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Home North Carolina Guilford County City of Greensboro Historical Markers Piedmont Railroad

Piedmont Railroad

Church Street at Washington Street, Greensboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 4' 12.1908", -79° 47' 12.984"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Railroad line between Greensboro and Danville. Constructed, 1862-1864, for the Confederacy. Its terminus was nearby."
     As early as 1848 a bill was introduced in the state legislature to construct a rail line northward into Virginia. Again and again it failed for lack of support, many lawmakers fearing that such a route would shift commerce bound for western North Carolina out of state. In the meantime the North Carolina Railroad connection between Greensboro and Charlotte opened in 1856. At the outset of the Civil War it was apparent that completion of the forty-mile gap between Danville and Greensboro was a vital military need. In a message to the Confederate Congress on November 19, 1861, President Jefferson Davis stressed the importance of the connection.

     In 1862 the route was surveyed and stock offered in the Piedmont Railroad, with a Virginia line, the Richmond and Danville, acquiring ninety-nine per cent of the interest. The work proceeded slowly. Engineers needed a labor force of 2,500, but had only a fraction of the number. Included in the force were a small group of slaves, a number which would have been larger had Governor Zebulon B. Vance not refused to impress them into service. Iron was difficult to come by. Eventually rails were ripped up from other lines to build the Piedmont. Even before it was finished, it was already a primary supply route, its gaps bridged by wagons. On completion in May 1864, its value to the Confederacy was incalculable. One writer has estimated that it “added months to the length of the Civil War.”

     Ironically President Davis, who had argued for its completion in 1861, used the Piedmont route in 1865 in his flight south. The actual connection with the North Carolina Railroad at Greensboro was made only after the war, in the winter of 1866-1867. Difference in the gauges of the two lines was the holdup. In time the Piedmont Railroad became part of the Southern Railway (later Norfolk Southern) system.

Cecil Kenneth Brown, “A History of the Piedmont Railroad Company,” North Carolina Historical Review (April 1926): 198-222
Allen W. Trelease, The North Carolina Railroad, 1849-1971, and the Modernization of North Carolina (1991)
Cecil Kenneth Brown, A State Movement in Railroad Development (1928)
Robert C. Black III, The Railroads of the Confederacy (1952)
George E. Turner, Victory Rode the Rails (1953)
Blackwell P. Robinson, History of Guilford County, North Carolina, U.S.A. to 1840 A.D. (1971)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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Piedmont Railroad Historical Marker Location Map, Greensboro, North Carolina