President James Monroe’s last act as president was to charter the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal, connecting the Potomac River to Cumberland, Maryland. The B&O Railroad project broke ground at almost the exact same time and ultimately beat the canal to Cumberland. President John Q. Adams attempted to turn the first spade of earth on the project but the spade became stuck on a root. This was to be a symbol of the trials and tribulations for the construction the Grand Old Ditch.

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