NA, M&O 4/3/1864

Office of the Mobile & Ohio R. R.
Mobile April 3rd 1864
{the addressee of the letter is missing, but it is clear to me that it was written to Col. Sims}
   I have been so busily engaged since the enemy occupied Meridian that I could not send you a detailed account of the damage done by them to our Road.
   Genl. Sherman's army entered Meridian at one o'clock on the 14th February, and immediately detailed a large part of his force to destroy our Road, at which they were busily engaged until the evening of the 20th. The work of destruction commenced at the Howe Truss Bridge over the Chickasaka River, 105 1/2 miles from Mobile and terminated about half a mile north of Lauderdale Springs, 153 3/4 miles from Mobile. Within this distance of 48 miles they burned our warehouses, water stations, turn tables, every bridge, piece of trestle work, and wood in culverts of any importance, tore up 21 miles of track, the crossties on 16 miles of which was reduced to ashes, and our heavy Rails bent in every conceivable shape. The largest continuous piece completely destroyed was eight (8) miles, and the next seven (7) miles in length. There were two of our heaviest Howe Truss Bridges over the Chickasaba and Okatilber Rivers, two spans of Haw Truss over the second crossing of the Catties River, three fourths of a mile of trestle work from 15 to 25 ft high, and 43 smaller pieces and culverts. The crossties, which unfortunately were of best heart pine, were torn up, piled in the Road, and from six to ten Rails balanced on each pile and fired. The annexed sketch will convey a correct idea of the modus operani of burning the Rails, and they stood in the Track for miles looking like the Rafters of a house painted Red. It was a strange sight. Our ties were of best heart pine without sap and about two thirds of their depth did not come in contact with the earth, and consequently they were dry and burned very readily, ??? ??ch more damage than in other Roads built with sap timber and burned the whole depth of the tie in the Ground. Experiments were made with all the appliances which I have heretofore successfully used for straightening Rails, but the power was inadequate to straighten our heavy Rails, and I was forced to resort to heat & Negro power used with a little experience about five (5) Rails can be straightened by each hand per day. At camping places, the enemy amused himself by wrapping the Rails around trees, & tying them together, but generally after the pile was fired they were left to bend and cooled in the shape before described.
   Genl Maury's order to rebuild the Road is dated Feby 23rd and on the morning of the 24th the work was commenced with that part of our forces, barely one half, which had not fled on the approach of the enemy. On the 29th Feby, Maj Whitfield, who had been detailed by Genl. Polk to render me every required assistance; arrived in Mobile from Selma, and after consultation we c??ded that the necessary labor could not be obtained except in the counties of ??ber & Lowndes which the enemy had not reached. Altho every exertion was made by Maj Whitfield, it required several days to ride 50 miles on horseback, and 80 miles on a hand car, and still more time was occupied in collecting the hands from so large a distract of country and forwarding them to the work, so that none of them reached the work before the 11th March. The Chickacaba Bridge 60 feet high was completed in eight (8) days, and seven (7) days more were consumed in rebuilding half a mile of trestle work; the finishing of which was necessary to run the Trains up to the burned track. During the same time my assistant J. P. Fresenins who was on the northern side of the Break had collected some of our scattered forces and was energetically working his way southwards. The two forces united the Rails at noon of the 24th March. Engines passed over the Road the same day, & regular Passenger Trains were resumed on the following Monday, the 28th March. The work was accomplished in 29 1/2 days, four days of which time were lost by rains making the actual working times 25 1/2 days.
   I have given these details with the hope they may be of interest to you, and because in a conference last fall with the Presidents & Genls Johnston and Hardee I expressed the opinion that with proper management the Road between Canton & Jackson could be repaired in three (3) weeks, and the Pearl River Bridge rebuilt in two (2) weeks, so that the Rolling Stock of the N O & J & Miss Cent Roads could be moved east of Pearl River.
   Genls Smith & Grierson burned all the warehouses, water stations, turn tables, trestle work, wood in culverts, and tore up the Track at intervals & burned the Rails, from Okolona to West Point, a distance of 32 miles, and our own forces destroyed the heavy Bridge over Tibbes River three miles south of West Point. The Road between West Point and Okolona runs entirely through the Prairies, where there is no timber, as if it could be obtained, it could not be hauled except by Rail Road. The completion of the Tibbs Bridge
{this is the end of the letter in the National Archives. Though there is no signature, it was clearly written by L. J. Fleming, Superintendent of the Mobile & Ohio RR}