OR, Series 1, Vol. 31, Part 3, Page 672

Chesterville, Miss.
November 9, 1863
General J. E. Johnston
   Having satisfied myself that it would be impossible to forage my command on or near the line of the Tallahatchie long, unless supplies could be carried to Tupelo, on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, at the suggestion and verbal instruction of Brigadier-General Chalmers, I ordered the road to be repaired as a military necessity and means of transportation. I consulted with Major-General Gholson, and he informed me that he had authority under an act of the Legislature to impress labor for that purpose. Uniting in opinion as to the great public want of the work, he detailed and instructed an officer to impress the day labor, teams, drivers, mechanics, and overseers. I ordered Captain Crider to superintend, as civil engineer, the construction of repairs. He, after making a cursory examination, thought the repairs could be made at a cost of $5,000. I immediately informed Judge Brown, president of the company, of my order and that of General Gholson, asking him to take charge of the labor and make the repairs. The people gladly responded to the call for negroes, because all saw and felt the necessity for the work. Captain Crider was progressing rapidly with the work until I was informed that you had issued an order countermanding mine to repair. I ordered the work to be suspended and the labor sent home to report when called for. I have just now received your order, dated 5th instant, revoking my order and notifying me that I "had no authority" to make such an order. I made the order on the same ground that I would order my quartermaster to impress teams to transport stores, or my command to meet an approaching force of the enemy, a necessity devolving upon me to defend an assigned district of country by all the means within my reach. If I could order a wagon to be made and a road to be opened, and a bridge made across a stream on which to drive the wagon, I do not see why I could not order a railroad to be repaired. If corporations are persons, as they claim to be in legal contemplation, though soulless, as their acts in many cases show them to be, I do not see any just and well-founded reason why they should be exempted from the exercise of a power applied to pastoral persons under the proper circumstances. But this thing I do know, that if the corn does not come to our stock, a very imperative law of nature will compel us to go to it. I shall be compelled to make Okolona the basis of forage and subsistence in less time than one month. This will throw my command 40 miles below the assigned northern line and 60 miles below where it ought to be in my judgment. I believe that I can take and hold a line 60 miles north of this much easier than this, extending protection to people now in the contested ground. If we could get supplies, I would, if permitted, advance and repair the road as I went.
Very respectfully,
R. V. Richardson
Colonel, Commanding Northeastern Mississippi