Letter from Claudius Crozet to the Virginia Board of Public Works, December 28, 1854

In one of his regular reports to the Board of Public Works, Claudius Crozet comments on the use of enslaved labor and the use of "time" that its employment enables. Because slaves were worked longer hours, often in gangs, and not paid by the hour, unlike whites, they could be transferred from one task to the next until their annual hire was renegotiated with the slaveholder.

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To the Board of Public Works,

Gentlemen,

I have the honor to report, that the recent facility of obtaining white hands, has enabled us to reduce the price of labour in both tunnels to one dollar, which is as low a rate as the lowest price at which we were offered negroes. In consequence of this favorable change, and seeing that, at your last meeting, you inclined to the opinion not to employ negroes, I concluded that, under present circumstances, it was not advisable to mix again white and black labor in the tunnel.

Nor shall we want any longer a gang outside; the negroes, engaged during the past season in completing the 12 miles in use by the Central railroad Company, having finished this work: indeed, they had some time to spare, which I turned to advantage in causing them to fill up the time, by preparing the ballasting, and otherwise improving the unfinished sections; which are now ready for the track.

The cuts connected with Robertson's hollow are completed; but the embankment requires some addition: the contractors, fully apprized of present embarrassments, have, nevertheless concluded to finish it under their contract, and to wait the pleasure of the Board for payment.

We have succeeded in securing the masonry of the Brooksville Tunnel against frosts; so that it will not be delayed by the winter months; its completion now depends mainly on the degree of difficulty encountered under the great interior slide; which, I am happy to say, seems to have greatly diminished.

Pursuant of your last instructions, I have closed the brick contract for this tunnel with Robert Richardson; and, from his skill and energy, feel no longer any apprehension in regard to the strength and durability of the arch to be made. his contract and bond are herewith transmitted

very respectfully submitted
C. Crozet
Chf Engr. B. r. r. rd.

About this Document

  • Source: Claudius Crozet reporting the conditions of the work under his charge, December 28, 1854
  • Author: Claudius Crozet
  • Extent: 1 page
  • Citation: Archives, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, Virginia Board of Public Works, Entry 125 "Blue Ridge Railroad", Box RG 57, Box 216, Folder 3
  • Date: December 28, 1854