Throughout the Civil War, Governor Milton advocated for greater security for Florida and pressed the Confederate government to maintain enough troops in the state for an adequate defense.
In this series of letters, Milton recommends seizing iron rails from the Florida Railroad Company to reuse the iron for new rail lines to transport troops and supplies. David L. Yulee, president of the Florida Railroad Company, contends that this would be unwise and illegal.
"I have reason to know that the Confederate Government very much needs iron, and that the necessity is daily becoming more pressing in the conduct of the existing and formidable war."
Tallahassee, May 30th, 1863
Hon David L. Yulee
I had the honor to receive your esteemed favor of the 23rd inst. on the day before yesterday; and to-day to submit it to the consideration of the “Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.” The Trustees appreciated the delicacy which may have heretofore restrained you from making a generous offer of the iron on part of the Florida Rail Road to aid the Confederate Government to conduct successfully the defences of the State in a war which threatens our political existence and most sacred rights with destruction. To relieve you from all embarrassment on the subject, the Board of Trustees promptly and unanimously passed the Resolution, a copy of which is herewith enclosed.
I am much indebted to you for your kindness in supposing that the letter addressed by me to Brigadier General Finegan and transmitted by him to you with a copy of Lt. Gift’s letter to me was “a
courteous formality in the treatment of an official communication from an officer of the Confederate Service.” The reputation of Lt. Gift as a brave, patriotic and intelligent officer, would doubtless have justified the courtesy if I had not been previously informed of the necessities of the Confederate Government for the iron and its purpose to compensate the owners for it, provided they were not alien enemies; as well as the desire of “the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund” to facilitate any movements the exigencies of the war might require the Confederate Government to make for the defence of the State.
Agreeably to recollection my attention was first invited to the necessity for the removal of the iron from Gainesville to Cedar Keys by the proceedings of a public meeting at the former place in which you were represented to me as having participated and to have expressed an anxiety for the removal of the iron and a willingness for it to be used if necessary by the Confederate Government.
Impressed with your generous patriotism at the time, now that I have reason to know that the Confederate Government very much needs iron, and that the necessity is daily becoming more pressing in the conduct of the existing and formidable war; and believing the Enemy is fully apprised of this necessity and may therefore in the execution of their purpose to subjugate Florida, and especially East Florida; capture the Florida R Road and not only use it for conquest over that portion of the State, but deprive the State of the most tangible and convenient means at its disposal for the Confederate Government to make the connections necessary to secure the transportation of troops and munitions of war for the defence of the State, as well as to afford the State desired opportunities to contribute to the subsistence of the armies in Confederate Service; it affords me pleasure to give assurance of the solicitude of “the Trustees of the Internal Improve-
ment Fund” to co-operate cordially with you in patriotic efforts to aid the Confederate Government in making a judicious use of the iron from Gainesville to Cedar Keys, and from Camp Cooper to Fernandina.
It is probable the Florida Rail Road Company have the implements for the removal of the iron without injury and that it would afford them pleasure to turn over the implements for the purpose to “the officers of the Confederate Service” to whom the duty of having the iron removed may be assigned.
I have the honor to be,
Governor of Florida &
President of the Board of the Internal Improvement Fund
[Text of the Internal Improvement Board’s Resolution]
Resolution adopted May 30th 1863 by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.
Resolved, that in consideration of the exigencies of the country and the great public necessity for Rail road iron in the defences of the same, the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund do hereby give their consent and so far as they have authority or power to do so authorize the President and Director of any Rail Road Company in the State which has accepted the provisions of the Internal Improvement Act, to loan or sell to the Government of the Confederate States any portion of the iron on their respective roads which the Confederate Government may desire to borrow or purchase for the purpose of more effectually defending the country, during the continuance of the existing war.
"No such proceedings as your letter describes occurred at Gainesville. You have evidently been misinformed."
Florida Railroad Office
Gainesville, June 4, 1863
Govr. of the State of Florida
Your communication of May 30 past marked June 2 was received this morning.
The considerations connected with the subject of your letter are very grave. Excuse me if I prefer to preserve a tone in my correspondence comporting with the serious issues of public concernment it involves, and with its official character.
I am not aware of any authority vested in the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund, any more than in this company, to diminish or change the security of cestuis qui trusts or to deal with the Trust fund, or the rights of the State or of the creditors of the fund, any otherwise than other ordinary trustees might, under the direction and control of the Courts of the State. I am also unaware of any power existing in this company, or in the Executive branch of Government, to authorize or permit the destruction of a public way. There are circumstances, truly, under which extreme measures, in dealing with extreme and sudden emergencies would be promptly excused and tolerated by the public as well as by individuals whose particular interest might be injured. But, you will agree with me, it is not allowable in public officers, either lightly to suppose emergencies, or needlessly to create them, for the purpose of accomplishing a preconceived design & desire. Especially should they guard themselves against being made unconscious instruments of injustice, by employing the powers this public trust confers in promoting the ends of those who urge their action.
No such proceedings as your letter describes
occurred at Gainesville. You have evidently been misinformed. The true version of what transpired upon the occasion was communicated soon after its occurrence to the President of the Pensacola & Georgia R.R. Company in a letter which I supposed, from the circumstances of the time, might have been seen by you.
The much allusion you make to the idea of patriotic efforts & sacrifices, in which you intimate the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund are disposed to unite with me, requires some response. I humbly trust I may not be wanting at any time in necessary & dutiful sacrifices & contribution to the great cause in which all citizens are engaged, and will gladly unite with yourself & other Trustees in the liberal & patriotic devotion of our own means. But I have not the right to make myself free with the property of others, nor to seek merit for a generous patriotism at another’s cost.
I have the honor to be
"The Confederate Government is willing to pay a just price for the iron."
Tallahassee June 8th 1863
Hon D.L. Yulee
President of the Florida R.R. Company
Your esteemed favor of the 4th inst is before me. When writing the letter to which it is a reply I presumed you to be familiar with the conversations and correspondence, which had occurred relative to iron on parts of the Florida R. Road, between Brig. Genl. Finegan and myself; had no reason to doubt the correctness of the reports made to me of your remarks, relative to the removal and use of the iron, at the time the meeting was held at Gainesville; and had no recollection, or ever having seen any letter from you to the President of the Pensacola and Georgia R. Road Company on the subject.
I do not remember ever to have seen or read any letter from you to the President of the G&P R. Road Company upon that, or any other subject, nor from you to any other person relative to the proceedings of the meeting.
I know that apprehensions were entertained by intelligent gentlemen of East Florida that the enemy would take possession of the Florida R. Road and their reasons for the apprehensions were submitted to the consideration of the late Executive Council, in which East Florida was ably represented, and that Brig. Genl. Trapier, then in command of this Military District, and who was assigned to the command, if I am correctly informed at your instance and request, is issued orders on the subject. Enclosed you will have copies of those orders, and of the resolutions of the Executive Council. The President of the Pensacola & Georgia Rail Road Company was requested to aid in the execution of Brig. Genl. Trapier’s order for the removal of iron, but declined to do so, especially if it
was to be used on any other road, without consent of the Florida R.R. Company. The order of Brig. Genl. Trapier was prevented from being executed as I have been informed by an injunction granted by the Judge of the Judicial Circuit.
Since that time the enemy have several times occupied Jacksonville; now command the St. John’s River; have continued to occupy Fernandina; & on one occasion took possession of, and committed serious depredations at Cedar Keyes, have threatened and yet threaten to invade Florida, and especially East Florida. Have the Confederate Government sufficient forces in the State, even if all the forces in it could be concentrated without exposing other portions of the State, as important to defend as East Florida, to drive the enemy from Fernandina; to reclaim possession of the St. John’s River; or to prevent the invasion if attempted by ten thousand of the enemy, a less number than that with which they threaten, apprized as we are of the purposes of the enemy and their numbers and means of warfare, these matters should claim our gravest consideration. We have not in my opinion the forces in the State, nor the arms and munitions of war necessary to its defence and if an emergency should occur requiring additional troops, and if the forces could be spared from Georgia or South Carolina — we could not obtain them promptly because destitute of the means of transportation. To prove the fact I would refer to the causes which led to the late loss of St. John’s Bluff with guns, munitions of war &c under the circumstances, believing that if the enemy shall invade East Florida in large numbers, the numbers with which they threaten to invade — the Florida R. Road will be captured and destroyed, or be used by them for the subjugation of East Florida, and ruinous depredations will be committed. I have respectfully urged upon you as President of the road, to yield the iron from certain parts of the road, which
would prevent its being used by the enemy, to the [control?] of the Confederate Government, and to be used together with the St. Marks road to extend the Pensacola & Georgia R.R. to the Chattahoochee river, and also to connect that Road with the Albany and Gulf road, and to prepare a Gunboat for service on our coast.
With the road extended to Chattahoochee, and connected with the Albany and Gulf R. Road, troops and munitions of war could be promptly transported from adjoining States for the defence of Florida and the citizens of Florida would have the means afforded to aid liberally in subsisting and supporting not only the armies in Confederate service, but less fortunate citizens whom the enemy have driven from their homes into other States. If correctly informed the P&G R. Road company will consent cheerfully to the iron on the St. marks road being removed and used to aid in the accomplishment of the important objects proposed.
In a technical sense, The Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund and the R.R. Companies may not have the right to change or diminish the security of cestuis qui trusts, or to deal with the Trust fund, or the rights of the State, or of the creditors of the fund, any otherwise than any other ordinary trustees might under the direction and control of the Courts of the State; and there may be no power existing in the R.R. companies or the Executive branch of the Government to authorize or permit the destruction of a public way, I quote from your letter and will add unless the public safety shall require it. It is not to be presumed that the exercise of any such power would be attempted unless demanded for the general welfare against impending danger. Is not danger threatened and imminent.
The defences of the State in the fearful war in which we are engaged have been entrusted
to the Confederate Government. Circumstances are required on the part of the Government the exercise of extraordinary powers. The confidence of the people have entrusted officers of that Government to decide upon “extreme emergencies” which will justify extreme measures for our defence. To save the Confederate States from being subjugated, some of our citizens, without their consent, have been taken from their homes, to distant battle fields. The property of farmers, merchants and other citizens have been impressed and appropriated to the use of the Government in the conduct of the war. Why should not iron from rail-roads be impressed if needed— Rail Road companies have no claims paramount to the general safety; their claims should not be more respected, than the rights of freemen to personal liberty, or of farmers, merchants and other citizens to enjoy the peaceful possession of their property. You are right in saying that I will agree with you that it is not allowable in public officials either lightly to suppose emergencies, or needlessly to create them for the purpose of accomplishing a preconceived design and desire. Especially should they guard themselves against being made inconscious instruments of injustice by employing the powers their public trusts confers in promoting the ends of those who urge their action” and I would respectfully add, that gentlemen whose distinguished resources from wealth and social or political position, and especially those who have enjoyed public confidence and public favors, should not permit themselves to be wedded to schemes of personal ambition, or particular local and selfish interests at the peril of the political existence of the State and the lives and property of their fellow citizens. I presume you will agree with me, that lightly supposed emergencies or such as were needlessly created for the purpose of accomplishing preconceived deigns and designs, or a culpable ignorance of military service and utter disregard of the general interest of East Florida caused
immense expenditures of money and labor to defend Fernandina, which would have been sufficient to have made the defences complete on the St. John’s river and at St. Augustine, but did not save Fernandina. The loss of that place, and the heavy loss of guns and munitions of war, imperiled the iron on the Florida R. Road, and hence the action of the Executive Council and of Genl. Trapier, for its removal, to prevent the enemy from the use of the road, and to save the iron for the benefit of the proprietors, and if need be, for the defence of the State.
It certainly was, or has been lamentably proved much more important to the defences of East Florida, to have prevented the enemy from controlling the St John’s river, than from occupying Fernandina. This opinion was entertained and urged by me, but unsuccessfully, because distinguished gentlemen entertained a different opinion, and perhaps because public officers did not properly guard themselves against being made unconscious instruments of injustice and employing the power their public trust conferred in promoting the ends of those who urged their action, to the great and irreparable injury of the citizens in the counties bordering on the St. John’s, and especially the citizens of St. Augustine & Jacksonville.
The enemy with Fernandina, captured nearly all of the guns of value, and munitions of war, which at the time were in Middle, East and South Florida, and what important advantages have the enemy gained by the occupancy of Amelia Island, except the use of the buildings in Fernandina. Will you not agree with me that it will be an epoch in the history of Florida of which Floridians may be proud when public officers, gentlemen distinguished for their abilities as Statesmen, and the citizens generally shall rise superior to local and selfish interest, and devote their abilities to the general welfare and
honor of the State, and of the Confederate States, and by their patriotism impose a quietus upon the efforts of demagogues, to embarrass the Confederate Government in generous efforts for the defence of Florida and her Sister States of our glorious confederacy.
The Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund confide in and respect your “humble trust, that you will not be wanting at any time in necessary and dutiful sacrifices and contributions to the great cause in which all citizens are engaged, and will gladly unite with yourself and other Trustees in liberal and patriotic devotion of our own means.” That is exactly what we desire you to do, and therefore with great respect ask leave to express the opinion, that you do yourself as President of the Florida R. Road company, as well as the members of the company provided they are citizens of and loyal to the Confederate States, unintentional injustice in the remarks “But I have not the right to make myself free with the property of others, nor to seek merit for a generous patriotism at another’s cost.” By the “another’s” it is presumed you mean the Florida R. Road Company, and therefore I would respectfully invite your attention to the accompanying extract from our records, and invite your consideration to the means with which the Florida R. Road was built, and the favor extended to it in a much larger amount than to any other road. It cannot be as it seems to us be reasonably presumed that those you represent can be entirely insensible to the general welfare of the State, and consider you vainglorious, if as their representative you should contribute the iron, and especially at a full price, for the defences of the State, unless the stockholders as the actual holders of the bonds, are as represented to be enemies residing in the United
States, who would prefer the subjugation of Florida [obscured by fragment] sale of the iron at any price.
The propositions for your consideration are [obscured by fragment] simple, are the means of transportation proposed [obscured by fragment] for the defence of the State. It is believed that they are by military officers, of distinguished character, entrusted with the defences of the State, who have no personal interest to subserve. Can the iron be procured without using that on parts of the Florida R. Road — and on the road leading from this place to St. Marks- I am informed and believe it can not be. It has been said that possibly it might be taken from the Brunswick R. Road in Georgia- but Floridians should have too much self respect and cherish too sacred a regard for the honor of Florida — to prefer to use for their own defence iron belonging to a company in a sister State rather than the iron of a road in Florida built by the credit of the State — and belonging to a company represented by a President, who would gladly unite with other Trustees in the liberal and patriotic devotion of our own means, and who does not believe that he has the right to make himself as their representative, free with the property of others, or to seek merit for a generous patriotism at anothers cost.
The iron on the parts of the Florida R. Road which it has been proposed to use, may be valuable to its owners, and serviceable to citizens, residing near the road — Should their particular interest, and the accommodation it affords a few of our worthy fellow citizens, be temporarily sacrificed for the general defence of the State. I believe that the sacrifice should be made — not simply because necessary to the general safety of the State, but especially to preserve the rights of the owners, and to secure to our fellow citizens, permanently the advantages to be derived from the road. But it is said that a difference of opinion upon
this subject, will cause some of our fellow [missing fragment] to resist by force, if need be, any attempt [missing fragment] Confederate Government to remove the iron [missing fragment] that such is not the fact — It has been presumed that all who are able and willing to fight for the rights and honor of the Confederate States are in Military service — and that but few had remained at home, unless legally exempted from age, physical disability- or to aid in the administration of the State Government — but if this presumption is erroneous — will it not be better for those who are at home and fell valiant, to report themselves for duty to Brig. Gen. Finegan — and fight, bleed and die in the achievement of the Independence of the Confederate States, rather than engage in a neighbourhood fight for a little railroad iron.
Permit me to assure you, that I have no pecuniary interest in any R. Road; no preference for one road more than another, except under the existing circumstances for the public food; no feeling of unkindness or distrust towards the officers or any citizens of the State having an interest in any of the rail roads, have always advocated the R. Roald system as the best means of Internal Improvements, and desire ardently that each road in the State, may contribute to the prosperity of its prosperity of its proprietors as well as the power and general welfare of the State. I have suggested and urged the extension of the Pensacola & Georgia R. Road to the Chattahoochee, and its connection with Albany & Gulf Road — and the use of the iron of parts of the Florida R.R. and that on the St. Marks R. Road — because I believed my official duty required me to do so, as the best means of saving Florida from inroads of the enemy which would be perhaps more destructive and calamitous, than have been experienced from
the enemies raids in Louisiana, Mississippi and other States. The apprehensions I have felt and yet feel for the safety of the State, may not be well founded — and the suggestions I have made may not be wise — but the apprehensions have been entertained and the suggestion made, with the utmost sincerity and anxiety, for the public good, and without any purpose or willingness to injure the pecuniary interest of the owners of the Florida R. Road, - on the contrary I believe that their interest as well as the public good would be promoted by the measures advised.
The Confederate Government is willing to pay a just price for the iron; an amount which would probably enable the Florida R. Road Company through and Agent in England to procure new iron, and have it landed at Fernandina, as soon as the cross ties and bed of the road, would after the cessation of hostilities be prepared to receive it. If these positions shall be proved by future events to have been correct, but unsuccessfully maintained, - and the enemy shall successfully invade the State — because the Confederate Government was denied the means of transportation for its defence — a fearful responsibility will attach to those who have denied the means. — The possession of the Florida R. Road by the enemy and their devastations in East Florida may attest the folly and wickedness of those who were unconsciously influenced by local interests, to jeopardize the political existence of the State, and involve their fellow citizens with themselves in scenes of fearful ruin, degradations and disgrace.
I have the honor to be
Governor of Florida
"It is very clear that we entirely differ in opinion."
Florida Rail Road Office
Gainesville June 19, 1863
John Milton Gov.
Your letter of 8th June postmarked 11th came here during my absence, which will account for delay in acknowledging it.
I do not perceive any probable utility in an extended correspondence upon the subject to which it relates, nor in a discursive controversy. It is sufficiently evident that you are desirous to effect the destruction of a considerable part of the track of this road, and the transfer of its iron to the use of the connections in Middle Florida and Georgia. I hope my letter have made it equally evident that I am opposed to this movement, and will endeavor to prevent its success.
It is very clear that we entirely differ in opinion. You think it will be beneficial to the cause and to the State to do what you propose. I, on the contrary, think that the general cause, and the proper defence of East Florida and advantage of the State, will be best served by preserving and holding the military base which the Florida Railroad furnishes to the Peninsula. My reasons I believe, are sound; but I do not deem it proper or necessary to state or discuss them in the correspondence, as you do not claim authority to execute what you advise. Your opinions are of course entitled to respectful consideration; but I concur with the united sentiment of this part of Florida, that the policy you urge is not only not advisable, but if carried into execution, would inflict a serious injury upon the State, and occasion more damage to the general cause than it will redeem by its benefits.
In respect to many of the facts and inferences of your letter I deem it proper, without entering now into a review of them, to say that I think you are
mistaken: but I do not see any present advantage to the object which alone concerns me in controverting them.
I will however briefly state, to prevent any misapprehension, the position which this Company, in agreement with the population of this section, holds. They are all ready to make any sacrifice to the common cause, which good citizenship, and an earnest devotion to its success, can require. To all calls for contribution, whether equal, or special, which the Constitution and laws authorize and demand, they will cheerfully and promptly respond. IN cases of special contribution which officers of Government, without legal authority, require, they will judge of the discretion and wisdom of the requirement, and will contribute, or refuse, as their judgment, exercised in the interest of the cause, may determine them. In the present instance, when a contribution of what is, to them, so large an interest, is demanded, and which no authority but that of the congress of the Confederate States is, but the Constitution, competent to demand they think they have a right- to require that their judgment be convinced, and their assent obtained before the attempt is made to enforce it. They know that now withstanding the project has all the while, during the provisional government and since, been urged at Richmond by the interests particularly concerned, with remarkable perseverance and energy, the Legislative Department of the Confederacy has persistently refused to regard the Florida connection as a military necessity, and that the Confederate Executive has, with equal persistency, refused to recommend it to Congress. They know too that their own State has, by law, at its last session, prohibited the removal of any iron now laid upon the public roads, for use in making the only connection which in the opinion of the Legislature had military utility. They also know that the
aid of the State to a connection which was the shortest, and was thought by many to be the best, was defeated at the last session by the strenuous efforts of the very interests which have since been active in influencing the aid of military authority for the movement now afoot. They know further that the companies which own the connections have ample length of track, of their own property, which can be diverted to these connections, with more propriety (because of their own profit), and with a less amount of patriotic sacrifice on the part of the communities on the line, than is demanded of them. With such knowledge, and with a confident belief that the roads you propose, and that the preservation of them will contribute more to the general cause (for reasons not deemed proper to be produced in public discussion) than their destruction for the uses you propose, you cannot be surprised at the earnestness of their resolution to resist by every legal means any violent attempt to execute, against their consent, the threatened injury.
I have the honor to be
Your obt st
D. L. Yulee
"I know no man in Florida under more obligation than yourself, to rise superior to personal considerations and local interests, for the defence and rescue of the State from the threatened and impending dangers."
Tallahassee July 10th. 1863
Hon D L Yulee
Your letter of the 19th of June acknowledging the receipt of one from me dated the 8th came by due course of mail, but intervening circumstances have prevented a reply.
In the commencement of your letter you have stated “I do not perceive any probable utility in an extended correspondence upon the subject to which it relates, now in a discursive controversy.” If you had concluded your letter with this sentence, I should have been indebted to your kindness and courtesy for the commencement and conclusion of an interesting correspondence. But you added “it is sufficiently evident that you are desirous to effect the destruction of a considerable part of the track of this road and the transfer of the iron to the use of the connections in Middle Florida and Georgia.” This assertion was gratuitous and unauthorized. One of the principal objects I have had in view has been to prevent the road from being captured and used or destroyed by the enemy; and partially to accomplish this object have advised the iron from parts of the track to be removed by Confederate Authority for the defence of the State and upon conditions which would insure the future use of the road. I am not conscious of ever having desired or expressed what might have been reasonably considered a desire, to destroy any part of the track. The late Secretary of War, the Gen. G W. Randolph believed from representations which had been made to him “that the line of Railroad connection Cedar Keys and Fernandina was comparatively useless to the Confederacy, in consequence of both termini of the roads being in possession of the enemy” and that the iron & Telegraph wire should be removed. In a letter dated at Richmond April 3rd 1862 and addressed to me, he stated “under these circumstances
I should be pleased to receive your views of the expediency of removing the Iron and Telegraph Wire, and if you concur with me in opinion I will direct the General commanding in Florida to have the rails and wire removed”. In reply to Mr. Randolph I submitted to his consideration the information I had received upon the subject from gentlemen residing in East Florida whom I supposed to be interested in, and friendly to, the prosperity of the road.
Until the receipt of your letter of the 19th ultimo I was not apprized that “the project has all the while, during the provisional government and since been urged at Richmond by the interests particularly concerned, with remarkable perseverance and energy — the Legislative Department of the Confederacy has persistently refused to regard the Florida connection as a military necessity; and that the Confederate Executive has with equal persistency refused to recommend it.”
Controversies have occurred since the commencement of the War relative to Railroad iron and Telegraph Wire, the results of which have seemed to me more worthy of consideration. I am informed that the Confederate authorities desired to remove and use or preserve for use, the iron on the Railroads which connected Petersburg with Norfolk; and Weldon with Portsmouth. The properties of the roads objected, the Government yielded to their objections, and the enemy captured and removed the iron.
The Confederate Authorities, without a special Act of Congress to authorize it, decided the removal of the iron (a distance of thirty eight miles) from the Alabama & Florida Railroad which connected Pensacola in West Florida, with Montgomery and intermediate places, and it use of the defence of Mobile, Ala, to be a military necessity.
The President of the road objected; the Senators and Representatives of the State in the Congress of the Confederate States protested, and I was appealed
to as the Governor of the State and a citizen of West Florida, not only to protest, but if necessary to prevent the removal and use of the iron, to interpose State Authority. I did not feel at liberty to interfere, First, Because Florida had entrusted the Confederate government with the conduct of the War, and by an ordinance of the State in convention as well as by an act of the General Assembly of the State, the faith and honor of Florida was solemnly pledged to sustain the Confederate Government “to the interest of her resources.” Secondly, Because, that under the circumstances the Confederate Government had the Exclusive right to decide upon military necessities. Thirdly, Because the iron was liable to be captured and taken off or destroyed by the enemy, to the irreparable injury of the Alabama & Florida Railroad company and of the State; and I was satisfactorily assured as I am relative to the iron as the parts of the Florida railroad, that the iron would be removed and used upon equitable terms which would save the State and the Alabama and Florida Railroad company from ultimate loss. The iron was removed, the Confederate Government agreed to pay a fair price for it, or upon the cessation of hostilities, (or before if it could be done consistently with the public interests to replace the iron, or other suitable iron in the road. I have been recently informed, that the parties in interest who opposed the removal and use of the iron, now approve the action of the Confederate Government, and rejoice in their security against — the danger to which the road was exposed — and the certainty of its future reconstruction and utility.
When Brig Genl Joseph Finegan commanded the Military Department composed of Middle, East and a part of West Florida, he believed it a military necessity to remove the wire from the Telegraph line which had connected Marianna and Tallahassee with Apalachicola, and to appropriate it
in the establishment of a telegraph line between Tallahassee and Lake City. Upon General Finegan’s recommendation and my approval the Secretary of War ordered the wire to be removed and it — was used to establish the Telegraphic connection which now exists between Lake City and this place.
The wire at the time of its removal could have been made useful in keeping up communications between Tallahassee (the head quarter of the general), Marianna and Military Posts on the Chattahoochee river, and should probably have been used for the purpose, but the opinion seemed reasonably to be entertained that a Telegraph line connection Tallahassee with Lake City would be more useful for the defence of the State generally, and therefore the removal and use of the wire from Marianna to Apalachicola were not opposed.
The loss of the Wire to West Florida was felt at the time to be a grievance. The injury of that portion of the State is becoming more apparent and will be seriously experienced when Confederate forces shall again occupy Apalachicola of the citizens can return there in safety. But I am not apprized that any citizen of West Florida has ever expressed the opinion that Genl Finegan has was influenced by a desire to injure West Florida for the benefit of Middle & East Florida, altho the owner of the wire and the citizens regretted the supposed necessity for its removal and appropriation.
To Florida; not to West Florida, East Florida, Middle Florida, or South Florida, but the State of Florida, citizens owe their allegiance and should not permit themselves to be influenced by sectional prejudices or selfishness to forget their Allegiance and the obligations it imposes for the maintenance of the general welfare, peace and dignity of the State.
But to recur to the Florida railroad. My attention was more recently invited to the
exposed and comparatively useless condition of parts of the track alluded to and the important uses to which it might be applied, in securing the means of transporting troops if they should be needed for the defence of the State, as well as the transportation of subsistence to aid in the support of the armies in Confederate Service, and to complete a gunboat intended for service on the coast of Florida. Your attention as President of the Florida Railroad was respectfully invited to the consideration of the subject. My views have been frankly made known to you and it is deemed unnecessary to recapitulate them. But permit me to enquire, if future events shall prove their correctness and the enemy shall capture the road, remove the iron and destroy the track — if the Florida Railroad Company has the ability to rebuild it or refund the money which the State has advanced or could with reasonable confidence appeal to the State to lend its credit — for the re-construction of the road?
In view of the amount of Stock owned by the State, it seems to me that the Trustees of the Internal Improvement fund are excusable for feeling some anxiety for the safety of the iron and the ultimate and permanent utility of the road.
I do not concur in the opinion expressed by you “that the general cause and the proper defence of East Florida and advantage of the State will be best served by preserving and holding the military base which the Florida Rail road furnishes to the Peninsula”. I can not perceive under existing circumstance, how it can be reasonably considered at all as a Military base, nor have the portions of the track from which it has been proposed to remove the iron, can be indispensable for defence, or be prevented from falling into the hands of the enemy if they shall attempt to capture it. The number of troops in East
Florida are insufficient to defend that portion of the State against the invasion threatened by the enemy via the St. John’s river and S. Augustine if they shall attempt it — with half the forces they have been reported as marshalling for the purpose. Should the enemy invade East Florida with the forces at their command, divided and brought in simultaneously from the Atlantic and the Gulf, may they not drive off or capture the forces under General Finegan’s command and use the Florida railroad to subside their forces, maintain positions and property of the citizens. They are well acquainted with the topography, the advantages and disadvantages, of that portion of the State. But gentlemen whose education and experience have qualified for military service have frequently differed in opinion, both as to the most available means of attack and defence; and therefore our differences in opinion may be excused. Pardon me if I have more confidence in my opinions than yours. First — Because I have no personal interest to bias unconsciously my judgment. Secondly, Because official duty has required more of my attention to the defences of the State and official position afforded greater facilities for information relative to them, and the resources of the Confederate Government. Thirdly, because disasters have occurred in East Florida, as predicted by me that they would occur, when those who agree with thought differently and advised measures of defence which were adopted against my judgment, as made known to the Secretary of War. Fourthly and chiefly, Because all officers of military experience and distinguished character with whom I have conferred or corresponded, concur with me in opinion relative to the means necessary for the defence of the State. But I sincerely hope that the apprehensions which I entertain for the safety of East Florida may be without sufficient
Caused to justify them, and that therefore the citizens of that portion of the State generally, may not be subjected to the bitter calamities which have been inflicted by the enemy upon the citizens of Fernandina, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and citizens residing in the vicinity of St John’s river. But with these important parts of East Florida subjected to the will of the enemy; and so many of our worthy fellow citizens refugees and subjects of charity, I am utterly amazed at the apparent security which citizens in other parts of East Florida seem to enjoy, and especially when I consider their claims to intelligence, superior wisdom and foresight.
When I reflect upon the controversies in the Congress of the United States which proceeded and related to the threatened Secession of the Sothern States — When I consider the grave national reasons which were then and there assigned why Florida especially was necessary under the same government with the Northern and Western States, to their commerce, national importance and national security and remember the solemnly arrived purpose of the most able, least fanatical and most conservative Statesmen of the North and West “to keep Florida in the Union at every hazard and sacrifice of men and money” — When I know St. Augustine, Fernandina, Jacksonville, the St John’s river, Apalachicola, Pensacola, and Milton, to have been occupied by the forces of the enemy; to be now subject to their will, and that the entire coast of the State is under their command — When I reflect upon the feeble condition of Florida compared with the powerful states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri — When I read of the wanton destruction of the property and the cruel outrages of the enemy in these states — When I occasionally meet with the citizens
of these states, who were brave, intelligent and wealthy but now homeless and penniless wanderers and listen to the recital of their calamities — And while no reasonable calculation can be made when the war being waged for our destruction will be terminated — I confess, that I am sadly humiliated by the senseless or treacherous jargon of conflicting local interests in the State, and by the groveling, debasing and shameless desire manifested for the accumulation of wealth, regardless of personal honor and the general welfare.
The soil of Florida will be drenched by the blood of her citizens or disgraced by their degradation, unless they shall be aroused from a false sense of security, to make with concert of action and heroic purpose, timely preparations for the defence of their rights.
I know no man in Florida under more obligation than yourself, to rise superior to personal considerations and local interests, for the defence and rescue of the State from the threatened and impending dangers.
The political honor you have enjoyed — the rail road iron now needed for the defence of the State and to which you cling with professional and instinctive pertinacity — were not derived exclusively from East Florida. You are indebted to the State of Florida for the prime positions which were conferred upon you and to the credit of the State for the iron now required for its defence. Should you not therefore exert the ability you may possess, to arouse the good people of East Florida to sense of their danger; to advise them to organize into Military bodies, under the late requisition of the President, for the defence of the State; to rely with generous confidence upon the better informed judgment of officers to whom the defences of the State, by the constitutions and laws of the State and of the Confederate States have been confided, and who are best qualified to decide upon military necessities; to abandon all idea
of appeals to the civil authority to impede by the forms of law and technicalities in pleading, the preparations necessary to be made promptly for the defence of the State — rather than encourage sectional strife and riotous conduct, not creditable to the parties engaged and disreputable to the State.
You were laboring under a misapprehension when you made the assertion that the people of East Florida “know that their own State has by law at its last session, prohibited the removal of any iron now laid upon the public roads”.
There was no law enacted upon the subject, but a resolution passed simply expressive of the opinion of the General Assembly, and about the same time another resolution was passed pledging Florida to the support of the war. Enclosed you will find copies of the Resolutions.
It is not to be presumed that the General Assembly of Florida considered rail road iron more sacred than the lives of their fellow citizens whom they represented; or that it was more important to accomplish the commercial purposed of individuals, than to use it as an auxiliary to men and muskets in the conduct of the war; or that they desired (even if under any circumstances they would have claimed the right) to control the action of the Confederate Government; or to have ignored important provisions of the Constitution intended to invest the Executive of the State with the power necessary to its defence.
I have just received a letter from Genl Beauregard, a copy of which is herewith submitted for your consideration.
Your attention has been invited to the subject as a matter of courtesy, and not because the opinion was entertained, that your consent
to the removal of the iron was necessary, except to avoid unpleasant litigation. The State claims to own the majority of the stock in the road, exclusive of that belonging to alien enemies; “the Trustees of the Internal Improvement fund “are alone authorized to represent the interests of the State; the authority exists to remove the iron by civil process, and to execute the process, sufficient force can be promptly commanded if a resort to force should be at all necessary. But I am not inclined to exercise State Authority in the premises, while I believe it to be the duty of the Confederate Government (with or without your consent) to promptly remove the iron from the parts of the track alluded to, for the proper defence of the State and in despite of any opposition which may be attempted.
From its removal no permanent injury can result; the rights of the State may be preserved; and the iron at a suitable time delivered to the road.
With these remarks I conclude a correspondence from which you can “perceive no probable utility”.
I have the honor to be
Gov of Florida
The copies of the Resolutions enclosed were Resolution No 17. Page 70 to No 34. Page 79
Acts sess.12th Gen Ass.
"In the present agony of our country I have no taste nor inclination for a correspondence of the tone and nature to which you invite me."
Florida Railroad Office
Gainesville July 17. 1863
Your favor without date has been received. In the present agony of our country I have no taste nor inclination for a correspondence of the tone and nature to which you invite me.
In a season of more exhilaration in the public feeling, should circumstances then seem to require it, I may respond to such portions of your letter as demand reply.
I have the honor to be
With great respect
Your obt st
D L Yulee