From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War That Made the West (Hardcover)
A sweeping and lively history of one of the most dramatic stories never told—of the greatest railroad war of all time, fought by the daring leaders of the Santa Fe and the Rio Grande to seize, control, and create the American West.
It is remarkable now to imagine, but during the 1870s, the American West, for all its cloud-topped peaks and endless coastline, might have been barren tundra as far as most Americans knew. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad had made history by linking East and West, but, relying heavily on federal grants, it left an opening for two brash new railroad men, the Civil War hero behind the Rio Grande and the corporate chieftain of the Santa Fe, to build the first transcontinental to make money by creating a railroad empire across the Southwest to the sea.
The railroad companies were governments on wheels: they set the course, chose the route, and built up cities and towns along their tracks. Their choices brought life to such out-of-the-way places as San Diego, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Denver, and to Los Angeles most of all: The Santa Fe turned a sleepy backwater of 30,000 into a booming metropolis of 150,000 in three years—the most explosive growth of any city in the history of the United States.
By then, the two men behind the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe had fought all across the west to lay claim to the routes that would secure the most profitable territory and the richest silver mines. But they often led through narrow mountain passes or up treacherous canyons with room for only a single set of tracks. To win them, each side turned hundreds of their train workers into private armies backed by local militia and paid mercenaries like Dodge City’s Bat Masterson. The war left one of the two lines reeling in a death spiral and sent the other on to a greatness unequaled by any other railroad in the world.
From the River to the Sea is the epic story of the greatest railroad war of all time, fought by two railroad men for glory and fortune—and the right to shape the future of the West.
About the Author
John Sedgwick is the bestselling author of Blood Moon: An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation, and twelve other books: four works of literary nonfiction, two novels, a family memoir, and five collaborations. He has also written extensively for The Atlantic, GQ, Newsweek, Esquire, and Vanity Fair. He is married to the CNN analyst and Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA:
“In From the River to the Sea, John Sedgwick brings his great gifts as an historian and writer to that most American of stories, the creation of the West, through a wildly colorful railroad war involving a host of characters from Oscar Wilde to a vixen named Baby Doe. Readers will be fascinated and enthralled by the level and depth of the greed, chicanery and violence, but also moved by the immense human yearning.” —Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of First: Sandra Day O’Connor
“Blessed with a set of characters whose duplicity linked the Old West to the Gilded Age, John Sedgwick tells an engrossing story of the railroad battles of a pair of rivals who had talent enough to overcome a challenging landscape, but not enough to match their ambitions. Their failures make the story that culminates in the creation of modern Los Angeles even more intriguing.” —Richard White, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America
“So this is how the west was really won—a visionary Medal of Honor winning Civil War general wages the battles of the great railroad wars, crosses the great American desert with narrow gauge tracks, defeats his ruthless rival and a posse led by Bat Masterson, creates Colorado Springs, marries the woman of his dreams (of course named Queen), and pulls his Santa Fe railroad into Southern California to create a boom and the rise of the City of Los Angeles. John Sedgwick has written a breathless adventure story, an amazing rip-roaring tale, that glides like the train speeding westward.” —Sidney Blumenthal, bestselling author of All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln
“John Sedgwick’s account of the no-holds-barred race to build a railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific is a propulsive, panoramic tale filled with enough miners, moguls, shysters, hucksters, sharpshooters, and saloon girls to cast a dozen memorable Westerns. The nonstop action will keep readers riveted, but along the way they’ll learn a good deal about capitalism and the American character, a symbiotic mix of ambition, creativity, and greed that, as Sedgwick observes, we now see playing out, for better and for worse, on the frontiers of Big Tech.” —George Howe Colt, bestselling author of The Game and The Big House
“From the River to the Sea is a wild, rollicking, larger-than-life true story from the golden age of American railroad empiring. Here are fortunes won and lost overnight, moguls and gunmen, rascals and visionaries, and the likes of Bat Masterson, Jay Gould, Porfirio Diaz, the Harvey Girls, a woman named Queen, and Oscar Wilde, lowered to the bottom of a silver mine in a bucket. Read it and wonder.” —Kevin Baker, bestselling author of America: The Ingenious and Paradise Alley
“From the River to the Sea takes us back 150 years to dramatically and delightfully present an epic struggle between two railroad icons that helped shape the American West. Sedgwick casts light on the not-terribly-different power struggles of the California and Seattle companies that have replaced rails with websites to shape the future.” —Steven Levy, author of Facebook: The Inside Story
No upcoming events available