I'm searching for evidence that the US government, in the lead-up to the Civil War, considered British investors might fund a transcontinental railroad through the Southern States. Thank you.

During the period between the end of the Mexican War and the start of the Civil War (1848-1860) leaders in the South actively sought a transcontinental railroad that would link their states to the Pacific via Texas, the New Mexico Territory, and California. I'm a historical fiction writer who is looking for evidence that the US government considered British investment in this project a credible threat in the decade or so prior to the US Civil War. Thank you.

  • Thank you for posting your question to History Hub!

    Any question involving foreign involvement (or investment) in domestic improvements, including potential British investment in a southern-route transcontinental railroad, would likely attract the attention of the State Department in its role of managing foreign affairs (especially potential violations of the Monroe Doctrine). We would highly recommend you contact the Civilian records reference staff at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, for further assistance. They have jurisdiction over records of the the Department of State (Record Group 59) and related material. You can reach them directly at archives2reference@nara.gov. It's not clear if the War Department would have generated any interest in such a project prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, but it might also be useful to check the correspondence files (Letters Sent and Received) of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94) to see if the topic sparked any internal discussions from the stand point of national security. For further assistance with those record you should reach out to the Archives 1 Reference Branch (RR1R) at archives1reference@nara.gov for further assistance.

    We hope this information assists you with your research!


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