Memphis and Charleston Railroad

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Memphis and Charleston Railroad
Memphis Yard in 1885
Locale Southern United States
Dates of operation 1857–1894
Successor Southern Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm)[1]
Previous gauge 5 ft (1,524 mm)
Length 311 mi (501 km)
Headquarters Memphis, Tennessee
2-6-0 locomotive No. 201

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad, completed in 1857, was the first railroad in the United States to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Mississippi River.[2] Chartered in 1846,[3] the 311 miles (501 km) 5 ft (1,524 mm)[4] gauge railroad ran from Memphis, Tennessee to Stevenson, Alabama through the towns of Corinth, Mississippi and Huntsville, Alabama. The portion between Memphis and LaGrange, Tennessee was originally to be part of the LaGrange and Memphis Railroad, chartered in 1838.[5] From Stevenson, the road was connected to Chattanooga, Tennessee via the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. In Alabama, the railroad followed the route of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad between Tuscumbia and Decatur, the first railroad to be built west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The American Civil War[edit]

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, this railroad became of strategic importance as the only east-west railroad running through the Confederacy.[6] On the morning of April 11, 1862, Union troops led by General Robert Mitchell captured Huntsville, cutting off this railroad's use for the Confederacy.[7]

The railroad and its route through Corinth, Mississippi was a significant factor in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.[6]

While the railroad briefly survived the American Civil War, the effect of the war on the railroad was devastating and led to its merger into other railroads of the same fate and eventually to become part of the Southern Railway system.

The Memphis and Charleston Route Today[edit]

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad eventually merged into the Southern Railway. The route is still in use today as part of the Norfolk Southern Railway line running between Memphis and Chattanooga, Tennessee. US 72 roughly follows the original route of the Memphis and Charleston between Memphis, Tennessee and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. From Muscle Shoals to Huntsville, Alabama Alt. US 72 follows the original Memphis and Charleston. US 72 follows the route again from Huntsville to Stevenson, Alabama.

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