By the Civil War, Louisiana’s
twelve railroad companies had laid 395 miles of track across the state.
Although this early rail network was not as important overall as river
transportation, in Confederate Neckties:
Louisiana Railroads in the Civil War, Lawrence E. Estaville,
Jr. explains how these railways made notable contributions that affected the
outcome of the war in Louisiana.
Estaville details how both the New Orleans,
Jackson and Great Northern and the New
and Great Western railroads saved the people of New
Orleans. The great Northern evacuated General
Mansfield Lovell’s Confederate army and spared the metropolis the horrors of
naval bombardment, and the Great Western brought tons of food from the fertile
farms of the Lafourche and Teche regions to feed the
starving New Orleanians. Because of their strategic
significance, fierce battles raged frequently along their lines. Union
commanders used their control of the Great Northern to help cut off New
Orleans from the rest of the Confederacy, and they
employed the Great Western to invade the heart of South Louisiana.
The V.S.&T. and the Southern
Pacific formed essential links in the Confederacy’s vital Trans-Mississippi
supply route that stretched from Mexico
through North Louisiana all the way to Virginia.
And Estaville reconstructs how both Federal and
Confederate commanders tried to exploit the full military potentials of the two
railroads. Union General Edward R. S. Canby devised a bold plan to use the V.S.&T. to strike a deathblow at the Confederacy’s
Trans-Mississippi forces in northwestern Louisiana
and Texas. To connect his twin
headquarters at Marshall and Shreveport
and to supply his forces more effectively, Confederate General Kirby Smith
ordered the Southern Pacific to take up its tracks and lay them eastward to the
short railways contributed, particularly with the subsistence of the
Confederate army. They carried the invaluable sale from the mines of South
Louisiana to the rest of the Confederacy and helped feed hungry
Rebels at Port Hudson, thus prolonging a critical battle.
Confederate and Union armies fought
hard to control the state’s railroads, and the fury of this military struggle
destroyed most of Louisiana’s