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Commentary dated December 19, 2000 contributed by G. J. "Chris" Graves, Edson T. Strobridge, and Charles N. Sweet regarding Stephen E. Ambrose's book "Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863 - 1869."

"Historians are obsessed with what is true. They have to prove what really happened. In quoting someone, they must demonstrate that person really did speak or write those exact words." (Stephen E. Ambrose, Forbes ASAP magazine, Oct. 2, 2000, Page 110.)

" ... if only Ambrose had claimed his books were historical novels ... Mr. Ambrose is an interesting story teller ... "

Note: G.J. Graves comments that "The paper back edition has all of our corrections, but we are not given credit." [However, Bruce Cooper reports that the softcover "first Touchstone edition" of 2001 does not contain corrections.]

Errata (hardback first edition):

Page 4, photo caption:

"Samuel B. Reed in Echo City, Nevada"

Echo City is in Utah
Page 18, paragraph 2:

"added California and Nevada and Utah to the Union in 1848."

The territory encompassed by today's California, Nevada and Utah became a part of the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed in 1848.  California was admitted to the Union in 1850. Nevada in 1864, and Utah in 1896.  Congress created the territories of Utah and Nevada in 1850 and 1861 respectively. California never existed as a territory.  Strictly speaking, none of the present three states were "added to the Union" in 1848.
Page 20, paragraph 2:

"Except for Salt Lake City, there were no white settlements through which the lines were built. No white men lived in Nebraska west of Omaha, or in Wyoming, Utah or Nevada There was no market awaiting the coming of the train."

The Central Pacific never ran through Salt Lake City; it's eventual railroad connection was the Utah Central built in 1870. However, the Mormon settlements—with a population of over 60,000—did present the transcontinental railroad with both a major market to serve as well as a significant source of labor for it's construction. Furthermore, a population of over 16,000 in Nevada also provided a market for the Central Pacific to serve. The Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road—a toll road constructed by the Big Four—brought the railroad millions of dollars of revenue from freight hauled from California to the Comstock mining district of Nevada as well as to the mining districts of Idaho.
Page 21, paragraph 2:

"The dirt excavated for cuts…removed one handheld cart at a time. The dirt filling a dip or a gorge in the ground was brought in by hand cart. Some of the fills were enormous, hundreds of feet high and a quarter mile or more in length."

The Central Pacific's crews moved excavated material by one horse dump carts along with wheelbarrows. The Mormon contractors on the Central Pacific used horsedrawn scrapers.  The same term "handcarts" appears again on Page 110, paragraph 4. Few fills on the entire line were over 100 feet high.
Page 22, photo caption:

Bloomer Cut, "500 kegs of powder a day; line now runs through two tunnels to the north"

See comments for pages 119, 120 and 148, below.
Page 23, photo caption:

"A freight train rounding Cape Horn"

Hart #57

This is a copy of an original A. A. Hart photograph #57 that was originally captioned "Excursion train headed East at Cape Horn."  The train in the photograph is not a freight train.  See comments for page 156.
Page 27, photo caption:

"This is a Howe truss bridge across river at eagle gap."

Hart #274

This is another of A. A. Hart's original photographs #274 which was originally captioned "Bridge at Eagle Gap". The bridge is more accurately described as a "Burr Truss bridge" because of the arch through the members.
Page 30, photo caption:

"Doc Durant and Strobridge at Emigrant Gap, California."

J. H. Strobridge is misidentified.  The photograph not resemble Strobridge; also there is no evidence that Strobridge ever met Durant nor is there any evidence that Durant was ever on the Central Pacific work in California.
Page 31, photo caption:

"Camp Victory 10-1/4 mi. in a day"

Hart #350

Original photograph by A.A. Hart, #350.  A photograph of James Harvey Strobridge, Superintendent of Construction standing on a platform car next to his track Foreman, H.H. Minkler, the man who supervised the track gang on the record making day of installing 10 miles and 56 feet of track.
Page 43, paragraph 3:

"the discovery of gold on a branch of the American River about forty miles west of present-day Sacramento."

The gold discovery that started the California Gold Rush was made at Coloma, 35 miles northeast of present-day Sacramento.
Page 55, paragraph 2:

"The need for an experienced railroad engineer became obvious, and in 1853, the President of the [Sacramento Valley Railroad] sailed to New York to find such a man. He conferred with Governor Horatio Seymour of New York State and his brother Colonel Silas Seymour, who knew and recommended Theodore D. Judah."

New York Governor Horatio Seymour and "Col." Silas Seymour were not brothers, they were related but no closer than fifth cousins and there is no evidence that they even knew each other (Seymour Family Genealogy)
[Addendum, 4/17/2002:  Gov. Seymour and Col. Seymour were NOT brothers.  Gov. Horatio Seymour's great grandfather Moses was the brother of Silas's great great grandfather John.  They were distant cousins, not brothers.  Judah had worked for Silas Seymour on the Buffalo and New York City RR,  and when the Sacramento Valley Rail Road was in the planning stages, Col. Wilsons first choice for Engineer was William Barclay Foster, the brother of songwriter Stephen Foster.  W.B. Foster was the Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad.]
Page 58, paragraph 3:

"On August 9 [1855] the first rail laid west of the Missouri [River] and the first in California was laid."

There were at least two railroads in California with iron rails before 1855.  A contractors railroad in San Francisco even provided California's first railroad fatality in July 1851 with one S. Mellison crushed between a trains iron wheels and the iron rail.  In 1853 a mining railroad with iron rail hauled ore from Virginia Hill to Auburn Ravine in Placer County.
Page 65, paragraph 2:

"Judah worked on a bill incorporating the wishes of the Sacramento Convention"

The 1859 Pacific Railroad Convention was held in San Francisco.
Page 69, paragraph 1:

"[Theodore D.] Judah, the man who built the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls"

Theodore D. Judah was the Chief Engineer of the Niagara Gorge railroad which ran from Niagara Falls to Lewiston.  The Niagara falls suspension bridge was designed and built in 1853 by John A. Roebling, who later built the Brooklyn Bridge.
Page 105, paragraph 3:

"So Charlie Crocker drew up a contract awarding the Charles Crocker Contract and Finance Company and several minor companies the right to build the first stretch of road."

There was no Charles Crocker Contract and Finance Company.Charles Crocker had resigned from the Central Pacific's Board of Directors in 1862 and was not part of approving the awarding of contracts.  As a contractor he did receive several construction contracts as Charles Crocker & Company.  The Contract and Finance Company was formed in late 1867 and was awarded the contract to build the Central Pacific eastward from the California/Nevada State line.
Page 106, footnote:

"*His place on the board was taken by Hopkin's brother E.B. Hopkins, who had just been named interim chief justice of California by Governor Stanford, who was also president of the CP."

Mark Hopkin's brother was named Moses and had nothing to do with the railroad.  It was Charles Crocker's brother Edwin B. Crocker, who was also one of the "Associates" was named as chief justice of California by Governor Stanford.
Page 109, paragraph 2:

"Governor Stanford managed to prod the California legislature into donating to the CP millions of dollars in state bonds to be issued at the rate of $10,000 per mile after the completion of specified amounts of track."

The California legislature only agreed finally to pay the interest on $1.5 million of Central Pacific 7% bonds, as stated correctly on page 121, paragraph 3.
Page 115, paragraph 2:

"On Oct. 3rd, 1863, [Theodore D.] Judah and Anna set off on the steamer St. Louis. Unknown to the couple, a few days later, while sailing south, they passed the [ship] Herald of the Morning, which was coming north after leaving New York months ago, carrying the CP's first hundred tons of rail, the first locomotive, and other assorted hardware."

The first rail arrived in San Francisco on September 20, 1863 aboard the Clipper ship Herald of the Morning, nearly two weeks before Judah's departure. The first locomotive arrived on a different ship, the Artful Dodger, whose arrival was reported in the October 6th edition by the Sacramento Union as having arrived in Sacramento on October 5th.  George Kraus, High Road to Promontory, page 71 states this event occurred "four days before he [Judah] sailed".
Page 118, paragraph 3 and 4:

Referring to "Junction, today's Roseville", sixteen miles out of Sacramento" … "Back behind Newcastle, where the track was being laid," … "Others ("the men who did the work") dropped the rails" … "and spiked them in with their heavy sledgehammers" … "and connected the ends with fishplate."

Roseville is 18 miles from Sacramento.  The rails for the first approximate eighty miles were connected with railchairs, metal brackets in which rail ends were held and then spiked down.  Fishplates, iron bars punched with holes, used to bolt together the ends of rails, were not used on the Central Pacific until they had reached a point above Blue Canyon in late 1866 some two years later and approximately eighty miles from Sacramento.  (US Railroad Commissioners report to the U.S. Sec. of Interior)
Page 119, paragraph 4:
Page 120, paragraph 1 and 2:

paragraph 4:  "Bloomer Cut, just beyond Newcastle, would take months to complete" … composed of naturally cemented gravel … moved out one wheelbarrow at a time. The working men used black powder to loosen up the gravel at Bloomer. As much as five hundred kegs of blasting power (sic) a day in early 1864 - more than most major battles in the ongoing Civil War - at a cost of $5 to $6 per keg."

paragraph 1: "with rock so hard that it was sometimes impossible to drill into it for a sufficient depth for blasting purposes. Shot after shot would blow out as if fired from a cannon."

paragraph 2:  "After the blast the men used picks and shovels to fill their wheelbarrows or one horse carts to move the gravel out." "Strobridge lost the sight of his right eye at Bloomer Cut, when black powder was delayed and ended up exploding in his face."

These recorded facts are out of context.  The sources are second and third generation descriptions without any source documentation and are so exaggerated that they have largely been discounted by railroad historians.  Page 119 states the material was "moved, one wheel barrow at a time" and on page 120 that either "wheel barrows or one horse carts" were used. The attention to this conflict is important as this is the first reference to the use of horse drawn carts for removal of excavated material since the claim on page 21; "dirt for cuts wasremoved by one handheld cart at a time." The claim of using "more Black powder a day in early 1864 - more than most major battles in the ongoing Civil War" is unimaginable.  The book cites the figure of 500 kegs a day (25 lbs. per keg), which represents 12,500 lbs. of black powder a day and stating it "would take months to complete".  By no stretch of the imagination could black powder in the quantities cited have been used.

There is no supporting evidence that as many as 500 kegs of blasting (black) powder was used a day in Bloomer Cut.  It is unreasonable to believe that even that much blasting powder was used in the entire 800 foot long Bloomer Cut excavation.  The Placer Herald of July 30, 1864 reported "that the number of men at work in Bloomer Cut did not exceed forty as that was all that could be worked to advantage."  Bloomer Cut itself contained no more that 25,000 to 30,000 cubic yards of material removed for construction.  Typically, after drilling a hole to some depth, a small charge of powder of up to 50 lbs. was used to open up seams in the rock and earth.  Powder was then poured into the open seams in larger quantities and ignited.  Kraus, High Road to Promontory, page 135 writes: "When Mountain construction was at its height more than 500 kegs of powder a day were used." He refers to the entire line which included eight tunnels being worked simultaneously and heavy rock work east of the summit. The statement "Shot after Shot would blow out as if fired from a cannon" is taken from Henry Root's recollections of May 1866, "In the vicinity of Cisco, the rock was so hard that it seemed impossible to drill into it a sufficient depth for blasting purposes.  Shot after shot would blow out as if it were a cannon." Cisco is 60 miles above Bloomer Cut and was not reached until two years later.

Strobridge did lose his right eye in a blast that occurred when he and two of his workmen were attempting to open up a seam that had earlier been loaded with powder which had failed to go off.  The normal practice on a failed shot was to reopen the seam and fill it with water in an attempt to float the powder to the surface.  One of the workmen, using a crowbar or drill, apparently struck a rock which caused the powder to prematurely explode, killing one and injuring the other two men.

Page 146, paragraph 3:

"The Sierra Nevada that King described [in his 1866 exploration] are the principle topographical feature of the American Far West. The summits, many enveloped in glaciers, run from six thousand feet in the north to ten thousand feet west of Lake Tahoe in the center.

Glaciers do not envelop anything south of Mt. Hood in Oregon with the possible exception of Mt. Shasta which is pushing the word envelop. (Dr. Andrew Fountain, U.S. Correspondent to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, Departments of Geology and Geography, Portland State University.)
Page 147, paragraph 4:

"Rail delivered at San Francisco cost $147.67 a ton. Then came the charges for transfer from ships at San Francisco to the lighter, then unloaded at Sacramento, then for transportation up the Sacramento River.

Rail would never have been transported up the Sacramento River after being unloaded at Sacramento.  The cited source, Lewis Clement, actually said "the rail costing, delivered at Sacramento, $143.67, not including transfer from ships at San Francisco to the lighter, nor for transportation up the Sacramento River" [to Sacramento].  The Sacramento River runs northerly from Suisun Bay to Sacramento.  The American River runs east from there, however, rail was never sent by river east.  They used wagons and the railroad.  (See U.S. Pacific Railway Hearings, Exhibit No. 8, July 21, 1887, page 2576; Clement to Stanford.)
Page 148, footnote:

Referring to Bloomer Cut: "The line now runs through tunnels to the north"

The No. 1 track of the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific RR) which is on the original line of the Central Pacific still is an active westbound track and still runs through Bloomer Cut.  The 1910 track (the No. 2 track, eastbound) runs through two tunnels to the north.
Page 150, paragraph 3:

In a discussion of Charles Crocker relating to the hiring of Chinese workmen:
"Stro, as he was known to his friends, was opposed. He said all the whites currently working with him would take off, and anyway what did the Chinese know about railroad construction? "I will not boss Chinese! He declared. "They built the great Wall of China didn't they," replied Crocker.  "Besides, who said laborers have to be white to build railroads?"

In sworn testimony in the United States Pacific Railway Commission hearings in San Francisco in 1887 Charles Crocker's testimony is recorded as describing his discussions with J.H. Strobridge in his efforts to convince him to hire Chinese.
What Crocker did say is: " I recollect that I had a great deal of trouble to get Mr. Strobridge to try Chinamen. At first, I recollect that four or five Irishmen, on pay day, got talking together, and I said to Mr. Strobridge. "There is some little trouble ahead." When I saw this trouble impending a committee come over to us to ask for an increase in wages. I told Mr. Strobridge then to go over to Auburn and get some Chinamen and put them to work. I said "There is no particular hurry. You can get Chinamen." The result was that the Irishmen begged us not to have any Chinese come, and they resumed work. It was four or five months after that before I could get Mr. Strobridge to take Chinamen."

The quote: "They built the Great Wall of China didn't they, replied Crocker, "Besides, who said laborers have to be white to build railroads" is out of context.  What Crocker did say was : "I recollect that Mr. Strobridge said once. "Make Masons out of Chinamen?" and I said "Did they not build the Chinese wall, the biggest piece of masonry in the world.?"

There is no basis in fact for the quoted statement "Besides, who said laborers have to be white to build railroads," from a third generation source's photo caption (without a cited source, published in a book reproducing a collection of railroad photographs).

Page 155, paragraph 5:

"the longest tunnel …at 1659 feet … twenty six feet wide and 20 feet high… would bore through the summit itself (6)."

The Chief Engineer's Report of July 1st, 1869, signed by Sam Montague, and taken from the 1887 Pacific Railroad Hearings clearly states that all of the tunnels through solid rock which did not require lining (which includes tunnel No. 6) were 16 feet wide and 11 feet to the springline with an Arch of an 8 foot radius. The greatest height then was nineteen feet with a width of 16 feet for unlined tunnels, as correctly stated on page 232, paragraph 2, citing the Engineers speech as quoted in George Kraus, High Road to Promontory.
Page 156, paragraphs 2, 3, and 4:

Description of the construction of the Central Pacific roadbed around "Cape Horn."

paragraph 2:  "One of the most feared stretches ran three miles along the precipitous gorge of the North Fork of the American River, nicknamed "Cape Horn". The slope was at an angle of seventy-five degrees. The grade would be built on the side of the mountain which required blasting and rock cuts on the sheer cliffs. Men had to be lowered in a bos'n's chair from above to place the black powder, fix and light the fuse's, and yell to a man above to haul them up."

paragraph 3:  "One day in the summer of 1865, a Chinese Foreman went to Strobridge, nodded, and waited for permission to speak, when it was granted he said that men of China were skilled at work like this. Their ancestors had built fortresses in the Yangtze gorges. Would he permit the Chinese crews to work on Cape Horn? If so, could reeds be sent up from San Francisco to weave into baskets?

paragraph 4:  "The reeds came on. At night the Chinese wove baskets similar to the ones their ancestors used. The baskets were round, waist high, four eyelet's at the top, painted with symbols. Ropes ran from the eyelet's to a central cable. The Chinese went to work-they needed little or no instruction in handling black powder - with a hauling crew at the precipice top.

"The precipitous gorge of the North Fork of the American River, nicknamed Cape Horn" is not three miles long.  At best it is no more than 1200 feet* where the railroad built it's track and 1322 feet** above the American River, not twenty two hundred feet.  The American River Canyon is not a "gorge" and the river is a mile distant as viewed from the Cape Horn vista.
* As measured from the Southern Pacific R/W map between Engineers Stations 3032+00 to 3044+00 along the original Central Pacific line.
** USGS Map, Colfax Quadrangle, California, 7.5 Minute Series.

The construction of the railroad around Cape Horn is the basis of much legend, and it is difficult to separate fact from fancy. There is no mention of the Cape Horn construction in the internal papers in the Collis P. Huntington collection, no records found in the archives of the Southern Pacific Co., no description in the 1887 Senate Pacific Road Commission Hearings and no descriptions found in the contemporary newspapers that were covering almost daily the construction activities of the Central Pacific railroad.  There are at last five publications that date between 1869 and 1884 that each describe "daring workman" as having been "lowered by ropes", "securely tied around their bodies", "held by ropes," etc., one railroad guide quoting Leland Stanford "with ropes around their waist's, picking away in that solid granite to make places to put their feet to begin drilling and blasting for the road."  All these early references describe the first workman being let down the precipitous slope, suspended by a rope firmly tied around their bodies while they hammered away to make for themselves standing room on a narrow ledge from which to work.  None of them describe the use of baskets for suspending the workmen.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the first workman were used to cut away a narrow bench from which to start the blasting for the wider roadbed for the railroad while being suspended from above by a rope sling of some kind.  Men still may have been tied with ropes around their bodies for safety reasons but once a shelf had been established from which to work the road bed construction advanced at a rapid rate being worked from the top and both ends.  The effort was uneventful enough for the Engineers, C. Crocker and J.H Strobridge that there has not been found any documentation, comments or newspapers stories regarding the Cape Horn work with the exception of Chief Engineer Samuel Montague's comment that the work was "less difficult and expensive than was first anticipated."  No contemporary sources have been located relating that any workers were suspended in baskets.  The legend of the baskets seems unreasonable given that the slope at Cape Horn was less than vertical and it was not necessary to suspend workers in mid air.

Author Corinne Hoexter in her "From Canton to California, The Epic of Chinese Immigration" 1976, has written a story about Cape Horn; "nearly perpendicular cliff," … "rose 1400 feet at an angle of seventy five degrees", ... "Chinese waiting to talk to Strobridge to gain permission to make reed baskets," … "with four eyelet's, printed with symbols" and goes on to embellish the original stories handed down from 1869.  Hoexter cites no authority for her source of information.  Based on wildly imaginative historical reporting on artists have sketched and painted "interpretations" depicting Chinese workman, swinging over the face of a vertical cliff, standing in baskets suspended from ropes.  The Cape Horn story that has evolved over the years is local myth being accepted as fact.

Page 198, paragraph 5:

"Strobridge lived in a manner that all others, even Crocker envied. His wife, Hannah Maria Strobridge, and their six adopted children were with him, living in a standard passenger car pulled by the headquarters locomotive, which stayed right behind the end of track. Strobridge made it into a three bedroom house on wheels. - She was the only woman on the CP line. And Stro was the only man with a family life."

Hart #75

Crocker hardly envied Strobridge living at the Front with all the hardships that were encountered.  Ambrose places this description during the period of mid 1866 when Strobridge was actually living at Alta (see A.A. Hart photo #75, above) where he maintained his headquarters.  Strobridge never lived in a passenger car and did not have a car at all until sometime after June 19th, 1868 when the Camp Cars, along with Strobridge's Car, which had been built at the CP Shops in Sacramento were finally able to be transported over the Summit.  This occurred after the final gap was closed on June 16th of that year and the first through trains arrived in Nevada.  Strobridge adopted two children in early 1866 and the other four of his adopted children were not born until after the completion of the Pacific Railway on May 10, 1869. Strobridge's car did have three apartments.  He and his wife lived in one, Mrs. Joseph Graham, a close friend of Mrs. Strobridge and wife of the Contract and Finance Company's Asst. Chief Engineer, lived in another and the third was used for an office.  When Crocker was in the area one of the Apts. was used by him, but rarely for more than a few days at a time.  The two Strobridge children did live aboard the Camp train after mid 1868 but that is another story.
Page 199, paragraph 3:

Ambrose discussing the excavation the 8x12 shaft over the Summit tunnel: By hand, the Chinese began to cut it through, haul the debris (mainly granite chunks) up from the bottom, and lower the timbers in place to shore it up."

Tunnel No. 6 was totally unlined and needed no timbers for shoring or lining.  It had been driven through a very hard granite.  The construction of this tunnel is reported in the Chief Engineer's Report, op cit., page 155. Engineer Gillis' report to the American Society of Engineer's on Jan. 5, 1870 reports that "the shaft was divided by planking into two compartments" so as to aid in hauling up from the two separate tunnel faces at different times which may be the source of confusion on the use of timbers for shoring.  The granite debris was hoisted to the surface using a common hand derrick at first and later using a steam hoist.  This part of the operation was done using white labor.  The only work done by hand was the drilling of holes in the granite for blasting and the loading of hoisting baskets to remove the debris.
Page 204, paragraph 2:

"The Chinese laborers dug snow tunnels from fifty to five hundred feet long to get to the granite tunnels. Some were large enough for a team of horses to walk through. Alternatively, a temporary railbed was placed on top of the snow and material was lowered from the surface by steam hoist, sometimes as much as forty feet. The waste was hauled out the same way."

John A. Gilliss was one of the Central Pacific Engineer's that worked on the Summit tunnels during the actual construction and through the winters he describes. The following is quoted from his report:

"Before the snow had acquired a depth enough to interfere much with the work, the tunnel headings were all started. The cuts at their entrances soon filled with snow, but drifts were run through them, in some instances large enough for a two horse team. Through these snow tunnels, whose lengths varied from 50 to 200 feet, the material excavated was hauled in carts or on sleds to the waste banks. These snow tunnels kept settling at the crown, so that they had to be enlarged from time to time…"

There is no evidence that a "temporary railbed" was placed on top of the snow and material lowered from the surface by a steam hoist as much as forty feet" The first and only "Steam Hoist" ever reportedly being used in the Sierras was the Steam Engine, hauled over the snow and set up over the Shaft at the center of the Summit Tunnel.  It would have been impossible to have constructed a "railbed" on top of the snow tunnels, that kept settling at the crown.  "Material was lowered forty feet through the snow and waste hauled out the same way." Considering a maximum grade used for a track of 1.5%, to raise a "railbed" forty feet above the track excavation already on a 1.5% grade would have required a half mile or more of approach track. Not likely, nor supported by any reliable source.

Use of the term "railbed" is not clear. If describing the roadbed superstructure, the term "track" which includes the ties and rail would be better used.

Page 204, footnote:

"More snow falls there (Donner Summit) than anyplace in the United States south of Alaska."

The highest average recorded annual snowfall in the United States is at Mt. Washington, N.H., at 258.6 inches per year, the second highest average snowfall is recorded in Blue Canyon, CA, located 27 railroad miles west of Donner Summit at 240.3 inches per year. (NOAA) Note: The Southern Pacific Trans. Co. kept annual snowfall records at Donner Summit, however since the recent merger with the UP it is not known if the records still exist or where they may be found.
Page 231, paragraph 3:

Discussion of drilling blasting holes in the granite inside the Summit tunnels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains: " Two men pounded. The man with the drill was turning it constantly - the men pounding did so with sledgehammers weighing fourteen to eighteen pounds each. They could drill four inches of holes, one and three inches in diameter, in eight hours."

Three men drill one and three quarters inch holes four feet in eight hours. (See CPH Papers, letter, EBC to CPH, Jan. 14, 1867, and Feb. 15, 1867) (sic)
Page 243, paragraph 2:

"E.B. Crocker held out an intriguing possibility to Huntington. 'I have an idea that in six months or a year from the time the roads [CP & UP] are completed,' he wrote, 'the two companies will be consolidated.'"

"It was almost 130 years after the roads were completed before the two lines consolidated."

After C.P. Huntington's death in 1900, Edward H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad acquired controlling interest in the Southern Pacific Co. which had earlier leased the Central Pacific Railroad.  Thirty two years, not 130, after the CP and UP met at Promontory the two lines operated as one system after they were united under the control of Harriman, but were they were not consolidated.  Theodore Roosevelt's U.S. Dept. of Justice filed suit against the Union Pacific in the "1915 Unmerger Case" and as a result the Supreme Court ordered the UP to sell all it's interests in the Southern Pacific Company. (Refer to page 379, paragraph 2.)
Page 244, paragraph 4:

"Work on the tunnel (Summit Tunnel) had begun in 1866."

Work on the Summit Tunnel began in October 1865 and had been suspended and restarted in August 1866.
Page 248, paragraph 2:

"They had organized a vast laboring force, drilled long tunnels, shoveled away snow, set up sawmills, hauled locomotives and cars and twenty tons of iron over the mountains by ox teams."

Crocker's forces did haul three locomotives, iron for forty flat cars and approximately 4,000 tons of rail over the Summit in beginning in good weather beginning in July 1867.  Rail continued to be hauled over the summit after the first heavy snow fell snow in Dec. on sleigh's, sleds, mud wagons and wagons until there was enough to construct over 40 miles of track east of the Summit prior to the final connection at Cold Stream Canyon.  (See testimony of James H. Strobridge, Page 3155, Charles Crocker, Page 3646, 1887 Senate Pacific Railroad Hearings [op. cit.] and many letters between EBC and CPH July 10, 1867 and June 16, 1868.)

The 1200 feet of track that "twenty tons of iron" would have built is not enough to even set up the three engines and forty flat cars hauled over the mountains much less extend any track.

Page 282, paragraphs 4 and 5; Page 283, paragraph 5:

Quoting an offer by Durant by telegram to Brigham Young for a contract "to take a portion or all our grading between Echo Canyon and Salt Lake, if so please name your price per cubic yard." Commenting: " A remarkable offer. Young could name his price and set other conditions. What Durant wanted was work, to be started "at once." ... "Neither the directors (of the UP) nor those who worked for them or, come to that, those who put up the money cared what it cost. Win now, pay later was the motto, just as it had been for the North during the Civil War."

The reader is left believing that Durant would pay any price Brigham Young offered and that the UP backers did not care what things cost.  This conclusion couldn't be further from the truth.  Olive Ames and others responsible for raising money were having great difficulty in raising enough money for the Union Pacific and very critical of Durant's squandering the company's resources.  Bills were not being paid.  Even Jack Casement expressed concerns in a letter to his wife concur that the UP would soon be unable to raise enough money to continue.  A more likely interpretation is that Durant's telegram was an invitation to bid, not an offer to pay any figure Young set.  There is no evidence the quoted "motto" was in fact a motto of the Board of Directors of the Union Pacific.
Page 292, paragraph 2:

" George B. McClellan's uncoded orders were captured by the Confederates before the Battle of Antietum, giving Robert E. Lee a chance to read them.

It was Robert E. Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia that lost his orders near Frederick, Maryland, not the Union Army's George McClellan. It was the Union Army’ troops who found them.
" On the 13th an order fell into my hands issued by Gen. Lee, which fully disclosed his plans, and I immediately gave orders for a rapid and vigorous movement" [towards Sharpsburg] (See "McClellan's Own Story by George B. McClellan, 1887, page 573).
It was not McClellan who lost the orders, but Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Page 304, paragraph 3:

"CP engineer Joseph Graham was in charge of building the road through Nevada."

The Contract and Finance Co. had the total control over the construction, including the construction surveying and engineering, after reaching the California-Nevada border.  Joseph Graham was employed by the C&F Co. as one of the Division engineers on construction.  J.H. Strobridge, Supt. of Construction was in charge of building the road and Graham was one of many construction engineers employed.  (See letter EBC to CPH, Jan. 16, 1868.)
Page 326, paragraph 4:

"Anyone can see for himself in the twenty first century by driving Interstate 80 from Omaha to Sacramento. Nearly all the way, the automobiles will be paralleling or very near the original grade as the surveyors laid it out."

In Utah, with the exception of a few miles, between Echo and the Wyoming border I-80 does not come within a great many miles of the original Pacific Railroad grade.  From Echo the railroad built north through Ogden and around the north end of Salt Lake and down into Nevada through the Pequop Mountains of Nevada.  I-80 is located south of the Great Salt Lake and does not come close to the grade until it reaches the Moor, Nevada off ramp, a distance of over 225 miles.  In Wyoming there are a number of locations where I-80 is not close by a great many miles, between Laramie and Rawlins, a distance of over 100 miles as an example and so it goes as Nebraska too has many places a great divergence.
Page 327, paragraph 3 and 4:

"On the rocky eastern slope of the Promontory Mountains, a large gang of Strobridge's Chinese were grading east, while Casements graders were grading west. - The UP's crews were mainly Irish. They tried to shake the persistence of the Chinese by jeering and throwing frozen clods at them, - with no visible effect, so they attacked with pick handles" —— "A day or two later when the grades were only a few yards apart the Chinese set off an unannounced explosion on the Irish, several of whom were buried alive"

There is no evidence that the Chinese did any grading "on the rocky eastern slope of the Promontory Mountains" and the stories that there had been fights and blasting alongside the UP and CP's parallel grading between these crews has long been accepted as fiction by most railroad historians.  Klein in his history of the Union Pacific, 1862-1893, page 218, says: "The tales of violence between them seemed to have originated in the imaginations of later writers."  David H. Bain in his recently published "Empire Express," page 658, states: "There is no evidence in all the telegrams, letters, reports, journals and contemporary newspapers to support this myth of corporate race warfare so gullibly repeated in many accounts.  Besides, much of the parallel grade work was done by Mormon contractors."
Page 328, paragraph 5:

"The CP spent January laying track from Elko (Nevada) toward Humboldt Wells. On the 28th of that month, the tracks were 150 miles west of Elko.

Humboldt Wells is east of Elko.  On January 28th, the track was within 7 miles of Humboldt Wells.
Page 332, paragraph 2:

"The line was forty miles east of Humboldt Wells, almost into Utah, but it was still 144 miles from Promontory."

George Kraus High Road to Promontory, indicates the distance remaining to Promontory was 124 miles (this reference provides a mileage chart between all the major points on the Central Pacific railroad.)
Page 332, paragraph 3:

Discussing construction on the eastern slope of the Promontory Mountains: "on the eastern slope the ascent required ten torturous miles of climbing at eighty feet to a mile, including switchbacks."

There were no switch backs on the Pacific Railroad by either the CP & UP except for the Union Pacific's flimsy eight mile long temporary track laid over a ridge so steep that a switch-back had to be used, known as the "Z-Line."  It was used only to keep the track laying construction moving forward while they were awaiting the completion of the Tunnel #2 located west of Wasatch on the eastern slope of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.  It was abandoned and the track removed as soon as the tunnel was opened to through traffic.  (See Union Pacific, The Birth of a Railroad 1862-1893, by Maury Klein.)
Page 332, paragraph 4; Page 333, paragraphs 1 and 2:

The discussion of the construction on the eastern slope of Promontory Summit describes a "Gorge of about 170 feet in depth and five hundred feet long." ... "In November 1868, Stanford and two of his engineers arrived to see it. He took one look at the projected line and ordered Clement to lay out a new one to avoid an eight-hundred foot tunnel through solid limestone." and relates that "the CP put 500 men, Mormons and Chinese, to work, supplemented with 250 teams of horses to pull the carts that carried the earth to the fill sites", (to make the "Big Fill" east of Promontory) ….."They used nitroglycerin and black powder to make the cut".

The "Big Fill" was only 55 feet high at the center line of the track, although it's lower edge would exceed 100 feet.

The CP "Big Fill" is about five miles east of Promontory summit and was not in a "gorge" but a small valley.  The contract for the grading from Monument Point to Ogden was granted to Benson, Farr & West, Mormon contractors.  The Mormon's never employed any Chinese and there has been no evidence found that the Central Pacific employed Chinese to work either with or for the Mormon's.  Charles Crocker never used nitroglycerin after he cleared the Sierras as it was too dangerous and the Mormons did not have any available.  On January 22, 1869 Stanford, in a letter to Huntington, advises him that about 2/3 of the grading was done.  The eight-hundred foot tunnel referred to is not east of the Promontory Summit near the "Big Fill" but was located fifty miles west in the Ombey Mountains near a station subsequently named Ombey established circa 1870-1874.

Page 337, paragraph 4:

Discussing railroad photographers: "Russell and Hart, who had seen and photographed great numbers of men in battle and in camp (during the Civil War), were inspired to do some of their best work here."

Russell was a commissioned military photographer during the war, but the biography of Alfred A. Hart, the official photographer of the Central Pacific Railroad, does not mention that he ever photographed any scenes of the Civil war.  It does say that Hart "in the early 1860’s lived in Cleveland where he operated an Art Store.  He left his family in Cleveland and in 1863 left for California where he is recorded as living in La Porte and working as an itinerant photographer.  On April 9, 1864, he took a photograph of the Central Pacific's engine, C. P. Huntington, crossing the American River Bridge (See Kraus, op cit., p. 82 and Mead Kibbey, Alfred A. Hart, Artist, pg. 52) A.A. Hart remained in California for many years after the Civil war had ended.
Page 338, paragraph 4:

"Strobridge decided he would save time by building a trestle bridge, to be called the Big Trestle, about 150 yards, east of and parallel to the Big Fill."

Strobridge was the Supt. of Construction for the Contract & Finance Co., contractor to the Central Pacific and had nothing to do with any Union Pacific construction.  On March 28th Union Pacific's Superintendent of Construction, Samuel Reed, ordered Leonard Eicholtz, UP's bridge engineer, to build the "Big Trestle."  (See Kraus, op cit., p. 244.)
Page 345, paragraph 1:

"The CP was moving ahead briskly … On April 9, it was 690 miles east of Sacramento. By April 17, it (the track) had reached Monument Point, a quarter mile north of the lakeshore"

Hart #352Hart #353

On April 10th the track was 23 miles west of Monument Point which is at Mile Post 674 and 16 miles from the meeting point at Promontory.  Promontory is 690 miles from Sacramento.  Monument Point was not a quarter mile offshore but was connected to land by a narrow peninsula over which a wagon could be driven as shown in the contemporary A. A. Hart's photographs #352 & #353 (above).  Hart was the official photographer of the Central Pacific.  It would have been more accurate if the limestone promontory, which was nearly surrounded by the saline brew, had been described as being a quarter mile south of the track.  (See Kibbey, op. cit. p. 147; Kraus, op. cit., left p. 267.)
Page 347, paragraph 5; Page 348, paragraph 1:

Discussing the laying of rail on the record ten miles of track in one day:
"After the spikes were driven, five to a rail, would come the straighteners."  ... "One man sees a defective place and gives it a shove and passes on."

The description of "five (spikes) to the rail" has been inserted into a narrative of Charles Crocker taken from his memoirs. What Crocker is quoted as saying in his memoirs is: "Then you are going to have your men to spike: the first man drives one particular spike and does not stop for another; he walks past that rail and drives the same spike in the next rail. Here another man follows him and drives the next spike to that in the same rail; and another follows him and so on. You must have spikes enough so that no man stops or passes another; then you have the rail straighteners. One man comes along, he sees a defective place and gives it a shove and passes on."

The rails were completely spiked down, the track straightened and leveled as the crew moved forward.  It would be impossible for a heavily loaded construction train to stay on the track with a rail only spiked down with five spikes.  Twelve to fourteen ties to a thirty foot long rail would require a minimum of 48 spikes to spike down that length of track.  At the end of the day when the track was completed the Central Pacific ran a construction locomotive over it "at a clip of forty miles an hour just to show how well the job was done."  (See C. Crocker Memoirs, Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley and Kraus (op. cit.) pp. 249-252.)

Page 353, paragraph 2 and 3:

"From April 1, 1868 to May 1869, Dodge, the Casement's and their workers had laid 555 miles of road and graded the line to Humboldt Wells." "Today people can still drive - cautiously - down from Promontory eastward on the curving sections of the abandoned UP roadbed"

The Casement brothers were track layers; that was their expertise.  They did take a few grading contracts, none of any consequence and none in Utah or Nevada.  The Union Pacific used the Mormon contractors to construct a parallel grade from Ogden to Monument Point in Utah, 148 miles from Humboldt Wells, and no further.  The UP did not complete any grade west of Monument Point in Utah.  The Union Pacific authorized sending six teams with scrapers and some of their Irish graders to Humboldt Wells, Nevada in September 1868.  Beginning their grading at Moors Summit, approximately eight miles east of the town of Wells, these crews prepared some of the heavier work, consisting of large fills.  After grading a distance of about four or five miles to Holborn and beyond a short distance, they were pulled off and returned to Utah.  The Union Pacific parallel grading is disconnected and sporadic consisting of partially completed fills, rock and earth cuts and associated barrow pits.  These isolated areas of work are separated by stretches with no grading present.  These unused fills constructed for roadbeds by the Union Pacific Irish graders can still be seen from the long abandoned original Central Pacific grade now used as a county access road through the Pequop Mountains.  (See letter Sept. 29, 1868, EB Crocker to CPH & Central Pacific's Chief Engineer's Report by Sam Montague dated July 1, 1869.)

Today one can still drive on much of the 90 miles of the Central Pacific's original roadbed westward from Promontory which is now owned by the National Park Service and the BLM which maintains the road as the "Backcountry Byway".

Page 360, paragraph 4:

"The spike was a gift by David Hewes of San Francisco." "It was reported as six inches long, had a rough gold nugget attached to it's point (later used to make rings for President Grant, Secretary of State William Steward, Oakes Ames, Stanford, and some others) and weighed eighteen ounces. It was valued at $350."

The  reported reference source is given as J.N. Bowman, "Driving the Last Spike at Promontory, 1869" California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 36, 1957, pages 98, 99.  Quoting Bowman: "Its actual description is: 5 5/8 inches long overall and 17/32" square (the exact dimension of the iron spikes used at that time) and 14.13 ounces in weight, 13.377 ounces of gold." He was describing the gold spike without the nugget attached.  The spike with the attached nugget whose length was described in the Sacramento Bee of May 5, 1869 3:1; "as about as long as the spike." ... "When the last tie is laid the nugget will be broken off by Governor Stanford, to be used as mementos of the completion of the road. Spike and nugget are worth $414."  This would have made the overall length of spike and nugget about 10 or 11 inches.  The Gold nugget intended "to be broken up as souvenirs" was removed from the spike before Stanford presented it for the ceremonies at Promontory.  What became of the rest of the souvenir nugget is unknown but presumably it was given to various officers and key members of the Central Pacific or their friends.  Bowman only reported "the nugget was to broken off to be used as souvenirs".  The claim that the nugget, only valued at approximately $64 and weighing between 2-3 ounces, was "Later used to make rings for President Grant, Secretary of State William Seward, Oakes Ames, Stanford, and some others" is without support.  Bowman does not make any statement in regard to the disposition of the nugget.  It is extremely doubtful that, even if the nugget was large enough to make all the rings claimed, that Stanford would have given them to men who were not friendly to the Central Pacific. It was claimed by the family of J.H. Strobridge that he wore a piece of this gold nugget as a fob on his watch chain for the remainder of his life.  (Interview with Edward K. Strobridge, his grandson, 1977.)

There was a claim made by Tilden G. Abbott, nephew of David Hewes, the original donator of the spike, that Hewes had been given the "sprue" that had been removed from the Gold Spike and had four small rings and seven one inch long watchfobs made from it.  The rings had been given to Stanford, Ames, Pres. Grant and Steward and the seven watchfobs were given to Hewes relatives, one of which is on display at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Stanford did return the gold spike to Hewes who later donated it to Stanford University in 1892.  Since the J.N. Bowman analysis of all the documented evidence of the "Driving the Last Spike" there has been no credible evidence found that suggests what became of the "Nugget."  This source does not support adding "and some others" to the list of four names. Any reader could easily assume that at least six rings had been made from this "nugget" only weighing 2-3 ounces plus the seven watchfobs claimed by Abbot.  None of this information is with support and no rings or watch fobs, except for the one claimed at the National Historic Site has ever surfaced.

Page 371, paragraph 5:

"But just as the CP had to abandon grade it had made from the summit to Ogden (but it did use the Big Fill, ignored by the UP), so did the UP have to abandon everything west of Ogden, all the way to Humboldt Wells, 222 miles from Ogden … Congress had watched as more than two hundred miles of the overlapping grade-work was being done. Not until April 10, 1869, did it step in to halt this."

The CP did abandon their parallel grade east of Promontory and on April 14th stopped all grading east of Blue Creek, the eastern base of the Promontory.  The UP did not "abandon" their grade from Promontory to the agreed upon terminus within a few miles west of Ogden; it sold the grade to the Central Pacific and was paid in full for their costs of construction.  The UP did abandon their parallel grade west of Promontory to Humboldt Wells in Nevada which amounted to no more than a total of 19 miles (sixteen miles from Promontory at MP 690 to Monument Point at MP 674 and the sporadic grading over the five total miles east of Humboldt Wells that they had long before stopped work on).  The Central Pacific, by agreement, paid the Union Pacific one half the cost of the abandoned grading between Promontory and Monument Point so the UP had little loss in this abandoned grading.

The Big Fill "ignored by the UP" was not used by the Central Pacific until several years after the completion of the Pacific Railroad when they built a four mile line change in 1872 which then eliminated the "High Trestle" and moved the track onto the "Big Fill".

The agreements to "settle all existing controversies between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad Companies, of fixing the place of meeting between the two roads, and of securing harmonious and united action between them in the future" which included the amount of money to be paid by the Central Pacific to the Union Pacific Railroad was reached in a private meeting on the evening of April 8th, 1869 between Collis P. Huntington of the CP and Grenville Dodge of the UP along with two backers on the UP, R.G. Hazard of Rhode Island and Samuel Hooper of Boston.  News of the agreement was rushed to Congress on the morning of April 10th .  Within hours a Joint Resolution was passed by both Houses ratifying the agreement reached by the two companies.  Congress was more than happy not to have been the ones to force a final agreement as many of them had long before sold their influence to one or other of the two railroads.  (See Kraus, op cit. pp. 241, 244; Klein op cit. p.209.)

Page 378, paragraph 2:

" In 1993, it acquired the Southern Pacific and named all the roads it controlled the Union Pacific."

The Union Pacific bought the Southern Pacific on September 12th, 1996.
Page 378, paragraph 3:

"The men who built the CP were mainly Chinese. For the most part, as individuals they are lost to history."

That statement is a true one but most of the men who worked on the CP and UP, both Chinese and Irish, as individuals are lost to history.
Page 378, paragraph 5:

" Firemen, brakemen, engineers, conductors, mechanics, welders, carpenters, repairshop men, the clerical force, the foreman, directors, supervisors and everyone else who worked for either the UP or CP stayed with the railroads."

Blacksmiths were capable of forge welding, but the term Welder did not exist in 1869.  Acetylene welding was not developed until c. 1895 and electric welding c. W.W.I.
Page 379, paragraph 2:

" (Charles Crocker) in 1884 brought about the consolidation of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific roads."

Collis P. Huntington, more than any one of his associates brought about the changes in the corporation.  There was no consolidation.  A new corporation was formed and in turn leased the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. in 1884 and the Central Pacific Railroad Co. in 1885.  Both railroads operated and retained their individual identities until they were finally internally merged into the SP Co.; the SPRR Co. in 1955 and the CP in 1959.

Transcription Courtesy Don Strack.
Images Courtesy Barry A. Swackhamer Collection.

Christmas Card 2001

Christmas Card 2001

Christmas Card 2001

Humorous Christmas Card satirizing the "Legend of Cape Horn" and other historical inaccuracies Courtesy of Chris and Carol Graves, 2001.

Commentary dated November 10, 2000 contributed by Salvador A. Ramirez, Carlsbad, California regarding Stephen E. Ambrose's book "Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863 - 1869."

Central Pacific Railroad Errata submitted to Simon & Schuster

[page 53; paragraph 1] ". . . Mark Hopkins was, born . . . on September 3, 1814."

Hopkins was born on September 1, 1813. Benjamin Barnard Redding, A Sketch of the Life of Mark Hopkins of California, 1881, p. 7, et al.

[53;2] "The partners quarreled and soon broke up."

The company agreed to disband a week after their arrival in California, finding it was not profitable to keep together. Hopkins managed the sale of the company’s goods. Mark Hopkins to Moses Hopkins, August 30, 1849, Huntington Manuscripts HM 26039

[53;2] "After some fruitless wandering around San Francisco and up in the mountains, looking for a spot to start a store . . . ."

Hopkins remained in San Francisco some three weeks-time to settle the company’s affairs and explore the sights. Then, with a boat he purchased from the company, he and four other shipmates sailed to Sacramento, and from there up to Peter Lassen’s Ranch at the head of Deer Creek on the Sacramento River. The trip was to be an adventure to satisfy their curiosity more than anything else. They also tried their hand at mining, and after six days around Lassen’s Ranch, were "reasonably rewarded," and returned overland to Sacramento. That winter Hopkins opened a store in Placerville and made over $1,000 in one sixteen-day period alone. Returning to Sacramento to replenish his supplies, in February 1850, he met a former shipmate. They shortly agreed to go into business together, and two months later opened a grocery store, Hopkins & Miller, at 160 J Street. Mark Hopkins to Moses Hopkins, August 30, 1849, and July 10, 1850, Huntington Manuscripts HM 26040; Jacob David Babcock Stillman, Seeking the Golden Fleece, pp. 123-137; Sacramento City Directory, 1851.

[53;2] "It was, as it happened, at 52 K Street . . ."

Hopkins and his partner purchased part of a lot on K Street on December 2, 1851. The address was 50 K Street. E. H. Miller, Jr. to Roxana Smith, June 10, 1852, Huntington Manuscripts, HM 19507; California State Census, August 12, 1852; Sacramento County Recorder’s Records, Vol. H, pp. 234-235.

[53;2] "They became partners . . . ."
It was not until three years later, May 1, 1855, following the dissolution of Hopkins' earlier partnership, and his subsequent marriage, that he and Huntington became partners. Collis Potter Huntington to Solon Huntington, April 19, 1856, HEH Collection; Huntington Reminiscences

[55;2] "and his brother Colonel Silas Seymour . . ."

Silas Seymour was Horatio Seymour’s cousin. Donald Jacobus, A History of the Seymour Family,(New Haven, CT: 1939), pp. 297ff.

[58;5, 59;3; 61;1] The statement is that Judah made three trips to Washington, D. C. There is also the intimation he spent two years in and around Washington on behalf of a Pacific Railroad.

In fact, Judah made only two trips. From the time sequence and travel involved, I have concluded Judah’s trip to Washington, during the winter of 1856-1857 was one, and not two as his biographers and Ambrose claim. Wheat, "Judah," p. 225, and Helen Hinckley, Rails From the West, Golden West Books, 1968, pp. 41-59.

[71;4] "Starting the day after he arrived . . ."

Driven as Anna Judah was to ensure her husband’s place in history, as well as her deep and long held hatred for the five men behind the Central Pacific, one must exercise caution using her narrative provided twenty years later. One has to also tread equally gingerly between fact and fiction in the recollections of Huntington and Crocker, and the rehearsed testimony of Stanford before several Congressional committees and courts who delved into their past practices. Nor was Judah any help in retracing his steps. The press, for whatever reason, did not report his movements between the time he returned to Sacramento and the formal incorporation of the railroad company. What we are left with are a series of gatherings, held between Thanksgiving and New Years, one of which either took place at the St. Charles or the St. George Hotel, in which Judah tried to interest investors to fund a survey.

[71;5] "Collis Huntington was also there . . ."

A more careful reading of Huntington’s recollections will attest to the fact neither Mark Hopkins or Leland Stanford attended any of Judah’s meetings.

[76;4] "the principals of the Central Pacific . . . moved on their own, apparently, without Judah’s knowledge . . ."

Unless one is inclined to conspiracy theories, the statement has no basis in fact. The actual sequence of events and individuals involved do not support Ambrose’s contention. The directors, including Judah, met on October 9, 1861. They agreed to seek a franchise through Nevada from the territorial legislature, and to create a company to build a wagon road across the Sierra until such time as the railroad reached Nevada. Both actions were intended to influence Congress to recognize the Central Pacific as the company to build the western end of the transcontinental road. The idea for a wagon road company originated with Judah and his friend, Daniel Strong, who had earlier sought funds to build a wagon road. When the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road Company was organized, Strong was one of its founding stockholders. He also was responsible for appointing Montague to locate the road. Judah sailed for the East two days after the board meeting; and the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road Company was incorporated five weeks later. Pacific Railway Commission, p. 2845.

[76;4] Four hundred shares of stock at $1,000 each were issued.

The articles of association authorized the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road Company to issue 400 shares at $1,000 each. Two hundred and forty shares were immediately taken up: Hopkins and Huntington subscribed for 100, Charles Crocker and Stanford 80, Strong 40, and E. L. Bradley 20. "Articles of Association of the Dutch Flat & Wagon Road Company," Huntington-Hopkins Correspondence; Huntington to Strong, May 19, 1862; Hopkins to Huntington, February 15, 1866; Pacific Railway Commission, p. 2962.

[102-3;4] ". . . from whom . . . Charles Crocker . . . had bought thousands of shovels . . ."

Charles Crocker was a dry goods dealer, not a hardware merchant; would not have ordered shovels; and would have known Ames only by reputation. Sacramento City Directory, 1853.

[103;4] "Second, the city of Sacramento had given . . ."

There was no link between the city’s gift, as Ambrose labels it, of Sutter’s Slough and sanctioned by the legislature, and the dispute over the railroad’s depot. Judah was recording secretary for the committee of six, that included three Supervisors, and Hopkins and Charles Crocker. The task of the committee was to reach agreement on the location of the railroad’s terminal within the city. The issue of the Judah’s grand depot was but one of several that centered on money, control of the board of directors, and direction of construction, eight months later. Sacramento Bee, October 1, 4, 7, and 9, 1862; David Lavender, The Great Persuader, 1969, pp. 136-138, provides a good summary of the latter dispute.

[103;4] "He was peremptorily voted down . . ."

Between December 1862 and July 1863, the Central Pacific’s nine-member board was divided into two camps. One headed by Judah, that included Strong (who rarely attended), engineer Charles Marsh of Nevada City, and grocer Lucius Booth of Sacramento. Opposing them were Hopkins, jeweler James Bailey, Edwin Crocker, and Huntington (who was in the East). Stanford wavered between the two groups, while Charles Crocker, on the sidelines, backed Hopkins and his brother. Judah’s complaint was not as stated above, but that resolutions passed by the board oftentimes were acted upon differently or reversed by the board majority. Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2846-2847, 2857.

[103;4] "Instead, at Huntingtons telegraphed orders . . ."

Huntington was physically present for the board meeting. Sacramento Union, July 16, 1863.

[103-4;4] "CP business was always conducted . . ."

The Central Pacific offices, as well as the two rooms allotted to Charles Crocker & Company, were located above the Huntington & Hopkins hardware store at 54 K Street. Stanford’s store was at 56-58 K. Only after his four tenants vacated their offices above the store, were Stanford’s offices connected with those over the hardware store.

[104;1] "On August 22, 1862 . . ."

The actual date of the advertisement is August 22, 1864, and was signed by Hopkins as secretary, in place of James Bailey, who was in Washington, D. C. Sacramento Union, August 22, 1864.

[104;1] "He wanted more stock. So did others."

Neither Judah, Bailey, or Booth purchased any Central Pacific stock in November 1862. Nor was there any great clamor to buy railroad stock. In fact, the opposite was true. The campaign for public subscriptions of stock was a failure. Many earlier purchasers simply let their stock subscriptions lapse. Or, as in the case of San Francisco, boycotted the effort. The stock issued to Judah, 650 shares, were for his services, valued at $37,817; Bailey owned 150 shares purchased on April 30, 1861; Booth held ten shares. Hopkins, Huntington, Stanford, and Crocker held, as of the above date, 150 shares each. "Central Pacific Stock Book, 1861-1870," reproduced in Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2551-2558, 2976, 3420-3422; Sacramento Bee, October 10, 16, 21, 24, and 31 1862.

[104;1] "Judah was paid . . . although not nearly so much as Charles Crocker . . ."

Judah was paid as indicated above. What compensation Charles Crocker received from Charles Crocker & Company is not recorded, though he did report income, for 1863, of $4,000 to the Internal Revenue. Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for California 1862-1866, RG58, M756, Reel 23, 1863.

[104;1] "Crocker eventually ended up with a hundred thousand shares."

By the end of construction, Crocker held 388,395 shares of stock paid to Charles Crocker & Company and the Contract & Finance Company as partial compensation for construction, which he quietly held in trust for his associates. Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2551-2558.

[104;3] "So Charlie Crocker drew up a contract . . ."

Ambrose is confused. The idea for a construction company came from Judah during his campaign in the winter of 1861-1862 to interest investors. Construction to the state line was assigned to Charles Crocker & Company by the Central Pacific’s board of directors in 1864. In October 1867, the Contract & Finance Company was created, by Edwin Crocker, to handle construction beyond. What I believe Ambrose refers to is the contract awarded to Crocker for the first eighteen sections that were, except for the first and last sections awarded to outside contractors because of the outcry of the San Francisco Daily Alta California and other monopolists. This contract was drawn-up by a board committee headed by Hopkins, with Crocker as consultant. Ambrose’s use of Riegel’s statement and his failure to include any citation in his endnotes or in the bibliography begs the question of why it was included in the first place. Sacramento Bee, December 29, 1862; Sacramento Union, December 30, 1862, January 3 and 8, 1863; Pacific Railway Commission, p. 3641.

[104;5] "Judah and Bailey protested"

Judah, nonetheless, voted to approve the contract.

[105-6;] "His contract named him General Superintendent . . ."

Crocker’s contract was for the first eighteen miles. He was, apparently, hesitant to take on the whole fifty miles for which Judah had ordered rails because of his lack of railroad building experience. Instead, he chose to act as general contractor, sub-letting one-mile sections, or units, to other contractors. He did not became superintendent of the Central Pacific until 1865. Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 3640-3642; Sacramento Union, December 12, 1865.

[106;2] "[Charles] Crocker sold his store for the money."

There is no evidence to support this statement. Crocker sold his store to his clerks, in the spring of 1863. Any proceeds were, like those that Hopkins and Huntington received when they sold their store, in graduated payments over three or four years. Crocker and his associates used their credit to raise money to proceed with construction. California State Library Pioneer Files.

[106;3] "Hopkins declined [to attend the groundbreaking ceremony] . . ."

There is no evidence to support the statement, nor did Ambrose provide a source for his allegation. In fact, Hopkins, most likely, attended.

[106;*] "Hopkins’s brother E. B. Hopkins . . ."

This, most likely, is a typo, and should read "Charles Crocker’s brother, E. B. Crocker." Hopkins, at the time had two brothers in California, Ezra Augustus (who was a tollgate keeper on the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon road) and Moses (who raised stock in Sutter County).

[107;3] ". . . the work they did was widely separated . . ."

With each sub-contractor working a different section it was to be expected the grading would be "widely separated."

[109-110;3] ". . . Montague was lured away from the Sacramento Valley Railroad.

Again, there is no evidence to support that contention. Montague was hired by Judah to help in locating the line, and subsequently hired by Strong to locate the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon road. Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2907 and 2972.

[112-3;6] "At a stockholders’ meeting in mid-July 1863. . ."

Here again, there is no evidence to support the contention made by Ambrose, relying on Lavender as his source (page 139), that Dr. John Frederick Morse was ever a board member. I refer you to my earlier comments regarding the composition of the board, as well as the July 1863 editions of the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union. Asa Philip Stanford (one of Leland’s brothers) replaced Edwin Crocker on the board, following Crocker’s appointment by Stanford to the California Supreme Court. Morse was a friend of everyone. He and Stillman opened the first hospital in the city in 1849, edited the Sacramento Union for a time, and wrote the first history of Sacramento.

[112;3] "He refused to carry out Huntingtons order, and the road is today on his line."

Bosh!  Following the annual board election, in July 1863, and with the board majority now firmly supporting his direction, Huntington set out to personally inspect the work, eliminate any unnecessary expenses, and arrange things to suit himself. The first to go was Judah’s plans for an elaborate depot. In its place, Huntington decreed a shed which could serve also to store tools. Next to go was the new embankment on the north side of the slough with its costly rip rap. Instead, the track would run now up I Street to Fifth, and at that point curve to the old levee. His final move was to demand the entire board put up its share of the money needed to keep the work going. When the opposition refused, Huntington rode out to the different construction camps and halted the work. In eliminating Judah’s line, two sharp curves were created between Front Street and the northern levee. Only after the government’s subsidy bonds became available, in 1865, was Judah’s original line restored simply to eliminate the dangerous curves. Huntington Reminiscences; Sacramento Union, July 16, 1863, April 14, May 17, June 3, August 9, and September 25, 1865.

[112;5] "The directors had raised his salary . . ."

The entire paragraph is without foundation or authentication.

[113;1] "Hopkins began demanding that the directors pay for their stock in full . . . even as they bought the other shareholders . . ."

See my earlier responses above. Hopkins made no such demand. The only stockholders bought out were Judah and Bailey. Endnote #26, to support this paragraph has no relationship to its content.

[113;4] ". . . banker Charles McLaughlin, who owned the Western Pacific Railroad . . ."

Charles McLaughlin was not a banker, but a contractor who, along with three former stockholders in the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad Company, incorporated the Western Pacific Railroad Company. But, since Congress had to approve its inclusion as part of the Pacific Railroad, something it would not do until October 1864, the Western Pacific was, at the time, only a paper road.

[114;2] "Huntington insisted . . ."

Judah agreed to a six month contract, on September 22, 1863, in which either he would buy out the board majority at $100,000 each, or they would buy him out at the same price. His financial settlement with Huntington, drawn up by Edwin Crocker, involved payment of his unpaid salary, $12,817, and recognition of his work before the company was organized, $25,000, all in stock. In addition, he received $10,000 for his interest in the Nevada Railroad Company. Amos Parmalee Catlin to Anna Ferone Pierce Judah, June 9, 1889, and Anna Ferone Pierce Judah to Amos Parmalee Catlin, January 7, 1890, both in the Catlin Collection; and Amos Parmalee Catlin to David R. Sessions, December 25, 1889, Judah Papers; Theodore Duhone Judah to Daniel W. Strong, October 9, 1863; Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2966-2967.

[114;2] "And Bailey, who did sell out, was replaced . . ."

Replacing Bailey on the board as the company’s secretary was Edward Hunting Miller, Jr., Hopkins’ former shipmate and partner.

[114;3] "Judah was still chief engineer. . ."

See my response above. Judah continued to be listed as Chief Engineer until July 1864, but received no salary after concluding the September 22, 1863 agreement and settlement.

[114;4] "most of all Cornelius Vanderbilt. . ."

Everything Ambrose says about Vanderbilt is a complete fabrication. Judah is only reported by his wife to have claimed there were men in New York ready and willing to assist him financially to replace the board majority. Despite the confidence of his wife, and his biographers, the prognosis for his success was not good. One has only to look at the difficulties encountered in launching the Union Pacific, and the wartime profits to be made in the East, to see that a railroad, 3,000 miles away, with tremendous engineering difficulties to overcome, and no immediate prospects of financial return was not likely to interest moneyed men in the East.

[116;1] "He expected to return from New York with Vanderbilt and others in his party."

See my response above.

[117;2] "Huntington’s telegram . . ."

There was no telegram. Griswold, who was Ambrose’s source, simply states "Some of the Central Pacific officials had suggested a suitable celebration. Huntington chilled their eagerness." Griswold, in turn, references Huntington’s reminiscences, which he dictated some twenty-seven years after the fact. Griswold, A Work of Giants, pp. 39 and 334.

[118;1] "The CP’s acting chief engineer . . ."

Montague was appointed Resident Engineer by Judah, on September 30, 1863. His duties, as outlined, included responsibility for the Engineering Department and supervision of construction. Ambrose’s source for the above statement is Griswold, who provided no authentication for his paragraph. Yet, the fact remains, Montague’s status remained "acting" until 1868. Theodore Duhone Judah to Samuel Skerry Montague, September 30, 1863, Catlin Papers.

[118;2] ". . . rails reached Junction (today’s Roseville), sixteen miles out from Sacramento."

Roseville is, by any map referred to, eighteen miles from Sacramento.

[118-9;4] "[Charles] Crocker petitioned the War Department. . ."

Here Ambrose relies, and repeats Williams’ erroneous statement, in his A Great and Shining Road, which he took from two other sources, neither of whom provided authentication for it. In fact, it was Edwin Crocker, in a letter to Congressman Cornelius Cole, who said, "I, at one time, thought it would be a good plan for the U. S. to send us about 5000 rebel prisoners, & let us set them to work building RR but I suppose they will all be let loose now." Edwin Bryant Crocker to Cornelius Cole, April 12, 1865, Cole Papers.

[120;3] "But the editor of the Union did accept . . ."

The statement is ludicrous. Neither Huntington or any of his associates needed to "bribe" Lauren Upson in order to get favorable publicity. Upson was editor of the Sacramento Union between 1852 and 1865. During his editorship the Union became a staunch supporter of, and cheerleader for, a Pacific Railroad, and of Judah. Only after Upson left the paper in 1865, did the newspaper modify its policy towards the men building the railroad. Upson did receive thirty shares of Central Pacific stock, on September 5, 1864, valued at $2,700, "for services." And, on the same date paid $1,000 cash for another ten shares. Pacific Railway Commission, pp. 2551-2558.

[121;2] "but Hopkins managed to sell only a few before a suit was brought against the bill . . .."

All bond sales or hypothecation were handled by Huntington, in the East, and Stanford, in California.


It is generally accepted that Alfred Hart was hired by Edwin Crocker.

[122;4] "the big Four, who had paid $350,000 for it out of . . ."

The total cost of the wagon road was $263,000. During its first two years of operation it earned only $24,000 in tolls. The road was abandoned in December 1867, and donated to Placer County. The money to build the road came from Central Pacific earnings and from the personal notes of the directors. Mark Hopkins to Collis Potter Huntington, February 15, 1866, Huntington Papers; Memorandum of Accounting, October 10, 1870, Huntington-Hopkins Correspondence; Elwyn Hoffman, "The Old Dutch Flat Road," Sunset Magazine, February 1905, pp. 373-376.

[122-3;5] "So effective were their charges . . ."

The scheme of reviewing the company’s books, as a way to embarrass the directors and expose them as frauds, began with the group of monopolists who propounded a "Dutch Flat Swindle." When they were denied access to the books, their supporters and surrogates in Placer County, which held the largest share of company bonds, attempted the same ploy. To thwart them, Edwin Crocker and Mark Hopkins prevailed upon Supervisors Scott and Madden to personally review the books. That is a far cry from Ambrose’s statement.

[124;1] "Stock sales . . ."

See contradictions pp. 124 and 165-166. Since the stock was not listed its value was whatever the directors gave it.

[124;3] ". . . he lamented . . ."

Ambrose attributed the quote to Charles Crocker, when Griswold, his source, identified it as coming from Edwin Crocker. Edwin Crocker to Cornelius Cole, December 26, 1864.

[148;4] "The CP had paid $100,000 to win the suit."

Again, another fabrication. What are stock bonds? There is nothing in the literature to document exactly what the two year fight to gain the city’s bonds cost.

[149;1] "Hopkins thought the CP could build all the way to Salt Lake. . ."

Hopkins thought just the opposite. "Much has been said among us," he wrote, "about obtaining the right and assuming the responsibility of constructing the line to Salt Lake . . . . In this as in many things I am not so bold as most men, I think, what we now have, well handled is pretty large and pretty good, and if, as I once intimated to you, if we could procure the insertion of the word locate in that section of the law which gives us the right to construct the 150 miles East from our state line, I think it would give us all we want . . ." Hopkins to Huntington, July 19, 1865.

[155;1] "With that map, Huntington got the race . . . "

The idea of race, which certainly caught the fancy of the press and the public, was not on Huntington’s mind. He simply did not wish to have the Central Pacific stranded in the middle of no where.

[158;2] "Gray went out . . ."

George Gray, who was employed by the New York Central at the time, was hired away by Huntington, in 1865, to act not only as consulting engineer but to lend prestige to the Central Pacific’s engineering staff. Colton Transcript, pp. 4301-4302.

[164;4] "Leland Stanford, the governor of California . . ."

California governors served two year terms until 1864. Stanford served between 1861 and 1863, and thus could not have written President Andrew Johnson as governor.

[193;1] "In short, he wanted a race sanctioned by Congress."

Ambrose is fixated on the issue of a race, but in fact, in 1866, there was no race. The Central Pacific had 54 miles completed, and the Union Pacific had laid 265 miles of rails. Again, Huntington simply did not want the Central Pacific stranded in the desert wilds.

[193;3] "Huntington hired Richard E. Franchot . . ."

Besides being a former Congressman and Union Army general, Franchot was a close friend of Huntington and his brother, Solon, from their store keeping days in Oneonta, New York. Before the war, he also was president of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad Company. His salary was $10,000, commensurate with what Huntington was being paid at the time. Eventually, his salary did reach the figure stated in the text, while Huntington’s was raised to $25,000. New York Times, November 24, 1875.

[195;1] "so they wrote, handsome letters, quite legible. . ."

It is obvious Ambrose never saw or read Huntington’s letters.

[195;2] "Hopkins to Huntington on January 23, 1866 . . ."

The quote is from Hopkins to Huntington, February 15, 1866.

[195;4] "This winter . . ."

The quote is not a part of Hopkins to Huntington, February 15, 1866.

[195;4] "We need the right . . ."

The source is misidentified. It should be Hopkins to Huntington, February 21/24, 1866. The sentence quoted is not part of that letter.

[195-6;4] "They go ahead . . ."

This is an amalgam of Ambrose’s words and Hopkins’ thoughts. The quotation marks should have been left out.

[196;2] "Hopkins again on May 5: . . ."

This is another amalgam. Quotation marks should have been left out.

[196;3] "On July 9, Hopkins said . . ."

This letter is from Edwin Crocker to Huntington; and the first quote is not part of the letter.

[196;4] "There were other problems."

This is another amalgam. Quotation marks should be redistributed.

[196;5] "On July 21, Hopkins said that he was satisfied . . ."

The statement is a complete fabrication. The quote is from a February 21/24, 1866 letter from Hopkins to Huntington in which the question of Hopkins’ health is the topic. "You mention that Mr. Conness said of my health, which he appeared to think was failing because of our work, or from being too much & too long, absorbed with one daily routine of thought & action. I don[‘]t think I shall break down under it, though for a time last year I was not as strong as usual & I had neuralgia or rheumatism in my neck & head which prevented reading & writing with comfort, and for a time I did not lie with comfort the latter part of the night. That gradually wore off & I think I am usually well. A change would be agreeable to me but as our affairs are situated I don[‘]t desire it & don[‘]t think it at all necessary on the scare of health. In our business affairs as a Company we have succeeded well; considering the times & difficulties to be overcome, not because any one of our Co[mpany] was a universal genius & able to accomplish everything, but rather because the labors of each has been applied wherever it could be most available. I am content to think if I can be useful anywhere it has been & still is here, while I am sure no one of us could heretofore or now so well as yourself advance the company’s interests there."

[197;1] "Huntington agreed . . ."

This is another amalgam. The first quote is from Huntington to Hopkins, January 3, 1866, and the second quote is from Huntington’s reminiscences, neither of which are attributed.

[197;3] "The winter of 1865-1866 was the wettest in years."

"We have been favored thus far with an uncommon open winter, having had but two storms, & although the weather has been cold for this climate, yet it has not interfered with the work on the Railroad." Edwin Crocker to Huntington, January 9, 1866.

[198;1] "By the spring of 1866, they had hired and put to work the largest number of employees in America."

Ambrose is wrong again. By the end of April 1865, Hopkins estimated they had some 2,000 men at work; nine months later, Edwin Crocker counted 5,000. That figure remained fairly constant until the beginning of 1868, when the figure began to approximate the publicly discussed 10-12,000 men. Hopkins to Huntington, July 19, 1865, and December 30, 1867; Edwin Crocker to Huntington, January 9, 1866, July 2, 10, 30, August 1, 13, 19, and September 19, 1867.

[233;4] "Stanford took out his pencil and began . . ."

While it makes a clever point, and puts Stanford into the forefront of construction activities, the whole scenario falls far from the mark of understanding the relationship maintained by the five men. Stanford, Edwin Crocker, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, and Collis Huntington each had areas of responsibility. Charles Crocker called them areas of "supremacy," Huntington called it "divided responsibility," and did not like it. In two instances, Stanford attempted to inject himself into Charles Crocker’s area and was rebuffed. Crocker may have discussed covering the track but it is not likely Stanford did any such thing.

[235;3] "We are bound to use it . . ."

The quote is another amalgam from Edwin Crocker’s letters to Huntington, not Charles Crocker. Nor is the quote attributed. Edwin Crocker to Huntington, January 14, February 12, March 8, 9/13/14/16, 20, April 27, May 8, 13, and 17, 1867.

[236;2] "Charles [Crocker] has just come from the tunnel . . ."

Another misattribution. The quote is from Edwin Crocker to Huntington, May 3, 1867.

[236;3] "Crocker also wanted to use the power of the engine . . ."

The implication in the quoted paragraph is that Charles Crocker is the spokesman, and is so identified in the endnote. However, all the quotes are from Edwin Crocker to Huntington, January 7, 1867. Ambrose clearly failed to recognize that Charles Crocker wrote very few letters during the construction of the Central Pacific. He and Stanford, and to a lesser degree Hopkins relied on Edwin Crocker to update Huntington.

[236-7;5] "[Strobridge] also refused to allow steam . . ."

Strobridge was following Charles Crocker’s orders. Crocker was perturbed because Stanford and Edwin had intruded into his area of responsibility by ordering the drilling machine, and sending it up to the summit without consulting him.

Ambrose provides no attribution for this paragraph, but waits until the next to provide it.

[238;1] "E. B. Crocker wished the two companies . . ."

This is another amalgam. Either Ambrose should remove the quotation marks, or place them correctly.

[238;2] "The Crocker brothers wanted it done . . ."

Wrong. It was Huntington who wanted it done.

[238;2] "That will be so much gained . . ."

Quote is not part of Edwin Crocker to Huntington as identified in the endnote.

[238;3] "As Stanford wrote Huntington . . ."

The endnote identifies the quote as Stanford to Huntington, January 7, 1867. Stanford wrote no letter on that day; and while Edwin Crocker and Hopkins did, neither wrote the quoted statement attributed to Stanford.

[240;4] "want of men"

Not attributed. Should be Edwin Crocker to Huntington, May 22, 1867.

[240-1;6] "In late May . . . the Chinese went on strike."

The Chinese struck on June 26, 1867. Hopkins to Huntington, June 26, 1867, and Edwin Crocker to Huntington, June 27, 1867.

[241;2] "When any commodity is in demand . . ."

The quote is from Hopkins to Huntington June 26, 1867, not Edwin Crocker to Huntington.

[241;3] Incorrect endnote attribution

The endnote should be Edwin Crocker to Huntington, June 27, 1867.

[243;3] "I like your idea . . ."

Huntington’s letter was addressed to Edwin Crocker not Charles. The question that remains, however, referring to the endnote, is why Ambrose used a secondary source, when, presumably, he had the primary source in front of him. Huntington to Edwin Crocker. The pagination in the endnote should be 15 not 14.

[246;2] "The Big Four were always looking . . ."

Wrong attribution in text; no attribution in endnote. It was Edwin Crocker not Mark Hopkins whose idea it was for the pamphlet. Edwin Crocker to Huntington, November 7, 1867.

[246;3] "[Stanford] once said . . ."

Ambrose is again confused. The first part of the paragraph he says came from Stanford; but the endnote says Huntington.

[246;3] "and were considering adding a sixth, the Southern Pacific Railroad."

Kraus’ High Road to Promontory, Chapter 11, which is the source for this part of the paragraph, discusses their acquisition of the Western Pacific, California and Oregon, California Central, and Yuba roads, but says nothing about the Southern Pacific. In fact, the Southern Pacific would not come into play until the spring of 1868. Further, excluding the Southern Pacific, only the Western Pacific and California and Oregon roads had federal land grants.

[246;4] "On October 28, the Big Four plus E. B. Crocker . . ."

Ambrose would have the reader believe that overnight the five men created the Contract & Finance Company to emulate the Credit Mobilier of the Union Pacific. The fact of the matter is that it took almost eighteen months for them to reach agreement, with Huntington abstaining, on the instrumentality they would employ to build east. Again we are confronted with statements that belie the seeming research conducted for this work. Carman and Mueller, "The Contract and Finance Company and the Central Pacific Railroad;" Lavender, Persuader, pp. 194-195; Edwin Crocker to Huntington, July 9/10, 1866, July 6 and 25, 1867.

[255;2] "In April 1868, he drew a red line . . ."

See my earlier comments about the map

[288;4] "but it was there that Stanford . . . wanted to go."

Neither Stanford or his California associates believed they could get to Echo Canon; only Huntington pushed for that point. Edwin Crocker to Huntington, December 11 and 12, 1867; Hopkins to Huntington, December 30, 1867.

[291;1] "Beginning November 1, Stanford made his headquarters . . ."

The statement, while technically true, leaves the reader with the impression Stanford remained at Salt Lake City voluntarily, when the opposite was true. Stanford made several "visits" to the Mormon capitol under pressure from Huntington as well as his California associates. The correspondence on this point, beginning in August 1868 and running through December 1868, is so extensive as to not warrant listing them.

[291;4] "Huntington, who was obstinate . . ."

See my rejoinder to 288;4 for the contradiction by Ambrose.

[292;2,3,4] The use of "codes."

It was Mark Hopkins who instituted the use of codes in order to reduce the cost of telegrams, as well as to prevent their content from being pilfered by the press or the Union Pacific, a common practice at the time. Each of the five men carried a code book with them which Hopkins updated periodically. The codes were not, at this time, used "to fool government regulators and inspectors."

[297;1,2,3] "Charles Crocker promised . . ."

Having finally surmounted the Sierra and reached Reno, in June 1867, Huntington’s California associates were prepared to lay track as rapidly as they could, which in August, translated to five or six miles a day. But Crocker faced innumerable problems, from the lack of water to small pox, shortages of spikes, rails, and locomotives which prevented him from meeting that goal. In the face of these obstacles they neither displayed a sense of dismay or urgency over the progress of the Union Pacific. Huntington, on the other hand, commenced in August, to try and light a fire under his associates in order get them to realize the real threat represented by the Union Pacific. He wanted Crocker’s men to first reach Humboldt Wells, then, the north end of the Great Salt Lake, and finally Echo or Weber Canons. But it was Durant’s decision, in November 1867, to order enough rails to lay 350 miles, that drove Huntington into a frenzied state. Since the laws of 1864 and 1866 gave both railroads the right to grade three hundred miles in advance of a continuous track, the Union Pacific could, according to Huntington’s thinking, leapfrog three hundred miles and strand the Central Pacific in the middle of no where. Thus, his letters were intended to rouse his associates from their complacent attitude. Crocker would have to build the cheapest and fastest road possible. They could always come back and fix it later. Their goal, he emphasized time and again, had to be Echo Canon ahead of their rival. Hopkins to Huntington, June 28/29, December 1 and 30, 1867; Huntington to Edwin Crocker, December 7, 18.

[298;2] "Huntington to E. B. Crocker, January 3 . . ."

In failing to include the balance of the sentence, Ambrose distorts what Huntington had to say, and creates a different implication. "You have been hurrying me up to sell bonds, but it turns out that I selling faster now than you can make them [implying slowness in laying track]. I want in the next three months about $3,000,000 to use as collateral, but just where they are coming from I don’t know, and if you do, I wish you would let me know." Huntington to E. B. Crocker, January 3, 1868.

[298;3] "Charlie Crocker to Huntington, January 3 . . ."

Either Ambrose should remove the quotation marks, or place them correctly. "I am confident I am right when I state that the same number of men & horses never accomplished more work then was accomplished on the CPRR in the year 1867."

[298;4] "Huntington to E. B. Crocker, January 5 . . ."

The actual letter is dated January 3, 1868. Again, Ambrose improvises with his quotes by adding or modifying the actual statements made to suit himself. Since both quotes are lengthy you will excuse me for not reproducing them correctly to prove my point.

[298;5] E. B. Crocker to Huntington, January 8 . . ."

Another misapplication of quotations marks, and consequently an alteration in the intent of the original writer. "We met one of the officers of the China just in from China. He says that after Chinese New Year (which is Feb 5) every Steamer which leaves China monthly, will bring from 800 to 1000 men, & the PMSS Co. intend to send them all right on to our work. So I think we shall probably have enough men this year, specially if thousands more will come by sail vessels."

[300;1] Huntington to E. B. Crocker, January 13 . . ."

More misapplication of quotation marks. The point under discussion was how to get more men onto the Central Pacific construction crews. "And then, if we could, find just the man (which would be very difficult) to go over to the line of the Union Road and work amongst their men and send them over to our road. The right man could do that and never be found out. By all I can learn they have a man that can lay more track in a day than any other man in the United States." Huntington to Edwin Crocker, January 13, 1868.

[300;2] "Leland Stanford to Huntington, January 16 . . ."

Another misapplication of quotation marks. "The prospect is that we shall be short of iron unless you crowd it off as fast as possible. The fact is the Western Pacific ought now to go forward as rapidly as possible consistent with economy. In which case the track should be laid the by 1st of Sept with ease. For the Central Pacific I fear we shall be short. The prospect is that we shall be able to largely increase our force above what it has ever been.

[New paragraph] Everyone now seems to be fully up to a resolute determination to make all the progress possible this season. With such a determination we can, I think, build 300 to 350 miles this year." Stanford to Huntington, January 16, 1868.

[300;3] "E. B. Crocker to Huntington, January 22 . . ."

Another amalgam and misapplication of quotes. "$705,000 sales were splendid. W’ll have to start a printing mill to keep you supplied."

[Two paragraphs later] "If you think we do not understand & appreciate the importance of reaching Salt Lake first, you are mistaken. We do appreciate it & you send the Iron in time & we will see what can be done." Edwin Crocker to Huntington, January 22, 1868.

[300;4] "Mark Hopkins to Huntington, January 27 . . ."

Another amalgam, etc. "We don’t expect to build the road of the character we have been building through the mountains & deep snow line. We expect to build the cheapest road we can make answer the purpose, undulating in grades, wooden culverts, where rock would delay, trestle wherever it will tend to move rapid progress.

[New paragraph] In short, to build road as fast as possible of a character acceptable to the Commissioners. And we know the Commissioners will readily accept as poor a road as we can wish to offer for acceptance." Hopkins to Huntington, January 27, 1868.

[300;5] Huntington to E. B. Crocker, January 29 . . ."

Another amalgam. "I have sold $2,000,000 of our first mortgage bonds to-day, and have advanced the price to 98 and interest. I am to deliver 200 bonds per week until they are delivered. I am satisfied that they will sell at the advance, and I expect to be able to put them at par before many weeks. The Union folks are selling at 90 cents." Huntington to Edwin Crocker, January 29/31, 1868.

[300;6] "E. B. Crocker to Huntington, January 31 . . ."

Another amalgam. "As to paying fares of men to come out here to work it will not do, for as soon as they get here they would straggle off, chuckle at the thought of having swindled us. No the Chinese are our men, they cost only about 1/2, & we have plenty of men here for foremen to do the skilled work. We have got all the white men we want except for operating the road . . . You say the UP have a man who will lay more track than any other man in the US. Perhaps so, but we will see next summer. You send the Iron along fast & in time, & we will see what can be done." Edwin Crocker to Huntington, February 1, 1868.

[300;7] Huntington to E. B. Crocker, February 3 . . ."

The quote should read: "I am really glad to see that you are all awake to the importance of pushing on the road to Salt Lake, and I am satisfied that almost anything can be done that we really make up our minds to do, and that we can build to Weber Canon this year if we make up our minds to do it." Huntington to Edwin Crocker, February 3, 1868.

[302;2] "Stanford had taken out his pencil . . ."

See my earlier comments about this particular quote (233;4).

[305;4] "On April 14, Huntington wrote Hopkins . . ."

Huntington’s statement, taken out of context, and without knowing what Hopkins wrote leaves the reader only with Ambrose’s implication. "But I have come to the conclusion," Hopkins wrote, "we are mistaken, We cant do it, this everlasting row with the political & selfish public is inevitable and inseparable from Rail Roads under Republican institutions. No better & no worse in California then in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts or Illinois. Here or there, any one company owning all the roads in the state will be forced to the wall, though some of several or many strong companies scattered over the state they would stand some chance of success in the contest with the public, where the public make the laws, & demagogues seize any popular hobby to help themselves to place. It is morally certain that no Rail Road Management that can pay stockholders will ever be popular." Hopkins to Huntington, March 21, 1868.

[306;5] "[Charles] Crocker sent a triumphant telegram to Huntington."

Another wrong attribution. The telegram was sent by Edwin Crocker. Edwin Crocker to Huntington, June 16, 1868. See endnote also.

[311;1] "That year the CP had a most unusual but major problems . . ."

There is no letter from Charles Crocker to Huntington, dated July 15, 1868, nor any in July to anyone from which the quotes could have been derived. I believe Ambrose may be referring to material in Crocker’s reminiscences.

[312;4] "On October 21, Huntington wrote to [Charles] Crocker"

Another wrong attribution. Huntington wrote to Edwin Crocker. See endnote also.

[312;4] "Huntington went on, ‘I have got the new line . . .’"

This quote, unattributed, is from Huntington to Charles Crocker, October 22, 1868.

[315;5-317;1] "Why don’t Stanford go to Salt Lake and stay until the roads meet?"

In probably one of the more crucial parts of his narrative, as it pertains to the men of the Central Pacific, Ambrose failed to recognize, much less understand the conflict in strategy that existed between Huntington and his California associates, and between Hopkins and the Crockers and Stanford. As a result the reader is left with the same erroneous view of Stanford’s role in Utah that has existed for over a century.

As early as the summer of 1867 Huntington pushed to have one of his associates stationed at Salt Lake City to develop relations with the Mormons and direct operations from there. No one wanted to go. They instead sent a surrogate who, after some three weeks in the Mormon capital, simple reaffirmed their view the Union Pacific was not a threat. In the spring of 1868, Huntington again renewed his call for some one to be stationed in Utah. Stanford was delegated to go. He made two quick trips to Salt Lake City under duress. Upon his return, he reported that everything was under control and his presence was not needed. Prodded again, he left on October 21. His task this time was to arrange for a force of either Mormons or gentiles to grade 100 miles westward from the Salt Lake towards Humboldt Wells.  In the eleven days it took him to leisurely reach his destination, he missed getting Huntington’s telegram telling him Browning had approved their line to Echo Canon. Thus Stanford was unable to cover the entire line with men as Huntington had wanted. Huntington’s success in getting his map approved forced Hopkins and the Crockers to change their view of Stanford’s mission, and in turn urged him, unsuccessfully, to meet with Huntington to set a unified strategy. As Hopkins subsequently explained to his partner, "The truth is, there was not much preparation to take possession of the line East to Salt Lake. Though you had for months been urging it, you did not at any time tell us & we were also stupid that we did not see how it could be done while our track was about 380 miles from Sacramento & about 420 from Echo Summit."

Meanwhile, Stanford proceeded to carry out his original instructions while avoiding to meet with Huntington. To top it off, he came up with the bright idea of buying the right of way out from under the Union Pacific. When his letter, explaining what he was doing, reached Sacramento, his associates hit the roof. In a stinging rebuke, and speaking for the three, Edwin Crocker told him, his plan was "a waste of money" and "would not aid them in the least Huntington’s plan of following the approved line, the location of which is known to us & not to them is the true & only plan for success." They were also surprised he had "not had a meeting with Huntington." and scolded him for failing to account for the bigger picture.

The crisis was not resolved until Huntington and Stanford met in Omaha over the Christmas holiday. The string of correspondence is so long on this subject as to not permit me to catalog them. However, a closer review of the Huntington Papers, Series I, Reel l will confirm.

[323;2] "Thirty-year old Henry George . . ."

This is taken verbatim from Griswold (p. 297). Griswold was wrong. George was the editor of the San Francisco Times, whose article about his trip was reprinted in the Sacramento Union. Henry George, Jr., The Life and Times of Henry George.

[326-7;5] "On January 15, Stanford wrote to Hopkins . . ."

Ambrose again distorts Stanford’s words. In his letter, Stanford complains that the government had awarded the Union Pacific bonds for work that was not technically on the approved line. "To me it seems what we can fairly hope for is to have our line to Ogden on which we have worked awarded [bonds] to us and that to claim more is likely to weaken our case [before the Secretary of the Interior]." Stanford to Hopkins, January 15, 1869.

[331;1] Browning’s instructions

Ambrose failed to recognize that the commission ordered by Browning, on January 14, 1869, was in fact, a second commission. The first commission completed its work in December, its recommendations so harsh towards the Union Pacific, Durant lobbied for a second commission that he hoped would be as rough on the Central Pacific. He also tried to stack the commission in his favor but was thwarted when engineer Lewis Clement was added to provide balance. This second commission, Durant insisted, should also designate the meeting point of the two roads. Despite his machinations, the work of this second commission was ignored. When Grant took office he appointed a third commission of Five Eminent Citizens to have the final word. Without this information, Stanford’s quote in the paragraph has little significance.

[331;6] "Stanford blamed . . ."

Stanford was not blaming Huntington. See my comments 315-317, above. Stanford was, instead, accepting responsibility for his failure to understand and follow Huntington’s scheme for beating the Union Pacific. Stanford’s admission came only after several face-to-face meetings with Huntington in Utah, Ambrose’s failure to provide some background information misleads the reader and distorts what actually happened.

[339;3] "So, on April 9, Dodge met with Huntington . . ."

This crucial meeting took place at the home of Congressman Samuel Hooper, on April 8, and dragged on for some twenty-four hours, before Dodge and Huntington emerged with an agreement. The agreement was ratified that very evening by Congress. Huntington’s only remarks to his associates were that "it was not all he wished, but it is the best I could get, and I think the best thing the Union Pacific could have done." Huntington to Edwin Crocker, April 13, 1869; Huntington to Stanford, April 12, 1869.

[379;1] "Charles Crocker . . . brought about the consolidation . . ."

Another misstatement without attribution. It was Huntington who pushed through the consolidation of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific.

[379;1] "Crocker’s mansion was destroyed in the 1906 fire."

Another misstatement, again without attribution. The homes of Stanford, Hopkins, and Huntington (who were all dead at the time) were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Crocker’s mansion is still standing and in use today (2000).

Courtesy of Salvador A. Ramirez, author of "The Octopus Speaks: The Colton Letters." Tentacled Press, 1982.

Christmas Card 2001

Christmas Card 2001

Christmas Card 2001

Humorous Christmas Card satirizing the "Legend of Cape Horn" and other historical inaccuracies Courtesy of Chris and Carol Graves, 2003. © G.J. Graves. See Theodore Judah's Elephant comment.
More voice of Christmas past.

Coleman Warner. "Under Fire"  The Times-Picayune [Newspaper] 3/31/2002:

"Lynn Farrar, a retired engineer and company historian associated with the Southern Pacific railroad, is still incredulous ... In his book on the transcontinental railroad, Ambrose acknowledged that Farrar possessed expertise greater than his own and thanked him for having 'read the script and saved me from many, many errors.'  Farrar confirms that he did read the manuscript and suggested at least 50 corrections — some minor, some basic to the history Ambrose was endeavoring to write — but virtually all of them were ignored, Farrar said. ..."

Also see: "The celebrity and the cowboy." Ventura County Reporter, April 11, 2002

Also see: Paul Harris, The Observer, UK, Sunday 25 April 2010, "Band Of Brothers author accused of fabrication for Eisenhower biography – US academic world shocked as respected historian is said to have 'made up' meetings with 34th US president."; and,

"Channelling Ike" by Richard Rayner, The New Yorker, April 26, 2010.

Also see additional discussion and the criticisms contained in the Wikipedia article on Ambrose.

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