where they could make themselves and their families comfortable, and without exposure to more than the ordinary risks of railroad service.
All these difficulties rendered it impossible to retain for any long period, at any price, the men most essential to the successful working of the line. They were constantly leaving, and their places had to be filled by new men brought from the North. It is a well-known fact that the success of a railroad ordinarily depends upon retaining in its service the men who are acquainted with its peculiarities, its grades, its curves, its stations, wood yards, water tanks, passing places, and all the details compromising a thorough knowledge of the line, its wants, capabilities, and running arrangements.
When all the circumstances of the case are considered, it is a wonder the military railroads were so successfully operated.
At the beginning they were at best an experiment, for the attempt to furnish all the supplies for a large army from a point more than 350 miles distant (Tennessee River to Atlanta is 365 miles [sic]), over a line entirely in hostile territory, is believed to have no precedent in military history, and certainly no attempt had ever been made depending upon a single-track railroad.
It required no ordinary forethought, energy, watchfulness, and patience on the part of those directly engaged in their management, and rendered necessary and enormous expenditure of money and materials.
The next subject demanding attention was a supply of engines and cars.
For operating the 292 miles of railroad in use February 4 there were on hand 47 U. S. Military Railroad engines; 3 engines borrowed from Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; total, 50 engines, of which 11 were disabled and in shop for repairs, leaving for use 39.
There were 437 U. S. Military Railroad freight cars, of which about 300 were in working order, and about 100 cars borrowed from Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company.
Reference to my report on January 19,* in regard to the condition of railroads at that time, will show what was estimated as the necessary equipment for a railroad working under ordinary circumstances, and when it is considered that these roads were operated in a country more or less hostile and liable to all the contingencies arising from attempts to interfere with and destroy our roads and rolling stock, it will be seen that extraordinary efforts were necessary to provide the required equipments in season.
General Grant and Thomas both advised me that unless a larger quantity of supplies could be transported over the railroad for the army it would be impossible to extend the campaign.
In view of the imperative necessity for making such provision as would furnish the facilities for transportation needed, and order was given by the Honorable Secretary of War to proceed at once to all the locomotives manufactures in the country and make requisitions upon them for the number of locomotives deemed necessary, to the exclusion of all other parties, and to adopt the same course in relation to cars.
It is proper and just to state that the requisition was met by them all in a spirit of zealous patriotism. They responded at once to the call of the Government, and immediately place
* See Series I. Vol. XXXII, Part II, p. 143.