Presuming a furlough issued at Bristol, where Law's Alabama Brigade received orders to return to the VNVa issued April 18, 1864, a long stretch of rail goes from Bristol to Lynchburg, Va. From there east to the junction at Burkeville, Va., the line turns southwest across the Roanoke River to Danville, Va. That's about three hundred and fifty miles.
From Danville a recently completed connecting line took the soldier to Greensboro N.C. Travelers had to board a different train at Danville because the rail gauge changed there from five feet to 4 feet eight and a half inches. From Danville the line led south through Salisbury to Charlotte N.C. The gauge changed back to five feet again, so the soldier would have had to board a different train going south. Passage from Danville to Charlotte would have been about one hundred forty miles.
The rail line from Charlotte to Augusta Ga. ran in a serpentine route across South Carolina. Leaving Charlotte going south, a train passed through Chester, S.C., on the way to Columbia. Once there, the line continued east to Kingville, and then south to the junction at Branchville, S.C. From that point, another stretch of rail led west to Augusta, Ga. That's at least two hundred miles, maybe more.
We're almost home! From Augusta a straight run took passengers to the depot at Atlanta, Ga., about one hundred fifty miles. A soldier boarding a north-bound train might be on one that would take him out the spur to Rome, Ga. That's about sixty miles. He could then walk thirty or forty miles west to his home in Cherokee County, Ala. That's maybe two hundred fifty miles to Cedar Bluff, Ala.
If the soldier lived further east, it might make better sense to stay on the train from Atlanta to Montgomery, Ala. From there he would board a steamboat going downriver to Selma, Ala. From the depot at Selma, a train going northeast would go all the way to the end of the line at Blue Mountain, Ala. A day or two riding a train beats a day or two walking!
Total journey from Bristol to Cedar Bluff, Ala. should be right at six hundred miles. If the soldier continued his journey through West Point, Ga., through Opelika, Ala., to Montgomery-Selma-Montevallo-Blue Mountain, add another three hundred twenty miles. For most soldiers belonging to the 48th Alabama Regiment, that would be the normal route going home on furlough.