HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DISTRICT OF FLORIDA,
Lake City, July 5, 1864.
Major CHARLES S. STRINGFELLOW,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Charleston, S. C.:
MAJOR: In the execution of the order which I have received from department headquarters in regard to takin up the iron, fixtures, &c., from the East Florida railroads, in conjunction with the officers of the Engineer Bureau, who have been charged more immediately with that work conflicts of authority have arisen between the authorities of the State and Confederate Governments, which, if not judiciously harmonized, may lead to embarrassments of an unfortunate, if not very serious, character. I therefore propose to submit a brief statement of the present situation of the consideration of the major-general commanding. In March last, when it was supposed by the friends of and parties interested in the road that the Government was about to take up the iron for military uses, an injunction was prayed and obtained from the circuit court of this district, and served upon Lieutenant Fairbanks and others, who had been directed to commence the work, restraining them from doing so, &c. Lieutenant Fairbanks consulted Major Meriwether, of the Engineer Bureau, under whose orders he was acting, as to the course he should pursue. The result was that he gave no heed to the process of the court. About this time I received the order of the major-general commanding, directing me to give Lieutenant F. all assistance in my power to take up the iron, &c. Work was commences. I furnished the edetail for the work and the necessary military guard to protect the working party, and impressed the engines and flat-cars necessary for transporting the iron to Live Oak. After some two or three miles of the iron had been taken up an officer of the court summonded Lieutenant Fairbanks to appear before the judge at a given day thereafter, and show cause why he had not obeyed the former process, or why he was in contempt, &c. This process Lieutenant F. declined to obey also. Subsequently the sheriff attempted to arrest Lieutenant Fairbanks and take him before the court, but was prevented from executing the process through the instrumentality of a military force which I had placed at Lieutenant Fairbanks' disposal. The judge (Dawkins) finding it out of his power to enforce the orders and decrees of the court in the premises submitted a history of the case to the Governor of the State, and requested that the power of the State be interposed to uphold the edignity of its courts, and to enforce their decrees. Judge Dawkins has since informed me, unofficially, that the Governor had promised him that his authority, &c., should be upheld. Thus the matter stands. As I was not made a party to the suit, and as no restraining order had ever been served upon me, together with the fact that my former acquaintance with the judge had been of a very pleasant character, I had unofficial access to him which Lieutenant Fairbanks and others who were directly parties did not enjoy. After the injunction had been served upon Lieutenant Fairbanks-which was before I had received any instructions in the premises-I foresaw difficulties arising wihich would result in a conflict of State and Confederate authority unless steps were taken to avert it. Consequently, when the second process was served upon him, requiring him to come in and purge himself of contempt, &c., I did not hesitate to advise him to do so.
From what I knew of Judge Dawkins' disposition to yield a hearty support to the Confederate authorities in everything, and of the great necessity-military necessity-which the Government was under, of having the iron at once, I did not apprehend any difficulty whatever in