Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert Smith, 23 October 1802

From Robert Smith

Navy Department
23rd. October 1802


I have the honor of Sending to you herewith, for your Consideration a Copy of a letter from me to Captain Tingey, and also a Copy of his report to me upon the Several objects therein Submitted to him.

With great respect I have the honor to be Sir Your most obt Servt.

Rt. Smith

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Smith; at foot of text: “The President”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Navy Department on 25 Oct. and “Tingey’s report on Dry dock” and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 45, LSP). Enclosures: (1) Smith to Thomas Tingey, 13 July 1802, explaining that the advantage of having several streams running above the tide in Washington suggests “the practicability of having a dry dock on the principle of a lock,” in which to lay up navy vessels so as to maintain them “in a state of perfect preservation” and save the expense of the “constant repairs” necessary when vessels are laid up in water and exposed to the sun; to determine which stream may be most advantageously used and to enable Congress to decide on the expediency of the project, Smith directs Tingey to examine Young’s Spring, Tiber Creek, and the Potomac and ascertain the following: the highest point to which the tide has risen at the navy yard, points on Young’s Spring and Tiber Creek that are 24 feet above said high water mark, the quantity of water yielded by these streams, and the height of water in the Potomac Canal above the tide water and its distance to the navy yard; Smith requests Tingey to perform these tasks immediately and to report the results to him “for the consideration of the President” (Tr in DLC). (2) Tingey to Smith, 22 Oct. 1802, presenting his report per the secretary’s request, which was prepared with the assistance of Nicholas King; Tingey states that Young’s Spring, more commonly known as Stoddert’s Spring, rises 32 feet 3 inches above the high water mark in the Eastern Branch and discharges 49 cubic yards and 1 foot of water per hour; a canal to carry this water to the navy yard along the bank of the Eastern Branch would of necessity be “so nearly level, as only to allow a current sufficient to overcome slight obstructions, and prevent the water from stagnating”; such a canal would be about 3⅛ miles in length and two or three lesser springs along the route could be employed to overcome any water lost by absorption along the way; the fall and quantity of water from Tiber Creek was ascertained along its route to the mill belonging to the estate of Notley Young; the water in the race below the mill wheel was 29 feet 53/10 inches above the high water mark in Tiber Creek and the Potomac, while the water in the race above the wheel measured 46 feet 73/10 inches above the high water mark; the volume of water in the Tiber at this mill was 14444/100 cubic yards, although measured in a dry season; Tingey suggests two possible routes to convey the water: one around the end of Piney Branch thence to Stoddert’s Spring, about 1¾ miles, thence joining the waters of the aforementioned canal to the navy yard; the other route would pass around the head of Piney Branch and then run west along the face of “the Hill” and around the Capitol to the navy yard, a distance of about 4½ miles; the height of the water when high enough to navigate between the great and little falls of the Potomac to the locks on the latter measures 31 feet 4⅕ inches above the high water in the river; a course from the locks at the lower falls to the navy yard would be 8 miles, assuming the use of aqueducts to cross the stream near Foxall’s furnace, over Rock Creek, and over the Tiber near the Capitol, making the distances 2⅞ miles from the locks to Rock Creek and thence 5⅛ miles through the city to the navy yard; Tingey points out that these measurements were taken during a dry season, and consequently the water in the little falls canal was small, “not so high by two feet, as when the Boats pass along it”; allowing for dry seasons, the height of the canal above high water should not be estimated at more than 29 feet for the purposes of this survey; if the waters of Tiber Creek and Stoddert’s Spring are to be used, Tingey recommends creating a large reservoir containing twice the amount of water estimated to be held by the dry docks, so that they may be filled speedily; if such a reservoir were built, it would probably be necessary to purchase Young’s mill and some adjacent ground, with Tingey estimating the cost at about $4,000; Tingey has not yet learned Mr. Carroll’s price for his land on the Eastern Branch convenient for the dry docks, but suggests instead using land in the navy yard west of the warehouses since it is already public property and would not require stopping up any streets and thereby help thwart possible opposition to the scheme; Tingey does not offer a cost estimate for constructing the canals because Smith possesses “superior data for the purpose than any I am capacitated to give” (Tr in same).

Index Entries