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[122] 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., &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 mind, 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 hand of Government can reach them, than 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 had 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 loop-holes 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 material, but success is quite uncertain. At present the 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 protection or security from our armies, which seems strange when not only their comfort but their safety depends on its efficiency. As cases in point, and of recent date, is the loss of cars and engines at Atlanta, Griswoldville, Gordon and Savannah, footing up probably twenty-five engines and four hundred cars, or an equipment greater than we now have to work the Richmond and Danville Railroad.

I am, General,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

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