|Head Quarters, District of Ala.
|Mobile November 15th 1861
J. P. Benjamin
|Actg. Sec: of War
| 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