Lexington Va May 20 1867
My Dear Sir,
The documents relating to the Covington & Ohio railroad which you had the kindness to send me, give the pleasing assurance, as far as I have been able to examine them, of the practicability of completing that great work. The cautious estimate of Mr. Whitcomb superintendent of the Virginia Central RR. gives the cost of finishing the road to the point of Steamboat navigation on the Kanawhe at $5,700,000. The shows very satisfactorily from the steady increase of receipts which has attended every extension of the road that the company can undertake the work & pay out of its net revenues the interest on the amount required for each additional stage of the road, besides the interest of its present debt. When the road shall reach the point of communication with the steamers from the Ohio, there will be such a large & increasing business, that I think there can be no doubt that its completion will be ensured to any point desired, & with a maximum grade of less than 30 feet per mile, what mountains of merchandize can be transported from the western rivers to the waters of the Atlantic. Taking Cincinnatti [sic] as the centre of this trade, the transportation by this route will not only be shorter in miles as stated in the reports than the more northern routes, but will be the easiest & will meet with the least interruption in winter, & the freight over the road can at all times be landed at points acceptible to ocean steamers. When these facts are known there will be. I hope no difficulty in procuring the requisite funds, as capitalists can feel assured of this payment of their interest & principal.
Wishing every success to the road I am with great respect.
Your obt Sevt,
R. E. Lee
Honorable John B. Baldwin
Source: Photocopy of original, vertical files, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 February 5