Civil War Wiki
Memphis and Charleston Railroad
Locale Southern United States
Dates of operation 1857–1894
Successor Southern Railway
Track gauge 5 ft 60# T-rail
Length 311 miles
Headquarters Memphis, Tennessee
File:Locomotive201 on the Memphis and Charleston.jpg

Locomotive 201


Memphis Yard in 1885

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. Chartered in 1846 the railroad ran from Memphis, Tennessee to Stevenson, Alabama through the towns of Corinth, Mississippi and Huntsville, Alabama. 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[]

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

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

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[]

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.

A disconnected piece of the M&C is still in use today by the Caney Fork Western RR (CFWR), which runs 61 miles from its junction with the CSX RR at Tullahoma, Tennessee to Sparta, Tenn. Much of the line is visible along SR 55 between Tullahoma and McMinnville. Northeast of McMinnville, US 70S in places, then McMinnville Highway from McMinnville to Sparta. A panoramic view of the deck truss bridge over the Caney Fork River may be seen from the McMinnville Hwy. (there SR 136) bridge. The track ends at the White Co. Justice Center in Sparta.

The bridge was raised for clearance over the lake when the dam was being built. New caps were poured on the original stone piers. One pier on the bank has an plaque set into the stonework describing the building of the M&C RR.

See also[]


de:Memphis and Charleston Railroad