OR, Series 2, Vol. 7, Page 444

Headquarters Florida Light Artillery
Camp Sumter, July 5, 1864
Capt. W. S. Winder
   In obedience to instructions dated "Camp Sumter, Ga., June 27, 1864," to proceed at once to Cahaba, Ala., and afterward to Union Springs, in the same State, and examine thoroughly into the merits of the places for the establishment of a military prison," I visited Union Springs for the purpose indicated, *** and beg leave to report the following as the result:
   First. Union Springs is a small village of some 700 inhabitants; is the present terminus of the Mobile & Girard Railroad, and is fifty four miles from Columbus, Ga. A suitable location for a prison is found not nearer than one mile from the railroad depot; but this location would be suitable only so far as ground is concerned. The name of the village would indicate abundance of water, so desirable in the selection of a site for a stockade. But this is a mistake. The springs are numerous, but are so scattered and are of such small capacity as to be totally unreliable for the purpose required. Nor are there running streams that would be available, for these during the rainy season swell rapidly, and, on the other hand, during protracted dry seasons cease to run altogether. Should, therefore, a stockade be erected at this point, reliance can alone be had on wells for the necessary water. These are the chief dependence of the people of the village, but furnish an abundant supply.
   Second. Timber for stockade: There is no timber suitable for the purpose within a less distance than three miles of the village. Within that distance there is a small belt of pine timber, but not sufficient for the purpose. Two miles beyond this grove, or five miles from the village, an abundant supply is found. By locating the stockade at the point mentioned in paragraph 1, the distance required for hauling will be lessened one mile.
   Third. Transportation at the place and labor: There are at present thirteen Government wagons and mules at Union Springs, which number will be increased to eighteen during the present week. These wagons are now being employed in hauling corn from the adjacent counties, but could be doubtless used temporarily in erecting the stockade. When the crops are laid by, which will be the case in some two weeks, I was assured by intelligent citizens that there would be no difficulty in obtaining all the transportation that might be required. The same remark is true as to labor. In two or three weeks any number of negro laborers can be had. Resort, however, must be had to impressment for both transportation and labor, the planters preferring this mode of supplying the demand as the most equitable and just.
   Fourth. Present state of the surrounding country in reference to provisions: On this important point I was necessarily compelled to rely much on information obtained from Maj. A.M. Allen, commissary of subsistence, of Columbus, Ga., who, from his position, has the best means of forming a judgment. In answer to inquiries made by him, he furnished me, at my request, with a written reply, which I beg to inclose herewith. Major Allen says "20,000 men could be subsisted there (Union Springs) from country directly tributary to it." On my return Major Allen reiterated this opinion, adding with emphasis, he knew the supply to be abundant. I learned, further, that there is a large number of beef-cattle in the counties tributary to the springs, especially in Henry, Coffee, and Dale. Numbers of these cattle have already been purchased for the Government, and agents are now engaged in securing others, so that from the information given by Major Allen, and from such as I was able to gather from other sources, I was satisfied that with the aid of the beef-cattle now being collected there is a present supply of provisions in the surrounding counties ample for the purpose.
   Inasmuch as my instructions directed inquiry and report upon "every fact bearing directly or indirectly upon the question," I beg to call your attention to the condition of the Mobile & Girard Railroad. From Girard, the starting point of the road, on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River, opposite Columbus, to Silver Run, a distance of twenty miles, the road is laid with the T rail and is in good condition, but from Silver Run to Union Springs the superstructure and iron are of the most inferior description.
   The iron is of the old flange pattern and is very much worn, and the cross-ties and stringers greatly decayed. Steps should be at once taken to have the necessary repairs made, otherwise there is reason to fear that the road will not be in condition to move the next crop. The transportation facilities of the road are likewise greatly deficient. The motive power consists of four engines and the rolling-stock of twenty-four box and thirty platform cars. When it is borne in mind that the river at Columbus is not spanned by a railroad bridge, and that the Girard road is so cut off as to render it impossible for the trains of other roads to pass over it, it is a matter of grave doubt whether the transportation of the road is sufficient to answer the demands that may be made upon it. This deficiency, however, will not be of so great importance, provided the prison is located at a point nearer Columbus. With a view of a possible location at some other point, though outside of my instructions, I devoted a day to the examination of the country at Silver Run, and found it admirably adapted to the purpose required. Timber, water, everything requisite is at hand, directly on the railroad. The run is a small stream of clear water, having its source in a multitude of springs and never has been known to go dry. It passes through a slight depression between two hills, which furnish a most desirable site for a stockade. The surrounding country is elevated and abounds in pine timber. I have seen no place more desirable for a military prison. The only disadvantage connected with it as a location consists in its distance (thirty-four miles) from Union Springs, but this disadvantage is overcome when the condition of the railroad is considered, the transportation facilities of which might very well serve to carry provisions up the road, but which would be altogether too limited to transport the prisoners down, especially when arriving in bodies of 800 and 1,200. Besides, from the distance from Columbus to the Springs, fifty-four miles, and the condition of the road from Silver Run down, not more than one trip a day could be made, whereas Silver Run, being only twenty miles from Columbus, and the road being comparatively good, the limited transportation would not prove so great an evil. Again, between Silver Run and Union Springs there are two Government depots for tax in kind, and, on inquiry, I found that each of these depots received nearly as much tithe bacon and other supplies as the depot at Union Springs, so that the disadvantage referred to is trifling compared with the advantage found in water, timber, &c. In view, therefore, of all the circumstances, I beg most respectfully to recommend Silver Run as the most desirable location.
   Bearing also upon the question, I beg to add that seventeen miles below Silver Run there is an excellent grain mill, with capacity to grind 300 bushels per day. There is also a mill at Union Springs with a similar capacity, and also that on the line of the railroad there are four steam saw-mills in constant operation.
Very respectfully, &c.,
C. E. Dyke
Captain, Florida Light Artillery