Rebuilding the ‘Clarksville’ after the War

Following the Civil War, the Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville Railroad was in near ruins.

George T. Lewis, receiver for the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad, noted the railroad was “not able to meet interest promptly upon bonds granted to said company,” according to a March 10, 1866, letter. The letter was included in an 1867 House Judiciary Committee report produced during the the impeachment investigation against President Andrew Johnson.

Lewis also stated that “during the first year of the war the bridges upon the road were all destroyed, excepting one permanent and one draw-bridge over the Cumberland river; also the greater portion of the tressle on the line of the road, and the road-bed itself has been greatly injured during the past five years—cuts filling up and embankments being washed away.”

That meant the railroad had major repairs to make. The state legislature “funded the interest due on the bonds of the State, the larger portion of which had been issued in aid of different railroad companies; and the Legislature also appropriated, to put the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville railroad in running order, State bonds amounting to four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000).”

Lewis also noted:

In obedience to instructions from his excellency the Governor, Wm. G. Brownlow, I purchased, as receiver for the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville railroad, from the United States government, rolling stock, such as engines, passenger and freight cars, and other material and supplies, all of which amounted to over three hundred thousand dollars. The road is now being put in order, and it is believed will be operated over the entire line from the State line of Kentucky to Paris, Tennessee, by the first day of June next. All of the means appropriated by the Legislature will be required for the rebuilding of bridges, and repairs necessary to put the road in good condition; consequently, I shall not have any means to meet the monthly instalments due the United States government, the collection of which has up to this time been suspended by Major General Thomas, commanding.

The Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville Railroad received it charter on Jan. 28, 1852, from the state of Tennessee. The line connected with the Memphis & Ohio Railroad and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad to provide connecting service between Memphis and Louisville. As Lewis pointed out:

The Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville railroad forms an important link in the line of railroad connecting Louisville with Memphis, New Orleans, and Mobile, and will, when in operation, have a large portion of passage and freight traffic from the north and east to the south and southwest. But, in consequence of the embarrassed condition of the road, financially, I am satisfied the instalments due to the United States government cannot be met for some time to come, as the proceeds of the road will be required tor the betterment of the road, so as to make it what it should be, a first class road.

Lewis asked the government “to suspend the collection of the claim of the United States government for two years,” noting that most “have been greatly embarrassed by the prostration of their business for the past five years.” After two years, Lewis predicted, “the monthly instalments will be met promptly.”

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