War Department, C.S.A.,

Richmond, Va., July 9, 1864


General R. E. Lee:

General: I had the honor to receive yesterday your telegram advising that the Danville road should be taken possession of, repaired, and operated by the Department, and have preferred replying by letter, which allows better explanation than could be given by telegram. The best spirit and most liberal disposition exists on the part of the president and directors of the Danville road to co-operate with the Government, but you are right in supposing they could not unaided effect the prompt reparation of their road. Not only, therefore, will their own consent but on their invitation the work of repair has been practically assured and is being earnestly pressed. Without the loss of an hour after it was known the enemy had left Burkeville (while they were still in their career of devastation along the line) orders were given and engineers and laborers dispatched to begin the work of reparation. All the means and resources of the railroad company are placed at the command of the Department, but the work is being carried on by the engineers of the Government and by the troops and laborers furnished by it. General Gilmer himself is at the further extremity pressing the work and directing operations generally. I have ordered without hesitation impressment, as well as appeals to the farmers for laborers, teams, timber, and all other necessary agencies, and have instructed all agents that the full measure of the power and means of the Department must be used to complete the work at the earliest practicable time. Owing to the nature of the strap-rail, the combustible character of the pine sills, increased by the heat and dryness of the season, and the facilities afforded by the adjoining fences, the work of destruction was far more thorough and extensive than has usually been possible on such raiding expeditions. You will find an accurate account of the means of destruction adopted in the Examiner of this morning. Despite of all exertions that can be made I fear some two weeks may yet elapse before the reopening, but every effort will be made to shorten the time. Meanwhile a portage of supplies by wagons will be established. A most expert quartermaster is now on the line to effect this portage. Your army shall be provided if, as I doubt not, it be possible.

Very respectfully, yours,


James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 40, Part 3

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 January 4