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The situation of affairs in Southwest Virginia was critical, however, in many respects, and called for qualities of the first order in its commander.

Civil government was almost suspended by the remoteness of the country from the seat of Government, but chiefly from the fact that the military feature had almost absorbed the civil in pursuits as well as the thoughts of men. It thus happened that for all the essential wants of the people they looked to the military commander of the Department, who consequently united in himself also many of the functions of civil governor. Complaints of all kinds were made to him, and redress from grievances sought through him; and if history shall accord to him praise for his military administration, it should give him no less credit for the wisdom, prudence and firmness with which he guarded the civil interests of the people within the sphere of his command. The armies at Richmond and elsewhere were dependent, as indeed were the people of a large part of the Confederacy, upon Saltville for their salt, and it devolved upon him to see that, notwithstanding the demand upon the railroad for transportation for other purposes was so great, it should not interfere with the shipment of the needed supplies of this prime article, whose value was so great that it was currently worth one dollar a pint before the Confederate currency had reached its maximum depreciation. The only lead mines in the Confederacy, from which the ammunition of the South was supplied, were in his Department, and he was charged with seeing to the shipment of a stated supply. So also were the chief iron furnaces and forges, from which were furnished material for horse shoes for the whole army and for the military foundry at Richmond. Besides all this, he held the chief source of supply for both bread and meat needed for the army at Richmond; at one time the beef being killed near Wytheville and shipped in the quarter by rail to the Chief Commissary of General Lee's army, for issue daily on its arrival. The regulation of all these details was in his charge, and required, in conjunction with the care and organization of a military force scattered as was his, the highest administrative skill. As one of his powers necessary to the finding and supply of the armies, his officers, both commissary and quartermaster, were empowered to impress articles necessary for public use; and in order to check the rapacity of speculators, he had the sole right to give permits for shipment of any articles from his Department. Yet he administered his office with such justice and purity that the citizen was secure against unreasonable

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Wytheville (Virginia, United States) (1)
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Saltville (Virginia, United States) (1)

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W. H. F. Lee (1)
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