CLEVELAND As A NAVAL DEPOT
REPORT OF COMMITTEE OF CITIZENS.
To the Congressional Committee.
NAVY YARDS AND NAVAL DEPOTS.
In behalf of the citizens of Cleveland, Ohio, we beg leave to represent to you what we conceive to be the advantages of this port and city for naval purposes. If we apprehend correctly the objects in view, you will consider-The comparative value of harbors; the length of time different ports on the lake are open to navigation; their exposure or security against an enemy by land and water; and the quality, the price, and the supply of materials that are used in the construction of war vessels, both of wood and of iron.
I.-THE VALUE OF THIS PORT AS A HARBOR:
On this point, we offer the annexed statement of a number of the oldest and most prominent lake captains, (see Appendix A.) who affirm that between the Detroit and the Niagara Rivers, on the American shore, there is no harbor which has a safer and better ingress, in all weathers, than that of Cleveland. Unless they are shown to be in error, this statement must be regarded as conclusive in regard to facility of entrance. Official records of the commerce of this place show that it is, in this respect, one of the first class cities of the northern lakes, the total number of arrivals for 1863 being 3,053, and of clearances 3,109. There is now a tendency towards the construction and use of larger vessels on the lakes, drawing from 10 to 11 feet. This harbor is found in practice to be sufficient for them.
II.-PERIOD OPEN TO NAVIGATION.
On Lake Erie, the earliest trips of the season are made between Detroit and Cleveland. The experience of fifty (5o) years, has established the fact that westerly winds prevail in the Spring, which, with the natural flow of the water towards the outlet, causes ice to accumulate at the Eastern end of the lake. We have records (see Appendix B.) covering a quarter of a century, which show when navigation opened at Detroit and Buffalo. The difference between the opening of navigation in the Western half of the lake and at Buffalo, has been, for twenty-two of the past twenty-five years, (21 1/2 ) twenty-one and a-half days. In the year 1846, it was open four days the earliest at Buffalo; and in 1850, on the same day. In 1845, the lake at the West end and Detroit River was clear of ice in January, and at Buffalo on the 3rd of April; but as this was unusual, that year is not included in the above general average. Navigation has been open during the month of March, between Detroit and Cleveland, twenty-one out of twenty-five years, the latest being the 15th of April. Lake Huron is not clear of ice, and Lake Michigan accessible through the Straits of Mackinaw, sooner than the harbor of Buffalo. This difference of three weeks in the Spring adds so much to the season of naval operations, and exposes the towns on the western part of the lake to our nearest and worst enemy before vessels could reach them from the eastern extremity or from Lake Michigan.
III.-COMPARATIVE FACILITIES FOR CONSTRUCTING ARMED VESSELS AND THEIR EQUIPMENT.
It is probable that the government will use steam vessels only, and that they will be of iron or wood with iron plating. Ship building has long been a prominent business here. Oak timber of the best quality is one of the native products of the surrounding country. Pine lumber and timber has been procured from Canada, but of late years principally from Michigan. (See Table C. Appendix.) It is sold here, largely, direct from the producers, in all forms, necessary for vessels. We have before us the custom house list of craft built in our ship yards during the past two years. These are (19) nineteen propellers, averaging 612 tons each, the largest being 919 tons. For (9) nine of these boats, the engines were made in this city; and four others were refused for the want of shops and mechanics to build them. In the same period, there were (16) sixteen tugs constructed at our yards, of which (8) eight were furnished with engines. There were also launched and rigged (17) barques, with an average capacity of five hundred and fifty-nine tons, five of which were on orders for the ocean trade. During the same time, there were built and equipped (24) twenty-four lake schooners, and a number of scows and smaller sailing vessels.
This is now the leading point on the lakes for building water craft of all kinds. Two engines are in the course of construction for government vessels of war, now being built at the east. This is owing to local advantages in the supply of all, or nearly all, the raw materials that enter into the construction of vessels, in a market where they are sold from the producers at first cost. These are copper, iron, timber and lumber. For steam vessels, the amount of cordage used is small; and if built of iron, the amount of all naval stores is not large. We beg leave also to refer particularly to our resources in coal and iron. Since the Ohio Canal was opened to Akron, in 1828, mineral coal has been with us an article of commerce as well as of domestic use. In 1840, the supply was enlarged by the completion of the P. & Ohio Canal, bringing the "Brier Hill," or "Block Coal," to this market, which has a reputation for the manufacture of iron second to none of any country. More recently, the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad has added a large increase from the valley of Yellow Creek, and the C. & Mahoning Road has lately extended its line through the Mahoning valley to that of the Chenango. Other routes are in progress to reach the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania. Our coal yards are thus enabled to furnish, at the first market price, all varieties of mineral. coal. The iron works at and near Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago, are mainly supplied with coal from here, this being the leading coal market of the lakes. In 1858, the amount received was 321,390 tons; in 1862, 346,706 and in 1863, about 450,000. For the details of this business and sources of supply, we refer to appended tables.
LAKE SUPERIOR IRON.-In the year 1854, the specular iron ore of Marquette County. Michigan, began to be used as a new and valuable mixture for the native ores of the coal series. The metal made from this ore and its mixtures, now occupies the highest rank in the United States. By trials made in the Ordnance Department, it is found to exceed in strength the best of Russia, Swedes or Salisbury iron. It has, besides its tenacity, peculiar advantages for machinery and for bolts, spikes and rods, because it has greater stiffness than is usual with tough fibrous iron. It thus resists twisting and torsion remarkably well, and direct force when applied endwise, as in piston rods. Chain cables and anchors, when made of this iron, are now well known by experience to be superior to those of foreign manufacture. It is the principal material of the boiler plate manufacture here, for propeller engines; and, mixed with scrap iron, is wrought into all forms for use in locomotives, car-axles, and railroad stock in general. There are (27) twenty-seven furnaces having business relations to this place, which consume the Lake Superior ore, more or less, producing an average of 5, 000 tons each. The product of several of these furnaces is, at this time, worked into the plating of government vessels, on account of its unusual resistance and strength. This iron, which is of a grade superior to that ordinarily used about the hulls of vessels, is made at less expense than much iron which is of inferior quality. This is owing to the excellence and abundance of our mineral coal, and the richness of the ore. For the highest grade of wrought iron bars, boiler plate, rods, &c., we have the charcoal pig of Marquette County. One of the four copper smelting establishments for Lake Superior native copper, is situated here. In 1863, there were 1,139 1/4 tons of rough copper reduced, producing in ingotts, about 760 tons. Products into which this metal enters, in any form, can be profitably manufactured here. As to the supply of labor and of mechanical skill, the progress already made in the building of vessels and their engines, and in the construction of railroad cars and locomotives, shows that Cleveland is abundantly provided. The annexed statement of produce received proves that it is a capital point for abundant and cheap subsistence.
IV.-COMPARATIVE SECURITY AGAINST A FOREIGN ENEMY.
The defensibility of a Naval Depot at this place, depends upon the selection of the site within the harbor. There are three prominent points where there is sufficient unoccupied space and good water-front, as shown in yellow on the accompanying map. Propellers are afloat, drawing (11) eleven feet, but most of them do not much exceed (10) ten feet, which is the draft of our single turret iron clad monitors.
SITE No. I.
At the west end of the " Old River Bed," this depth of water can be had. Until recently, the ship-yards have been located in this part of the harbor. It is screened from observation and from direct fires on the lake side by a high embankment of the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad Company. On the south, it is enclosed and overlooked by bluffs 70 to 80 feet high, from which the open lake and the entrance to the harbor may be easily commanded.
SITE No. II.
Another position, more interior, is at "Scranton's Flats," half a mile from the lake, in rear of the town, where the ship yards are now. It is protected on all sides by the River Bluffs."
SITE No. III.
Still farther up the River, at and below the Bridge of the Mahoning Railroad, is a very ample, secure and convenient place, with an abundance of water-front on both banks of the river.
As to general defense, all ports of this coast are exposed; but a thriving city of fifty-five thousand inhabitants, must necessarily be protected by its government-a measure that would involve no increased expense for a navy yard. A naval depot, is of itself a source of strength during the season of navigation, which we have shown to be the longest of any part of the northern lakes.
CHAS. WHITTLESEY, Chairman,
SAM'L H. KIMBALL,
GEO. A. BENEDICT.
The undersigned, who have navigated the Lakes in command of propellers, Steamboats and Vessels, from ten to twenty-five years, are of opinion, from our experience, that no harbor on the American shore of Lake Erie, has better access for steam or sail vessels in all weather, that that of Cleveland.
H.D. PHEATT, Propeller Mohawk;
W.B. GUYLES, Schooner C. A King;
J. M. SMITH, Propeller Winslow;
JAMES GIBSON, Propeller Neptune;
T.W. STEDE, Propeller City of Buffalo;
EDWARD KELLEY, Propeller Pacific;
E.B. EVANS, Propeller Omer Pasha;
JOHN SPALDING, Prop. Northern Light;
S.S. RUMAGE, Propeller Dean Richmond;
E.R. COLLINS, Propeller Arctic;
B.G. SWEET, Steamboat North Star
OPENING OF LAKE NAVIGATION
Last updated October 12, 1999