War of the Rebellion: Serial 129 Page 1092 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

with inadequate means of performing it. Under these circumstances any machinery will depreciate; it is overworked and not well attended to, and must inevitably grow less reliable. New cars are being built, though the difficulties encountered retard the progress very much; but new engines cannot be manufactured in the Confederacy.

It becomes all-important, then, that those we have should be preserved in good repair, and here we meet the really great difficulties arising from the scarcity of mechanics and materials. The hardships of the war and the fear of conscription have induced many of this class to leave the Confederacy. Most of them were natives of the United States, feeling but little or no interest in our country or cause. They are generally of a roving and reckless character, forming attachments to places but rarely, and impatient of restraint. Many of them enlisted and have been killed, so that the number in the country has been constantly decreasing. This deficiency cannot be supplied as in ordinary times by the instruction of apprentices because the conscript law takes them for the Army just at the period when they are learning to be useful, nor can they be induced to come from abroad at the present pay, and with the fear of the Army before them.

To the want of mechanics is to be added the want of materials. Not a single bar of railroad iron has been rolled in the Confederacy since the war, now can we hope to do any better during the continuance. The main lines will be kept up by despoiling the sides lines, but if our lines should expand and the rails and machinery be taken away by the enemy we could not replace them. But without discussing the supply of rails, which is in the hands of a special commission, there are many articles of iron which cannot be had because of its scarcity. Aside from iron there are copper, pig-tin, steam gauges, cast steel, files, &c., without which it is impossible to maintain engines. They are as necessary as iron. Heretofore a small supply has been had through Wilmington, but with that port closed we are cut off entirely, except by trading with the enemy and paying in cotton. With plenty of mechanics and material the machinery now in use could be improved and there would be a corresponding improvement in transportation; but it should be borne in maid that as machinery grows older it takes more work to keep it in efficient condition, and therefore the same men and material now do not accomplish so much as at the commencement of the war.

Your earnest attention is called to the entire absence of responsibility of railroad officers to any military authority. It is true there is a kind of moral influence exercised over them rather from some undefined idea that the hands of Government can reach them than under from any other cause. The public and indeed most of the officers are under the impression that your Bureau has supreme power over all the railroads and trains in the Confederacy, and has but to order them at your will to any point you desired. As to the men, they are exempt and enjoy almost entire immunity from the ordinary means of punishment. The only attempt yet made to render the railroads amenable to some authority has resulted in a law so full of loopholes that it is inoperative These are the main reasons why our railroad transportation is already deficient and daily depreciating. Efforts are being made to purchase materials, but success is quite uncertain. At present this want is not so serious as the want of mechanics, though it may become so if the materials are not obtained.

It may not be out of place to mention that, notwithstanding the scarcity and value of this kind of transportation, it receives but little