The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
John Works Garrett

John Work Garrett (1820-1884), was most well-known as the President of the B&O Railroad, from 1858 until his death in 1884. The B&O was formed in 1827 as the first incorporated railroad line in the United States. During the Civil War, the B&O played an important role in transporting Union goods.

Garrett displayed a duplicity of belief common during the Civil War. Although Garrett sympathized with the southern cause, his business allegiance was to the Union. His guidance was highly respected and trusted. At the Battle of Monocacy, Garrett proved instrumental in protecting Washington, D.C. from Confederate invasion. On June 29th, 1864, railroad agents reported to him that Confederates were approaching the city through the Shenendoah Valley. Garrett informed the Lincoln Administration, although, they took no action.

After a few more attempts, Garrett contacted Major General Lew Wallace, commander of the Union Army’s Middle Department based in Baltimore. Major General Wallace gave orders to strengthen the Union positions at Monocacy Junction.

Despite a lack of presence on the battlefield, Garrett was a prominent force in the defense of Washington. Lincoln paid tribute to Garrett, stating that Garrett was: “The right arm of the Federal Government in the aid he rendered the authorities in preventing the Confederates from seizing Washington and securing its rentention as the Capital of the Loyal States.”