NA, ENG 4/11A/1863

Engineer Bureau
April 11th, 1863
Hon. Jas. A. Seddon
Secretary of War
   I have the honor to present herewith replies to your various interrogatories respecting the advisability of making a loan to the North Eastern & South Western Alabama Rail Road Company.
   A clear statement of the location, length and features of the road will facilitate greatly an easy comprehension of what follows
   This road is a part of the link joining Meridian, Mississippi on the Mobile & Ohio R. Rd. with Chattanooga Tenn. and is thus subdivided (see map appended). From Meridian to York Station in direction of Selma completed and rails laid 27 1/2 miles -- from York Station to Tuskaloosa grading nearly completed two heavy bridges to build however 69 miles -- from Tuscaloosa to Elyton 54 miles first 25 partially graded -- from Elyton to terminus of N. E. & S. W. Ala. R. Rd. and junction with Wills' Valley Road at Gadsden 56 1/2 miles no grading done. Total length of N. E. & S. W. Ala. R. Rd. -- 207 miles, of which, 179 1/2 miles are incomplete or untouched.
   The Wills' Valley road is 95 miles in length entirely graded with 20 miles of track laid. The total distance therefore from Meridian Mississippi to Chattanooga, Tenn. is 302 miles -- of which only 47 1/2 miles are in receiving order leaving a continuous break of 254 1/2 miles.
   You ask
1st. What are the military advantages of this road?
   If completed, very great, uniting as it does by a direct line the great western military centres -- Meridian and Chattanooga. By observing the map hereto attached, it will be seen however that the same end may be obtained although not so perfectly yet in much less time by the construction of the link from Blue Mountain Alabama to Rome, Georgia a distance of only 59 1/2 miles, for which Congress has already made a sufficient appropriation.
   Simply on grounds therefore of military connection as bearing upon the present war, an advance to the company is not recommended by this Bureau, principally in consideration of the length of line necessarily required for its construction. The exclusion of the Road from York Station to Elyton however might merit favorable consideration for while developing the mineral resources of the country it would present at the same time certain military advantages, some of which may be thus enumerated. The construction of the greater portion of this section of this Road is well advanced and hence it would become available at an earlier period. It passes through a rich Agricultural region below Tuscaloosa & by the connection from Elyton to Livingston Station N. & S. Ala. R. Rd now under construction indirectly aided by a loan from the Government, a second route from Meridian would be furnished and one less exposes to any possible successful inroad of the enemy should Mobile ever fall into their hands.
2nd. "Its advantages as furnishing an easy access to the Mineral Region of Alabama and the value of that Region as a source of supply."
   Its importance in this point of view can scarcely be over estimated and clearly indicate that the most valuable portion of the road is that lying between Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior navigable for eight months of the year & Elyton on the N. & S. Alabama R. Rd. This latter town is in the very heart of the richest iron deposits while in the vicinity of the latter is found an abundant supply of the very best coal for industry -- trials purporting which that or any other region of country affords. Limestone also so necessary for the reduction of iron ores equally abounds. An early development of the resources of this great mineral region is a matter of paramount importance to Rail Roads the Army, and particularly the Navy. It is proper to mention in this connection that the company propose to manufacture their iron rails & hence their Chief Engineer's low estimate of $90.00 pr. ton.
3rd. Whether an advance of $3,663,995 could be secured to the Confederate States.
   This Bureau is not prepared at present to present more than a simple opinion that a mortgage on the property of the company would secure the Government. The principle reason for this opinion is based on the fact that the company can give a mortgage not only on their road but also on some 388 834 acres of land of which 288 834 have been located, while their whole indebtedness so far amounts to only $412,000. 
4th. Whether the advantages to be realized afford a fair equivalent to that advanced?
   It is the opinion of this Bureau, as may be inferred from the foregoing, that it is not advisable to authorize a loan to the full amount of $3,663,995 but that, an advance of $2,538,066 for the construction of the road from York Station to Elyton might be judicious while an appropriation of $1,103,066 to ensure the completion of the road from Tuscaloosa to Elyton is earnestly recommended.
   Detailed estimates are herewith appended.
Very Respectfully Your Obt Servant
J. F. Gilmer
Col. of Engrs. & Chf of Engr. Bureau

Estimates on 1st January 1863 of Chief Engineer of N. E. & S. W. Ala. R. Rd. of amount required to complete the unfinished portion of the Road 179 1/2 miles.

Grading and bridging $   846,995
Iron for Rails 1,505,000
Chairs and Spikes 132,000
Depot buildings 280,000
Rolling Stock 650,000
Sundries: embankment protection, ballasting, engineering, &c 250,000

Estimates York Station to Tuscaloosa -- 69 miles

Grading and bridging $  352,142
Iron for rails 578,524
Chairs & Spikes 50,741
Depot buildings 107,632
Rolling Stock 249,861
Sundries 96,100

Estimates Tuscaloosa to Elyton -- 54 miles

Appropriation strongly recommended by C. S. Engineer Bureau

Grading and bridging $  255,612
Iron for rails 452,758
Chairs and Spikes 39,710
Depot buildings 84,234
Rolling Stock 195,543
Sundries 75,209

Estimates York Station to Elyton -- 123 miles

Sum of two preceding estimates $2,538,066

Estimate Elyton to Gadsden -- 56 1/2 miles (not recommended)

Grading and bridging $  239,241
Iron for rails 473,718
Chairs and Spikes 41,549
Depot buildings 88,134
Rolling Stock 204,596
Sundries 78,691