NA, RR 11/15/1861

Head Quarters, District of Ala.
Mobile November 15th 1861
J. P. Benjamin
Actg. Sec: of War
Richmond Va
   I am this day in receipt of your telegraphic communication of the 13th inst. instructing me to suspend my "Order for seizing the telegraphic wire between Montgomery and Mobile or Pensacola" until my reasons therefor shall have been submitted to & received the sanction of the President.
   The wire & material ordered to be seized were necessary to the construction of a line between Mobile & Meridian, a distance of one hundred & thirty four miles, and to the completion along the Railroad route a continuous line of telegraph to New Orleans. This wire and material was being used by the company in the construction of a second line, between Montgomery & Mobile -- a line certainly not demanded during the continuance of this war, for either commercial or military purpose; the one now in use having heretofore amply sufficed for all business wants & convenience during the most active periods of our greatest commercial prosperity.
   From time to time for several years past, efforts were made by rival telegraph companies to acquire the right of way on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad but all failed from the management of the road finding it impossible to harmonize the conflicting rival interests which the length of the road involved. This fact was made known to me by the Chief Engineer & Genl. Superintendent as the reason why he could not comply with my urgent accommodation that the telegraph line completed from New Orleans to Meridian, should be promptly continued to this place; and induced from him the proposal that the Railroad Company should put up & maintain the line, if I would procure the wire, insulators &c. The military importance of the M&O Railroad, the evident propriety of guarding from all consequences of irregular trains which the emergencies of the times might demand for government service, together with the fact that the existing means of telegraphic communication with New Orleans, the line being established along the coast & in many places extending over bay & inlets, could at any moment be destroyed by the enemy, induced me to accept the proposition & order the necessary wire & material to be seized.
   The proposed line from Mobile to Meridian supplies the link wanting to the establishing of  continuous telegraphic communication between Pensacola Mobile & new Orleans along the railroad routes connecting these places.
   It would connect Richmond & New Orleans by a second & southern route, freeing them from their present dependence on the one western route.
   It completes connection between New Orleans & this city, not subject to the destroying propensity of the enemy as is the present coast line.
   It would furnish a safeguard to railroad travel & might become of great military importance in the event of the Gulf coast being threatened by the enemy in imposing force.
   The seizing of the wire & material works no actual damage to the owners, it only deprives them of the means for gratifying the spirit of the dog in the manger, or of inducement for yielding to the infration of monopoly & extortion which seems to prevail to an ??ical extent throughout the Confederacy.
   These were the considerations which prompted my action and commend the approval of General Bragg to whom they were submitted. Your order is obeyed & the work suspended until the decision of the Government is known.
I have the honor to be, Very respectfully
Your obt. Svt
J. M. Withers
B. Genl Comdg