2. Central Route


John William Gunnison was born in Goshen, New Hampshire on November 11, 1812. After attending Hopkinton Academy he graduated from West Point in 1837, second in his class. He began his military career in a campaign against the Seminoles in Florida as an artillery officer. After becoming sick he was reassigned and lead a group of explorers into unexplored areas of Florida, looking for provision routes. His health did not get better while in Florida and he was forced to leave the area completely and found himself exploring and surveying the area around the Great Lakes. After an expedition that went to the Great Salt Lake failed to return due to bad weather, Gunnison made the most of a bad situation and befriended some Mormons, allowing him to study The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After his return to Washington D.C. he wrote The Mormons or Latter-Day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake: A History of Their Rise and Progress, Peculiar Doctrines, Present Condition. He was promoted on this survey to first Lieutenant and received more offers to explore areas that were unknown in the United States. He received his most important assignment when he was asked to lead the survey of the 38th and 39th Parallels. The survey took him to the Rocky Mountains where he spent several weeks trying to determine the best path for a railroad through the Mountains. His journey of a lifetime began in St. Louis, Missouri in June 1853.  

Edward Griffin Beckwith was born on June 25, 1818 in Cazenovia, New York. Beckwith graduated from West Point in 1842 and was appointed Second Lieutenant of the 3rd U.S. Artillery in July 1842. In June of 1846 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In his military career, Lt. Beckwith fought during the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. The conflict was a result of the United States' annexation of the Texas territory; a territory that Mexico considered to be its own. Upon winning the war, the United States gained large amounts of territory from its neighbor to the south. This territory added to the vast and generally unexplored territory between the Mississippi River and the California territory. After the war, Beckwith was part of an expedition to the California territory and that gave him valuable experience for future travelling and exploring of the western US. Beckwith was appointed assistant commander to Captain John William Gunnison on his expedition to survey the western territory for a safe and efficient route for a transcontinental railroad. After the death of Gunnison along the survey, Lt. Beckwith took the reigns and led the survey to California. As he was not an engineer like the other surveyors, his recommendations were not taken as seriously. Although the actual Transcontinental Railroad did not follow any of the surveyors directions, the path resembles Beckwith's path the closest. Beckwith, like the other surveyors went on to serve in the Civil War. He served primarily with the commissary department, in charge of supplies and rations of food, for the Union and for a short time he was a leader out in the field. Lt. Beckwith lived through the war and after until June 22, 1881 when he past away in Clifton, New York. He survived by his wife and daughter and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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