Amendment to H.R. 336 authorizing the Secretary of War to organize a survey for a railroad route to the Pacific Ocean, February 24, 1853
Congress authorized Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to commission the Army Corps of Engineers for the transcontinental railroad survey. Davis, who represented Mississippi in the House and the Senate, favored the southernmost route. He continued to advocate for a southern railroad after secession, as President of the Confederate States of America.
That the Secretary of War be…authorized…to employ…the corps of topographical engineers...to make such explorations and surveys as he may deem advisable, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean….
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration
Surveying the West
In 1853 Congress authorized funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to survey and report on possible routes for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Army engineers were experienced in surveying the West, and the military had an interest in preparing for westward expansion. Captain George B. McClellan, a West Point graduate and engineer, led a surveying party on the 49th parallel. He later served as General-in-Chief of the Union Armies during the Civil War.