B8, ALA 4/16/1864

Letter to Hon. Chas. B. Mitchell, in Relation to the Iron Business of Alabama
Selma, Ala.
Shelby County, Ala., April 26th, 1864
Hon. Charles B. Mitchell
of the Confederate States Senate
   Being informed by a member of the Shelby Iron Company that you solicit information in regard to the iron business of this region, with a view to important measures contemplated, having reference to the military service; and having a similar solicitation from another source, also entitled to consideration and respect, the undersigned, constituting the Board of Directors of the above-named Company, while responding, as they do with pleasure, to your solicitation, will embrace this opportunity to set forth as succinctly as practicable the information they possess and the knowledge they have acquired by attention to the subject during the two last years. They do this the more readily from the conviction that the subject is not so fully and generally understood, and appreciated, as its great and vital importance requires.
   The present supply of iron is inadequate for the public service, while the people are generally cut off from all sources of supply. The agriculturalists are generally without iron to repair their old and worn-out implements, new ones being out of the question, while there is danger that railroads, on which such vital interests depend, will lose much of their already impaired efficiency, for want of iron to keep their machinery in repair, and for the construction of the additional machinery greatly needed. A large and early increase in the production of iron must therefore be regarded as a matter of the highest necessity; and this region probably must be mainly relied on for this increase.
   Before undertaking to show, as we propose to do, how this increase may be brought about, it will be proper to take a brief survey of the past, in connection with the natural resources of this region in the materials for the production of iron. Probably no country on the globe possesses superior, if equal, natural advantages for the production of iron of superior quality on an extensive scale. In a wide extent of country, intersected by the Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad, commencing at the city of Selma, on the Alabama river, and completed 135 miles in the direction of Rome, in Georgia, iron ores and mineral coal, both of superior quality and conveniently accessible, exist in inexhaustible abundance. ***
   *** We are about making propositions to the Nitre and Mining Bureau at Richmond, looking to changes which, as they involve no loss or expense or inconvenience to the Government, while promising a large increase in the production of iron, we can hardly doubt will receive the proper sanction. If this is done, we propose to complete a new furnace, commenced last year, construct a railroad from our works to the Alabama & Tennessee River road, about six miles, on which the work is far advanced and in progress, and make other necessary arrangements for obtaining a full and regular supply of mineral coal. *** It is estimated that the hands required in the production and delivery of charcoal for one furnace, are sufficient to mine coal enough for two furnaces. This Company propose to mine their own coal, having one mine opened and being engaged in opening another. ***
   The business of mining coal is being largely extended, and under the arrangement completed and in progress, the prospects are that the supply of coal will, ere very long, be ample. The principal difficulty to be apprehended in the successful prosecution of the plan of substituting mineral coal for charcoal, in a large degree, is the want of railroad machinery for transporting the coal. The present machinery is insufficient, but we understand that arrangements have been made to bring upon the road considerable additional machinery.
   The Government own a rolling-mill on the Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad. It is new and represented to be a very good mill. It is adapted, we believe, for the manufacture of small and ordinary sizes only. We are not informed of its capacity.
   Arrangements are in progress for the erection of two rolling-mills on the Central {of Georgia?} Railroad, which connects with the Alabama & Tennessee River road. It is understood that one, if not both, of these mills will be of large capacity, belonging to a large and strong Company. 
   A branch railroad is being constructed from the Alabama & Tennessee River road into a portion of what is considered one of the most valuable coal fields in this State ***.
Very respectfully, yours,
A. T. Jones, President
J. W. Lapsley
J. M. McClanahan
Horace Ware
E. T. Watts