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commission,) I now desire, for reasons which, in my judgment, form an insurmountable obstacle to the proper performance of these duties, to be relieved from all duty on the commission.
I request the person may be designated to whom the instruments in my custody shall be turned over. They are at present distributed between Captain Hardcastle, Lieut. Whipple, Mr. A. B. Gray, and myself. In due season an account will be rendered of my astronomical determinations on this work, and the commission will be furnished with the result.
By the time of receiving my recall, I hope to have finished the determination of the astronomical line forming the boundary between the Pacific and the mouth of the Gila river, and it will be a convenient point for the transfer of the work to other hands.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. H. EMORY.
In reply to this letter I received, almost simultaneously, the two following letters :
WASHINGTON, November 21, 1849. SIR: Your letter of the 15th of September has been received. I learn from it with regret that you wish to be relieved from your duties as astronomer and topographical engineer, in connexion with the commission, on the part of the United States, for marking the boundary pursuant to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Your claims and peculiar aptitude for that service were so generously acknowledged, that there was every reason to hope you might not be severed from the commission until the close of the business confided to it. Entertaining no doubt, however, that the reasons to which you allude are sound, and that the public will derive advantage from your employment in any other professional duty which may be assigned to you, your request is acceded to, and in a letter of this date I have requested the Secretary of War to designate your successor. In regard to the civil assistants to whom you refer, it is presumed that it would be best for them to remain, with a view to aid your successor in the discharge of his duties. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. CLAYTON.
WASHINGTON, November 28, 1849. SIR: The letter addressed to you by this department under date of 21st has been detained for the purpose of being sent by the officer whom the Secretary of War might appoint as your successor. It appears, however, from the communication of Mr. Crawford of this date, a copy of which is enclosed, that the order for your relief, which had been requested of him, would be so greatly inconvenient to the military service that he deems himself constrained to deny the request.
Under these circumstances, it is hoped that you will continue to discharge the duties of commander to the escort and chief astronomer to the commission, with the same fidelity and ability by which you have attained your high professional and personal character. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. CLAYTON. Major W. H. EMORY, Astronomer, &c., dec.
It might be supposed, after the receipt of these letters, that the desperate condition in which the affairs of the boundary commission had been left, by the neglect to supply it with funds,
had at last received the attention of the authorities at Washington, and that a brighter day was dawning on our work. Unfortunately for us, just after these letters were written, the work was transferred from the Department of State to the Department of the Interior, and these promising hopes were doomed to disappointment.
With the organization above described depending chiefly upon the military officers and escort attached to the commission, I completed the determination of the latitude and longitude of the two observatories near the extremities of the line, and proceeded to transfer, by triangulation, the determination of Camp Riley to the initial point on the Pacific. Although this was accomplished by a single triangle, the longest side of which was not five miles, such was the peculiarity of the atmosphere rendering objects near the coast indistinct, that I was nearly two months in completing this work satisfactorily. I had now lost nearly all my assistants, and the computation of the azimuth of the line and the tracing of the line on the face of the earth were done with no other aid than that of Captain Hardcastle and assistant Gardner and the infantry soldiers of the escort. Lieutenant Whipple, with the cavalry escort, was still at the junction of the Gila and Colorado, faithfully aided by the escort and assistants Parry and Ingraham.
In the mean time Colonel Weller had received official information that he was removed, and a successor, as before stated, was named who was to relieve him. His successor, however, never appeared, and things remained in a state of suspense until the receipt of the following letter:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, January 8, 1850. SIR: Mr. John B. Weller having been relieved from duty, as head of the commission to survey the boundary line between the United States and Mexico, and the direction of said commission having, therefore, fallen temporarily upon you, I have to request that the persons employed on the work may be reduced to the lowest number consistent with the proper though economical management of the business confided to you, by the discharge of all such as are not indispensable to the proper performance of the work, and whose services can therefore be dispensed with without detriment.
The number of surveyors ought not to exceed three; and in reducing the force you will have a view to the suggestions of Col. Abert to Lieut. Col. McClelland, a copy of which is enclosed. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. EWING, Secretary. Major W. H. EMORY, San Diego, California.
Upon the faith of these instructions, emanating, as they did, from the fountain-head of the authority of the government of the United States, I proceeded to reorganize the commission and make arrangements for the continuation of the survey of the line, and placed one efficient party in the field, under the charge of Capt. E. L. F. Hardcastle, and organized another to send by the most expeditious route to the Paso del Norte, on the Rio Grande, at which point it was agreed by the joint commission to meet in November of the same year, (1850.) A schedule of the reorganization and an application for funds, with an urgent letter showing our necessities, were sent and received by the Department of the Interior, and the following answer was returned:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, April 10, 1850. SIR: Your letter from San Diego, (without date,) enclosing papers marked 1 to 4, has been received.
The bill to supply deficiencies of appropriation for the present fiscal year, containing an appropriation for the boundary service, has passed the House and is now before the Senate, but will not probably be disposed of by that body in time to enable me to forward a remittance to you by the steamer which sails on the 13th instant. Funds will be sent to you, however, by the next departure from New York.
Your views as to the further prosecution of the work are generally approved, but you will receive more specific instructions by the next steamer; and you will in the mean time go on as you propose. The monuments are in course of preparation, and will be sent as soon as practicable. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. EWING, Secretary. Major W. H. EMORY, U. S. A., San Diego, California.
Here is not only a distinct approval of my proceedings, but a promise that funds should be sent by the next steamer. Yet it will challenge belief when I state no money was sent, and the reorganization was practically repudiated by the appointment, for the second time, of a commissioner (Mr. J. R. Bartlett) to succeed Col. Weller, and new assistants were appointed, omitting all those appointed by me, under the authority and with the approbation of the Secretary himself.
To understand fully this extraordinary and inexplicable proceeding, and to give a comprehensive view of the gross injustice done not only to the individuals, but to the government, it must be borne in mind that we were co-operating with a foreign government in a great public undertaking, and that the few assistants who remained, faithfully performing their duties, did so at the sacrifice of going to the mines of California, where certain wealth awaited all who went at that time.
Congress also, with a just liberality which always characterizes it when legislating for those who are faithfully performing their duty, had voted $50,000 to pay the deficiencies due this very party. Not one cent of it was paid, as Congress designed, but it was improperly, if not illegally, diverted from its channel and given to the new commissioner, who expended it before he got on the ground, and incurred debts in addition far exceeding this sum. The persons for whom this money was intended, who had honorably sacrificed the certainty of private fortune to a sense of duty, were left in the field without pay and without subsistence.
It was hard to believe, and still harder to comprehend, that such an act of injustice could be perpetrated in a republican government. But when the fact became undoubted, and there was no longer hope, I called the small party together, and informed them that I should leave them to finish the line, as my instructions authorized me to do, in charge of a tried and faithful officer, Captain Hardcastle, and I would go to Washington in the first boat, to represent in person their situation. It was all that could be done in the case, and nothing else could be satisfactory after the clear breach of faith perpetrated twice, and in both instances, apparently, without the shadow of excuse.
Vol. I- 2
On reaching Washington, I found a change had taken place in the office of Secretary of the Interior, and that the new Secretary, the Hon. A. H. H. Stuart, among the first acts of his administration, had sent relief to my party. By the aid of the means then furnished, the work was completed on the Pacific side, and the party returned to Washington in September, 1851.
Before leaving the Pacific coast, orders were sent me to turn over all the instruments, and the persons to whom they were turned over were directed to take them to El Paso, overland, by way of the junction of the Gila and Colorado.
The country to be traversed, as far as then known, was of the most difficult character, and almost impassable for wagons. The wages of teamsters and other laborers was $150 per month ; mules, and all the means of subsistence, at a proportional price; and not a wagon was in the possession of the boundary commission. I reported all these facts, and showed the difficulty of complying with the order if we had funds; and, in addition to the natural obstacles interposed, it was well known there was not a cent in my hands; yet in the face of my remonstrances, the orders were reiterated, and, so far as my efforts went, were faithfully executed ; but, as might be supposed, the persons who were charged with the performance of this duty utterly failed to accomplish it.
Foreseeing this result, and thinking it all-important that we should have a party on the ground in time to meet the commission at El Paso on the first Monday in November, the day on which they agreed to meet, and also that all the topographical information might be gained necessary to enable the commission to come to a proper decision on the point to be selected as the initial point of the boundary on the Rio Grande, I took the responsibility of ordering Lieutenant Whipple, with a suitable supply of instruments, to proceed to El Paso, by the way of Panama to New Orleans, and thence take the smooth road through Texas in wagons. But for this, the commission would have been at El Paso without an astronomical instrument, and without persons capable of using them, and wholly dependent upon the Mexican commission. A couple of weeks preceding my arrival from the Pacific, intelligence reached the department that the affairs of the new commission had fallen into great disorder at El Paso, and the Secretary of the Interior applied to the Department of War for me, by name, to be reassigned to the duty of astronomer, &c., to the boundary; but the intervention of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers caused another officer to be named in my place. I was quite satisfied to have nothing more to do with a mixed commission, governed by persons wholly unused to public affairs, and ignorant of the first principles of the scientific knowledge involved in the questions to be determined by them ; but in little less than a year from this time, (September 13, 1851,) I was directed to proceed to El Paso and resume my duties, by taking charge of the survey of the boundary.
On the 15th I left Washington, and, after a dreary march across the prairies and uplands of Texas, reached El Paso in November, and resumed my duties in the field on the 25th of that month.
Having in view the difficulties of transportation over such a vast extent of country, uninhabited by civilized races, and infested by nomadic tribes of savages, I recommended, when in temporary charge of the commission, that the number of civil employés and assistants on the footing of officers should be reduced to fifteen. This recommendation was seemingly approved, yet on reaching the boundary commission I found that this number had been increased at one time to as many as one hundred and upwards; and although it had been greatly reduced, when I reached the scene of operations there were still a great many, the most of whom were unem
ployed, and, with the exception of one or two, none were fitted for the service on which they were engaged; most of thern ignorant of the first principles of surveying, and embroiled in feuds with each other, and arrayed in hostility either to the commissioner or to the head of the scientific corps.
The commissioner was absent on an expedition into Sonora, the commission was in debt, and not one cent was at my disposal to prosecute the survey. Beyond running an erroneous line a degree and a half west of the del Norte, and starting a party, with limited means, under Lieutenant Whipple, to survey the Gila, and another to survey the Rio del Norte from the point established by the commissioner, nothing had been done.
The situation was one of extreme embarrassment; but finding officers and men sufficient who were willing to undertake the work upon credit, I immediately established an observatory at Frontera, one at San Elceario, and another at Eagle Pass, and placed two surveying parties in the field in addition to those already out. În carrying out this design I was much aided by Mr. Magoffin, an influential and wealthy citizen residing near El Paso, with whom I had made the campaign in 1846, which resulted in the conquest of that country.
Clear and distinct representations were made of the condition of things to the Department of the Interior, and recommendations made to reduce and re-organize the commission which had been formed by the preceding administration on a scale preposterous in magnitude and absurd in principle. It was oppressed with a multitude of officers, quartermasters, commissaries, paymasters, agents, secretaries, sub-secretaries—all officers wholly, unknown to any well regulated surveying corps, and worse than useless by the conflict of authority which these officers engendered, and the enormous expense which the payment of their salaries and personal expenses entailed on the commission.
The sum of five hundred thousand dollars had been expended, and I can safely say that not more than one hundred thousand had been appropriately used in running and marking the boundary up to that time, and all the work that could be said to be fairly accomplished was that done by the first commission--the completion of the line from the initial point on the Pacific to the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers.
At the same time that I wrote a full account to the Department of the Interior of the condition of affairs in the field, and urged the necessity of immediate re-organization and relief in money, I despatched a special messenger, Mr. Edward Ingraham, with thirteen rifles, through the Indian country, in the direction of the Pimo villages on the Gila, to see if any intelligence could be had of the commissioner, with a letter to him representing in urgent terms the necessity for immediate aid. I entertained the reasonable expectation that from one or the other of these sources help would be obtained ; and so believing, I did not hesitate to make all the necessary purchases to prosecute the work.
Although the Rio Bravo, from El Paso to its mouth, has been frequently mapped, it will surprise many to know, that up to the time when I commenced the survey, by far the largest portion of it had never been traversed by civilized man. This surprise will, however, cease when the reader reaches that part of the report which treats of the physical geography of the country, and his eye rests on the sketches by which it is illustrated. He will then see the impassable character of the river; walled in at places by stupendous rocky barriers, and escaping through chasms blocked up by huge rocks that have fallen from impending heights, where, if the traveller should chance to be caught in a freshet, inevitable destruction would be the consequence.