NA, RRB 7/16A/1864

Columbus July 16th 1864
 
Col. F. W. Sims
Chief Rail R Bureau
Richmond
 
Dear Sir,
   Your favor of 28th Ult came to my hand this day, owing to my absence from the city, it had not had earlier attention. Being interested in the Iron business to some extent in Alabama & from my general knowledge & acquainted with the R Roads & manufacg interest of this section of confederacy, I can probably reply satisfactorily to your favor without further delay.
   I am not prepared now to give you a statistical statement of amount Iron made in Iron region of Alabama, but hope to have this information in a few days when I will forward it. There is one establishment either in this state or Alabama prepared to make R Road wheels or axles. They have made a few wheels at R Road shop at Selma. The rolling mill at Atlanta made some effort to roll the wrought Iron tire for locomotive engines, but with limited success.
   No systematic efforts have been made by any of the Rail Roads to procure a supply of material from the bountiful resources that portions of Alabama & this state abound in.
   There are (10) furnaces in Ala, (6) of which are in blast & 4 more stopped but will be in blast in a short time & will produce on an average about 8 Tons each per day. There are three rolling mills in operation & one more that will be at work in a short time. There are a number of small furnaces making bar iron from the ore, usually called bloomories, three are in use, several additional works in course of erection, that will be in operation this summer, some in a few weeks. All the works alluded to are in Alabama, accessible to us at this time & all these works with one or two exceptions are under control of the Nitre & Mining Bureau. There is one nail factory situated near this city, but is not doing much for want of material.
   From my information in regard to the present produce of Pig metal, I do not think it was much more than sufficient to supply the demand for arsenals & work shops in Alabama & Georgia. The additional furnaces when in blast will increase the supply largely, & would probably enable your Department to procure a limited supply for casting car wheels &, but not sufficient o supply such an establishment as the circumstances of the case would require. I suppose you would want a Foundry that would turn out daily 50 car wheels which would require some 25 or 30000 lbs of Pig metal & I would advise your department if you conclude to have car wheels made, to have the control of one o9r two furnaces &not to depend on chance for a supply. There would be no difficulty I think in procuring a supply of Bar & rod Iron.
   Iron for axletrees & tyres require great care & proper skill in its manufacture to produce a safe & serviceable article. I have no doubt from the test that the Iron has been subjected to, that axles & tyres can be made from some of the ore beds in Alabama that would be equal to best imported article. The supply of coal & iron ore, even from the limited section that we are confined to, would furnish the confederacy for next 100 years.
   I would give it as my opinion that there is no insurmountable difficulty to prevent your Department from procuring an adequate supply of car wheels, axles, tires, bar or rod iron from this section to effect the object referred to in your favor. It would take but a short time to prepare for casting wheels, but making axles & rolling wrought iron tires would of course require time to get up the Machinery and collecting skilled workmen to get up the work on a proper & efficient manner, but I believe with exertion & energy it can be satisfactorily carried out.
   There is one great difficulty; it is in transportation between Montgomery & West Point & this place, caused by peculiar conditions of that road, that would be necessary to remedy before anything could be done, that requires heavy transportation. Our work shops & arsenals are now at a stand for want of coal & iron & a large supply is now lying at Montgomery. The Montg & W Point rail road has but a very limited supply of rolling stock & that is in a very dilapidated condition & owing to the gauge of the road, being different from all connecting roads, she can receive no help & I dont think the company are making any efforts to improve their rolling stock, & unless something is done, the road cannot service number of other roads on the confederacy, services can be of most usefulness to our cause. Having efficient parties connected, with me in the business I am engaged in, would be enabled to conduct it successfully.
   Appreciating the very flattering notice of Quarmr Genl. Lawton & respectfully placing myself subject to the orders of the Department in any way that you can make my limited abilities of any use I am your very Respectfully
John D. Gray

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