!!! Another new thread on how the war came because of anything but slavery!!
     
  4. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks for posting about this new book.
    I don't know- without reading it- whether it forces a "tectonic shift" in our thinking. Potter devotes a full chapter, A Railroad Promotion and its Sequel, to the lobbying and sectional wrangling over what route the Pacific railroad should take.
    For example, in mentioning Stephen Douglas involvement, he says, " Douglas had been deeply interested, both personally and politically, ever since 1844. "Later he adds, "In the next session of Congress after the Kansas Nebraska bill, Douglas' main activity was the sponsorship of a Pacific railroad bill."
    <David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War 1848-1860. (New York: Harper Collins, Inc., 1976), p. 170.>
     
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  5. pfcjking

    pfcjking Sergeant Major

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    Yes. Now I remember all the speeches they used to rally the people, both North & South, about railroads and where they should be put.
    All Jeff Davis and the fire eaters wanted was a railroad from Charleston to San Fran, via Montgomery.
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    The easiest way to establish the priority of causes would be to go through the declarations of causes of secession and other contemporary documents and speeches and compile the numbers of references to railroad routing, slavery, non-slaveholding states, domestic institutions of the southern states, etc.
     
  7. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA Sergeant Major

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    @Blessmag

    Sir, would it be possible to ask Mr. James Lutzweiler to join us to discuss this? I know you posted his e-mail but I didn't feel it proper to contact him directly.

    Thanks,
    USS ALASKA
     
  8. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    I did enjoy the introduction. It had a da Vinci Code vibe.
     
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  9. wausaubob

    wausaubob Captain

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    Stephen A. Douglas could fudge his support of slavery, and put together a northern politician alliance for the central route.
    Jefferson Davis took a position in which no compromise of the perpetuity of slavery was possible and the northern politicians were not willing to do for Texas what the Illinois Central Railroad had done for Illinois. But the Texans had already rejected British protection as it would have cost them the institution of slavery.
    So it was slavery, afterall, which prevented the Texas to California railroad. Darn. No revolution.
     
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  10. Blessmag

    Blessmag Captain

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    I asked him if I could share the item and he was more than willing and would accept contact.

    I have mentioned the Forum several times and have not used the correct bait yet.
     
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  11. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA Sergeant Major

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    :smile: Copy sir - understood. I'll leave it in your hands.

    Thanks,
    USS ALASKA
     
  12. Blessmag

    Blessmag Captain

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    Tried again and I think he agreed. We will see
     
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