NA, ENG 5/19/1864

Demopolis 19 May 1864  {letter never sent -- see NA, ENG 6-15-64}
Lt. General L. Polk
Commanding Department
Ala., Miss, & East La
   I am about to ask a great favor of you, but it is one which is greatly for the benefit of your Department in particular, and of our Common Country in general. I have just received authority from the Secretary of War to build the Rome & Blue Mountain Road {the extension of the Alabama & Tennessee River RR} as speedily as possible, and I desire the services of Major Thomas Peters for this work. His large experience in this sort of work and practical business talents make him worth more to me than any ten men I can get, and if you will let me have him, I pledge you to put the work through at the earliest practicable moment. This work need not prevent Major Peters giving a partial attention to the duties of his present position, and should the necessity for his return to you become very urgent, he can do so. Considering the vast importance of this work, I hope General, you will grant my request.
   There are 15 miles at the Blue Mountain end, 16 miles at the Rome end each ready for the track, and 30 miles yet to grade, very light, I am told not exceeding 100000 cubic yards. I propose to take the iron from the Gainesville branch {the Mississippi, Gainesville & Tuscaloosa RR} and lay it over on the Blue Mountain end, and as soon as the battle now in progress at Resaca is decided in our favor, to take iron from the Cuthebertt Fort Gaines road {part of the South Western RR} Georgia and lay on the Rome end, thereby reducing the gap to 30 miles, which can be done in a short time if the necessary labor can be impressed; and if we are not stopped by injunctions from the removal of the rail from the branch roads indicated. While their track is being laid, I propose placing as large a force as can be commanded, on the grading so that portion may be ready for the Superstructure as soon as it is reached from either end. But in this matter, I shall require the aid of yourself or some proper military authority. I shall need authority to impress the labor, and a force to seize the iron despite injunctions with which I know I shall be plentifully served. I conversed with the Secretary of War upon the Subject of disobeying writs of injunction, and Seizing iron in such cases by military force. He said that in his position he could not give the order, but that the General Commanding could do so, and signified that it would meet his tacit approval. This I say to you unofficially, and confidentially, but you may rely upon it, and acting upon it I have obtained an order to seize iron in Florida by force, in defiance of an injunction which was served upon me.
   Will you under these circumstances take the responsibility, should we be enjoined, of taking the Gainesville iron by force or will you, if you cannot do so, effect it through General Lee?
   Hoping to receive an affirmative response to these several requests, I remain General
Your obedient Servant
Minor Meriwether
Lt. Col Engineers P. A. C. S.
& Commissioner