War of the Rebellion: Serial 127 Page 1146 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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[Second indorsement.]

Hon. Colin J. McRae having begun work at Selma, or near there, on the supposition of receiving this iron to be used there for Government purposes, and the contract having been made through him, the question will be referred to him. I have written to him on the subject.


Colonel, &c.


Richmond, June 9, 1862.


Secretary of War:

SIR: I find so much embarrassed in the engagement of the telegraph lines and the persons connected with them by orders directly to the president and superintendent of the lines from the War Department and from the generals in the field as to render it necessary for me to call your attention to the subject, and to request such orders from your Department as will enable me to discharge my duties in relation to telegraph matters without improper interference from others. By reference to "Am act relative to telegraph lines of the Confederate States," approved May 11, 1861, you will see "that during the existing war the President is authorized and empowered to take such control of the lines of telegraph in the Confederate States, and of such officers connected therewith, as will enable him to effectually supervise the communications passing through the same. " And the President is authorized to appoint agents in certain cases to built lines, to issue instructions to agents and operators, to employ operators and pay them, &c. I have been charged by the President with the performance of these duties. Requisitions from the War Department and from army officers for the building of lines, the establishment and discontinuance of officers, the appointment of operators and agents, and the disposition of materials, &c., should be made on this Department, and the orders for doing these things should go from it. No other Department or persons has legal authority to do these things, yet in most instances the first I know of such orders is a notification from the president and superintendent of the lines that the War Department or some officer of the Army has made an order to build a line, established an office, appoint an operator or agent, or take down a line, close an office, or some order for the transfer and use of the telegraph material, any pre-existing legal order. So far I have recognized these acts in most instances by subsequent orders, but this course is so irregular and produces so much confusion and difficulty, by rendering it impossible for me to know from the books of the Department the condition of the lines, the number of operators or agents, and where they are, and were and in what condition the materials belonging to the Government are, as to render it necessary for me to call your attention to it. Without the observance of the law in these respects I can neither control nor understand the expenses of this service or settle the accounts growing out of it. The generals in the Southwest have gone even beyond what they do here, and have usurped the entire control of the telegraph lines, appointing agents and operators, &c., without any notice whatever to this Department. In view of these facts I beg you will issue an order to the officers of