Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – the Mississippi, Ohio and St Lawrence Rivers– Part I

More and more we receive inquiries on the Mississippi and St. Lawrence approaches to the Heartland and Great Lakes areas by those who feel inundated in recent years with these theories. Unfortunately, those who promote North America and the Heartland and Great Lakes theories fail to research the inland water system of southern Canada and the United States--if they did, they would see their ideas of Lehi sailing up these rivers is ill-founded and would have been impossible. The reasons are clearly stated in the histories of these rivers and man's long endeavor to conquer them by the early settlers and then the Corps of Engineers and the Canadian engineers.
     As an example, prior to the time of the Corp of Engineers and the Congressional Act for them to take control of U.S. inland waterways in 1824, movement down the Mississippi River for anything but flat-bottomed river boats was next to impossible—and any movement up the Mississippi was not even considered. The Mississippi could not be sailed further north than Baton Rouge, Louisiana (90 miles inland from the Gulf), and there were no riverboats capable of moving up the Mississippi, only drifting downriver.
Typical early flatboat floating with the current downstream on the Mississippi in the early 19th century with a three-boatman crew (rudderman, poleman and lookout)

In fact, it wasn’t until May, 1782, when a Pennsylvania farmer named, Jacob Yoder became the first person to successfully navigate a flatboat down to New Orleans, delivering flour, and effectively showing how the waterways could be used to reach distant markets and to settle the West. Soon, these boats were coming from the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee and numerous smaller tributaries, laden with the products of the vast region contiguous, to be floated down to New Orleans and thence distributed around the seaboard by sailing vessels, and having served its purpose, the flatboat was then broken up and sold for lumber and fuel, while the owner pocketed his cash and wended his way home, generally on foot up along the Mississippi—a dangerous stretch of travel in that day.
    The crew of these flatboats consisted of three men, whose principal duty was to look out for uprooted trees floating in the river but held fast at one end, called "sawyers," and to keep clear of eddies, for a boat once drawn into the whirlpool would go floating around indefinitely, in danger of colliding with the ever-accumulating drift and being sunk.
    In 1809 a New York man, named Nicholas J. Roosevelt, set out from Pittsburg in a flatboat of the usual type on the Ohio River, to make the voyage to the Mississippi and then down to New Orleans. He was the partner of Fulton and Livingston in their new steamboat enterprise, having himself suggested the vertical paddle-wheel, which for more than a half a century was the favorite means of utilizing steam power for the propulsion of boats. His quest was to study the channel and the current of the rivers, with the view to putting a steamer on them.
    Wise men assured him that on the upper river his scheme was destined to failure. Could a boat laden with a heavy engine be made of so light a draught as to pass over the shallows of the Ohio and Mississippi? Could it run the falls at Louisville, or be dragged overland around them as the flatboats often were? Clearly not.
The main danger to waterborne travel was snags—trees that had fallen into the rivers as a result of bank erosion that the current carried to the center of the river, and the heavier, rooted end became lodged in the riverbed with the other end pointed downstream at an anglesuch a snag could punch a hole in a boat’s hull, often causing it to sink, and was particularly dangerous where the fallen trees that lay hidden beneath the river’s surface. Such snags caused enormous losses of vessels, cargoes, and lives

Because the river was so shallow, with sand bars, hidden snags just below the surface from trees caught in the riverbed, rocks and other obstacles, none believed that it would be possible for any kind of ship, no matter how constructed or powered, could possibly sail the Mississippi. The highly imbedded belief at the time among all riverboat men of any kind, was that the only really serviceable type of river craft was the flatboat, for it would go where there was only water enough “for a muskrat to swim in,” would glide unscathed over the concealed snag or, thrusting its corner into the soft mud of some protruding bank, swing around and go on as well stern first as before.
Flat-bottomed river boat carrying cargo and animals down the Mississippi in the late 1700s

The flatboat was the sum of human ingenuity applied to river navigation. Even (keeled) barges were proving failures and passing into disuse, as the cost of poling them upstream was greater than any profit to be reaped from the voyage.
    It is amazing that despite all the knowledge acquired in the initial stages of man’s use of the Mississippi River, and other inland waterways of what is now the United States, that modern theorists consider themselves wiser and more knowledgeable and claim that Lehi just sailed across the deep ocean in his ship he built and then sailed up the Mississippi River without any problem. It is unbelievable that theorists cling to this idea when not a single vessel with any noticeable draft would move along the Mississippi in the 1700s and earlier, and well into the 1800s before the river was dredged and new channels built by the Corps of Engineers.
    In fact, the first boats of any size and capability to move on the Mississippi River even after the work done to make the inland rivers more navigable, was the flat-bottomed, shallow-draft Mississippi Riverboats, known as the paddlewheelers.
The steam-driven paddlewheelers were both small and large, with the average boat about 75-feet long and 16-feet wide and about 50-ton and a 22-inch draft. Note that the stern wheel is raised high so only the paddles or buckets strike the water, eliminating the possibility of debris ramming the wheel and damaging it

In 1824 Congress passed the first “Roads and Canals” legislation as part of the “Rivers and Harbors Act,” authorizing the Corps of Engineers to survey waterways to designate those “capable of sloop navigation.” They appropriated $75,000 to improve navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers by removing sandbars, snags and other obstacles, including overslaughs, planers, sawyers, and snaps, especially on the Mississippi, under the direction of the Chief Engineer and the Secretary of War (Secretary of the Army). Two years later, Congress passed legislation authorizing river surveys for the purpose of cleaning out and deepening selected waterways and to make various other river and harbor improvements. The first locks were approved in 1838, and for many years, the entire emphasis of river legislation was chiefly meant to prevent or remove obstructions to navigation; however, this soon changed to the construction of dams and locks for greater navigation improvement.
It might be noted, that the sloop navigation legislation was intended to provide access along the Mississippi for sloops, one of the smallest of ocean going vessels, and at the time, was not believed to have been deep ocean capable for any lengthy voyage. As an example, in November 1770, the sloop Olive Branch commanded by Captain Abraham Bloodgood made the first voyage from Albany to the West indies, loaded with merchandise. In 1785, the sloop voyaged to China with 80 ton of merchandise and back, returning loaded with tea, China-ware and silk, much to the surprise of all familiar with the venture, since the voyage was considered extremely hazardous for a ship of that small size. By 1791, scores of sloops were traveling the world, to China and Europe. The point is, even such small ship capable of deep ocean travel, could not sail on the Mississippi River until the Corps of Engineers made it possible after 1824.
    How on Earth can anyone consider that Nephi sailed his deep-ocean ship the Mississippi River in 600 B.C. not only against a strong current, but on a river that has always been so shallow, nothing but a few inches of draft in a flat-bottomed-boat could move upon it? And not even those flat-bottomed-boats could move up the Mississippi River, either under sail, oar, or poling until the steam-driven paddlewheels came into being.
(See the next post, “Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – the Ohio and St Lawrence Rivers– Part II,” for more on what it took to make the Mississippi and inland waterways navigable for anything other than flat-bottomed, shallow-draft boats)

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