Excerpt from Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Nothing Like It In The World

The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1865-1869

by Stephen Ambrose

Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose X
Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2000, 432 pages

    Nov 2001, 432 pages


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Dodge wanted to add his own weight. In early March 1861, just before Lincoln's inauguration, he joined Farnam and Durant to go to Washington. He wrote his wife, "I came here with Farnam, Durant [and some others] and we are busy before the railroad committees. Compromise measures have passed the House but will be killed in the Senate."

Dodge's group was in the capital on the eve of civil war, contending for a single route for the Pacific railroad, to run from Council Bluffs straight west. Judd was there and helping, although his mind was more on getting the ambassadorship to Germany (which he did). Taking into account all that was going on around Lincoln's inaugural, it seems near impossible that Dodge and the others were there arguing for their own version of the railroad -- but it was happening. Lincoln, on the train from Springfield as he headed east, had taken a turn at driving the locomotive.

Dodge went to the inaugural and told his wife, "Old Abe delivered the greatest speech of the age. It is backbone all over." Then he got to the point: "It looks as though we can get all our measures through and then I'll make tracks for home."

Two weeks after Lincoln's inauguration, Dodge and two office-seekers called on Lincoln to press the railroad. Dodge wrote his wife, "Politically the skies are dark. Lincoln has a hard task before him, but he says that he thinks he can bring the country out all right....I have carried all my points except one."

Dodge went off to New York, where he agreed to drop his personal business in Council Bluffs and identify himself with the Rock Island railroad. Almost a month later, on April 12, 1861, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter and the Civil War was under way. Dodge put the railroad aside and joined the army. Holding the country together north and south was more important to him than linking it together east and west. But the latter aim never left his mind, or Lincoln's.

Copyright © 2000 by Ambrose-Tubbs, Inc.

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