William Mahone, 1826-1895, was a Major General in the Confederate army.   He is best known for turning the tide at the 30 July 1864 attack on Petersburg, and is called the "hero of  the Battle of the Crater.”

You can find that William Mahone contributed much more to Virginia throughout his life.   You may not find them in the regular "canned" stories typically offered.  I will also try to find the song or chant his political critics have kept alive, even to this day.

General Mahone was a civil engineer who helped build Virginia's railroads before and after the Civil War.  The history of the Norfolk and Western Railway began with the City Point Railroad , a line running 9 miles from City Point,  Virginia to Petersburg, Virginia.  This railroad played a crucial role during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-1865 as a supply line from Grant.  After the War, this line also became part of the Southside Railroad .

William Mahone, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute in Engineering, built the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad becoming president of it in the pre-Civil War era.  Mahone's innovative roadbed through Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp employed a log foundation laid at right angles beneath the surface of the swamp. Still in use today, it withstands immense tonnages of coal traffic - today's freight on a very effectively engineered 19th century track.

General "Billy" Mahone married Otelia Butler of Smithfield, Virginia, who was said to be a well cultured lady.  Legend has it that they traveled along the newly completed Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad naming stations from "Ivanhoe" a book she was reading by Sir Walter Scott. The names resultant included Windsor, Ivor, Waverly, and Wakefield.  When they could not agree, it is said that the name Disputanta was created for Disputanta, Virginia.

After the war, William Mahone was the driving force in the linkage of N&P, Southside Railroad and the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad to form the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O), a new line extending from Norfolk to Bristol, Virginia in 1870. The letters A,M & O were said to stand for "All Mine and Otelia's."

After several years of operating under receiverships, Mahone's role as a railroad builder ended in 1881 when northern interests purchased it and renamed it Norfolk and Western.  Mahone arranged for the proceeds of the A,M & O sale to help founded a school for teachers next to Petersburg.  The Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute at Petersburg was forerunner of Virginia State College, which expanded to become Virginia State University, and Norfolk State College, which expanded to become Norfolk State University.  More detail on this work by Mahone is to follow on the previous page selections.  His political activity will also follow shortly.

After losing control of the A,M, & O, William Mahone stayed active in the economic and political life of Virginia for almost 15 more years. He served as mayor of Petersburg and became a United States Senator in Congress from Virginia.

Parke Rouse wrote in his book Below the James Lies Dixie that to some extent, Billy Mahone represented a new industrial order in opposition to the old Tidewater Virginia planters.  His Readjusters aspired " to break the power of wealth and established privilege" and to promote public education. Though Mahone alienated many followers by his dictatorial ways, he was Virginia's most influential policy-maker until eclipsed by
genial ex-General Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of "Marse Robert" who was elected governor in 1885.

After suffering a stroke, he died in 1895 and  is buried on Memorial Hill, Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia.

William Mahone  -- "Hero of the Battle of the Crater" +
Virginia Military Institute -- Engineer
Railroad Pioneer in America
United States Senator
Military Hero
Pioneer of Education in Virginia

A Sketch:
Senator Wm. Mahone
from the
Colored Citizens
of Virginia
Jan 30