I may be trying to attack this problem incorrectly, so I'm sure I'll be corrected.
I currently have quite a few shapefiles containing all of the major highways, streets, railroads, counties, etc. of Texas. I need to combine all of these files so that they can be used as a base map and then pre-render the tiles that will be served out to the client.
I haven't found a way to do this and was wondering if there is a way that this can be done or a different way to go about it.
The reason that we are using the shapefiles as a base map is because we have to have historical maps. In other words, if a new road is laid and subsequently added to the maps, we will have to keep our old maps and create new tiles for the changes so that if the user has to see why a specific road wasn't taken in the past they can see that at that time the road didn't exist.
UPDATE: A bit more context.
The shapefiles will be loaded into SQL Server 2012 for performing queries, and thus it will be running on a Windows box. I understand that I can use the SQL Server plugin for GeoServer to create a store from the database and then layers from the tables, but the problem with that is there will be several layers used to make up a coherent map, i.e., streets, major highways, counties, etc.
In that scenario the client will have to connect to at least 5 layers just to get the map on the page. I don't know enough about GeoServer to know if it will process all of those layers and then send out tiles containing the content for all specified layers or if it is going to send tiles for each layer laying them on top of each other.
What I want to do is simply take all of the shapefiles and essentially merge them, applying styles, and then generate the tiles from the resulting map so there would only be one set of tiles being served.
Additional Notes: - Application is being developed in ASP.NET MVC using C#.