NA, SWR 2/9/1862

Off: Winchester & Pot Rail Road Compy  
Winchester Virginia Feby 9, 1862
Hon. J. P. Benjamin
Secy War
   I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt this morning of your letter of date of 3d inst.
   I was not unaware of the efforts which were in operation at Richmond to induce action in your part, in reference to use iron sold to this Company by the War Department of C. S. A. Still confined to my house by sickness I assured this community as well as myself, that you would take no action upon & report statements, especially of such as were to be the recipients of your favor in such action might seem prima facie, that a Rail Road thirty two miles in length, extending from the border to a town containing 5000 inhabitants, pronounced by Genl. Johnson as the key of the Valley, and the Military Post of some 10,000 regular troops. I say it might seem that such a road was of some importance to the protection of the border counties or in transporting supplies from the richest counties in the State for the support of such an Army. In reality and in fact the enemy dare not now cross the Potomac to ravage the border counties of Jefferson, Berkeley or because they may at any moment be surprised in a few hours, by troops taken down this road, and in reality and in fact, nearly all the freight which passes daily up this road is Government property from Harpers ferry or from the Balto & Ohio Rail Road or commissary stores for the support of the Army, now is to be daily wagon from this place to the support of the Army at Manassas.
   The Conty of Jefferson alone has a surplus of at least 100,000 bbls of flour for our Army; and saved from feeding the enemy in part by the military capacity of this Rail Road, more flour, more food for some Army, ours or the enemys than can be scraped from the whole tier of Piedmont Counties, through which President Barbours, Orange & Alexandria Rail Road passes.
   I take leave therefore to say, that an abandonment of this Rail Road is protested, an abandonment of all these border counties, and leaves them to the savage vandalism, which for the last three months has been enacted in the county of Hampshire. And Pado and write it that all history has shown, that the measure of protection is the measure of allegiance.
   I confess in personal interviews, I instilled these views with whatever of capacity I possessed, into the mind of Mr. Secretary Walker, and I ask now to efface any contrary sentiment from yours -- and the mere effectually to insure that result, I will rehearse to you some of the facts, some of the service, which this road has rendered and can render, and will render in the common cause in which we are all embarked.
   On the 18 April last, I was called about day light from my bed by Majr Funsten now in the Cavalry service and informed by him that some 500 troops were near this town on their march to take possession of Harpers ferry, without any evidence that the the Governor had ordered the same, and I was asked to furnish transportation for them with their artillery which was promptly done, and from that time to the 21st June following, the Engines and Cars on this R Road were running night and day in transporting troops and munitions of war and supplies for the army. The whole of Genl. Johnson's army was transported over this road to H Ferry from time to time as they arrived at Winchester without the slightest accident to a single individual, and a part oof the Army were returned to Winchester in the same manner. The whole of the Machinery from the armory shops at the Ferry were brought over this road and it would have been impracticable without the Railroad to have effected that important service. During the autumn & winter months the road has been pressed down with the service of transporting Engines Cars and materials taken from the Balto & Ohio Rail Road, so that there is not a car of the late Balto & Ohio R. Rd Compy on any one of the Eastern roads which was not transported over this road, and our immense depot building and acres of ground adjoining are now covered with the spoils of that road, taken by Capt Sharp that most energetic and patriotic agent of the Confederate States.
   In rendering this service to the Confederate States the plate rail which is only 3/4 of an inch thick was much broken especially by the large Engines taken from the Balto & Ohio R. Rd. The crushing down of the wooden stringers upon which the plate or Bar Iron was spiked, and the inability during the war to procure other timber left the road in a most dilapidated condition. In this state of things I applied to Genl. Walker for the old rail as taken from the Balto & O. R. Road, and the contract referred to in your fav of 3d inst was the result of the application.
   On the faith of that contract this Company has sold by written agreement all the old iron on our road to Joseph R. Anderson & Co of Richmond and on our faith that Company has contracted with the C. S. A. to furnish munitions of war in the construction of which the tenacity of our plate rail is peculiarly valuable. On the same faith this Company has purchased a large amount of cross ties (a contract with one individual for ten thousand) all of which will be useless to us without the iron ??? them to. On the same faith we have contracted with an individual to Superintend the renewal of the road. The contractor resigned a lucrative post in North Carolina to do this work.
   I need not recite other contracts running more into detail, and all made on the faith of this Government Contract. The only mode in which this road is now kept in repair is by using the sound timber, taken up as we lay one rail, to repair the balance, and thus we are able to transport from the lower counties the supplies for the army ??? at Manassah. The Agent of the Ordinance department informs me within the last hour that there are immense quantities of material still at H. Ferry to be brought up over this road, a single rolling mill worth he informs me not less than $30,000. He estimates the material of the Federal Government still at H. Ferry not less than $100,000 in removing which he has now every day a large number of men and wagons engaged.
   You will see therefore that the benefits already received or even those to be received would have justified the Confederate Government to have relaid this whole road.
   I inclose from the Superintendent of transportation some of the principal articles of Government transportation brought up our road during use months of December & January. You will see 5000 bbls of Flour 3000 of which was forwarded from this place in wagons for our Army at Manassah. You will see also nearly a million pounds of corn. If you will calculate the saving in the Commissary Department by this competition of the Valley market with the Eastern Mills of our State you will find it no inconsiderable item. It is certain their interest to break down this road which sustains this competition but such is not the interest of the Confederate Government.
   I trust you will be satisfied from these facts that if it was in the power of this Company to rescind the contract made with the War Department yet it would not be the interest of the Government to do so. But the numerous contracts made by me in the faith of the Government in their contract render it impossible. Such a ??apion in the state of feeling in this community and with such contracts as I have made would drive me to the public press to vindicate myself from public censure.
   The road was in tolerable order in April as is shown by the large number of troops carried over it without a single accident. The Confederate Government absolutely took possession of the road. It was used necessarily almost for the public service in transporting loads of heavy material and enormous Engines from the Balto & O. R. Rd. which broke up our frail Iron and crushed up the wooden strings of the Superstructure. It was the moral obligation of the Government to relieve us as far as it was in its power. It has done so by the contract, and if the Border of Virginia is a part of the C. S. A. the Government by the Act of Genl. Walker has done that which was best under all the circumstances.
   The "change of the matters since the contract" with all deference I regard as much in favor of the contract. At the time of the contract there were no troops at Winchester except a few Militia. Now I understand there is an Army of 10,000 men and I take it that this part of Virginia is not to be abandoned. At the time of the contract the Eastern flour mills furnished the whole Commissary department of the Army until their monopoly cried to heaven through the Richmond press. Now by this road the border counties on this road raise a fair & honorable competition and send their products to our Army and away from the enemy. The probability that "your (our) road will never be used to such an extent as to pay for the Iron" may or may not be so, but to this I have to say that Capt Sharps transportation acct from the Balto & O. Rail Road only amounts now to upwards of $3000, not a dollar of which has been drawn and does not include any portion of the transportation of H Ferry material, or the general transportation of the Commissary department, an exhibit of which is enclosed.
   To the remark "there is little likelihood that you will be able to put this iron on the track of your road" I reply that the formal delivery of this iron was made on the 1st December 1861. Since then the weather has been unfavorable, and all the labor of the country here has been monopolized by the Government. Indeed all the hands engaged in laying the iron were at one time sent from our road to the Balto & O R Road to aid in taking off the heavy Engines and to lay temporary tracks for that purpose. I having on every pressing emergency, surrendered my hands, shops, engines, and cars to the use of the Confederate States. Still we have gathered up cross ties and laid three miles of track, and will have distributed the iron by the close of this week over two thirds of the whole road.
   The proceeds of the old iron sold to Jos. R. Anderson & Co realize twice the expense of the reconstruction. I can therefore as easily employ 100 hands as one hand, there is therefore a certainty of the whole line being laid as fast as labor can be obtained for that purpose.
   Permit me to suggest in reply that "this iron is indispensable for the repair of other roads" that from 50 to 100 wagons are now every day carrying iron to Strasburg taken from the Balto & Ohio R Rd. equal fully to 100 tons for every trip of the wagons (independent of what has been furnished to this Company) which will be continued from day to day for an indefinite period, or so long as the enemy is unable to interfere, all which is in part a result of the military capacity of this road. I will also add that none of the Eastern roads have been long enough in operation to require any material repairs, their T. Rail ought to last twenty years; and such repairs as they may require, could easily without interfering with the iron at Strasburg be furnished from their lateral tracks and Bar Iron be placed there in lieu of the T. Rail used for the main line.
   How much track we can relay in "two months" I cannot say but my contractor expects if 50 hands can be furnished him to lay the whole line in 6 months and as much sooner as the labor can be provided.
   With profound deference I have now placed before you a series of facts very diverse no doubt from what has been represented to the department. I repose in perfect security in the faith of the Government. An act of ??? on my part is an act of suicide. It amounts, to this road with only a 3/4 inch plate rail, now laid for 20 years, to utter destruction. It is ungenerous in the T. Rail Road Companies to ask for our ruin. On the faith of the contract I have permitted any weight to be taken over the road solely for the use & benefit of the C. S. and consequently if I now lose the Iron, I am the dupe of my faith in a government I have struggled to build up when there were few friends to such a Government in these Border grounds. I have labored hard to link these border counties to the East by opening a market for their products. An Act is now before the Legislature of Virginia, to connect the Winchester & Manassah Rail Roads, but if this iron is taken from us there will be no Winchester Rail Road. We hold the iron by the same tenure that the Eastern Rail Roads hold the Engines and Cars, which we brought over our road for their benefit from the Balto & Ohio RRd. If their tenure is sound so must ours be. And when the Judicial tribunals of the country shall decide that a military necessity exists to break up this road to improve other roads, or to take my property for the benefit of my neighbor, or upon any principle except to keep it from the hands of the enemy, I shall bow to my fate only because I cannot resist it.
Very respectfully
W L Clark Pres
Win & P R R Co
{on the back of the document}
There is no intention to cause the abandonment of the W&P RR. I am reliably informed that the Road is in operation only as far as Charleston -- 21 miles --the enemy holding the Harper's Ferry terminus. By allowing the Co to retain two miles of heavy rail in addition to that which has been relaid, it will place the road in better condition than it was, when the heavy engines, to which the Prest. refers were brought over it. The cars taken from the B&O R. R. were used on the W&P Road for the transportation of Govt. stores, for which freight was paid to the road. This is more than an offset to the wear and tear of the road by the engines passing over it. The flat rail near Harper's Ferry may be taken to repair the road. Other roads cannot use the flat rail. The means of the W&P road are very limited. On commencing to relay the rails on 1st Oct, then men were employed but two days. The supply of heavy rail from the B&O Rail Road will be limited to some 1 000 tons. The lateral branches are not laid with good iron.
   Respectfully returned to the Sec of War
A C Myers
Q. M. General