In this account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage, Ambrose offers a historical successor to his universally acclaimed ...Show synopsisIn this account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage, Ambrose offers a historical successor to his universally acclaimed "Undaunted Courage". This is the epic drama of the daring men who connected an open, vast, and dangerous land by rail, forging its continental nationhood. of photos.Hide synopsis
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Description:New in new dust jacket. Brand New Book. Sewn binding. Cloth over...New in new dust jacket. Brand New Book. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 432 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Railroad Construction Workers, Railroad Construction Workers/ United States/ History/ 19th Centurry, Railroads, Railroads-United States-History-19th Century, Railroads/ United States/ History/ 19th Century Hardcover 9780684846095 In this account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage, Stephen E. Ambrose offers a historical successor to his universally acclaimed Undaunted Courage, which recounted the explorations of the West by Lewis and Clark. Nothing Like It in the World is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad--the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks. The Union had won the Civil War and slavery had been abolished, but Abraham Lincoln, who was an early and constant champion of railroads, would not live to see the great achievement. In Ambrose's hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes to life. The U.S. government pitted two companies--the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads--against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomo-tives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. This was the last great building project to be done mostly by hand: excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, blasting tunnels through mountains. At its peak, the workforce--primarily Chinese on the Central Pacific, Irish on the Union Pacific--approached the size of Civil War armies, with as many as fifteen thousand workers on each line. The Union Pacific was led by Thomas "Doc" Durant, Oakes Ames, and Oliver Ames, with Grenville Dodge--America's greatest railroad builder--as chief engineer. The Central Pacific was led by California's "Big Four": Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. The surveyors, the men who picked the route, were latter-day Lewis and Clark types who led the way through the wilderness, living off buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope. In building a railroad, there is only one decisive spot--the end of the track. Nothing like this great work had been seen in the world when the last spike, a golden one, was driven in at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific tracks were joined. Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men--the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary--who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation.
Ambrose has repeatedly demonstrated his chops as a distinguished historian, but this is openly
not distinguished history. It succeeds as what is is--a triumphalist patriotic tale written (at the behest
of his agent) to be a best seller. Written largely from secondary sources, it is half the length of Bain's masterwork.
Great fun if you're in a flag-waving mood at the beach.
This is a great read! I expected it to be more like a reference book, but Stephen Ambrose has taken the events of the building of the Central and Union Pacific railroads and brought them to life. The involvement of Abraham Lincoln, Gen. William T. Sherman, and others is made clear; the fact that the the transcontinental rail endeavor began during the Civil War, and continued during the migration west is well depicted. Were it not for this time in our history the west would not have been settled quickly, and it is quite possible California and the Northwest could have been lost to foreign invaders.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, railroading, or the spirit of making a dream become reality. The best - and worst - of Americans is depicted. It also shows our current economic and political times are not that far removed from 150 years ago - disagreements about the need and how to pay for a national undertaking, greed and corruption, bravado, broken promises, as well as dedication, pride in work, dealing with hardships, and the many other things that make America the nation it is are very well illustrated in this excellent volume!
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