The Civil War pitted two armies against each other on a grand battlefield in the East that focused on Virginia and its Border States and an equally demanding battlefield in the West for control of the Mississippi River. Both sides faced the extremely difficult challenges associated with defending key terrain and the need to seize the initiative through offensive maneuvering and engagement. Limited manpower and the operational ambiguities caused by movement (or deployment) to several locations on an ever-changing battlefield caused railroad usage to become a matter of military readiness and national security for both sides. This paper provides a brief review of railroad capabilities of the United States before the Civil War, elaborates on the railroad capabilities and usage of both sides during the war, and discusses instances where the effective use of railroad mobility was the decisive factor in the outcome of the battle. Lastly, provides an examination of the impact of railroad mobility on the Civil War and warfare.
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