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steamers just established by the government. In this we were disappointed, and were kept in Panama, at great expense, until the middle of May.
Soon after the organization of the commission in Washington, and on the eve of departure, the news came of the discovery of fields of gold in California. This report set all “the wide awake” and unemployed.men in the country in motion towards the new Eldorado, and it was with the greatest difficulty that passage to Chagres could be procured in the meanest craft. Every steamer and sailing vessel, without regard to sea-going qualities, that could be drawn from the regular channels of commerce, were put in requisition, and it was with considerable trouble that I procured a passage in the steamer Northerner, which sailed from New York.
Simultaneously with our arrival on the Isthmus, there was a precipitation upon it of all the odds and ends of the inhabitants of the Atlantic coast of North America and Europe. The state of Panama, with its mongrel race of Indians, negroes and Spaniards, with their intellects obfuscated by bigotry, and their bodies enervated by a tropical climate, was wholly unequal to the task of receiving and entertaining, in an orderly manner, such an influx of strangers. Fortunately, the mass of them was of the self-governing race of the whites of North America, and when disorder and confusion seemed inevitable, propriety resumed the sway, and a germ of civil liberty and self-government was planted for the first time in that mis-called republic, the fruits of which are now beginning to be made apparent in the new code of laws, and the extended and liberal views of some of her citizens; among whom stands conspicuously Señor Arosemena, to whose good offices we were indebted for a roof over our heads during our long delay in Panama.
It was estimated that as many as four thousand people were collected in Panama, awaiting transportation to California. The price of passage-tickets in the expected steamers rose to an exorbitant sum. Each person seemed to think that there was a limited supply of gold, and that his hopes of getting any portion of it depended upon his early arrival in the field. Panama, at that time fallen into decay, and her name, in fact, stricken from the list of commercial cities, was out of the highway of ships. Boats, something in shape and awkwardness like the "dugouts” of the Mississippi, in use among the natives to transport fruit from the neighboring island of Toboga, were the only description of vessels that could then be obtained. The largest of them did not exceed ten or fifteen tons in capacity. Yet many were put in requisition to navigate the ocean over a space of three thousand miles, extending along a rock-bound coast, swept for a considerable portion of the way by adverse north winds. Many of the bold adventurers were wrecked, and few, if any, reached their destination in their frail barks, but were. obliged to put in at Acapulco and other ports along the coast.
Seeing that there was little probability of our obtaining passage to San Diego before the middle of May, I unpacked the instruments, and set them up for the double purpose of practising my assistants and making observations at Panama for latitude and longitude, magnetic dip and intensity, and other phenomena, the results of which will be found elsewhere. The result of these observations threw much light on the geographical position and the climate of those tropical regions; but as the observations upon which they were founded were published in the fifth volume of the proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, at Boston, it has not been considered necessary to reproduce them in this work. . When we arrived, in March, the summer or dry season was not ended, and the country was very healthy; but towards the latter end of April the rainy season set in, and with it came fever and cholera. Rejecting the sanitary precautions of abstemiousness usually resorted to in such
cases, I employed a good cook, and purchased light wines, and, by a generous diet, myself and companions escaped all disease, although we were out every clear night observing-at a time when it was thought certain death to the foreigner to expose himself. I learned this agreeable preventive treatment in Vera Cruz, which I twice visited when the vomito was ragingthe last time under aggravating circumstances. Being engaged in embarking my regiment, which was encamped two miles from the city, I was obliged to make frequent visits to the latter both night and day, exposed alternately to the scorching sun and the evening dews; and although frequently passing through infected districts since, it was not until the autumn of 1853 that I suffered from this disease. I attribute the attack at that time to the fact of being kept on board a ship, where, by an unexpectedly long voyage of eighteen days from Brazos Santiago to Pensacola, we were reduced to salt junk and whiskey. With the system suffering under this diet, I incautiously visited Mobile, where the epidemic was very violent. In all places where this malady has prevailed, it is undoubtedly the case that those addicted to the use of salt meats, brandy, whiskey, and the stronger wines, Madeira and Sherry, are the most likely to suffer. And we may not see any important changes in the health of the southern coast of the United States until its inhabitants shall conform to the habits of tropical nationsdiscard rich, unctuous food, and all alcoholic drinks, and substitute pilaus and the light wines which can be produced in the mountains of the Carolinas and Georgia, but more particularly in the champagne country of Texas.
It was not until after the middle of May that a steamer appeared in the harbor, which proved to be the "Panama,” one of the line of United States Pacific mail steamers, upon which I had shipped from New York the heaviest of the astronomical instruments intended for the boundary survey, in charge of Captain Hardcastle, corps Topographical Engineers.
The “Panama” was built before the discovery of gold in California, when it was supposed but very little would be carried by her except the United States mails and the government officers passing to California and Oregon. Her tonnage was, I think, something under 1,000 tons; yet such was the irresistible press for passage to California, that when she weighed anchor to proceed on her voyage, no less than seven hundred souls, exclusive of her crew, were found to be on board. Every reasonable effort was made by Capt. Bailey and other officers of the ship to administer to our comforts, yet the voyage was of the most disagreeable and unsatisfactory character.
The treaty with Mexico required that we should be in San Diego on or before the 31st of May. We arrived there on the 1st of June, but finding the Mexican commissioner had not come, we were at once satisfied that no evil would result from the unavoidable delay. On reaching San Diego we found the escort of troops awaiting us. It was composed of company "A," 1st dragoons, commanded by Lieut. Coutts, and company “H,” 2d infantry, commanded by Capt. Hayden.
San Diego appeared to me not to have changed since 1846—'47. The news of the discovery of gold in the northern part of California, produced less commotion in that quiet town than in New York or Panama. Fortunately for us, it did not feel the effect until the reaction came from the Atlantic side, some months after our arrival. Had it been otherwise, all attempts to keep together the enlisted men and laborers of the survey would have been idle, and the commission would have been disorganized before doing anything.
The Mexican commissioner arrived July 3, at San Diego, accompanied by one hundred and fifty troops. The joint commission was organized on the 6th, and on the 9th I established my
observatory at the Punta, and called it Camp Riley, after the general then commanding in California, to whom we were much indebted for affording many facilities in conducting the survey. The infantry company was encamped in the valley near me, and the dragoons were sent up the valley of the Tia Juana, to a point where the grazing was good, to get in condition for the hard service upon which they were soon to be employed.
The following distribution was made of that portion of the officers and employés of the boundary commission under my direction : Aided by James Nooney and George C. Gardner, I took the personal charge of the determination of the latitude and longitude of Camp Riley, and the triangulation by which that determination was to be carried to the initial point on the Pacific; no convenient place for wood and water, which was at the same time protected from winds and the drifting sands, being nearer to the initial point than Camp Riley.
Lieut. A. W. Whipple, corps Topographical Engineers, assisted by Messrs. Parry and Ingraham, were assigned to the charge of the party to determine the other extremity of the straight line forming the boundary at the junction of the Gila and Colorado. In addition to his duties as asssistant, Dr. Parry was charged with the geological and botanical investigations to illustrate the physical geography of the country.
Capt. E. L. F. Hardcastle, corps Topographical Engineers, assisted by Mr. George C. Gardner, and escorted by Lieut. Slaughter, with a detachment on foot, was placed in charge of the party to reconnoitre the country, gain a knowledge of the topography, and select elevated points by which the extremities of the line, or the two observatories in charge of Lieut. Whipple and myself, could be connected in longitude by flashes of gunpowder.
A party under the charge of the United States surveyor, assisted by Messrs. Whiting, Taylor, and Foster, were employed in surveying the shore-line of the head of the bay, for the purpose of showing on paper the initial point of the boundary on the coast of the Pacific, described in the treaty as being one marine league south of the port of San Diego.
The portion of the boundary which the commissioner designed to run first, consisted of a straight line from a point on the Pacific ocean, one marine league south of the port of San Diego, to the junction of the Gila and Colorado. · The most obvious way of determining the direction of this line was to connect the two points by triangulation, and in this way ascertain their relative positions on the face of the earth, and compute the azimuth of the line joining them. But the character of the intervening country made it impossible to pursue this mode of operating, when the time and means at our disposal were considered. Triangulation is the most accurate, but the slowest and most expensive method of surveying, even in old settled countries, where the stations to be selected are easily accessible in wagons.
The peculiarities of this country presented obstacles almost insurmountable to such an operation. The whole distance, about 148 miles, may be divided into two nearly equal parts, differing in character, but both unfavorable to geodetic operations. The first, rising in steppes from the sea, devoid of water, and covered with spinous vegetation, attains in abrupt ascents the height of five or six thousand feet above the sea in the short distance of thirty miles. From this point, for about thirty miles more, the country is occupied by a succession of parallel ridges, striking the boundary nearly at right-angles, and separated by deep and sometimes impassable chasms. It then falls abruptly to near the level of the sea. The remainder of the line stretches across the desert of shifting sand at the head of the Gulf of California, destitute for the most part of both water and vegetation, rendering it impossible to mark the boundary in the usual manner on the ground.
At the various conferences of the joint commission, the mode of conducting the survey was discussed; and it was agreed to determine the line by astronomical methods, as the only mode by which we could do so correctly and within our means. Although not then a member of the joint commission, I was invited to their consultations; and my knowledge of the country, derived from a previous exploration, was brought into requisition,
I would here be doing injustice to Colonel Weller, the United States commissioner, and General Conde, the Mexican commissioner, if I did not place their conduct in contrast with what subsequently happened, by commending the just and enlarged views which guided their early conferences, and the intelligence and liberality with which all suggestions for the guidance of the scientific operations of the commission were received and adopted by those two gentlemen.
It will be seen by those conversant with geodetic matters, that the determination I had undertaken was of no ordinary kind, and required for its success the most accurate and elaborate observations, and a skilful application of those observations by analytic formulae, involving the figure of the earth and other elements, a perfect knowledge of which has not yet been attained, although researches upon the subject have occupied the minds of the great astronomers; and the last half century has seen their labors embodied, and our knowledge brought very near perfection, by the beautiful analysis of Bessel, and the successful application of that analysis by Professor A. D. Bache.
An error in the latitude or longitude of either extremity, of a few seconds, would produce a great departure of the line from the point it was intended to strike; the utmost precision was, therefore, necessary to be observed in all determinations connected with the line.
In this operation I looked for little or no aid from the Mexican commission, for although composed of well educated and scientific men, their instruments were radically defective. Our determinations, after being re-observed and re-computed by the Mexican commission, were received by them without correction; and the actual tracing of the line on the ground by the two parties, operating in different directions from the two extremities of the line, showed their correctness. When the parties met on the desert, they were found to be so nearly on the same line, that the difference might as properly be attributed to the inaccuracy of prolonging straight lines over such vast and almost impassable tracts, as to error in the original direction.
The elaborate observations and computations by which the result was arrived at, will be found in their proper place.
It was in the month of September, while engaged in this dreary and thankless work, that intelligence was received that Colonel Weller was removed, and Mr. J. C. Fremont was substituted. This official, although he accepted the appointment, afterwards declined it, and never joined the commission. At this time Colonel Weller was absent at the north, engaged in the fruitless task of raising funds. About the same time, intelligence reached our hitherto quiet and secluded camp, of the successful accumulation of wealth by many who had gone to the gold region without a dollar in their pockets. News came, too, that was afterwards confirmed, that Colonel Weller's drafts had been protested, his disbursements repudiated, and himself denounced as a defaulter; when, at that very time, as the settlement of his accounts afterwards showed, he was in advance to the government.
The wages of common laborers employed at the port of San Diego suddenly rose to $150 per month, and of carpenters to $10 per day. Subsistence of every kind rose in proportion; the
soldiers' rations from 20 cents to $1 50 per day. Our people had not been paid for some time, and we were without a dollar. This seemed more than poor human nature could bear, and one by one our force dropped off, until but four or five of the civil employés remained, and among them three persons in subordinate positions, whose fidelity, I think, deserves to be remembered-Francis Holley, Frank Stone, and my servant Robert, a slave. : I find no fault with any gentleman in civil life who left the commission at this time.
Had I not been an officer of the army in command of troops, and in charge of an important work co-operating with a foreign commission, I should have undoubtedly exercised the privilege of withdrawing. The government failed to comply with its obligations to pay the civil officers and employés their salaries, and even to supply them with the necessary subsistence. On the other hand, the field of gold was spread before them, and almost within their reach. I cannot say that any of the commission would have yielded to the temptation had those in authority been supplied with the means to pay them, or had they been invited to remain. As it was, I am not prepared to say that one left the commission without receiving and deserving an honorable discharge, and not a single member ever deserted the commission. I was at this time in à position of extreme embarrassment. It was a critical period in the progress of the work. All the preliminary steps had been taken ; the observations nearly completed at one end of the line, and the party designed for the mouth of the Gila ready to start; the commissioner absent; without a dollar in my pocket; the commission dishonored at home, and without credit in the field. In this dilemma I did not hesitate to take the responsibility of using the military power in my hands to keep the work from being abandoned.
I directed the quartermaster and commissary of the army attached to the escort to furnish supplies and transportation, and I engaged to give each soldier, with the assent of his captain, when not on military duty, two dollars for each day's work done in running the boundary.
This arrangement, which was cordially approved by the commissioner, and subsequently, on a change of administration, by the government, worked well in more ways than one. While it supplied me with the manual labor necessary to carry on the work, it prevented desertion from the escort, which, in other branches of the army in California, occurred to an alarming extent; in some cases entire guards going off with their arms. Throughout the whole campaign we had but three desertions, and when I was relieved from the command I was complimented in orders from the commanding general of California for the successful manner in which the troops had been held together.
The outrage inflicted on the commission by withholding funds, and attempting to place at its head persons under influences avowedly hostile, so far from shaking my interest in the great scientific work which I had commenced, only increased my determination to complete it. At the same time I felt it my duty to resent the indignity, by tendering my resignation, to take effect on the completion of the line I had commenced, which was the only one indeed in the boundary, as then agreed upon, involving any very great degree of scientific skill. I accordingly wrote to the honorable Secretary of State the following letter:
CAMP RILEY, September 15, 1849. SIR: * *
* * * * * * * It is questionable in my mind whether the Department of State has followed up its intention, conveyed in the preliminary instructions of February 15. But if it has done so, and I am considered as occupying the position of chief astronomer and topographical engineer (of the boundary