Antebellum America Discovers the Upper Mississippi
by Steven J. Keillor
Dimensions: 10" x 8", 288 pages, Illustrations, notes, index
TO CELEBRATE the completion of the first railroad to reach the Mississippi River, the owners of the Chicago & Rock Island invited a distinguished group of Eastern notables and investors to travel by rail to Rock Island, Illinois, and from there by steamboat to St. Anthony Falls in fledgling Minnesota Territory, all at the railroad’s expense.
This “Grand Excursion” occurred a week after President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act revoking the Missouri Compromise (1820), which had prohibited slavery in Kansas and Nebraska. Historians agree that this act was the decisive event setting the nation on a collision course to the Civil War. A microcosm of antebellum society, the excursionists debated national policy and happily viewed the spectacular Upper Mississippi scenery, while their nation was careening headlong into disaster.