Author talks about role of B&O railroad in Civil War

August 11, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Civil War author Daniel Toomey gave a slide show lecture titled "The War Came by Train" Thursday night at the Hagerstown Railroad Museum in City Park.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Author Daniel Toomey traveled to Hagerstown Thursday night to tell a gathering of Civil War enthusiasts that the first front of the war was neither a political nor a geographical boundary, but the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Toomey's talk at the Hagerstown Railroad Museum covered the first 90 days of the war, which included Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's capture of 56 locomotives and more than 300 railcars along the B&O Railroad between nearby Harpers Ferry, W.Va. and Martinsburg, W.Va.

Jackson also blew up a railroad bridge at Harpers Ferry in an attempt to stop B&O rail traffic, Toomey said.

"They really ripped the guts out of the B&O railroad between Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg," Toomey told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 people who streamed out the door of the museum at Hagerstown City Park.

The first land skirmish of the Civil War came when a Union regiment from Massachusetts arrived in Baltimore in April 1861 by rail, Toomey said.

Maryland was undecided whether to side with the Union or the Confederacy, and there were many Confederate supporters in Baltimore, said Toomey, who has written several books about the war and whose course, "The Civil War in Maryland," has been taught at a number of colleges.

When the Massachusetts soldiers arrived in Baltimore they were met by an angry mob. By the time the confrontation had subsided, four members of the Massachusetts unit lay dead and 36 were injured, Toomey said.

The Massachusetts regiment then left Baltimore by the B&O Railroad, Toomey said.

The B&O continued to be a part of the war's history up until the end when troops used the railroad to return home, Toomey said.

He also talked about the success of the B&O, and how it was considered to be the first commercial railroad in the world.

"It was like the Microsoft of the day. Everybody wanted to invest in it," Toomey said of the railroad, the purpose of which was to connect the docks of Baltimore with the Ohio River.

Toomey is the guest curator at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore for the 150th Civil War anniversary commemoration.

Toomey has lectured for a number of historical organizations as well as the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.

He has won numerous awards for his historical research and exhibits, including the Gettysburg National Battlefield Award in 1985.

His books include "The Civil War in Maryland," "Marylanders at Gettysburg" and "The Maryland Line Confederate Soldiers' Home."

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