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Credit Due

February 2024
1min read


The “Big Road” (October 2000), by Stephen E. Ambrose, is greatly appreciated; he revealed or renewed knowledge of so many aspects of this achievement. However, I was sorry to find no mention of an unusually gifted American, now unappreciated and much maligned, who contributed significantly to the Big Road.

He was a veteran of the Indian Wars and of the war with Mexico, in which he was severely wounded. His expertise as a commander in the field won him awards, medals, and military praise worldwide. He was a respected Constitutional scholar, elected as a representative to the United States Congress. He was named Secretary of War by President Pierce. In that office he promoted, obtained authority for, and directed detailed studies of four separate possible railroad routes from mid-America to the Pacific. These 1853 plans and studies were surely available to and consulted by planners for the Big Road. He opposed South Carolina’s secession, and when war seemed inevitable he expected a command in the Confederate Army then being organized. Instead, his considerable abilities and experience went to the organization of the Confederate government. He died branded a traitor by many and remembered as a hero by others. His efforts for fair and peaceful reunion have been obscured by the office to which he was elected. He lives in history almost solely as president of the Confederate States of America—Jefferson Davis.

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