War of the Rebellion: Serial 124 Page 0408 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

First, There should, I think, be appointed by the Quartermaster- General and stationed at some central point some officer who shall have the general superintendence of all steam-boat transportation of the West. The rivers of the West and the Government transportation upon them should be regarded as a unit. The boats are all similar and equally adapted to service on any of our rivers. Those upon the Alleghany, Wisconsin, and Illinois this week may be upon the Platte, the Yazoo, or the Red River next week. Those now loading at Pittsburg, Cincinnati, or Louisville will within a few days be at Saint Louis, Memphis, or New Orleans, all doing equally useful and profitable service, though their location is so largely changed. At present all Government transportation tends south, either to the Cumberland, Tennessee, or Lower Mississippi. Transportation to either of these rivers can, with an ordinary stage of water, be furnished either from Cincinnati, Louisville, or Saint Louis, though probably on an average cheaper from Saint Louis than any other point. Hence there should not ordinarily be any great difference of rates from either of these places. Again, this branch of the service is now of very great importance, of large expense, and intricate in its nature. Upon its proper management, in the prompt and rapid movement of troops and supplies, must greatly depend the success of our armies. These troops and supplies are constantly moving to remote points, regardless of department lines, and without this unity somewhere there must result confusion, inequalities, and greatly increased expense. With a proper officer, recognized as in general charge at some central point, where he could be readily reached from all places by telegraph, whose duty it should be to be advised of all certain or probable requisitions for transportation of troops or supplies, who should make or superintend all important contracts, and have ample authority in all matters pertaining to transportation, I think an important point would be gained.

Second. There should be placed and kept at several important points assistant quartermasters of most experience and best suited to this peculiar service.

Third. Transwhen it is at all practicable to make contracts in the ordinary mercantile manner, by the piece, or 100 pounds, but general contracts should be made to cover, as far as possible, all our Western rivers.

Fourth. Concise reports should be made to this superintendent of transportation at least every week of all boats chartered or impressed, all contracts made or rates paid for transportation, so that he may be constantly advised of all boats in service and rates paid for the same. This would, I think, produce at once a great improvement, first, by causing officers to be more cautious in chartering or taking boats, resulting from the knowledge that they would be held immediately responsible. At present reports are only made to Washington, where, owing to the immense pressure of business, they are not examined for many months, when it is often too late to correct existing evils, and besides, the distance is so great they cannot then be very well advised of what is or is not really necessary, or what rates are just and reasonable, and hence millions are lost that might be saved by an earlier examination and more immediate responsibility. It frequently happens that boats are taken in an emergency and kept for months in service at high charters when their places might be supplied at Saint Louis or Cincinnati at greatly reduced rates. There are at the present time over fifty transports in the Government service on the