What’s your favorite account of a Civil War general, soldier, politician, or civilian riding on a train?
A couple of days after the Firing on Fort Sumter, Governor Richard Yates ordered the commander of the Illinois State Militia into the Secession-sympathizing south of the State, tasked with taking firm possession of the strategic transport hub of Cairo. Knowing that sabotage of the mission was a serious threat, the ordered movement was kept secret as possible. A force of 500 infantry and a company of artillery were quickly assembled, and Brigadier General R. K. Swift departed Chicago on the night of April 21st. The train of the Illinois Central Railroad hurried south, only pausing at Centralia to take on water and fuel… but while there, General Swift learned (via telegram) that solid intelligence uncovered Rebel intentions to destroy the Big Muddy Bridge, 45 miles south of Centralia. General Swift got his train moving again, and reached the threatened bridge just before 5 p.m., and stopped just north of the Big Muddy River. The bridge was inspected, and found to be structurally sound; the train got under steam, once more… crossed the bridge… and reached its destination at 11 p.m. on April 22nd. Defenses were quickly thrown up. And two days later, Colonel Benjamin Prentiss reported to assume command of Cairo.
Militia General Richard Kellogg Swift returned to Chicago by train, having accomplished his small, but important contribution to the War of the Rebellion.
After departing Gettysburg on November 19th, Lincoln told his porter on the train, “Well, I finally found something I could give them all.” He had a small strain of contagious small pox.
Andrews Raid! “Gonna steal us a train!”. And they almost pulled it off…
The Inaugural Express is my favorite, certainly. All that energy, all those people, all the hopes and excitement. What a way to start an administration. My second favorite is just the opposite–the mournful journey of President Lincoln’s body back to Springfield a mere four years later.
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