Debating the Rail Route

In 1853 Congress authorized funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to survey four possible routes for a railway from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Members of Congress recognized the potential for commerce and development that a transcontinental railway would bring, and they advocated strenuously for their own regions. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri was an outspoken proponent of a central route. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a former and future senator from Mississippi, favored a southern route.