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from building war vessels on the lakes? On the shores of these lakes the United States have many cities and villages, and upon their waters an immense commerce; these are unsheltered by any defences worthy of special notice, but they are as open to incursion as was Mexico when invaded by Cortez. A small fleet of light-draught, heavilyarmed, iron-clad gunboats could, in one short month, in despite of any opposition that could be made by extemporized batteries, pass up the St. Lawrence into the lakes, and shell every city and village from Ogdensburg to Chicago. At one blow it could sweep our commerce from that entire chain of waters. Such a fleet would have it in its power to inflict a loss to be reckoned only by hundreds of millions of dollars, so vast is the wealth thus exposed to the depredations of a maritime enemy. To be able to strike a blow so effective, Great Britain constructed a canal around the great Falls of Niagara. By this single work the entire chain of lakes was opened to the entrance of all British light-draught ocean vessels. Perceiving our ability to erect fortifications on the St. Lawrence that might command its channel, and thus neutralize all they had done, Great Britain dug a canal from the foot of Lake Ontario, on a line parallel to the river, but beyond the reach of American guns, to a point on the St. Law. rence below, beyond American jurisdiction, thus securing a channel to and from the lakes out of our reach.
Occupied by our own vast commercial enterprises and by violent party conflicts, our people failed to notice, at the time, that the safety of our entire northern frontier had been destroyed by the dig. ging of two short canals. Near the head of the St. Lawrence, (at the foot of Lake Ontario,) the British, to complete their supremacy on the lakes, have built a large naval depot for the construction and repair of vessels, and a very strong fortress to protect the depot and the outlet of the lake-a fort which cannot be reduced, it is supposed by them, except by regular approaches. They have also strong defences of the St. Lawrence at Montreal, Quebec, &c., to make the all-important channel as safe as possible to the ingress and egress of their fleets. As things now are, a British fleet could sail from the ocean into the lakes, devastate the cities upon the shores, seize the commercial vessels on their waters, and then, in a few days, appear off Boston, New York, or New Orleans, to aid in operations against us on the ocean frontier. To place our frontier in like good condition, the United States must possess as good an inlet to the lakes, and must possess the means to follow an enemy's fleet from one lake to another with like ease and certainty. We must have a naval depot of corresponding extent, as well secured, and as judiciously located for commercial as well as warlike purposes. In addition to these we should have defences at the entrance of each lake which will effectually command them. On the St. Lawrence should be fortifications (aided by floating batteries if necessary) competent to control the channel, however numerous the hostile fleet.
To defend the northern frontier, the United States should be able to place a strong fleet on the lakes as soon as an opponent. We should have adequate means of transportation at command to be able to speedily concentrate on the St. Lawrence a force of acknowledged competency to take possession of the canal and of Montreal, and hold them. The possession by the United States of the outlets of Lake Ontario, and of Montreal and its communications, would cut off all supplies from the Canadians, and leave them to an unsupported and hopeless conflict with all our forces. Such a conflict could be neither protracted nor dangerous.
Can the United States have a navigable channel from the ocean to the lakes of an equal value with that possessed by Great Britain ? Undoubtedly; and a better one. The Erie and Hudson canal can readily be so enlarged as to allow of the passage of a vessel of fifteen hundred or even of two thousand tons burden. When completed, a vessel could enter Lake Erie sooner from New York harbor than from the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and without the delay and danger arising from rapids, rocks, and ice. The Illinois river and Lake Michigan canal can be still more readily and cheaply enlarged than the Hudson and Erie, and would allow an ocean vessel from New Orleans to enter the lakes a month earlier in the spring than one entering by the way of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A canal around Niagara falls can be readily built of any desirable capacity. Neither of these channels would be within reach of British guns, whereas a right to plant American guns upon the banks of the St. Lawrence, the only British channel to the lakes, belongs to the United States.
MILITARY ADVANTAGES OF CANALS FROM THE LAKES TO THE GULF OF MEXICO,
AND TO THE NORTH ATLANTIC. In the absence of ships-of-war on the lakes, and of all means to convey them there from the ocean, the United States, upon the breaking out of war, would, without navy yards and suitable docks, have to commence the building of a fleet upon Lake Ontario, and another on the upper lakes, one British fleet answering for both. The United States could not leave the valuable cities and commerce of the upper lakes undefended, nor could it allow the British war vessels to dominate Lake Ontario, where the bulk of the British commerce, wealth, and military and naval resources are to be found. Hence, two fleets would be indispensable. So long as the British can hold Lake Ontario and its outlets to the ocean, so long is Canada invulnerable, and so long can land expeditions be sent against our cities from Buffalo to Utica, and naval ones to every port on the upper as well as lower lakes. And so long as the British ocean fleet can, alone, enter the lakes, by what means could ship yards on our shores be so protected from their gunboats as to make it safe to build vessels within them? Would not the cost and defects of hasty building, and of thorough protection of ship yards from the attacks of iron-clad fleets, and the loss of towns, and of commercial vessels, and the pay and support of extra bodies of troops along the whole frontier, greatly exceed, in three months, the entire cost of three canals ?
The first advantage of these canals to the United States would be, then, the avoidance of those otherwise unavoidable evils. A second advantage would be found in our ability to make one fleet answer for two. A third advantage would be, that we could build vessels on the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Hudson, and along the lines of the canals, free from all danger of attacks, and where labor and materials would be abundant and cheap. A fourth advantage would be equally decided ; instead of being useless to the United States, except upon the lakes where built, the digging of the canals would enable our war vessels on the lakes, in ten days after the receipt of orders, to make their appearance at New Orleans or Mobile for naval movements in the West Indies, or at New York to operate in the North Atlantic, two thousand miles further to the northeast. The possession of the power to transfer a blockaded fleet by a safe inland route from New York to New Orleans, or from New Orleans to New York, is, of itself, an incalculable advantage in times of war with a strong mari. time power. A fifth advantage might arise in this wise : should the British fleet winter at the naval depot, under the protection of the fortress, as its safety and convenience would dictate, our fleet, long after the British fleet was ice-bound, could pass down the Mississippi and aid our forces in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean sea a third of the year, and yet be back to its station before the enemy could sail from its ice-bound harbor.
The last advantage which your committee will name at this time is the facilities the canals would afford, in times of peace, to agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and the mechanic arts. Practically the navigable channel of the Hudson is extended to the Mississippi. The steamship loaded at St. Paul, Omaha, St. Louis, Louisville, Memphis, or Chicago, would transport its thousand, fifteen hundred, or two thousand tons of produce to New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, or any other point on the entire coast, at the pleasure of its owners, and exchange it for every fabric known to the merchant and the artisan. This would infuse new vigor into all industrial pursuits, and benefit all portions of this great country. It is believed that if eighty-ton horse boats can afford to pay tolls high enough to support shallow canals, two thousand-ton stearuboats, being subjected to less expense per ton, can afford to pay enough higher tolls to support deeper canals of greater cost; especially, considered in connexion with the far larger amount of business the deep canal could transact. They ought, within a reasonable time, to reimburse their first cost. Hence no reason is perceived, from the money point of view, why these exceedingly important military channels should not be dug.
These and other considerations which need not be enumerated, most of which relate directly to the military value of these avenues, induce your committee to urge the construction of the canal from the foot of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi river and around the Falls of Niagara, connecting the upper and the lower lakes. It is not doubted that the great resources of the State of New York, and the interest of that State and its commercial capital, (which is also the commercial capital of the nation,) will supply the means and a motive for the enlargement of the Erie canal on a scale equal to the other works, and as soon as they can be completed by the general government.
This chain of interior water communications, which can so easily be established from the bay of New York and of the St. Lawrence, stretching through the lakes, and by their union with the Mississippi river, to New Orleans, to St. Paul, Pittsburg, and the foothills of the Rocky mountains, discloses a remarkable feature in the geographical formation of our country, and brings to mind another equally singular and important fact often referred to by our engineers, and worthy of consideration in this connexion. It is what might be called a second coast-line, created by making a navigable channel near to and parallel with the coasts on the Atlantic and Gulf, and having numerous connexions with those waters. Such channel would possess two very valuable properties; it would enable the United States to transfer our ships-of-war, by a safe and speedy route, in the presence of a superior naval force, from any one point on our coast to any other, and it would preserve our vast coasting trade in unimpaired activity throughout the war. The military value of this measure was urged by the engineers more than forty years ago, but of late years Congress seems to have forgotten its importance. Now that the coasting trade has an annual value of more than three hundred millions of dollars, and it has come to be well understood that upless a belligerent power can maintain its trade and commerce, money to carry on the war will be found scarce and dear, it is to be hoped earnest consideration will be bestowed upon the importance of an intra-coast channel. terior channel, beginning in the Mississippi river, above New Orleans, opening up the bed of the Ibberville river, (closed by General Jackson in 1812–15, and not since opened,) may be continued along the coast between the islands and the main land, via Mobile and Pensacola, (crossing Florida with a ship canal,) Savannah, Charleston, Beaufort, Norfolk, near Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Brunswick, and New York, (through Long Island sound, Narraganset and Buzzard's bays, and by a short canal,) to Massachusetts bay. Such is the opinion of the engineers.
Without, at this time, entering into the details of the feasibility and cost of this valuable means of defence, your committee will be content to call attention to a practical point or two. There is at this time in operation, between the lower waters of New York harbor and the Delaware river, a canal-Delaware ard Raritan—forty-three miles long and seven feet deep. It is navigated by small propellers and sloops. The Chesapeake and Delaware canal connects Philadelphia, on the Delaware, and Baltimore, on the Chesapeake. It is only thirteen and a half miles long, and is ten feet deep. The Dismal Swamp canal is twenty-two miles long, and connects Chesapeake bay with Albemarle sound.
Here, then, is an interior channel which, when the coasts have been put into a defensible condition, will be a safe one along an extensive and exceedingly important part of our coast, from New London to Beaufort, directly communicating with several of our largest States and cities. To make this extensive channel available both in
peace and in war requires an enlargement of three short and inexpensive canals, of an aggregate length of but seventy-eight and a half miles.
Another interior channel of similar importance can be had (by means of the Ibberville river and Lakes Mauripas, Pontchartrain, and Borgne) from the Mississippi river to Pensacola. This would connect all of the cities of the west with all of the cities of the Gulf by an interior and protected channel. The cost of this would be even less than the other, and both might ultimately be extended so as to become one.
Thus, with a few slight interruptions where it might be necessary to venture upon
open sea, an interior line of water communications can be established from New Orleans to New York and to Boston. These interruptions, even, could be protected by powerful floating batteries, and our commerce in time of war, even with the most powerful maritime nations, could make a secure and peaceful circuit around the country.
The enterprise of individuals has provided us with this almost complete water line along the coast—we can safely look to the same source for the accomplishment of much more where nature has done so great a share. The government may never be called to do more than sanction by its authority, in order to insure the completion of this grand design ; and yet the very struggle which we are now enduring against the disseverance of the Union, marks the conviction of the mass of our countrymen of the essential unity of our country, and the dependence of the whole upon every part; and the same energy, inspired by the same sentiment, will some day bind this new ligament of strength around the nation to make its Union perpetual.
DEFENCE OF THE PACIFIC COAST. 5. In addition to good harbor and other defences upon the Pacific coast, the Pacific States and Territory, to be defensible against the attack of a powerful nation, must be connected with the States lying to the east of their mountains by a good military road—by a firstclass, faithfully-constructed railroad, competent to the ready transportation of the heaviest ordnance, as well as large bodies of troops and their indispensable supplies. The present population is too small, and too much scattered, to be able to defend so extensive a frontier against the attacks of a well-organized naval and land force. Their frontier extends from the thirty second to the forty-ninth parallel of latitude, seventeen degrees, excluding the indentations and windings of the coast. To defend it is not within the physical power of so few persons. Many years hence things will be much changed. The war of 1812-'15 called forth considerable effort; yet we then had eight millions of people. A powerful nation could easily detail for an attack upon the Pacific States a much larger force than was employed against us in 1812.
It is not wise, therefore, to stake the safety and independence of the Pacific States and Territory upon their infant resources; nor is it prudent for us to rely upon our ability to send them trobps