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of the passes examined by him; and his general report, sent to the Secretary of War, bears the date of February 25. Both of these reports appear in the first volume of the official publications on the Pacific Railroad route, made by order of Congress. His general conclusions were that between the parallels of 45° 30' and 49° north latitude there are but two passes through the rango practicable for a railroad,—that of the Columbia River and that of the Yakima River; that the latter was barely practicable, and that only at a high cost of time, labor, and money, while the former was not only undoubtedly practicable, but remarkably favorable.
The Secretary of War, in his report to Congress, dated February 27, 1855, says, “The examination of the approaches and passes of the Cascade Mountains, made by Captain McClellan, of the Corps of Engineers, presents a reconnoissance of great value, and, though performed under adverse circumstances, exhibits all the information necessary to determine the practicability of this portion of the route, and reflects the highest credit on the capacity and resources of that officer.''
In addition to his duties upon the railroad-survey, Captain McClellan had been directed by the Secretary of War to superintend the construction of the military road from Walla-Walla to Steilacoom. This road was built after he had left the Pacific region; but the contracts and arrangements were made by him before his departure.
He returned home in the spring of 1854. In the
summer of that year he was sent on a secret expedition to the West Indies, the object of which was to select a harbor and procure a site suitable for a coaling-station. It was a service of some danger, as it exposed him to the influences of a tropical climate in the hottest season of the year. He went out in a United States vessel under the command of Lieutenant Renshaw, a gallant and excellent officer, who was killed at Galveston, January 1, 1863, by the blowing up of the Westfield. Captain McClellan selected the bay and promontory of Samaná, on the northeast coast of the island of Hayti, as the most desirable site for the object proposed. It is a spot of much historical interest. Columbus, returning to Spain after his first discovery of the New World, anchored in this bay, having first sailed round the promontory and given names to two of its headlands. Here some of his crew had an affray with the natives, in the course of which, much to the grief of the great navigator, two of the latter were wounded,—the first time that native blood was shed by white men in the New World. At a later period, the peninsula,—which in the old maps is laid down as an island,-as well as the rocky islets in the harbor, of which there were several, became haunts of the buccaneers. On one of these islets, or cays, Jack Banister, a celebrated English pirate, at the close of the seventeenth century, defonded himself successfully against two English frigates sent to capture him,-in consequence of which the name of Banister Cays was given to the group. Upon the promontory aro
some negro villages, occupied by the descendants and survivors of a colony of free colored persons who went from New Jersey under Boyer's administration.*
* Part of the information in the text is taken from a memoir on the peninsula and bay of Samaná in the “Journal of the London Geographical Society” for 1853, by Sir R. H. Schomburgk, H. B. M. Consul at the Dominican Republic. The concluding paragraphs are as follows:
“I have purposely dwelt long and in detail upon this narrow strip of land, called the Peninsula of Samaná, and upon its adjacent magnificent bay. In its geographical position its greatest importance is centred. The fertile soil is fit for the cultivation of all tropical productions; its spacious bays and anchoring-places offer a shelter to the navies of the world; and its creeks afford facilities for the erection of arsenals and docks, while the adjacent forests yield the requisite woods for naval architecture: still, its chief importance does not con. sist in these advantages alone, but in its geographical position, forming, as it does, one of the principal keys to the isthmus of Central America and to the adjacent Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Lepelletier de Saint-Remy says, “Samaná is one of those maritime positions not often met with in a survey of the map of the world. Samaná is to the Gulf of Mexico what Mayotta is to the Indian Ocean. It is not only the military, but also the commercial, key of the Gulf; but the latter is of infinitely greater importance, under the pacific tendencies of European politics.
“The Bay of Samaná being placed to the windward of Jamaica, Cuba, and the Gulf of Mexico, and lying, moreover, almost due northeast of the great isthmus which now so powerfully attracts the attention of the world, the French author just quoted may well call it "la tête-du-pont' to the highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”
Captain McClellan had never seen or heard of this memoir at the date of his visit to the West Indi s; and it is creditable
Captain McClellan drew up two reports, one on the harbor and its defences, and one forming a general memoir on the island. They have never been printed, and are probably still on file in the archives of the War Department. Our Government entered into negotiations with the Dominican Republic for the cession of the bay and peninsula; but they were not crowned with success. be surmised that the influence of France and England, exerted through their representatives, may have prevented it.
After returning home from the West Indies, Captain McClellan was stationed at Washington, employed on duties connected with the Pacific Railroad surveys. In the autumn of 1854, he drew up a very elaborate memoir on various practical points relating to the construction and management of railways, which was published in the same volume with the reports of his explorations. The Secretary of War remarks upon it as follows:-“Captain McClellan, of the Corps of Engineers, after the completion of his field-operations, was directed to visit various railroads, and to collect information of facts established in the construction and working of existing roads, to serve as data in determining the practicability of constructing and working roads over the several routes explored. The results of his inquiries will be found in a very valuable memoir, herewith submitted."
to his sagacity to have selected, as the result of his own unaided observation, a site which so competent an authority as Sir Robert H. Schomburgk speaks of in such terms as the above.
In the spring of 1855, Captain McClellan received the appointment of captain in the First Cavalry Regiment, then under the command of Colonel Sumner.
In the spring of 1855, while the Crimean War was raging, the Government of the United States determined to send a military commission to Europe, to observe the warlike operations then in progress, to examine the military systems of the great Powers of Europe, and to report sucb plans and suggestions for improving the organization and discipline of our own army as they might derive from such observation. The officers selected for this trust were Major-now Colonel-Delafield, of the Engineers, Major Mordecai, of the Ordnance, and Captain McClellan. The last was by some years the youngest of the three, Colonel Delafield having been graduated at West Point in 1818, and Major Mordecai in 1823.
The selection of so young a man for such a trust is a proof of the high reputation he bad made for himself in the judgment of those by whom the choice was made; and it may be here mentioned that he was in the first instance designated for the commission by President Pierce himself, who had had an opportunity in the Mexican War to observe what manner of soldier and man he
Of the three officers, he, too, was the only one who had seen actual service in the field.