Norfolk: Historic Southern Port

By Thomas J. Wertenbaker; Marvin W. Schlegel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Fall Line Blockade

In the United States the period of canal building was quickly followed by that of railroad construction. The Erie canal, which was opened in 1826, worked wonders for New York. DeWitt Clinton had declared that it would make the city "the granary of the world, the emporium of commerce, the seat of manufactures, the focus of great moneyed operations," and the fulfilment of this prophecy began at once. The products of the West came through the canal and down the Hudson, the wharves of Manhattan were piled with bags and barrels, packet lines were organized to carry them to foreign lands, the population of the city doubled, tripled, quadrupled. Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, became alarmed. If New York drained the entire western country, they would be eclipsed. Anxiously they looked for some means of communication with the trans- Allegheny region, which would permit them to share in the great prize.

Baltimore was the first to hit upon the railway. Having behind it no long navigable river, out of touch with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, it grasped eagerly at the new carrier. So, three years after the opening of the Erie canal, the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio railway was laid. "We are commencing a new era in our history," said John B. Morris, one of the directors. "It is but a few years since the introduction of steamboats effected powerful changes. Of a similar and equally important effect will be the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. While the one will have stemmed the torrent of the Mississippi, the other will have surmounted and reduced the heights of the Allegheny." The foresight of Baltimore gave her a long start over Norfolk, her natural rival in the race for the western trade.

Norfolk first thought of the railway, not as a means of crossing the

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