The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West
This is the story of the first transcontinental railroad, finished only a few years after the end of the Civil War. The construction of the railroad eventually meant the end of the wagon trains and a quicker settling of the west by non-Native Americans.
Libby's father is a newspaper man who wants to record the historic events, so he, his wife, Libby, and her younger brother all accompany him, following the progress of the railroad, sleeping in tents or sometimes actual buildings. It's certainly not an easy life and it's a dangerous one with danger from weather, Indians and non-Indians alike.
There are a lot of historical persons in the book, also, including William Tecumseh Sherman who led the March to Atlanta Union effort during the Civil War, using a scorched-earth policy and destroying an area almost sixty miles wide. Apparently his view towards Native Americans wasn't very charitable, either.
There's also some time spent on the Mormons and Salt Lake City, and the book notes that the Mormons of the time didn't want anything to do with non-Mormons, including children.
Custer makes an appearance in a reference to an attack by he and his men on an Indian village where they slaughtered women, children and old men.
There's also some interesting talk from Libby's father about reporters who sometimes basically make up part or all of their stories, not really caring whether what they write is factual or not, a problem still in evidence today (if not even more in evidence than at that time.)
There's also a great deal of violence in the novel, as reference is made to what amounts to a mobile town that follows the railroad workers, a town of gamblers, prostitutes armed men who think little of shooting someone else.
All in all it's an interesting story and gives a good view of just how nasty the West was, much of that nastiness coming from the white workers and settlers, not the Native Americans and Chinese.
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