John W. Garrett

Photograph of John Garrett
Photograph of John Garrett

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Place Of Birth:
Baltimore, MD
Date Of Birth:
July 31, 1820
Place Of Death:
Deer Park, MD
Date Of Death:
September 26, 1884
Place Of Burial:
Baltimore, MD
Cemetery Name:
Green Mount Cemetery

From the Peninsula to Maryland: Garrett's role in the summer of 1862

John Work Garrett began working with his father's Commissions business at the age of 16 and within three years was a clerk with the firm. By the age of 35, Garrett owned much of the stock in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) and was subsequently elected to the railroad's Board of Directors. He was elected president of the B&O Railroad on November 17, 1858 and would serve in that position for 26 years.

Despite sympathizing with the southern cause, Garrett's business allegiance was with the Union. His railroad was utilized to transport Union soldiers, equipment, supplies, and it linked Washington, D.C. to the rest of the country. The B&O was the first railroad in history to carry out a military transport. At the beginning of the Civil War, B&O operated 514 miles of rail.

Any ties Garrett and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had with the Confederate cause were severed after 1861. The B&O Annual Report documented the damage and sabotage that the Confederates, mainly troops under the command of Stonewall Jackson, had inflicted to the rails. The report noted 36.5 miles of track, 26 bridges, 102 miles of telegraph, and two water stations destroyed by the Confederates. Much of this damage was being repaired in the fall of 1861 but Jackson returned and destroyed the track between Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, Virginia again in December 1862.

Garrett worked well with the Edwin Stanton, the U.S. Secretary of War. Garrett worked with Stanton to have the railroad protected by the Union forces. By the summer of 1862, the B&O Railroad, and its employees, swore an allegiance and loyalty to the Union. This cooperation resulted in formations of units such as the "Railroad Brigade" under the command of Dixon S. Miles at Harpers Ferry.

Garrett would continue to support the Union in 1863 with transporting 20,000 soldiers to Chattanooga along protecting Washington, D.C. in 1864, when his railroad workers reported Confederate activity in the Shenandoah Valley.

After the war, Garrett focused on rebuilding and expanding the railroad. He also spent time with philanthropic pursuits; he was a trustee of the Peabody Institute, a supporter of the creation of the Johns Hopkins University and Medical Institutions. The state of Maryland honored him by naming Garrett County after him.

Last updated: September 14, 2017