A Page from Mississippi Railroad Heritage

After the War Between the States, especially in the years 1865 - 1866, managers and executives of the railroads of the South were hard pressed to find money to rebuild the tracks and depots that were destroyed during the conflict. The message shown below was written by the President of the Southern Railroad, the old Vicksburg to Meridian route, first opened with mule power in 1836 and operated with steam locomotives to Clinton and Jackson in 1840. The Southern completed the line to Meridian in 1861.

SOUTHERN RAILROAD COMPANY, Morris Emanuel, President

SEPTEMBER 11, 1865 CIRCULAR, Philadelphia, Pa., to Bondholders and Creditors of the Co.

“The Southern Railroad Company has suffered seriously in its interests, by the four years of bloody civil war that has just closed, and as President of the Company, I have been instructed by the Board of Managers to see our creditors, and lay before them a full and frank exhibit of the condition of the road, and the financial affairs of the company.”

“We met our obligations with satisfactory punctuality up to the first of January, 1861, and until the ever memorable civil war became inevitable our prospects were growing brighter and brighter.”

“The entire construction of the Southern Railroad, for 140 miles, was not completed until June, 1861, and for nine months previous to that date, the trains ran no farther east than Newton Station, 109 miles from Vicksburg. Notwithstanding the hindrances to business and the difficulties incident to the active work of construction then going on, and for three-fourths of the year the trains not approaching within 30 mile of the eastern terminus, yet the earnings for the year ending August 31, 1861, were $301,611.77; the gross earnings for the year ending 1862, $653,418.38; and for 186, $1,637,300.51.”

“These earnings were, of course, in Confederate Currency, except those of 1860, ad only serviceable in enabling the Company to keep the road and rolling stock in the best condition which such means would permit, and the statement is made not to show how much money we made, but the heavy amount of transportation the road could perform.”

“The indebtedness of the Company exclusive of interest, has not been materially lessened since first Sept., 1861. Mr. Smedes (previous president) stated the debt at that date to be $2,443.357.19.”

“We held nearly a million of dollars of claims against the Confederate Government for railroad services at the close of the war.”

“The disasters to the road and the rolling stock of the Company by the rough heel of war have been very damaging and numerous. On the 24th of April, 1863, General Grierson’s raid destroyed Newton Station, burning the depot building containing the books and papers of that office, with some freight, also destroying the cars of two trains ad injuring the engines; the troops tore up half mile of track, and destroyed the trestles; it took nine days to repair the road. In May,1863, the U.S. troops under General Grant, while at Jackson, burned Pearl River Bridge and several hundred feet of high and expensive trestle work, partially destroying several miles of track east of Pearl River, and about seven miles of track between Jackson and Big Black River, including the valuable bridge over that river, together with upwards of 8,000 feet of high trestle work connected with; also, Baker’s Creek Bridge and a number of smaller ones. On the march of General Grant’s army to Vicksburg, 5 engines and 50 cars were captured, ad 22 freight cars were destroyed at Jackson, that were in bad order, and could not be moved away in time to save them. The cash value of the damage done to the road between Jackson and Big Black, including Pearl River and Big Black bridges, was estimated at the time at $204,000.”

In the following July (1863) after the surrender of Vicksburg, the U.S. army again marched to Jackson in pursuit of General Joseph E. Johnston, and pursued him to Brandon and Morton, tearing up the track and destroying bridges and trestles in their march. In February, 1864, General Sherman made his great march through the State on a parallel line with the Southern Railroad, and near enough to it for the cavalry to make sudden dashes on any station he thought proper to destroy.”

“His troops burned the Station Houses at Brandon, Morton, Lake, Newton, and Meridian. The machine shop and other company buildings at Lake were also destroyed on that occasion. Fortunately all the shop machinery, the engines and such cars that were movable, were successfully moved o a place of safety. While the army of Gen. Sherman remained at Meridian, 7 miles of our track was as effectually destroyed as labor combined with skill and energy could do it; also, 7,000 feet of ridges and trestles, including two expensive bridges crossing the Chunkey River, together with 83 other trestles along the line of the road. Superadded to these heavy losses, the valuable brick depot and warehouse at Jackson were destroyed by fire in Nov., 1862, and a commodious depot building at Morton was burned in Feb., 1863. These two depot buildings, on account of their supposed security, were made the repositories f all the valuable records and papers belonging to the company. It was deemed prudent to send the archives of the company out of Vicksburg during the bombardment, and they were sent to those two depots, and were consequently all destroyed. All the furniture, with the valuable library, fine paintings and costly plate, etc., of the late Wm. C. Smedes, the then President of the Company, were entirely destroyed by the burning of the Morton depot.”

“The undersigned proposes to the bondholders and creditors to fund all arrears of interest now due, and also to fund all accruing interest up to the 1st of January, 1867, and make it a part of the debt, and pay six per cent interest upon the entire debt as it will then stand, in semiannual installments, the first one o be paid on the 1st of July, 1867, and thereafter at intervals of six months. He proposes that the 1st of July, 1890 shall be fixed as the period of the maturity of the entire debt....”

“If this property is now wrested from their hands, many of the stockholders and their families will be left penniless. Several of the stockholders have died and left widows and orphans, who look alone to their interests in this company to shield them from penury; and the undersigned feels assured, when the debt is made so secure, and when the condition of the company has not resulted from bad faith or mismanagement, or incompetency on their part, that he will not appeal in vain for such relief, and extension, as will protect and save the company from ruin, and at the same time secure to the creditors the full payment of their entire debt, within a reasonable period of time, with regular semiannual payments of interest from and after 1st January, 1867.”

Morris Emanuel thus brought to a close his eloquent appeal to the railroad creditors.