ever possessed. We procure engines only by a species of impressment. The northern railroads generally have not enough for their own use, and the manufacturers have only supplied the United States by breaking contracts with railroad companies and giving us what they had promised to others. This is done under military orders.
General Thomas appears to object that his troops are still working upon the railroad and to complain that enough civilians have not been hired. It will be necessary to continue to employ soldiers in cutting wood and repairing as well as guarding thee railroads, the line of communication and supply of the Army of the Cumberland. This is a portion of the legitimate duty of an army. Nowhere, probably, are so many civilians hired to do the work of an army as in this country.
Properly organized and governed, the soldiers are not the less efficient guards for doing a few hours' work per day. Their health is better and they are better contented than when lying for weeks idle in camp, while civilians employed at high prices are toiling to accumulate supplies to enable the army to resume its activity.
There are not [enough] able-bodied inhabitants in the region traversed by the railroad from Nashville to Loudon to repair and supply and maintain the road while used for the army.
A force of some 1,500 hired men has been sent to these roads from the east; 300 or 400 men from the north and east are at work upon bridges and steam-boats for the Army of the Cumberland. It has heretofore done much of its own work, to the great advantage of the troops, whose health, spirit, and discipline are all that can be desired for actual campaigning.
As the army advances, I think it important that orders be given to set to work under guard all able-bodied men, black or white, civilian or military, who may come voluntarily or by capture within our lines. We needed every man, and it is cheaper to maintain a prisoner and guard him on the field than to send him a thousand miles to be guarded and fed and clothed in idleness, while a loyal workman must be taken from the workshop in which he is so much needed and sent, at high wages and great expense of transportation, to do the work made necessary by the destruction of our roads by the rebels. The wages of labor are rising, and it is becoming day by day more difficult to procure labor. The army should, from its own ranks and by capture, supply the labor needed.
Relying upon Colonel McCallum's zeal, knowledge, and experience, I recommend:
First. That he be placed in general charge of the railroads from Nashville to East Tennessee, by both the Decatur and Bridgeport routes; all persons now employed to be subject to his general direction.
Second. The issue of an order to the major-general commanding the Division of the Mississippi to impress and enroll in the U. S. service, for work upon railroads and common roads, bridges, wood cutting, and other necessary work attending the supply of the army, of all able-bodied men, white or black, civil or military, fit for such work, who may be brought within the lines of the Armies of the Cumberland and Ohio during their active operations. Such persons to be rationed, clothed, and paid a reasonable compensation for this work.
Deserters from the rebel army, however, not to be employed under this order, except with their own consent and upon the special order of the department commander.