the best practical talent of the country to assist him as superintendents of the various lines; and the manner in which these duties were performed is best learned from observing the condition of the army in its victorious march from Chattanooga to Atlanta.
The duty of constructing new lines and opening them for uses of the transportation department was assigned to a chief engineer, who was instructed to organize a construction corps of ample numbers, equipped with all necessary tools, camp equipage, and material. This Construction Corps was arranged in six divisions, which, at the capture of Atlanta, numbered in all about 5,000 men. Each division was managed by a division engineer, and was composed of a suitable number of bridge builders, trackmen, and laborers, watch under their respective supervisor.
They were again divided into gangs under foremen and subdivided into squads under sub-foremen. It was designed to give the corps entire mobility, and to secure this end each division was made complete in itself for any and all kinds of work, and so equipped with tolls, tents, &c., as to be ready to remove at short notice to any point, by any mode of convenience, either railroad, with teams, or on foot; and the record of their labors proves how thoroughly this was accomplished.
For full details of the organization and its labors, I respectfully refer to the report of W. W. Wright, chief engineer, marked B, herewith submitted.
The difficulty of procuring an ample supply of competent railroad men, particularly in the transportation department, was almost insurmountable. The number of skilled railroad operatives in the country is, and always has been, limited, owing to the peculiar nature of the business. Many had entered the Army in various capacities and thus diminished the actual number in civil service, while the stimulus given to the business of Northern railroads by the war rendered the demand at home far greater than the supply. This demand caused corresponding advanced in wages and when the large number needed to equip these military lines was called often, it was extremely difficult to induce them to leave their positions and enter upon a new and untried field of action.
The difference between civil and military railroad service is marked and decided. Not only are the men continually exposed in various ways to danger from the enemy, but owing to the circumstances under which nearly all military railroads must be worked, what may be considered the ordinary risks are vastly increased, and the exposure and hard-ships endured by trainmen during the movements incident to an active campaign frequently are beyond those of any other class of persons in Government service, unless, perhaps, it be soldiers while engaged in a raid into the enemy's country.
It is not unusual for men to be out four to eight days with no opportunity to sleep except such as can be snatched upon their engines or cars while the trains are standing to be loaded or unloaded, and with little or no food for one or two days together, while they are so occupied as to keep every faculty to its highest tension.
Some incidents of the late campaign of General Sherman exhibit an amount of endurance, fortitude, and self-devotion on the p;art of railroad employes not exceeded in any branch of the service.
These men could find ample employment on the railroads of the Northern States at rates of compensation that in ordinary times would seem extravagant, where their labors would be comparatively light,