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 Orleans, Opelousas 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 Red River.

 

Even Louisiana’s 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 railways.