Pacific Railroad Surveys (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Four survey groups seek routes to the Pacific, identifying numerous paths to the coast.
Summary of Event
On March 2, 1853, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Survey Bill, which authorized the secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, to initiate exploration of possible routes across the trans-Mississippi West to the Pacific Ocean and to report findings to Congress within ten months. This legislation was an attempt to break a political and economic deadlock over the location of the first transcontinental railroad. Davis decided to use officers of the Army Topographical Corps to make the surveys and placed them under Major William H. Emory.
For years, there had been a proposal for a northern railroad route from Lake Michigan to the Columbia River, with a branch to San Francisco. Isaac Stevens, a young Army officer who had just accepted the governorship of Washington Territory, was placed in command of the northern survey, which covered the country between the forty-seventh and forty-eighth parallels. This party was divided into two sections: one group, led by Stevens, ascended the Missouri River to the mouth of the Yellowstone River at Fort Union and explored westward; a second party, led by Captain George B. McClellan, explored eastward from Puget Sound, seeking adequate passes through the Cascade Mountains. Numerous supposedly satisfactory passes across the Continental Divide were located, but...
(The entire section is 1639 words.)
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