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in reference to the work done by Captain Vansickle; but, on being sufficiently apprised thereof, and of the nature and extent of his claim therefor, I will endeavor to prepare and submit to the bureau a reasonable voucher for the approval of the department.


At the instance of the Hon. J. Guthrie, late Secretary of the United States Treasury, I was requested to signify my views in reference to the construction of locks at and near the site of the existing locks of the canal, and to the best method of enlarging the canal. In compliance with this request, and in conformity to the opinions of the Hon. Secretary, a method of improvement, having for its objects the construction of a single lock of suitable capacity and an enlargement of the canal to such an extent that the largest boats now used for the navigation of the Ohio might freely pass through the canal, was recommended to the Hon. Secretary. Another object, deemed of equal importance, was also kept in view, viz: the exclusion of floods from the entire canal, locks, &c., by a suitable guard gate, piers, wing wall, &c., at the head of the canal, and by an elevated embankment on its northerly side, the guard gate, wing walls, and embankment all rising at least two feet above the surface of the highest flood ever known in the Ohio.

The views entertained in reference to this improvement are more fully explained in a report to the honorable Secretary, dated July 18, 1856, a copy of which is hereto appended.-(See Appendix, Doc. No. 7.)

The surveys, &c., were prosecuted with all practicable diligence in subserviency to the method of improvement contemplated in the document just referred to till the means of continuing and completing them were withheld by the board of canal directors.

The expenses of the surveys were defrayed out of the pecuniary proceeds arising from the tolls of the canal.


Nothing has been done by the United States towards the improvement of these rivers during the last fiscal year, except in so far as relates to the improvement of Des Moines rapids and of the mouths of the Mississippi, the latter of which will be more particularly noticed in the sequel.


The prosecution of this improvement has been attended with numerous embarrassments of a character to retard its progress and greatly to enhance its cost. Among the impediments in the way of its advancement, the insalubrity of the raft district, the difficulty of procuring and retaining laborers, the scarcity and consequent high prices of provisions and labor, and the sickness and frequent desertions of the employés, are the most considerable. Efficient laborers, white or black, could not be obtained at a cost less than $30 per month for each

hand, besides their board and, in most cases, their conveyance from remote points.

The progress of this work, from the beginning of the last fiscal year to the 1st of September, 1856, has been set forth in details sufficiently copious in my annual report of that date and in the documents appended thereto. The operations subsequently performed are sufficiently explained in the annual report of Agent Fuller, hereto appended. (See Appendix, Doc. No. 8.)

From the report above cited, and other communications from the agent, it appears that the force in service at the commencement of the last fiscal year consisted of only sixteen black and three white laborers-in all, nineteen laborers; having been reduced to this number by desertions, sickness, two deaths, discharges, and withdrawals of slaves bytheir owners.

In order to replenish his force with trustworthy and reliable laborers, the agent, after having endeavored in vain to obtain black hands from the Red river planters, deemed it advisable to repair to Illinois and Indiana in quest of white laborers. In this way he succeeded in engaging the services of about forty fresh hands; but on or before the arrival of this additional force at the raft, sixteen of their number deserted, and one was discharged on account of sickness.

The desertions continued till the 23d of October, when the entire force was reduced to fourteen white and nine black laborers. From and after this date to the end of the fiscal year the nature and progress of the operations on the raft, &c., are sufficiently explained in the annual report of Agent Fuller, before cited.-(See Appendix, Doc. No. 8.)

The force at the end of the year consisted of only about fourteen individuals, who are represented as having been advantageously employed in removing stumps from the bayou and lake passes, and in storing more compactly the fragments of the raft in the outlets of the bayou and in the neighboring small lakes.

The unexpended balance of the appropriation having been reduced to about $13,000, the propriety of increasing the force, till a new appropriation shall have been made, is very questionable. In the meantime, it is believed that the force now in service can be employed to advantage on the work now in progress, as just mentioned.


By an act of Congress, passed on the 8th July, 1856, $330,000 was appropriated for this improvement. With the sanction of the War Department, the work of improvement was arranged under two distinct heads, viz: the removal of obstructions from the Southwest Pass and the removal of obstructions from the Pass à l'Outre, each of which were to be carried into effect by a special contract.

Proposals were publicly invited for each division of the work, as above, and resulted in favor of the bids offered by Messrs Craig & Rightor, of Newport, Kentucky. The bids of these gentlemen were as follows, viz: $125,000 for opening a channel 300 feet wide and 20 feet deep, leading in a straight direction across the tidal bar, or shoals, Vol. ii-20

at the outlet of each pass, and $36,000 for keeping the channel in each pass open and unobstructed during a period of four and a half years from and after the inspection and acceptance of the work, under the clause of the contract for opening the channel in each case.

The parties to the contracts were Captain H. G. Wright, of the corps of engineers, and agent for the United States, of the first part, and Messrs. Craig & Rightor, as above, of the second part. The contracts were executed in due form on the 13th of November, 1856, and approved by the honorable Secretary of War on the day following.

The stipulations of the contract provided for a speedy commencement of the work, and for the opening of a channel in both passes of the dimensions above stated in a period of ten months from the date of the contracts, to wit: on the 15th September, 1857.

The method of improvement proposed by Messrs. Craig & Rightor, and sanctioned by the War Department, contemplated the formation of jettees or lines of piles on both sides of each channel, through greater or less distances, converging towards each other as they approached the tidal bar; in addition to which works of a similar construction were to be erected across the outlets of both passes, above the convergent lines above mentioned, for the purpose of preventing outflows, and compelling them to pass between the jettees.

The plan and details of the improvement having been specifically provided for by the contracts, its prosecution was at first confided to the supervision and inspection of Major G. T. Beauregard, of the corps of engineers, and was subsequently transferred to the charge of the undersigned early in April last, soon after the commencement of operations by the contractors of Southwest Pass.

My proceedings in reference to this service are sufficiently explained in my inspection reports of the 6th of April, and a continuation thereof dated on the 5th of May following, copies of which are hereto appended. (See Appendix, Docs. No. 9 and No. 10.)

The operations of the contractors, agreeably to their own choice, have hitherto been confined exclusively to the Southwest Pass, no attempts having as yet been made towards the improvement of Pass à l'Outre.

The line of piles on the left or southeasterly side of the Southwest Pass on the 30th June last had an extent of about 3,200 feet in a direction south, 40° west towards the Gulf, or north, 40° east in the opposite direction. All the work done by the contractors previously to that date had been bestowed upon the line mentioned, nothing having been done toward the formation of a counter line of piles on the other side of the pass, or to the blocking up of outlets on either side of the pass.

The work of the contractors, from its incipiency to the end of the fiscal year, has been unavoidably retarded in its progress by unfavorable weather; and on at least three occasions extensive portions of the line have been so much deranged and disrupted by storms that a reformation of a part of the line was rendered indispensable. Although the formation of the line had been occasionally carried forward at the rate of 100 to 150 feet per day in the month of May, yet during the month of June its entire prolongation amounted to only 300 feet, 100

of which was prostrated by a violent southeast storm, leaving for the aggregate length of the line standing on the 30th of June about 3,200 feet.

From the soundings made on the lines of the triangulations, and especially from those made upon lines crossing the main navigable channels, it does not appear that any considerable changes have been produced in the pass by the operations of the contractors prior to the date last mentioned.

For particulars in reference to the topics just considered, see Appendix, Doc. No. 11, and Doc. No. 12 and Doc. 13, being copies of my reports of the monthly progress of the work.

In fairness to the contractors, and in so far as relates to the enlargement of the channel at the Southwest Pass, it is proper to withhold any decisions as to the final efficiency of their operations till the expiration of the period of their contract, which will terminate on the 15th of September next.

But in relation to the improvement of Pass à l'Outre, the fact that nothing appears, as yet, to have been done thereat towards its improvement, seems to authorize the inference that the contract for this improvement must unavoidably be abandoned by the contractors, the unexhausted period of their contract being only half a month.

The subject next claiming attention is the further prosecution of works of improvement on the western rivers. My views in reference to this subject have been fully presented in my unpublished report of September 1, 1856, under the head of "Estimate of funds required for the prosecution of western river improvements during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1857, and ending June 30, 1858." The same views, with a few modifications relating to the improvement of Red river, and with the omission of any provision for the improvement of the Des Moines rapids and other local works, are deemed equally applicable and appropriate to the said improvements under existing exigencies, and are referred to accordingly as a component part of this report.

The item requiring modifications, as above, is amended as follows, viz:

In addition to the craft now for service in Red river, a steam dredge boat, with mud scows, yawls, &c, should be procured at a probable cost of $10,000. The cost of working the dredge boat, &c., for nine months may be estimated at $850 per month, or $7,650 per year.

Hence the corrections in question being applied to the statements in reference to Red river, as contained in the cited estimate, will give the following summary results, viz: Cost of craft for the improvement of Red river, including a dredge boat, scows, &c., $28,000; annual cost of working and preserving said craft, the dredge boat, scows, &c., included, $52,350.

The same corrections being introduced into the tabulation, near the end of the estimate referred to, will give the following as the corrected tabulation for this report:

Table of appropriations for a series of five years.

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With respect to the adoption of a system of annual appropriations for the prosecution of western river improvements, I conceive there can be no doubt of its propriety and economy. On at least three dif ferent occasions liberal appropriations have been made by Congress for this service, covering the cost of the various kinds of craft, &c., required for the service, and the working of the same for a period limited by the balances remaining for the prosecution of the work after deducting the cost of the craft. In each of the instances alluded to the balance in question was sufficient merely to keep the craft employed in the public service during a period of two or three years only; after the expiration of which the craft, together with its equipments, &c., has been sacrificed at public sale for less than one-sixth of their prime cost. In this way nearly one-half of the prime cost of the boats, &c., procured under each appropriation for western river improvements has been virtually wasted. It is believed that the sacrifices thus incurred may be avoided by adopting the system of appropriations herein suggested, and exemplified in the table.

It will be perceived that no provision has been made in the table for any works of a local character, or for the removal of obstructions from the mouths of the Mississippi. The improvements of the rapids of the Mississippi and Dubuque harbor have been transferred to Captain Palmer, while the late appropriation for the improvement at the mouths of the Mississippi has been encroached upon to the extent of $2,500 only, and needs no addition for the current fiscal year.


The compilation and arrangement of the various details of information proper to be embraced under these heads has been confided to Doctor M. P. Breckinridge, who has been employed for some time past as recorder and accountant in my office, and who has been requested to visit Cincinnati, St. Louis, and other commercial points, in quest of the desired information. His report on these topics is hereto appended. (See Appendix, Doc. No. 14.) A full and clear exhibit of

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