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This webpage reproduces an article in the
American Historical Review
Vol. 29 No. 4 (July 1924), pp700‑715

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p700 The Louisville and Nashville Railroad
1861‑1865

Railroad building in the Southwest during the decade preceding the Civil War had as one of its results the completion of two north-and‑south lines connecting the interior of the South with the Ohio River. One of these lines was the Mobile and Ohio from Mobile to Columbus, Kentucky, twenty miles below Cairo; the other was the Louisville and Nashville connecting the two cities from which it derived its name. The Mobile and Ohio was essentially a Southern enterprise, designed to draw the trade of the Northwest to Mobile. The Louisville and Nashville had been promoted and was controlled by Louisville men and had been built in the expectation that its profits would mostly be derived from the carrying of Southern freight to Louisville. It was, therefore, the pariah of Southern roads at which both Southern politicians and Southern business men were inclined to look askance. Both roads were completed on the eve of the Civil War and from their location afforded highways of invasion for that section which was strong enough to utilize them. When the Civil War resolved itself into an invasion of the Southwest both roads were utilized by the North. But for this purpose the Louisville and Nashville was far more important than the Mobile and Ohio for the reason that the latter was paralleled by rivers, the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Mississippi, which afforded an easier and safer approach to the interior than did the railroad. The Louisville and Nashville, on the other hand, ran through a region that was unprovided with navigable rivers and even with roads. Moreover, Louisville as a base of operations for Northern armies had manifest advantages over Columbus, notwithstanding the fact that the Illinois Central had its terminus at Cairo. From the beginning, then, it was upon the Louisville and Nashville that the burden fell of transporting men and supplies into the South. It afforded the North a direct entrance into the seceded states and served throughout the war as an efficient instrument for the constant supply of reinforcements. Herein lay the unique contribution of the road to the success of the Union cause.

At the beginning of the war the Louisville and Nashville had 286 miles of road, all but forty-five of which lay in the avowedly neutral state of Kentucky. The main line connected Louisville and Nashville, but from Bowling Green a branch line ran southwestward p701to the state line, connecting there with a Tennessee road to Memphis. It was heavily in debt and it resembled other Southern roads in having an equipment that its most enthusiastic friend could have described only as inadequate.1 It had been built partly with the aid of Tennessee and by the terms of its charter a certain number of its directors were required to be from that state. Its president was James Guthrie, one of the most energetic and persistent business men of ante-bellum days.

Self-willed, dominating, and masterful, Guthrie personally determined the policy of the road during the war, and his personality therefore is a matter of importance to the historian. He had been a lifelong Democrat in a Whig state, had made himself conspicuous by twenty years' service in the legislature, had been repeatedly the candidate of his party for the United States Senate, and had served as Secretary of the Treasury under Pierce — having Jefferson Davis as one of his colleagues. He was a believer in states' rights and was entirely Southern in his political sympathies and sentiments. He had been a prominent candidate for the presidency in the Democratic convention at Charleston in 1860, and had bitterly opposed the election of Lincoln in the ensuing campaign. He had been one of Kentucky's representatives at the abortive peace conference in Washington and after the break‑up of the conference had returned to Kentucky declaring that the North was responsible for the failure.2 In a number of speeches following the inauguration of Lincoln, he had declared his sympathy for the South, his distrust of Lincoln, and his belief that the South had the right of revolution, though he expressed himself as opposed to secession. He continued to work for compromise, and was the leading figure in the Border State Convention called by Kentucky, but his speeches indicated that if war came he would throw in his lot with the South.3

p702 But Guthrie was a business man as well as a Southern Democrat, and his business interests gradually modified his political attitude. It became evident to him that in a civil war between North and South his road would probably be ruined. With one terminal in the South and the other in the North, it was bound to be a bone of contention between the opposing forces. If he took the side of the South, his road would certainly be confiscated; if he sided with the North, the Tennessee section would be confiscated by that state and even the Kentucky section would not go undamaged. It was probably such thoughts as these that caused Guthrie to champion the cause of the neutrality of Kentucky, as only in neutrality would his road be safe. When neutrality failed, Guthrie had to make his choice between North and South. He chose to cast in his lot with the North, and there can be little doubt that his business acumen rather than his political sympathies dictated the choice. At any rate it gave the North an ally which contributed materially to its success.4

Justifying itself by Kentucky's attitude of neutrality, the Louisville and Nashville continued its carrying of freight both north and south during the spring and early summer of 1861. Business, in fact, was heavier over the road than ever before, and for two reasons. There had been crop failures in Georgia and Alabama in the preceding year and this called for an increased amount of provisions to be carried southward. When the Union forces assembled at Cairo, the Mobile and Ohio perforce ceased to carry provisions south and consequently the entire business fell to the Louisville and Nashville. At Louisville there was great agitation felt over the enormous amount of supplies going to the South, the fear being aroused that Louisville itself would be left without provisions. Attempts were made to tear up the tracks south of Louisville, and the Louisville and Nashville found it necessary to send guards ahead of the trains to protect them from violence.5 So great, indeed, was the amount of freight that the road was finally compelled, April 29, to advertise that it would receive no more for the time being.6 By p703May 8, the congestion was relieved and the road was again carrying through freight to Nashville.7

Meanwhile, May 2, the Treasury Department had issued its order forbidding the carrying of provisions and munitions into the Confederacy; but the trade was such a profitable one for the Louisville and Nashville that it refused to give it up, professing to believe that the order did not apply to a road in a neutral state.8 The action of the Louisville and Nashville in disregarding the order met with strong disapproval from the North: the New York Central, the Erie, and the Pennsylvania roads refused to carry freight to Kentucky unless it was labelled "not contraband," and the surveyor of the port of New Albany forbade the sending of provisions across the river to Louisville. The Louisville and Nashville continued its shipments, however, Guthrie having made up his mind to keep on with the trade until the government specifically forbade, in which event he planned to refer the entire matter to the courts.9 On June 12 the United States positively forbade the shipment of merchandise to any point in insurrection and the collector of the port at Louisville called upon Guthrie to comply. Instead of complying, Guthrie called a meeting of the directors of the road, including those from Tennessee. They at once arranged for a friendly suit to get the matter before the court and pending a decision went on with their shipments, notwithstanding that the collector threatened to seize all shipments made without his permission.10 On July 11, Judge Muir of the Jefferson circuit court handed down a decision that the order was constitutional and the road had finally to make its choice between submission or defiance.11 It chose to submit, and from this time on the road co‑operated with the United States in its war measures.

The acquiescence of the Louisville and Nashville was for several months merely nominal. Great quantities of provisions continued to be carried into the Confederacy. Sometimes forged permissions from the collector were used, sometimes the destination was changed after the shipment was started. The most frequent device, however, p704was to take contract supplies by wagon to some station south of Louisville and there transfer them to the railroad. A great amount of freight was sent to the towns near the state line and thence smuggled across the border.12 This illegal trade had at least the passive connivance of the Louisville and Nashville officials. Said the Louisville Democrat in its issue of August 31: "We paid a visit yesterday to the Nashville Railroad Depot, and found it crammed with freight. Freights of all kinds, including a large lot of whiskey and coffee, were there. It is astonishing how important the trade of sundry little one-horse towns along the line of the Nashville Railroad has become." The illicit trade was, in fact, an open scandal known to all men, but the government was powerless to prevent it and the Louisville and Nashville had little interest in doing so.13 Undoubtedly the supplies that found their way South over the Nashville road contributed materially to the outfitting and maintenance of the Confederate army at this time.

The first result of Guthrie's policy of submission to the United States government was a conflict with Tennessee. Suspecting that the rolling-stock of the Louisville and Nashville was being concentrated in Louisville, General Anderson, commanding the Tennessee state troops, had on July 1 demanded from Guthrie more equipment for the Tennessee section. This demand Guthrie refused, "there being no provision in the charter to the effect that the company should be subject to the military orders of Tennessee". Anderson thereupon on the fourth seized the freight and passenger trains then in Tennessee and sent word to Guthrie that he would release a passenger train north for each one Guthrie would send into Tennessee. If this agreement should be made, there would be no interruption to passenger service between Louisville and Nashville. This proposal he modified the same day, by saying he would keep all the engines and cars he then had but would pledge himself to let any others return that Guthrie might send down. This offer was rejected by Guthrie on the ground that Anderson's pledge did not guarantee the trains from detention by authorities other than himself.

p705 On the fifth Governor Harris himself telegraphed Guthrie promising that the Tennessee state authorities would not further interfere with the road otherwise than to keep what had already been seized. In a long telegram, Guthrie replied that the road had only twenty locomotives available, the others being in the shops for overhauling necessitated by the tremendous freight and passenger traffic of the two preceding months. He maintained that the company had always done its duty by Tennessee and expressed his surprise at the seizure. He conceded that the company might detach one train exclusively for Tennessee business and closed by insisting that the road could not be operated by two parties at the same time, and that he could not consent to the seizure and detention.

On the twelfth Harris replied to the effect that the necessity of protecting Tennessee was his paramount consideration. He feared, he said, Federal use of the road despite the policy of the directors. He promised that if a fair proportion of the rolling-stock were kept in Tennessee he would protect the road, pay for all services, and make no confiscation. On the fifteenth Guthrie replied, saying that there was no possibility of the road being used by Federal troops. He protested that General Anderson had no authority over the management of the road; force should not have been used. He demanded compensation for the seizure and insisted that he could not operate the road with Anderson or anyone else. This reply was evidently begging the point at issue, the question of the rolling-stock, and the only reply Harris made was a telegram acknowledging receipt of Guthrie's. Tennessee kept what she had seized — five locomotives, three passenger and baggage cars, and about seventy freight cars. It was the first of many losses the Louisville and Nashville was to undergo as a result of adherence to the Union.14

As a result of the conflict with Tennessee in July, the Louisville and Nashville had lost forty-five miles of road and an appreciable percentage of its equipment; in September it was to lose still more to the Confederate army. On September 18, 1861, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Simon Bolivar Buckner, "of the so‑called Confederate States", having advanced into Kentucky at the head of a small army, seized the entire line of the Louisville and Nashville from the state line north to Lebanon Junction, leaving only thirty miles unappropriated. About half of the rolling-stock remaining to the Louisville and Nashville p706after the Tennessee seizure fell into his hands.15 Having seized the road and its equipment, Buckner wrote an open letter to Guthrie informing him that it was his purpose to reopen traffic on the Louisville and Nashville lately suspended by the President of the United States. The road had been built, he said, largely by county subscriptions raised by taxation, but by the suspension of trade with the South the people were deprived of the benefits of the road and consequently of the ability to meet their taxes. This injustice he proposed to remedy by reopening trade with the Confederacy. He would continue to recognize Guthrie as president, would keep an account of earnings and expenses of the section operated by himself, and would transmit the balance, if any, to the company on condition it should be "applied to the purpose contemplated by the charter".16 Guthrie also received a letter from R. H. Caldwell, depot agent at Russellville, saying that at the suggestion of stockholders and friends of the road he had gone to Bowling Green to look into the affairs of the company. He found a general desire that he should take charge of the affairs of the road and operate it within the Confederate lines, and he asked for authority to do so. The propositions of both Buckner and Caldwell, who were acting in harmony, were rejected by the directors at Louisville. "It would have been giving aid and comfort to the enemy", said Guthrie.17

That Guthrie could refer to the South as an "enemy" showed how far he had travelled from his position in March and April. The interest of his road, the Tennessee seizures, and Buckner's wholesale confiscation had hardened him into a thoroughgoing Unionist. From this time on he consorted with the Union authorities and placed his entire road at their disposal for putting down the Confederacy.18 General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. T. Sherman led out a force of Home Guards from Louisville and cleared the track as far as Elizabethtown.19 p707For the remainder of the year the company operated only that section of the road between Louisville and Elizabethtown and was able to do this only under the constant protection of the Home Guards against raids from Buckner at Bowling Green. Meanwhile Guthrie advised with the Union authorities at Louisville, making plans for the double task of invading the Confederacy and of regaining his road. The two were inevitably joined. In October, Cameron, secretary of war, accompanied by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thomas, his adjutant-general, came to Louisville and consulted with Sherman and Guthrie about a forward movement. Guthrie and Sherman both thought it would require a large army to clear Kentucky of the Confederates.20 On November 4 Guthrie wrote to Cameron pressing his demand for a large Union army to be sent to Kentucky.21

It was undoubtedly as a result of Guthrie's urging that the Union military authorities finally decided on an invasion of the South from Louisville along the line of the Louisville and Nashville, with a flanking movement down the Tennessee and Cumberland in co‑operation. Slowly a powerful army was concentrated at Louisville, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Don Carlos Buell took command of it, locomotives and cars were transferred from other roads to the Louisville and Nashville, and on February 15, 1862, the Union armies entered Bowling Green. Ten days later Buell led his advance guard into Nashville. It was only by utilizing the Louisville and Nashville that he was able to move his troops and supplies so successfully, for in this time of the year the roads of the region he traversed were impassable. It is hardly possible that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant's movement down the Tennessee and Cumberland could have succeeded had not Buell's advance prevented Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Johnston from sending reinforcements to the Southern forces in western Kentucky. By March, 1862, the Louisville and Nashville trains were again running over the entire line. The Confederates, however, in their retreat burnt many of the bridges, tore up a great deal of track, and either ran off with or destroyed most of the rolling-stock in their possession. Guthrie estimated the total losses from the seizures by Tennessee and Buckner at $668,307.42.22

During the spring of 1862, the Louisville and Nashville strove vigorously to rebuild its track and to replace its rolling-stock. The government had already taken military control of the other railroads in Kentucky and now proceeded to transfer part of their locomotives p708and cars to the Louisville and Nashville. In addition to this, fifteen locomotives and four hundred freight cars were diverted from the Ohio roads to Guthrie's use. All of these were of wider gauge than the Louisville and Nashville and some delay was occasioned by cutting them down. These cars were commonly sent down the Ohio on flatboats to Louisville, and Guthrie laid a temporary track from the Louisville and Nashville depot to the canal in order to facilitate their delivery.23 The bridges on the road were replaced by the Union engineers very rapidly, even that across the Cumberland at Nashville being completed in time for trains to cross it March 26.

One reason at least that Guthrie had for his activity in repairing the road and placing it at the disposal of the Union forces was that he might forestall its seizure by the government. Already on the last day of January, 1861, Congress had authorized the President to think possession of all railroads in the United States, and on May 25 the President issued an order that the railroads hold themselves in readiness for government transportation "to the exclusion of all other business".24 The "possession", however, resolved itself into supervision as far as the Louisville and Nashville and other Northern roads were concerned. In November, 1861, J. B. Anderson, a Louisville and Nashville official, had been appointed director of railroads in the Department of Ohio and, when in February, 1862, Brigadier-General McCallum was appointed military director and superintendent of railways in the United States, he continued Anderson in charge of the Western roads. Anderson was a friend of Guthrie's and probably owed his appointment to him. Whatever supervision he exercised over the Louisville and Nashville was very mild, and Guthrie throughout the war remained the actual as well as the nominal director of the road.25

But, although Guthrie placed his road at the disposition of the government and thus escaped military control, he soon drifted into a dispute with it over the question of compensation for government transportation. A convention of railroad presidents met with Stanton in Washington in February, 1862, and an agreement was reached p709that soldiers should be carried at the rate of two cents a mile and government freight at a discount of ten per cent from the rates for ordinary business.26 The Louisville and Nashville had not been represented at this meeting, and, when a copy of the agreement was sent to him in May, Guthrie at once protested that such a rate was grossly unfair to the road. He pointed out that in the nature of the case the Louisville and Nashville would have no return freight from the South, while the other roads affected would carry freight both ways. He went on to say that the government business would not pay expenses, as the armies operating in the South were being supplied by steamboats; only pork and hay were being carried over the Louisville and Nashville. Moreover, the government guard through the secession country was not sufficient to protect the road, and the company was at the expense of furnishing its own guards. To this protest Quartermaster-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Meigs replied curtly that Guthrie had not given sufficient reasons for making an exception of the Louisville and Nashville. Guthrie sent another protest, but said he would make up his accounts according to government regulations, hoping for compensation later.27 In March of the next year, Guthrie renewed his application for higher rates and the government conceded the point on condition that the company pay for the rebuilding of the bridge over the Cumberland.28

The year 1862 was in fact one of continual troubles and vexations for the Louisville and Nashville. Hardly had Guthrie restocked his road when Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Bragg's invasion burst over Kentucky. Once again the Louisville and Nashville fell into the hands of the Confederates. Bragg operated the road himself south of Elizabethtown during the brief period of his stay in Kentucky and on his leisurely retreat destroyed whatever he could of its bridges, track, and rolling-stock. Guthrie made himself active at Louisville in organizing the forces to repel the invasion, releasing three hundred employees of the road for drill under the superintendent.29 The advance of Buell's army again restored the road to the company, but only after great losses had been suffered. Little business of any kind was done during the fall of this year, and Guthrie reported to the stockholders in October that the business of the road was at an end and must remain so until proper protection was given by the government. Since p710July the damage done to the road by the Confederates had exceeded the entire amount derived from government business. Guthrie was evidently finding loyalty a costly business.30

In November, 1862, the Louisville and Nashville was once more open to Nashville. Whatever complaints Guthrie may have had about the paucity of government business before, he certainly had no occasion to make any from now on. As the course of the Northern invading armies swung toward Chattanooga, more and more of the burden of transporting troops and supplies and prisoners fell upon the Louisville and Nashville. So great was the volume of business that the company was overwhelmed by it. Its supply of locomotives had been seriously diminished by Bragg's invasion, so that for five months — November, 1862, to March, 1863 — it had to rent engines from the government, paying for them at the rate of fifteen cents a mile. Even with government aid the company was not able to meet the demands made upon it for transportation, and considerable friction developed between Guthrie and the Union generals at the South.31 The government continued its policy of transferring rolling-stock from other roads to the Louisville and Nashville. As the Southern roads fell into the hands of the Union armies their rolling-stock was transferred to this road whenever needed. At Louisville, the Louisville and Frankfort terminal was changed and the road made to run into the Louisville and Nashville depot so as to facilitate the transfer of cars. Across the river the New Albany and Jeffersonville roads extended their tracks to the river's edge, and Guthrie once more laid a track from his road to the river bank in order to receive their cars when ferried across the river.32 In October, 1863, the government changed the gauge of the Louisville and Frankfort to make it correspond with that of the Louisville and Nashville.33

Thus by the transfer of cars from other roads and by dint of constant building in its own shops the Louisville and Nashville managed to keep going and in a measure at least to meet the demands on it. In July, 1863, the government somewhat tardily answered p711Guthrie's appeal for better protection by placing a military guard of fifty men on each train.34 It was certainly needed, for although the road did not again fall into the power of a Confederate army after Bragg;s retreat, it was subjected throughout the year to systematic raiding at the hands of small forces. Of all these despoilers, the most notorious was John Morgan. The Louisville and Nashville road looked upon this ubiquitous leader as a special agent for its undoing. Certainly most of his raiding had both that purpose and that result. "It is his mission to cripple and destroy the road", said a Louisville editor, and certainly he was not far from wrong.35 He tore up the track, burned the bridges, and ran off the cars practically at will, the military guards being helpless to oppose him. The Louisville and Nashville from October, 1862, to October, 1863, was damaged by the Confederates to the amount of $543,000, and John Morgan could boast that he had inflicted most of it. Notwithstanding the constant destruction and interruption of traffic, the road this year made an enormous net profit of over a million dollars. Most of this came from the transportation of troops.36

One of the results of the raiding was that the Louisville and Nashville found it difficult to procure fuel. Wood was used on all its locomotives, the company commonly contracting with the farmers along the line to cut the wood and pile it along the track, so that the locomotives could take it on as needed. But Morgan burned the wood piles on his raids and warned the farmers to refrain from selling to the company lest worse befall them. As most of the counties through which the road ran were Southern in their sympathies, the farmers were not averse to taking the warning. Consequently the company found itself frequently embarrassed. In September the military authorities came to its aid with an order for the impressment of the slaves of the farmers along the line for cutting wood. Five hundred were to be impressed from each of the thirteen counties through which the road ran, the impressing being done by the military commanders in the county seats. Wood might be impressed as well as slaves, but the company was to pay for both articles.37 This decided action relieved the company to a great extent from fuel shortage for the remainder of the year.

p712 In the fall of 1863 serious friction developed with the Union commanders in Tennessee, who were dissatisfied with the efforts of the Louisville and Nashville in transporting supplies. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rosecrans was especially insistent in his criticism and in September wrote to Guthrie to the effect that he would confiscate the entire road if things were not remedied. He complained that Guthrie was giving private freight and express the preference over government business.38 Complaints were made by the commanding officer at Louisville that the road left government supplies waiting for days in its depot.39 In November, Grant complained to Anderson that provisions were not being sent rapidly enough on the Louisville and Nashville,40 and about the same time Andrew Johnson wrote to Lincoln that Anderson was under "Louisville influences" and was being used to advance their interests at the expense of the United States.41 Whether there was any truth in any of these charges it is impossible to determine. Guthrie insisted that the road was doing everything in its power to aid the government, and he succeeded in retaining the confidence of Lincoln and Stanton notwithstanding the complaints against him.

The year 1864 passed for the Louisville and Nashville in much the same manner as the preceding one. John Morgan died and went to his reward, thereby releasing the railroads of Kentucky from grave discomfort. The field of battle was too far south for the road to be threatened by Confederate armies. But what the armies and John Morgan ceased to do the guerrillas enthusiastically undertook. Small bands of these irregular marauders, sometimes secessionists but as often as not without political preference, infested Kentucky throughout the year. They had indeed been more or less active in 1863, but their halcyon days came in 1864 when, as a result of the long continuance of the war, society became more and more disorganized and the habit of orderliness and obedience to the law was broken up. It appeared as if they divided up the railroads for systematic spoliation, with special attention given to the Louisville and Nashville. On account of their knowledge of the country and their extreme mobility, the troops in Kentucky were entirely unable to cope with them. Their chief motive was plunder — which p713they secured by capturing the trains, robbing the passengers, derailing freights, and even capturing the railroad depots in the small towns. Their constant attacks on the trains made it very difficult for the road to secure employees of any sort. They damaged the road itself during the year to an amount approximating $120,000, and their activities continued even after the war came to an end.42

Guthrie remained unshaken in his loyalty to the Union cause. He still called himself a Democrat, however, and was one of the leaders in the Kentucky campaign to nominate Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan for President. He had greatly disapproved of the Emancipation Proclamation and was growing more and more alarmed as the civil authorities in Kentucky were subordinated to the military. He headed the Kentucky delegation to the nominating convention and was a member of the platform committee, exerting great influence in its writing. After McClellan was nominated he did all in his power to secure his election. The overwhelming majority that McClellan received in Kentucky was at least partly due to Guthrie's efforts.43

While the Union armies remained at Chattanooga it was upon the Louisville and Nashville that the government depended for its transportation of troops and supplies. Guthrie did not let his political associations influence his conduct of the road, but continued to give the Union cause every support possible. Civilians were not allowed on the Louisville and Nashville trains southward unless they had permits from the military authorities, and these permits were not easy to obtain.44 Private shipments of freight to the south had to await the convenience of the military, although the northbound freight, for obvious reasons, was not so rigidly controlled. The difficulties of the road were increased by the action of the government in seizing its cars for service on roads further south. During the year from July, 1863, to July, 1864, 25 locomotives and 191 cars of the road were seized by the government for this purpose, and on the latter date the government had in its possession 218 of the Louisville and Nashville cars — one-half of the entire number.45 p714When Sherman began his advance from Chattanooga against Atlanta he seized every Louisville and Nashville car he could find and, when Guthrie remonstrated, gave him the sardonic advice to make up the deficit by taking the cars that came on the Northern roads to Jeffersonville — advice which Guthrie promptly acted on.46

Notwithstanding the marauding of the guerrillas and the confiscation of its cars by the government, the net earnings of the road for the year amounted to nearly two million dollars. As in 1863, most of the profit came from the carriage of troops. The freight business was about evenly divided between government and private shipments.47 In fact, the profits of the Louisville and Nashville throughout the war were enormous, judging them by the standard of the period. Notwithstanding the constant destruction of the road and its equipment, the net earnings were far in excess of what they had been in peace times. If Guthrie had chosen the Union side because of business reasons, the sequel showed clearly that his acumen was not at fault. Even for 1865, a year in which the armies advanced entirely out of the range of the road, and a year in which business depression followed closely on the heels of peace, the net earnings of the road were over two million dollars.48

Such was the record of the Louisville and Nashville during the Civil War. Not only had Guthrie guided the road in such a manner as to keep it a private enterprise and to enable it to make large profits; at the conclusion of the war the road was actually longer and in better shape than ever. Under the efficient direction of Albert Fink, superintendent of road and machinery, the road was repaired almost as fast as it was destroyed, the bridges were rebuilt stronger and on better plans, and the entire system improved over its original condition.49 In 1865 the Bardstown road, a line eighteen miles long from Louisville to Bardstown, was purchased.50 Moreover, it was in the midst of the war that Guthrie found time and means to begin the building of a branch line to East Tennessee. There was a government project of similar nature initiated at the beginning of 1862, when it seemed that it might be possible to detach East Tennessee from the Confederacy, both Lincoln and McClellan p715being much interested in attempting it. Guthrie was named on a committee of three in January, 1862, to investigate and report on the location and construction of such a road from Danville, Kentucky, to Knoxville, Tennessee.51 The government, however, found other work to its hand than the building of railroads, and the project died a silent death. Guthrie revived the idea in 1863, but with the intention of building the road as a private enterprise. In February, 1863, the Kentucky legislature amended the Louisville and Nashville charter, giving the road permission to extend its Lebanon branch line through the coal-fields of Kentucky and to borrow $600,000 from the city of Louisville to prosecute the work.52 In September the citizens of Louisville voted the money — in the shape of thirty-year $1000 bonds bearing interest at six per cent.53 A military engineer was put in charge of the work by order of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Burnside, and negroes were impressed along the line to do the necessary grading.54 By July, 1864, the road was completed to Stanford, thirty-six miles from Lebanon.55

The profits of the Louisville and Nashville from the carriage of Union troops and its losses from Southern armies and South sympathizers attest equally the importance of the road in the Civil War. Two facts go to show the appreciation felt by the civil and military authorities of the United States for its aid. One was the invitation given Guthrie to enter the Cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury when Chase resigned. This invitation refused for the avowed reason that he could be of more use where he was.56 The other was an expression from Sherman, with which this story may well close: "I have always felt grateful to Mr. Guthrie, of Louisville, who had sense enough and patriotism enough to subordinate the interests of his railroad company to the cause of his country."57

R. S. Cotterill.


The Author's Notes:

1 It possessed 37 locomotives, 22 passenger cars, 9 baggage cars, and 260 freight cars; Louisville Daily Democrat, July 6, 1861. Its gauge was five feet, a fact which made it difficult to transfer Northern cars to it during the war, as Northern roads were of different gauge. Most Southern roads, however, were of five-foot gauge and thus Southern cars could readily be transferred to the Louisville and Nashville as the roads fell into the hands of the Union armies.

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2 Louisville Daily Democrat, Mar. 17, 1861. Speech by Guthrie at Louisville court-house, Mar. 16.

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3 A speech of Guthrie's at Louisville as reported in the Democrat, Apr. 19, 1861, is important as showing his views at the time. Speaking of Lincoln's inaugural address, he said: "I suspected it for, like the serpent, it spoke with a forked tongue." In another place occurs the following: "If the North comes to ravage our lands we will meet them as Kentuckians always meet their foes. We will meet them as Kentuckians should meet them, so long as there is a tree for a fortification or a foot of land for a freeman to stand on."

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4 Guthrie had a great many interests other than the Louisville and Nashville. He had invested in the various Kentucky railroads, particularly the Louisville and Frankfort, in Indiana railroads, and in a number of plank roads and turnpikes in Kentucky. Moreover, a considerable part of his fortune was tied up in Louisville real estate. All of this he would in all probability lose if he took the side of a losing cause.

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5 Louisville Daily Journal, Apr. 30, 1861. Report of Guthrie's speech at the court-house, Apr. 29. The fears of a famine at Louisville were somewhat alleviated by a report from an investigating committee that there were provisions on hand sufficient for ten years.

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6 Ibid., Apr. 29, 1861.

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7 Ibid., May 8, 1861.

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8 Ibid., May 9, 1861. Prentice, the editor of the Journal, protested against the order and urged that a deputation should be sent to Lincoln in opposition. He did not deny the legality of the order, however.

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9 Ibid., May 9, 14, 21, 1861.

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10 Ibid., July 4, 1861.

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11 The text of Muir's decision is given in the Democrat of July 12. The dissenting opinion of Judge Logan is given in the same paper of July 13. The Louisville Daily Courier of July 9 contains a communication from Guthrie justifying his conduct.

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12 This evasion of the law is adequately treated by E. M. Coulter in his "Effect of Secession on the Commerce of the Mississippi Valley" in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review, III.275, and in his "Commerce with the Confederacy," ibid., V.377.

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13 An editorial in the Democrat of Aug. 16 complained that "with every precaution not a day passes that provisions and manufactures do not go from this port to some station on the road, and thence to Dixie land". Sept. 1, it noted that the freight drays had the streets of Louisville blocked for the squares around the depot. A great deal of this freight, it insinuated, had come from Cincinnati, although the Cincinnati merchants were loud in their criticism of Louisville's conduct.

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14 The Supplementary Report of the President and Directors of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, October, 1861, gives the history of the conflict with Tennessee. It is also reported in the Democrat in the daily issues July 1 to July 16.

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15 Supplementary Report No. 2, October, 1861. Buckner left to the road 22 locomotives, 74 freight cars, 5 baggage cars, and 11 passenger cars.

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16 Louisville Daily Democrat, Sept. 25, 1861. This letter Buckner had printed on handbills and distributed throughout the counties in which he had seized the road. It was, of course, propaganda, and Buckner could not have expected Guthrie to acquiesce in the arrangement proposed.

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17 Supplementary Report No. 2, October, 1861. "Buckner and his troops have destroyed the road and its business and intended just what they have done", was Guthrie's bitter comment.

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18 Mr. A. B. Quisenberry writing in the Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, XLIII.9, has maintained that Guthrie had never been sincere in his neutrality pose. there is at least considerable reason for doubting the sincerity of his associates. The question of Kentucky's neutrality was closely linked with the interests of her railroads, and there is need of a new study of the question from this point of view.

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19 Louisville Daily Democrat, Sept. 20, 1861.

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20 W. T. Sherman, Memoirs (New York, 1886), I.230; Report of L. Thomas, Oct. 21, 1861, Official Records, War of the Rebellion, first series, III.548.

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21 Official Records, first series, IV.332.

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22 Annual Report, October, 1862.

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23 Louisville Daily Journal, Mar. 3 and 5, 1862; Louisville Daily Democrat, Mar. 1, 2, and 5, 1862. The Ohio roads from which cars were obtained were the Little Miami, and Columbia and Xenia. The transferring of these cars attracted wide attention, and most Western newspapers reported it fully. Before the completion of the track to the canal their delivery blocked the streets of Louisville to such an extent as to be the subject of formal complaint. In May the temporary track was taken up and sent south to repair the road torn up by the Confederates.

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24 Nicolay and Hay, Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, II.161.

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25 H. K. Murphey, "Northern Railroads and the Civil War", in Miss. Valley Hist. Rev., V.324.

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26 Official Records, War of the Rebellion, third series, II.838; Louisville Daily Democrat, Feb. 26, 1862.

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27 Annual Report, 1862.

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28 Annual Report, 1863. Guthrie was also successful in securing a higher compensation for carrying the mail than the government had originally allowed; Louisville Daily Journal, Jan. 6, 1863.

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29 Louisville Daily Democrat, Sept. 19, 1862.

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30 Supplementary Report, October, 1862. The damage to the road from Bragg's invasion was $108,690.

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31 Annual Report, October, 1863.

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32 Louisville Daily Democrat, Oct. 24, 1863. Since the Southern roads were of the same gauge as the Louisville and Nashville, transferring their cars to the latter road was a simple matter.

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33 Ibid., Oct. 4, 1863. At the stockholders' meeting in October, it was voted to subscribe $300,000 to the capital of a company proposing to build a railroad bridge over the Ohio; Annual Report, 1863. The bridge was not built, however, till after the close of the war.

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34 Louisville Daily Democrat, June 21, 1863.

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35 Ibid., Feb. 7, 1863.

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36 Annual Report, October, 1863.

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37 Louisville Daily Democrat, Sept. 18, 1863. The slaves were exempted of those farmers who would agree to furnish wood to the road — one negro being exempted for every twenty cords of wood furnished. If a farmer had but one slave, the slave was exempted; if he had four or more, one-third were taken. Coal was also used by the road, but to a very slight extent.

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38 Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, first series, vol. XXXIX, pt. 2, p667. Guthrie refers to this threat in his Annual Report of 1863 and adds the comment that "better counsels prevailed".

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39 Official Records, first series, vol. XXXI, pt. 3, p1. Report of C. A. Dana, assistant secretary of war, to Stanton.

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40 Ibid., p26.

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41 Ibid., p14.

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42 Louisville Daily Democrat, Oct. 21, 1864. Scarcely an issue of the two Louisville papers during the war was without some reference to the guerillas. During the year forts were erected at various points on the road to check them. Official Records, first series, vol. XLV, pt. 1, p1136.

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43 The political activities of Guthrie during 1864 best recorded in the columns of the Louisville Daily Journal for that year. Especially important is the issue of Aug. 24, which sets forth his position fully. In the Official Records, first series, vol. XXXIX, pt. 2, p249, there is a long and interesting letter from Sherman to Guthrie discussing the military tyranny in Kentucky and the services of the Louisville and Nashville.

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44 Louisville Daily Journal, July 21, 1864.

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45 Annual Report, July, 1864.

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46 Sherman, Memoirs, II.12. It is a matter of record that few of these cars ever found their way home again. Sherman seized 17 locomotives and 120 cars belonging to the Louisville and Nashville. House Ex. Doc. No. 1, 30 Cong., 1 sess.

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47 Annual Report, July, 1864.

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48 Annual Report, July, 1865.

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49 "Life and Achievements of Albert Fink", a paper read before the Filson Club of Louisville by C. K. Needham, Oct. 4, 1920.

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50 Annual Report, July, 1865.

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51 Louisville Daily Democrat, Jan. 25, 1862.

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52 Act of the General Assembly of Kentucky, Feb. 6, 1863.

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53 Louisville Daily Journal, Sept. 7, 1863.

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54 Ibid., Oct. 20, 1863.

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55 Annual Report, 1864. The road was designed to go through Danville, but owing to friction with the citizens of that place Guthrie changed the location, leaving Danville unvisited. Louisville Daily Democrat, Sept. 24, 1863.

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56 This statement is made on the authority of J. F. Speed, of Louisville, whose uncle, J. F. Speed, carried to Guthrie Lincoln's telegram offering the position, and who wired Guthrie's refusal.

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57 Sherman, Memoirs, II.12. In the fall of 1865 Guthrie was elected to the United States Senate, where he made himself conspicuous as an opponent of the Congressional plan of reconstruction. Ill health forced his resignation in February, 1868, and he died Mar. 13, 1869. He was one of the heroic figures of his time. No biography of him has yet been written.


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