OR, Series 4, Vol. 3, Page 742

Selma, October 20, 1864
Lieut. Gen. R. Taylor, Comdg. Dept. Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana
  I have read the letter of the president of Alabama & Tennessee Rivers Railroad and the indorsement thereon of General Beauregard, directing the extension of that road from Blue Mountain{, Ala.} to Jacksonville{, Ala., about 20 miles}. The only sources from which iron can be obtained for this purpose are the Gainesville branch {ie, the Mississippi, Gainesville & Tuscaloosa Railroad in Mississippi}, the New Berne branch {of the Alabama & Mississippi Rivers Railroad}, and the Marion branch {of the Cahaba, Marion & Greensboro Railroad}, of Alabama. Of these the Gainesville branch is the only one the Secretary of War has authorized me to remove. The iron will have to be brought by steamers down the Tombigbee River about 50 miles to Demopolis and carried by rail an average of 210 miles. If taken from the New Berne or Marion branch it will have to be carried about 170 miles, and an order from the commanding general given for their removal. To execute the work with dispatch will require two locomotives and thirty cars devoted exclusively to the work, and one of the locomotives must be capable of drawing twenty car-loads of iron, or it will require three locomotives. These must be subtracted from the present transportation of the road engaged in the carriage of army supplies. Can they be spared? The attempt to remove any of the three branches will probably be enjoined (the Gainesville branch least likely in this case), in which event we must await the process of dissolving it before the courts or take it by military force. The Secretary of War has decided that the general commanding is the judge of the necessity in such cases, and with him rests the seizure by force. These branches, especially the New Berne and Marion, penetrate a country which contributes large supplies of grain and meat to the Army, and unless the necessity is imperious, the removal may cause more danger than benefit. The labor for the execution of this work and the teams for hauling cross-ties will have to be impressed. I found it exceedingly difficult to hire labor, even at the most extravagant rates, for the railroad work near Demopolis, and the impressment of labor since the late heavy drafts from Mobile and other points has become doubly difficult. The distance from Blue Mountain to Gadsden, the point to which the supplies are hauled by wagon, is about twenty-seven miles, and from Jacksonville about twenty-two miles, a difference of only five miles. The question arises whether, in considering all these facts, the movement of our Army in that direction are not of such a transitory character and the necessity so temporary and the advantages so slight, comparatively, as to render the undertaking inexpedient at this time.
  I make these suggestions, general with great difficulty and respect, believing that they may not have occurred to General Beauregard. If you so order, I will proceed immediately with the work and execute it as rapidly as possible, giving my most earnest attention to its early completion. The Government will have to advance the money to pay for the work and iron, the company not having the means to do it, and the cost be retained from transportation accounts due from the Government to the company. This is ample to reimburse the Government, but the funds for the labor will be required in advance. The iron can be paid for in Richmond. I shall require about $25,000 to start with for contingencies. Can the quartermaster here supply it?
Very respectfully, yours
Minor Meriwether
Lieutenant-Colonel of Engineers