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Cumberland Valley Railroad: The Civil War Era

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The Untold Story of a Critical Railroad in the Civil War

The Civil War was a monumental conflict that forever changed the course of American history. While much has been written about the war’s overall impact, little attention has been given to specific rail lines. However, with the publication of Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865 by Scott L. Mingus Sr. and Cooper H. Wingert, the remarkable story of one such line is finally brought to light.

A Strategic Link That Became a Prize Target

The Cumberland Valley Railroad (CVRR) played a vital role in connecting the cities of Hagerstown, Maryland, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Its strategic location made it a tempting target for Confederate forces, who recognized the importance of disrupting Union supply lines. As invading armies clashed for control, the CVRR’s valuable rolling stock was constantly at risk, igniting a coordinated effort between Northern military and railway officials to protect this critical asset. However, despite their best efforts, the line often fell victim to Southern destruction.

A History of Destruction and Resilience

Targeted Tracks delves into the untold stories of the CVRR’s struggles during the war. From its involvement in John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 to the devastating damage it suffered during the Antietam and Gettysburg Campaigns, the line bore witness to the horrors and destruction of war. Rebel raiders burned down Chambersburg, the CVRR’s headquarters town, laying waste to the homes of its employees. The narrative highlights the significance of the railroad not only to the Union war effort but also to the residents of the Cumberland Valley.

Bringing History to Life with Primary Sources

Mingus and Wingert’s research is firmly grounded in primary sources, including the CVRR’s reports, letters and diaries from local residents, Union and Confederate soldiers, official reports, and newspaper accounts. By drawing on these firsthand accounts, the authors breathe life into this largely neglected aspect of Civil War history. The expertise of the authors shines through as they expertly weave together these diverse sources to present a comprehensive and captivating narrative.


Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865 is a must-read for history enthusiasts and Civil War buffs alike. By shedding light on the forgotten story of the CVRR, Mingus and Wingert provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of the war. The engaging narrative, supported by extensive primary sources, offers a fresh perspective on this crucial period in American history. Whether you are a seasoned historian or simply have a passion for gripping tales of war and resilience, this book is sure to captivate and educate.


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