next month, and for a part of the month of December. It is proper, however, that I should call your attention to the fact that the district commissaries have estimated that they will not be able to drive out more than 9,600 head of cattle during the balance of the season, say to the 1st of December. This will give us 3,200 head of cattle for the army in this State.
Major White is of the opinion that these figures will be largely exceeded, and from the large number detailed men I saw going down to drive the cattle, I am inclined to believe that he is correct in his opinion.
But these arrangements are at best but temporary, and unless something is done promptly, the middle of December will see the troops suffering for meat rations, while cattle are still abundant in Florida.
Along the route over which cattle are now driven in such large numbers, the grass is either trodden down or consumed, and it is even now difficult to find grazing ground for the animals, and that portion of the route from Sumter Country up to the Gulf road, a distance of 175 or 200 miles, being subject to frosts, the grass will be utterly destroyed in the early part of December, and the cattle cannot be driven thought it for want of pasturage. Could this difficulty be overcome, we might safely count on a supply of beef until February; otherwise we cannot hope for it longer than December.
Here is a difference of two months in our supply of beef, and it is of such vital importance to the army that it is worthy the greatest exertions.
To accomplish a result so much to be desired it will be necessary to lay down a track from Live Oak,on the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad, to Numbers 12, on the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad, a distance of about 45 miles. This road is already graded, and the cross-ties are on the ground, so that all that is required is the iron, and I am informed that practical civil engineers say that the road can be put Florida, commonly known as the Fernandina and Cedar Keys Railroad, running north from Baldwin, on the Pensacola road, to Fernandina, is not used at present, and that iron, if taken up, would nearly if not quite lay the track. Should the iron be found, to be insufficient, a small portion of the iron of the Bruchwick road, now also in disuse, would complete it. With this connecting link made, it will be but sixty hours' run for a freight train from Charleston to Gainesville, Fla., the present southern terminus of the Florida Railroad, and within 30 or 40 miles of the never failing pasture land of Florida.
In that section of country lying south of a line drawn east and west across the State from the Gulf to the Atlantic coast, at the lower end of Sumter Country, or about 30 miles from Gainesville, frosts are almost unknown, pasturage is always good, and cattle abundant and in good order at all seasons. If the road mentioned above was completed, the cattle of this section could be collected as near the upper line as practicable and easily driven to Gainesville and shipped from that point. They would reached the city in from five the seven days from the time of leaving their rangers, and by this arrangement our beef supply would be placed beyond the possibility of a failure.
Nor is this the only advantage to be derived from the completion of this road.
The planters of South and East Florida are largely engaged in