War of the Rebellion: Serial 124 Page 0407 UNION AUTHORITIES.

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objections to the proposed convention of steam-boat owners to fix rates are, that you cannot, as in the case of railroads, get at any tangible permanent body with which to negotiate. The interests are as numerous and varying as the boats, here to-day and remote to-morrow. Again, expenses and dangers vary with the season of the year, the kind of service from or to which boats are taken, the time engaged, whether employed in the transportation of freight or troops, and many other causes, owing to which it is almost impossible to fix upon any satisfactory rules, or to form a just judgment, even when an officer has had much experience and uses every effort to do justice. I fully concur with Colonel Swords in the opinion that the best and cheapest way of doing Government transportation is by the 100 pounds or by the piece, under general contracts. Had this course been adopted on the Ohio I have no doubt, from my own experience, that it would have saved a very large sum and great labor and annoyance to the Quartermaster's Department. When, by your order, I took charge of transportation at this point in the winter of 1861-"62, the charter system was the sole mode of doing Government transportation. Convinced that this plan was wrong in principle, with your approval I at once discharged every boat, and soon after made-contracts by the piece or 100 pounds, and have never since that time chartered boats for general transportation, though we have transported hundreds of thousands of men, and hundreds of thousands of tons of freight. When I have chartered or impressed boats it has, with rare exceptions, only been done on the requisitions of superior officers, or in great emergencies admitting of no delay, and requiring the instant movement of large bodies of troops, as in the transfer of General Pope's army from New Madrid up the Tennessee, General Grant's army from Memphis to the Yazoo, or the like, and when time was deemed of too great importance to admit of negotiation, or when negotiations would only end in evident extortion. The result of the change was a great and marked improvement in every respect. We have secured unprecedentedly low rates, not half what has been paid for mercantile transportation during the same period. The business has gone forward with as perfect system and order as ordinary commercial transactions, and has been entirely satisfactory to all parties. All our troubles and complaints have arisen from the emergencies which I have mentioned, when nearly every transport was required (and most of them to lie idle for months at a time). I have no doubt but that the cost of Government transportation on the Ohio and its tributaries has been much greater than was necessary - perhaps even 40 per cent., as Captain Ferry asserts. I have no doubt, as Captain Ferry also states, that this increased expense has often arisen from the improper interference of line officers, and at others, from a lack of cordial co-operation of quartermasters. to my own knowledge, boats costing from $ 200 to $ 300 per day have been frequently most unnecessarily detained for many days in unloading. In other cases they have been kept nominally for other purposes, but really only to accommodate officers with quarters. In other cases they have been used in numbers, and for weeks and months, for storage, when a small sum properly expended would have built sheds or warehouses, ample for all purposes. For these evils and such others as exist there certainly can and should be found a remedy, and I will, in accordance with the request of the Quartermaster-General, make such suggestions as would, in my opinion, give a practical solution of most of them: