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Encyclopedia > Pacific Railroad survey

The Pacific Railroad Surveys (1853-1855) explored possible routes for a transcontinental railroad across North America. Substantial collection of natural history material was made during the surveys as well. The results were published in the 12-volume Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, published by the United States War Department from 1855 to 1860. The surveys contained significant material on natural history, including many illustrations of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Some of these illustrations were hand-colored. A transcontinental railroad is a railway that crosses a continent, typically from sea to sea. Terminals are at or connected to different Oceans. ...

Congress authorized the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis to conduct surveys for the railroad. In addition to describing the route, these surveys also reported on the geology, zoology, botany, paleontology of the land as well as provided ethnographic descriptions of the Native peoples encountered during the surveys. Five surveys were conducted. Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808–December 6, 1889) was an American soldier and politician, most famous for serving as the only President of the Confederate States, leading the Confederate States of America to defeat during the American Civil War, 1861-65. ...

The Northern Pacific survey followed between the 47th and 49th parallels from St. Paul, Minnesota to the Puget Sound and was led by the newly appointed governor of the Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens. Accompanying Stevens were Captain George B. McClellan and Lt. Rufus Saxton. Isaac Ingalls Stevens (March 25, 1818 - September 1, 1862) was the first governor of Washington Territory, and served as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War until his death at the Battle of Chantilly. ... George McClellan George Brinton McClellan (December 3, 1826 – October 29, 1885) was a major general during the American Civil War. ... Rufus Saxton (October 19, 1824–February 23, 1908) was an American soldier who served as a Brigadier General of volunteers in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). ...

The Central Pacific survey followed between the 37th and 39th parallels from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco. This survey was led by Lt. John W. Gunnison until his death by the Utes in Utah. Lt. Edward G. Beckwith then took command. Also participating in this survey was George Stoneman. John Williams Gunnison (1812-1853) was an American explorer. ... Categories: Stub | 1822 births | 1894 deaths | Governors of California ...

There were two Southern Pacific surveys. One along the 35th parallel from Oklahoma to Los Angeles which was led by Lt. Robert S. Williamson. Accompanying Williamson was Lt. John Parke. The southernmost survey went across Texas to San Diego. This survey was also led by Parke. John Grubb Parke (Sept. ...

The fifth survey was along the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle.

Related pages

Spencer Fullerton Baird Spencer Fullerton Baird (February 3, 1823 – August 19, 1887) was an American ornithologist and ichthyologist. ... Native Americans of the Tohono Oodham (Papago) Tribe, from the Report The United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (1848-1855) set the boundary between the United States and Mexico according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. ...


  • Ann Shelby Blum (1993). Picturing Nature: American Nineteenth-Century Zoological Illustration. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 403 pages. ISBN 0-691-08578-1.
  • Herman J. Viola (1987). Exploring the West. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books. 256 pages. ISBN 0810908891.
  • Edward S. Wallace (1955). The Great Reconnaissance--Soldiers, Artists and Scientists on the Frontier 1848-1861. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 288 pages.
  • Smithsonian Institution--role of Spencer Fullerton Baird in United States and Mexican Boundary Survey and Pacific Railroad Surveys
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Pacific Railroad Surveys



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