Page images

any bridges, and in the absence of experience they appear to exaggerate the difficulties and dangers of passing them.

WM. E. MERRILL, Lieut. Colonel of Engineers.



Galveston, Tex., June 3, 1888. SIR: The Board of Engineers convened at Memphis, Tenn., by Special Orders 26, from Headquarters Corps of Engineers, dated May 10, 1888, to examine and report upon the plans of the proposed bridge across the Mississippi River at that place submitted by the Kansas City and Memphis Railway and Bridge Company, were unable to agree as to the proper width of channel-way which should be provided under tbe main span.

• Before leaving Memphis they prepared a report, which they all signed. in which both the majority and minority views upon this point were briefly stated. Subsequently, when the members of the Board had returned to their stations, the senior member, who had the report in his custody and who was in the minority upon the point referred to, changed his mind as to the degree of elaboration which he thought his views should receive, and proposed to make some extensive alterations in the report, at the same time suggesting by mail to the majority that ther might likewise make alterations. While the majority had been willing, out of courtesy to the minority, to admit his views to their report, so long as these views were moderately and briefly stated like their own, they could not permit the argument finally adopted by him to become part of their report. The time required to recall and reconstruct the original report could not well be taken, owing to the great distance apart of the members, and the fact that the report had already been called for by the War Department. The majority therefore consented by tel.

. egraph to the omission from the report, of the minority views, and to their being appended as a supplemental report, with the understanding that an opportunity should be given them to answer, in a furtber sup. plemental report, the argument of the minority.

It seems to them that a fuller statement of their side of the question should be made than was considered necessary in their original report, when the discussion of the question had not assumed a controversial character. They propose to make this statement in the form of an answer to the various points in the argument of the minority.

(1) The minority espresses the opinion that if a pier be placed upon the shore, so that the shore itself will serve as a guiding-dike, the channel-way adjoining the pier may be from 100 to 200 feet less in width than if the pier were out in the stream, without increasing the difficulties of passage.

Without expressing any opinion as to the accuracy of this estimate, the majority remark that it is not practicable to build a pier which shall occupy the position described at all stages of the river. The shore line changesas the water rises and falls. A pier placed at or near the shore. line at bigh water is a long way from the shore line at low water.

(2) From the above the minority concludes that a 700-foot channelway near the shore is equivalent to 850 feet out in the stream, and that this being 350 feet greater tban the channel-ways provided at Hender


son and Cairo, upon the Ohio River, through which the coal tows pass, the latter should have no difficulty in passing a 700-foot space at Memphis; also that a space that will accommodate the coal tows will accom. modate the grain tows; hence that a 700-foot space is sufficient.

Without commenting at length upon the facility with which 700 is transferred into a number 350 greater than 500, the majority remark that no comparison can be made between the Ohio River and the Mississippi River, particularly the Mississippi River at Mempbis, with respect to the difficulties of navigation. The coal tows which have managed to get through the Henderson Bridge do not attempt to navigate the Memphis Bend at night even now, when there is no bridge. If they fear to pass at night through a free river, say, 1,900 feet wide, it is not a fair assumption that they can easily pass in daytime through a space 700 feet wide; at all events the two pilots who appeared before the Board from the coal tows then at Mempbis, declared that they required 1,000 feet.

(3) The minority states that all tows which “pass the lower end of Memphis onght to be, and except in case of accident will be, in a position parallel with the shore before they reach the site of the bridge.”

This is the pith of the entire subject. If this be true, than a 700-foot channel-way is sufficient. All of the river-men who appeared before the Board say that it is not true. The members of the majority have personally observed the manipulation of the heavy tows, and thes are quite prepared to believe what the river-men tell them. That the tows will generally be straightened out may be granted. That they will sometimes be compelled to pass under the bridge - broadside on " has been proved to the satisfaction of the majority, and this notwithstanding that they be handled with all the skill that the best navigators possess and that all machinery and other appliances be in good order. The diagram submitted with the report of the Board show the positious of a few tows passing through Memphis Bend as they happened to pass upon the days of observation. Naturally the tows are shown in the positions which they generally occupy; that is, “straightened out” by the tiine they reach the site of the bridge. But these diagrams may be very misleading, for the reason that an idea is conveyed to the mind much more forcibly through the eye than through the ear. The dia grams were forwarded because they are an important part of the information collected, but the statement should be empbasized, that they represent only what is usual, and not by auy means all that a bridge must provide for.

(4) The minority refers to the great difficulty of building a bridge at Memphis, on account of the compressibility of the soil upon which the piers must rest, to the rapid rate at which the cost of superstructure increases with an increase of span, and to the importance of placing no unnecessary obstacle in the way of the land transportation which de. sires to cross the river.

The Board had before it no estimate of what the 1,000-foot span would cost. The majority consider this a matter of secondary importance. They are thorough believers in the value and importance of land transportation, and they desire to see the bridge built. But they can not agree that the saving of a few hundred thousand dollars, or even millions, to the bridge company will justify placing in the stream an obstruction worse than those which the Government is now expending millions to remove. The soil upon which the piers must rest is not the best, but it is suitable for the support of heavy weights.

The practicability of building 1,000.foot spans has not been ques. tioned. They can undoubtedly be built, and at a cost, in the judgment of the majority, much less than that of certain other bridges now in operation.

(5) From the fact that the great coal.shipping interest did not formally protest before the Board against the 700 foot channel-way provided as a minimum in the law, the minority concludes that that interest considers the 700-foot space sufficient.

The evidence of the two pilots engaged in the coal business has already been referred to.

They stated that 700 feet was not sufficient, and that they needed 1,000 feet. That the owners did not formally appear before the Board was a matter of surprise.

It was explained by the statement that an unexpected rise in the Ohio River had brought upon them a sudden rush of business. But whether they remained absent from good reasons or no reasons, it is not a fair assumption that they are content with 700 feet. They are merely the temporary users of a great public highway which is under the guardianship of the Government, and they might fairly presume that the War Department would protect that highway and would not accord to the opposing interest everything that was not prohibited by law. At all events the Government is not protecting merely the interests of those now engaged in river traffic. It is protecting the highway itself for the use of future generations as well as the present.

The neglect or indifference of the present coal operators is not good reasons for depriving posterity of the free use of a great river.

(6) The minority thinks that the Mississippi Valley Transportation Company exaggerates the difficulties and dangers of passing bridges because it operates a route which has heretofore been free of them. The able manager and the experienced navigators of that company, and those who know them, will be surprised to hear that they do not understand what their business requires. But the majority can judge for themselves in this matter. There are the tows of a given size approaching a given site in a given way. They are immense unwieldy masses, floating down an inclined surface in a current of 8.1 miles per hour. How much space do they require to pass safely under the bridge ?

A short trip upon one of the tows will enable any intelligent person to form an opinion upon the subject.

In conclusion, the majority reiterate their opiniou that bad as the approaches to the proposed site of the bridge are now, they are likely to become worse, and can not become better, and that the clear width of channel-way required to prevent the bridge from being an unneces. sary obstruction to navigation is 1,000 feet. Very respectfully, your obedient servants,


Major of Engineers. DAN. C. KINGMAN,

Captain of Engineers. The CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, U. S. A.


WASHINGTON, August 3, 1888. SIR: On the 5th of May, 1888, in accordance with the request of Mr. George H. Nettleton, president of the Kansas City and Memphis Railway and Bridge Company, we presented to you at the hands of our . Mr. Corthell, for your approval, the maps, plans, and papers relating to the proposed bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tenn.

In conformity with the indorsement dated July 10, 1888, made by you on the report of the Board of Engineers, provided for in the act of Congress approved April 24, 1888, we now, by the hands of our Mr. Morisod, present to you for approval a new plan, elevation, and sec: tion in duplicate, in conformity with the requirements of your indorsement of July 10.

We understand that all other papers are complete and meet with your approval.

We believe that this plan has been made in strict conformity with your opinion, and in behalf of the Kansas City and Memphis Railway and Bridge Company would request that an approval of this revised plan and of the location already made be given as early as is consistent with the rules of your Department. We are, very respectfully, yours,


Secretary of War.
[First indorsement.)

WAR DEPARTMENT, August 7, 1888. Respectfully referred to the Acting Judge-Advocate-General to prepare the formal approval of plans submitted August 3, with the condition that the passage of wagons and vehicles of all kinds be provided for, as proposed by Mr. Morison in his letter of August 4.

The right to require changes in said structure, if the public interest demands them, being reserved to the Secretary of War in section 9 of said act. By order of the Secretary of War.


Acting Chief Clerk. (Second indorsement.)


Washington, D. C., August 9, 1888. Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War, with draugbt of an instrument for his approval of the plans and map of location of a proposed bridge across the Mississippi River, containing conditions as directed in the preceding indorsement.

G. NORMAN LIEBER, Acting Judge- Advocate-General.

WW 23





Washington City, December 18, 1885. The Secretary of War has the honor to transmit to the United States Senate, in compliance with section 2 of the river and harbor act of July 5, 1884, a letter from the Chief of Engineers, dated the 12th instant, and its accompanying copies of reports from officers of the Corps of Engineers, relating to bridges, causeways, or structures now erected or in process of erection which do or will interfere with free and safe navigation.






Washington, D. C., December 12, 1885. Sir: Section 2 of the river and harbor act of July 5, 1884, requires of the Secretary of War that

He shall also report (to Congress) whether any bridges, causeways, or structures now erected or in process of erection do or will interfere with free and safe navigation, and if they do or will so interfere, to report the best mode of altering or constructing such bridges or causeways so as to prevent any such obstructions.

With the view of supplying the information desired, officers under the direction of this office were instructed to submit reports covering all facts necessary to enable the Secretary of War to comply with the terms of the extract above quoted. Reports bave been received from officers in charge of river and harbor districts, and I have the honor to submit herewith copies of such of them as report instances of bridges, cause. ways, or structures now erected or in process of erection that do or will interfere with free and safe navigation, with recommendations as to the best mode of altering or constructing them as will prevent any such obstructions.

All other officers report that there are no instances in their respective districts of interference with free and safe navigation from the above-mentioned causes. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Chief of Engineers,

Brig. and Brt. Maj. Gen. Hon. WILLIAM C. ENDICOTT,

Secretary of War.



Boston, Mass., January 27, 1885. GENERAL: In compliance with instructions contained in General Orders, No. 13, Headquarters Corps of Engineers, dated July 23, 1881, I have the honor to subunit the following report with reference to ob. structions to navigation in the district inder my charge, as specified in sections 2 and 8 of the river and harbor act of July 5, 1884.

« PreviousContinue »