War of the Rebellion: Serial 128 Page 0394 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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all the circumstances I feel compelled to decline impressing slaves to aid in its completion. For many months past the eastern part of this State has been furnishing labor upon all the public works from Willmington to Petersburg, and no less than twenty counties are now so employing their slaves. In the region through which this road runs there are very few slaves, and the very existence of the people requires them to labor on their farms. In addition to the fact that this road is viewed with almost universal disfavor in the State as entirely ruinous to many east of it, and that the charter never could have been obtained but as a pressing war necessity, I feel it due to candor that I should add there exists a very general impression here that upon the completion of the Danville connection, as it its termed, the eastern lines of our roads would be abandoned to the enemy. How far this opinion does injustice to the purpose of the War Department I am not able to say; I merely state the fact. For these reasons, with the additional one that this road is constructed by private contractors, I do not feel that I could be justified in forcing the labor of citizens upon it. I assure you I regret this exceedingly, not only on account of the importance of the work itself to our military operations, but also because it is exceedingly unpleasant for me to refuse to do anything whatsoever which is requested by the Confederate authorities and regarded as important to the general cause. I would suggest, however, that a large number of free negroes might he adjoining counties of Virginia and North Carolina, and if this species of labor could be made available, my assistance in gathering it up shall be promptly rendered. In regard to the gauge of the road I have to say that the proposition to make it conform with the Virginia road had been disposed of in the negative before yours was received.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,




Richmond, February 12, 1863.


Secretary of War:

SIR: I understand the result of your conversation yesterday with Captain John M. Robinson to be this: That the War Department of the Government of the Confederate States, in order to secure the importations of munitions of war, is now engaged, through its agent in Great Britain, in purchasing steamships in which those munitions will be imported into a port or ports of the Confederate States, and considering these supplies, which are necessary to the maintenance of the railroads in these States which propose to import them, as scarcely less essential to the success of our arms than these munitions of war (if not in some sense entitled to be considered themselves munitions of war), the War Department agrees that a certain portion of the cargoes of these steamships, to be determined by the War Department or its agent in Great Britain, may consist of these supplies for these railroads upon the payment by the companies owning those railroads of the tolls or freight charges prevailing among shipowner for similar freights and voyages at the dates of such shipments, or at the option of these railroad companies, upon their assuming and paying for such a portion of the steamship, her equipment, and outfit complete, and of all the other expenses of the voyage, including (if