NA, G 12/17/1861

To the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States
   I herewith transmit a copy of a communication from Mr. William S. Ashe, urging the completion of certain Railroads, as necessary for the proper transportation of troops and military stores, in the exigencies of the present war. I, also, transmit a copy of a communication from Mr. E. Fontaine, the President of the Central Railroad of Virginia, urging the completion of twenty miles of the Covington & Ohio Rail Road, upon considerations of military necessity.
   I communicate to you with these letters, a series of resolutions adopted at a Convention of Railroad Presidents, held in Richmond, on the 6th of December, asking for the assistance of the Confederate Government, in procuring certain supplies which are indispensable to the maintenance of the Rail Road system of the country.
   That certain appropriations, which otherwise, could not be constitutionally made by the Confederate Government, come within the range of its powers when absolutely necessary, for the prosecution of the war, there is no doubt. It is equally clear that when this military necessity ceases, the right to make such appropriations no longer exists. To exercise this power when it exists, and to confine it within the proper limits, is a matter4 for the just discretion of Congress; and to enable it to act upon the interesting subjects to which they relate, I transmit the communications and resolutions which accompany this message.
   I have already recommended that the Confederate Government should assist in making a Railroad from Danville, Virginia, to Greensboro', North Carolina {the Piedmont RR}, upon the ground of a strong military necessity for completing an interior through line from Virginia to the Southern Atlantic States. I deemed this to be necessary not only on account of the superior safety of such a line from hostile inroads and invasion; but because of the great additional facilities which its completion would afford for the transportation of troops and military supplies. The road from Selma, Alabama, to Meridian, Mississippi, is a link that has claims similar to the road already recommended to your assistance in a previous message. Whilst the completion of the twenty miles of the Covington & Ohio Railroad, as proposed by Mr. Fontaine, might be eminently useful for military purposes, I cannot in the present condition of the Treasury recommend that you should contribute by direct appropriation.
   The resolutions of the Convention of Railroad Presidents and Superintendents relate to a most important subject. If the railroads should be generally disabled from transporting troops and military supplies for the prosecution of the war, the result would be most disastrous. It is urged that the capital necessary to construct the establishments required for re-rolling rails and the manufacture of locomotives, cannot well be had unless the Confederate Government would make some advance for the purpose. With the machinery proper for rolling the rails there might be connected that which is necessary for rolling plates for uses which are wanted in the naval service. How far it would be proper for Congress to authorize advances to be made on contracts to furnish these plates or engines, it will be for that body to consider and determine. Some such advance might facilitate and secure the establishment of works which would, at the same time, furnish what is required by the Government, re-roll the railroad iron and make locomotives for the use of the Railroads. The exigency is believed to be such as to require the aid of the Government, and is commended to your favorable consideration.
Jefferson Davis
Richmond, December 17th, 1861
Richmond, 27th November, 1861
To His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President:
   I submit the following estimates of the amount of money required to make the Railroad connections in the cities of Savannah and Augusta. The distance in Savannah between the depots of the Central {(of Georgia)} Railroad and the Savannah{, Albany} & Gulf Railroad is about 1,400 yards. The line of connection is straight and little or no grading will be required. I should suppose eight thousand dollars ($8,000) amply sufficient to make this connection. In the city of Augusta there already exists a connection between the South Carolina Railroad and Georgia Railroad, but none between either of these roads, and the Augusta & Savannah road. This connection is, in my opinion, very important. The distance to be run to make it, will not be over 600 yards, and no grading. The only difficulty will be the removal of some inferior houses belonging to the Augusta & Savannah road. This road will give the right of way and charge no damages for injuries to property, and pledges the road to take the road off the hands of the Confederacy at cost when the war terminates. Both of these connections can be finished in the course of the month, if considered advisable. I would respectfully call your attention to the military necessity of the Railroad leading from Selma, on the Alabama River via Uniontown and Demopolis to Meridian, (Suwashee) {the Alabama & Mississippi Rivers RR}, at that point connecting with the road leading to Vicksburg. The distance between Selma and Meridian is about 100 miles, but of this distance upwards of 50 miles is completed and now in operation. Of the balance, one half is graded and ready to receive superstructure, leaving about 20 miles to be graded.
   The Company is at present unable to proceed with the work on account of a want of funds. The President informs me that if he could now obtain a loan from the Confederacy, of $150,000, he would be able to complete it by the 1st May, 1862. The return of the amount of loan to be made by the performance of services, either by the transportation of the Confederate mail or the munitions of war. On the completion of this road, the Government would have command of two continuous lines from the Mississippi to the Atlantic -- one via Memphis and Chattanooga, and the other via Atlanta and Augusta. The former leading near the enemy's borders, and through a disaffected country is liable to interruption at all times, and makes the completion of the latter connection very desirable and important to the Confederacy.
With respect,
W. S. Ashe
Richmond, Dec. 13, 1861
President Davis
Dear Sir,
   The heavy accumulation of the Government freight, both at Memphis and Grand Junction, awaiting transportation Eastward, induces me to respectfully call your attention to the necessity of an early completion of the Railroad running from Selma to Meridian {the Alabama & Mississippi Rivers RR} and then connecting with the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad {the Southern of Mississippi RR}. As the Memphis & Charlotte {should be "Charleston"} Railroad has not been able to transport this freight, I have been compelled to order that from New Orleans, to be sent on by way of Meridian {north on the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR, then east on the Southern of Mississippi RR}, thence across to Mobile {south on the Mobile & Ohio RR} and up to Montgomery {north on the Mobile & Great Northern RR and then the Alabama & Florida (of Alabama) RR}, which is not only a circuitous, but also, a very inconvenient route. If a gap of twenty-three miles on the proposed road from Meridian to Selma was finished, we could have almost an air-line from Vicksburg to Selma on the Alabama River; from which point steamers ply uninterruptedly to Montgomery. When opened, this will be the shortest route from New Orleans to Richmond and entirely removed from any interruption by the enemy.
   But independent of this advantage, I feel satisfied that the single line of road from Memphis to Chattanooga will not be able to transport all of the Government freight, unless it ceases entirely to transport private or individual freights. The President of the Selma & Meridian Railroad Company, Dr. Griffin, has informed me that if he could obtain from the Confederate States Government, a loan of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars he would be able to finish the road and have it in full operation by the 1st of May next, and that he would be willing to give ample security for its return in transportation of troops, provisions and munitions of war. One year's operation, in my opinion, would enable the Company to discharge the loan.
   While discussing railroad connections, I beg leave to remind you of the existing disconnections at Savannah and Augusta. The authorities of these cities have given permission to commence their construction, and I am assured the cost will not exceed the estimates previously submitted by me. I respectfully suggest that an order be issued for the early completion of these important works.
Yours, with great respect,
W. S. Ashe
Virginia Central Railroad
President's Office
Richmond, Va., December 2, 1861
His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States
Dear Sir,
   I invite your attention to the condition of the railroad line between the present western terminus of the Virginia Central Railroad and the Kanawha Valley, that you may consider whether it is not important in a military point of view, that Congress shall give aid to bring into operation an unfinished section, on which there is so large a proportion of the work done, that the expenditure of a comparatively small sum would suffice to attain that object.
   This line of road consists of ten miles belonging to the Virginia Central Railroad Company, terminating at Covington, for the completion of which they ask no assistance, and thence westward to the Covington & Ohio Railroad, which has been undertaken by the State of Virginia entirely on State account. The section of the road to which allusion is now specially made, is twenty miles in length, crossing the Alleghany mountains, and passing immediately by the Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, on the direct route by which troops, provisions and munitions of war have been hauled by wagons, to the command of General Floyd. The work on this section was suspended, because of the financial difficulties of the present time; but the grading is so far completed that the track might be made ready for the rails for an inconsiderable amount compared with the magnitude of its importance as a military road. As I stated above, this section clears the Alleghany mountains, and connects at the White Sulphur Springs with the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, which is a fine road, leading by Lewisburg directly to the country which has been the theatre of military operations during the past season.
   It is unnecessary to urge on you the value of this line if it was completed, and will only remark, that in one view alone, viz.: the saving in cost of transportation, it cannot be too highly estimated, as that would probably have been equal to the cost of putting the road in operation, as far as the White Sulphur Springs. 
   I enclose a map which will better enable you to understand my views as to the importance of completing this section. I called this morning at your office to confer with you in person, but found you engaged with the Cabinet.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. Fontaine
President Va. Central R. R. Co.
   At a Convention of Railroad Presidents and Superintendents, held in Richmond on Friday, December 6, 1861, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted:
   Whereas, The existing blockade and the manufacture of munitions of war preclude the railroad companies of the Confederate States from obtaining the machinery and materials requisite to the maintenance of their railroads and means of transportation, now so essential to the military necessities of the Government, as well as to the business wants o the people; and, Whereas, without the aid of the Government, no company or association of companies will be able to procure essential supplies --
   Resolved, That the Government of the Confederate States be requested to import such supplies as are needed by the railroad companies during the existing blockade, to be paid for at their cost, including all expense of importation by each of the said companies who shall furnish on or before _____ day _____ a list of such supplies, and give satisfactory security for the payment of such cost and expenses, on delivery of such supplies.
   Resolved, That in view of the immediate and present wants of certain railroad companies, now engaged in transporting military supplies for additional equipment, and of their inability to supply the same otherwise, application be made to the authorities of the Confederate States for assistance in the premises, and it is respectfully suggested, that as a part of the military defences of the country, the Government should adopt some plan for the construction of locomotives, the cost of which shall be paid by the railroad companies on delivery.
   Resolved, That in view of the want of iron to supply the present deficiency in amount necessary for repairs upon the different roads, the Chairman of this Convention be requested to urge upon the Confederate Government the importance of taking up, and transporting to proper points, for distribution, all the iron and other material, in such quantity as can be obtained from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
   Resolved, That application be made to the Secretary of War for a temporary detail of the mechanics now serving in the army, to be employed during the winter upon the repairs of railroad machinery.