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The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road

Dreams of Linking North and South

H. Roger Grant

Publication Year: 2014

Among the grand antebellum plans to build railroads to interconnect the vast American republic, perhaps none was more ambitious than the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston. The route was intended to link the cotton-producing South and the grain and livestock growers of the Old Northwest with traders and markets in the East, creating economic opportunities along its 700-mile length. But then came the Panic of 1837, and the project came to a halt. H. Roger Grant tells the incredible story of this singular example of "railroad fever" and the remarkable visionaries whose hopes for connecting North and South would require more than half a century—and one Civil War—to reach fruition.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Railroads Past and Present

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

Professional historians and interested amateurs have long explored a variety of railroad topics, including the organization and construction of the earliest American lines. This interest in the Demonstration Period of steam railways, which spanned the 1830s and 1840s, may be attributed to that human desire to know about the beginnings of...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Although I have studied several modern railroad companies, I never expected to examine a largely failed carrier from the antebellum period. It would be contacts made through the Lexington Group, a seventy-year-old transportation history organization, consisting of academics, librarians, and railroad industry professionals, that led me...

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1. Slow, Difficult, and Dangerous Travel

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pp. 1-22

Before the Railway Age Americans faced limited travel options. Nearly always they were slow, difficult, and potentially dangerous. There was little need to question the sardonic judgment made more than a century ago by Henry Adams. This historian and man of letters wrote that persons “struggling with the untamed continent in 1800 seemed hardly more competent...

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2. A Rail Road?

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pp. 23-43

No one knows the exact origin or date of the first railroad.1 It is probable that in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries mechanics and tinkerers in Great Britain and on the continent, especially in the German states, made the earliest developments. “Its invention, like most other valuable inventions of the present day [1829],” as an early student...

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3. Knoxville, 1836

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pp. 44-68

While not all railroad projects conceived during the Railway Age resulted from special conventions, many did. As late as the first decade of the twentieth century – the twilight era of railroad construction in America – promoters and enthusiasts, at times in large numbers, repeatedly gathered to discuss and organize schemes for steam railroads or for rural trolleys...

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4. Surveys, Finances, and Construction

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pp. 69-99

Essential to achieving the objective of the Knoxville Railroad Convention was locating the exact route for the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C). The geography of this vast proposed service area meant that decision makers needed to make choices, and often their choices became contentious. Robert Hayne and his supporters strongly favored the...

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5. Crisis and Contraction

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pp. 100-119

Throughout the nineteenth century Americans lived through repeated financial panics. Serious economic dislocations began in 1819 and occurred again in 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith mused that the intervals between these major panics corresponded “roughly with the time it took people to forget the last disaster.” As the national...

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6. What Happened

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pp. 120-151

Building schemes during the Railway Age did not always work out as planned. The goals of bold, long-distance lines made by some promoters, including those who backed the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C), were not achieved, but other energetic proposals succeeded. The much publicized New York, Pittsburgh & Chicago Railway...

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7. What Might Have Happened

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pp. 152-164

Suggesting what might have happened if something did not occur or occurred only partially – that is counterfactual or virtual history – is a risky business. Yet the question “What if?” can lead to insights. The case might be made that Charleston, which once enjoyed an envied status as a dominant Atlantic port, might have retained its position for decades, even...


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pp. 165-182


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pp. 183-189

Other Works in the Series, About the Author

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pp. 190-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780253011879
E-ISBN-10: 0253011876
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253011817

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Railroads Past and Present