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Bill Thayer

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  This webpage reproduces an appendix to Volume IV of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. IV
Appendix IV-5

Memorial Presented by General Robert E. Lee
to the Mayor and Council of Baltimore, Md.,
in the Interest of the Valley Railroad, April, 1869

To the Mayor and Council of the City of Baltimore, Md.

The committee appointed by the people of Rockbridge County, Va., to bring to the consideration of the City of Baltimore the advantage to be attained by the construction of the Valley Railroad, beg leave to make the following suggestions.

In 1866 a survey of the route from Harrisonburg in Rockingham  p518  County, Va., to Salem in Roanoke (a distance of 113 miles) was made under the instructions of the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by Col. James Randolph.

The Report of this Survey, dated Jan. 15th, 1867, is so complete that it is scarcely necessary to repeat what has been there so well stated. It is commended to the people of Baltimore as worthy of their earnest consideration. The report is very full in regard to the through connections which this link established with the entire South-Western portions of the Country. It exhibits the advantages that Baltimore would derive, by forming a direct connection with this vast region, the wealth of which has been only but partially developed.

More than forty years ago, Baltimore offered a bonus to Virginia for the mere right of way through her domain. Now the right of way is not only freely granted, but in addition, the counties along the line have taxed themselves nearly a million of dollars to aid in the construction of the road, thus securing a strong and permanent local interest in its behalf.

It may be proper to urge a few reasons bearing upon the importance of the Valley Railroad as a link in the general Railroad system of the Country in addition to those that have been so well stated by Col. Randolph in his report. This road, connecting Harrisonburg with Salem, on the Va. and Tenn. Railroad, will complete the last link in the great chain from the Northern Cities to the South and South-west. From Salem to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore by the Valley route, the distance is as short as by any route that is or can be constructed, and when this line is completed, it will afford a direct and favorite means of communication between the above mentioned cities and Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans and other points in the South West.

This link when filled will establish a continuous route from the Southwest to the Northeast, which will interest nearly all the main lines running from the West to the East. Starting from Salem on the line from Memphis to Norfolk, it will cross the James River and Kanawha Canal at Buchanan and Lexington, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad at Staunton (136 miles west of Richmond), the Manassas Gap and Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad at Strasburg and Winchester (about ninety miles from Washington) and thereby would constitute Baltimore a formidable competitor for the trade and travel of the great country, which these West and East routes command.

There is now partly under contract a railroad from Winchester to Hagerstown, and when that is completed there will be a direct line  p519  crossing the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Martinsburg (100 miles west of Baltimore), which then running northward will intersect the Pa. Central, the Erie, and New York Central Railroads and the Erie Canal. This route will afford the shortest line of travel from the large and populous portions of the North to much of the best part of the South. Such an intermediary line of road cannot fail to yield a paying stock.

So far the Valley R.R. has been regarded simply as a through line. Our purpose, however, is rather to call the attention of Baltimore to the less known, but scarcely less important local trade from the counties (in the state) through which the road will pass. It runs through five of the most fertile counties in the Valley of Virginia — a valley, which in climate, soil, minerals and well distributed and continuous water power is believed not to be excelled in native wealth by any region of equal extent on this continent. The Counties referred to are Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, Botetourt, and Roanoke. Four of these counties (omitting the county of Rockingham, one half of which the road crosses) had a population of 64,561, according to the census of 1860, which is now somewhat increased. They contain an area of improved farms of 498,156 acres and unimproved, 692,562 acres. This does not include the wild or mountain lands. Their gross products in 1860, estimated at the present price would be worth $8,207,557 — whilst at present, the purchases from outside markets are estimated to amount to $2,150,000. This last estimate is probably greatly short of the real sum, since individual or mere personal purchases are not included.

The Valley Railroad would bring the City of Baltimore directly within the circle of competition, as a seller of these imports and as a purchaser of the surplus.

An inexhaustible supply of iron ore lies buried along the western base of the Blue Ridge mountains, parallel to the road from one terminus to the other — whilst a continuous forest of original growth covers the entire mountains. Charcoal iron of the best quality could be manufactured from these materials and almost without limit. Manganese, marble and other materials exist in large quantities and are only undeveloped from want of an outlet to market. The numerous mineral springs, the public Institutions of Staunton, the literary institutions of Lexington, the famous Natural Bridge of Rockbridge, the healthfulness of the climate and the picturesqueness of the scenery must always command a large pleasure-seeking travel when the country is rendered accessible by railroad.

 p520  Such is a brief and unexaggerated statement of some of the characteristics of the counties which the Valley Railroad would traverse. With the tide of emigration now turning toward Virginia, should this region so favoured by Nature be brought in direct connection with such a market as Baltimore, it is almost impossible to over­estimate the wealth a few years would produce.

Whether the Valley Railroad is considered as a link in the great chain uniting the Southwest with the Northeast or whether it be regarded as a mere local line sustained by the country which it traverses, the stock, should Baltimore subscribe, and thus give it assistance and patronage, will, without doubt, in a short time equal in value the stock of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad — whilst at the same time the trade and profit that would be brought to the City of Baltimore must greatly increase its wealth and prosperity.

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