The Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida had a new commander at the close of April 1864. Gone was General P.G.T. Beauregard. Now Major-General Samuel Jones had command.
But while the command changed, from the perspective of those in Richmond, some problems persisted – namely delays moving troops to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee. Just as the Federals moved Major-General Quincy Gillmore and the Tenth Corps to Fort Monroe, the Confederates issued orders pulling troops north in anticipation of the spring campaigns. This movement now became Jones’ responsibility. And on April 27, General Samuel Cooper, Confederate Army Adjutant and Inspector General, called in question some delays moving the troops – “Explain why the movement of the troops ordered from Savannah to Virginia and to Tennessee is delayed.”
Shortly after receipt, Jones forwarded his response:
Charleston, S.C., April 27, 1864.
General Samuel Cooper,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.:
Your telegram of this date regarding movements of troops from Savannah received. The orders for their movement were given without delay. Your change of orders for the Sixty-third and Sixty-fourth Georgia Regiments occasioned some delay, as the latter had not returned from Florida. Another delay has been caused by the obligation of the South Carolina Railroad to deliver a certain amount of corn in Richmond per day, and I have not thought proper to give any order which would interfere with compliance with that obligation. The transportation of prisoners to the South has also caused delay in transportation of troops.
This was not the first time, despite the short time in command, that Jones complained about the railroads. Two days earlier, Jones responded to an inquiry asking why HIS movement to Charleston, assuming command there, had taken too long. After establishing the date he had been relieved from duties on a court of inquiry, Jones proceeded to detail the problems encountered with his movement south:
As the Government had prohibited the running of passenger trains on some of the roads going South, and as I desired to send my horses to the department to which I had been ordered, I consulted the Quartermaster-General as to the route it would be most convenient to his department I should travel. He designated the route by Danville, Va., and through North Carolina. I accordingly started by that route on the 9th, and stopped that night to procure my personal baggage at the place, where I had left it. It rained heavily on the 9th and 10th instant, producing a flood such as had not been known in that section of country within this century.
The president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad informed me that his road had been much damaged by the flood, and that I would find difficulty and delay if I attempted to continue by that route.
The superintendent of the road informed me that trains could not pass over his road without interruption in less than two weeks. All the information I could obtain convinced me that I could reach Charleston sooner by way of Weldon than by the route on which I had started. I accordingly telegraphed to Richmond to ascertain if I could go by that route on which, as I had been informed, the Government had prohibited the running of passenger trains. On being informed that I could go by Weldon I started by that route, and traveled as rapidly as the cars would carry me. I was detained twenty-one hours at one point by the failure of the trains to connect, and arrived at this place without other stoppage on the 19th instant, and immediately on my arrival reported to General Beauregard.
So even before serving out his first few weeks in command, Jones found himself with a few “demerits” on his report card. As he argued, none of the delays were his own fault. Rather the by-product of the Confederate railroad policies which put the emphasis on moving much needed sustenance to Richmond and shuffling prisoners to camps in the deep south. Somewhere between train-loads of corn and prisoners, troop trains ran. And then somewhere between those, Sam Jones managed to get himself and his party to Charleston.
(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 453.)