UA, M&O 5/14/1864

Office of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad
Mobile, Ala. May 14th 1864
Hon R. Jemison
   In the passage of the recent conscription Bill, Congress has created a class of men who are allowed to control the Rail Roads of the Confederate States by uniting together and requiring such wages and imposing such conditions of employment as they please.
   Under the previous Law and General Orders issued in pursuance thereof, these employees were not allowed to change their places without the written discharge of their employers, and the alternative was then presented of remaining in the employment of the Roads or being conscripted and going into the ???, and few were disposed to change their places upon these conditions. Already the mechanics in our Repair Shops have struck for higher wages, and we have been forced to pay them fifteen dollars ($15.00) for each days labor of ten hours. They know that the Rail Roads cannot be operated without them, and, if we permit them to leave, their places cannot be supplied, and our Road must stop. The consequence has been, that we have been forced to increase our Tariff of charges on the Government as well as individuals to pay the expenses of working the Road. If we dismiss a mechanic, or if he determines to leave our service, he will find no difficulty in obtaining employment at some private establishment having a profitable contract with the Government which enables them to pay any price the mechanic may demand.
   In exempting this class of men Congress never intended to place them in a position to become extortionist upon the public and indirectly upon the Government, and I think common justice to the Rail Road Companies, who, at the formation of the Government voluntarily offered the aid of their immense capital in its support and who have assisted it by levying a heavy tariff upon individuals that the Government transportation might be performed at low rates and who have been uniform & steadfast in sustaining our ??? requires Congress, to correct the oversight, and pass a law which should protect them, find the public from this imposition.
   Such a law would exempt the employees of Rail Roads from the performances of Military duty only while they are in the service of the Company on whose descriptive list they are returned to the Enrolling office, and should contain a clause prohibiting other Rail Roads having contracts with the Government, or Contractors under the Government, or Government officers from employing them except upon the written discharge of the proper officer of the Rail Road where they were last employed, and should make it the duty of the Superintendent, or other proper officer of the Rail Road, to report the names of all persons who leave the service of the Company without such written discharge to the Enrolling officer, whose duty it should be to have them enrolled and sent to the Camp of Instruction.
   I have been for the past two weeks flat on my back with a leg badly broken, and the intense suffering prevents me from entering more into the details. Lieut Col F. W. Sims, Chief of the Rail Road Bureau, at Richmond, fully understands the subject, and would no doubt advise you as to the details of a law which would secure the rights of the Rail Road Companies & the interest of the Government against these extortions.
Very Respectfully
Your obt Svt
L J Fleming
Chf Eng & Gen Supt
{on back of document}
   The laws and regulations under it fully meet Mr Flemings views and if carried out in good faith by RRd Co's will meet every contingency.
   There is not enough latitude in the kind of men employed permitted to RRd officers, as for instance, wood and tie cutters are indispensable, yet the conscript bureau has decided that the law does not embrace them, and again in many cases one man per mile is not enough. At this time it takes more labor than ever before to keep a road in order.
   The only alternative that I would suggest in this law, would allow one and a half men to the mile, and these only upon oath of President & Supt that they were necessary to successful operation, and that any employee leaving service shd be reported instantly by employer. The law shd also state that the miles shd be counted by actual length of road & not include sidings.
F. W. Sims
Lt Col