NA, ENG 11/4/1863

Engineer Bureau
November 4th 1863
Capt John M Grady Corps Engrs PACS
Savannah, Ga.
   I am instructed by Col. Rives to communicate to you the decision of the Secretary of War on the application of the President of the South Alabama & Georgia Railroad Company { a previous letter said this request was from the Savannah, Albany & Gulf RR. No record of a South Alabama & Gulf RR has been found.} for relief from payment for 96 bales of cotton belonging to the Confederate Govt. under the circumstances shown in your letter of the 10th October.
   The decision, which you will please communicate to the Prest of the South Ala & Georgia Railroad is as follows:
   "No doubt is entertained of the zeal and fidelity of the road but the obligation as common carriers must be enforced. It would be too dangerous a precedent, and too pregnant with claims and other mischief in the future, to dispense with this obligation. The responsibility of common carriers is often, apparently, harsh and inequitable, but its aim is one of general policy, to enforce on those who have charge of others' property, the strictest diligence and care, and, to secure this, they are made almost insurers. Experience has justified this rigor, and it must be adhered to." 
By order of Lt Col A. L. Rives Actg Chf of Engr Bureau
Very Respectfully Your Obt Servt
Isaac W. Smith
Lt Engrs P. A. C. S.