OR, Series 1, Vol. 28, Part 2, Page 410

Hdqrs. Dept. South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
Charleston, S. C., October 10, 1863
Lieut. Col. A. L. Rives
Actg. Chief of Engineer Bureau, Richmond, Va.
  Herewith I send a letter to the honorable Secretary of War, in reference to the increased importance of making the Blue Mountain Railroad connection, now that we are deprived of any supply of coal or iron from the vicinity of Chattanooga. Is it possible to get iron for the 59 miles? The advantages of this connecting link have been so fully discussed, that I need not dwell on them here. The necessity for an increased supply of iron, coal, etc., is upon us. What can we do to get them from Middle and Northern Alabama?
  Confer with Colonel St. John, and advise jointly with the Secretary of War.
  You will, as acting chief of the bureau, please to present to the Secretary of War, for promotion, the names embraced in my private note (written a few days ago) and ask for early action. As to A. S. Gaines' appointment, do not make the recommendation until you hear further from me. Cannot Captain Robinson, recently from England, be appointed on the commission for collecting railroad iron? An efficient, well-tried officer should be assigned to the duty.
  If you did not receive my telegram in time to send two pedometers by Mrs. Gilmer, please to send them by first opportunity. We much need the 400 spades, 100 axes, and other tools last applied for. They have not yet been received.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant
J. F. Gilmer
Major-General, Chief of Engineer Bureau
Charleston, S. C., October 10, 1863
Hon. James A. Seddon
War Department, Richmond, Va.
  Sir: Since the occupation of Chattanooga by the enemy we have no longer access to the coal and iron in that vicinity, and the necessity is upon us to struggle for an increased supply from other sources.
  Middle and Northern Alabama afford both in large quantities, if they can be gotten out. Want of transportation is the greatest difficulty.
  Under existing circumstances, it becomes a serious question whether the Government should not do everything possible to complete the railroad connection between Rome, Ga., and Blue Mountain, Ala., with a view to securing two outlets from the mineral districts of Alabama. All the coal and iron from that section have now to be brought to Selma, and from that point sent by river to Montgomery, thence to West Point, where there is a break of gauge, before it can reach Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, or any other important work shops. This involves transshipment at Selma, at Montgomery, and again at West Point. The distance from Blue Mountain to Atlanta, via Selma, Montgomery, and West Point, is 405 miles, of which about 100 miles are on the Alabama River. From Blue Mountain to Atlanta, by Rome, the distance will be 139 miles, with no break of gauge or transshipment, if the 59 miles of connection can be finished.
  The two things especially wanted by Judge Walker, the president of the Alabama and Georgia Railroad {Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad}, are iron to lay the track and transportation of provisions from Southwestern Georgia and other points, to feed his hands. Can the Government aid him and meet the other pressing wants of the country and army? Fifty-nine miles of railroad iron will be difficult to obtain. The only sources of supply for so large an amount would seem to be the Florida railroads and the Mississippi Central. If the country can be held and the bridge rebuilt over the Pearl River at Jackson, a considerable quantity of iron could be obtained from the last-named road, to be used for the Blue Mountain connection, or for our much worn main lines of road.
  This question should receive prompt and earnest attention from Colonel Garnett and the other member of the commission for collecting iron from railroads.
  I will direct Lieutenant-Colonel Rives, Acting Chief of Engineer Bureau, to confer with Lieutenant-Colonel St. John, Chief of Niter and Mining Bureau, and, with him, to take such steps in the matter now presented as may be possible.
With high respect, your obedient servant
J. F. Gilmer
Major General, and Chief of Engineer Bureau