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This frontier extends, as described by the terms of the resolution, from Lake Superior to Passamaquoddy bay, a distance of somewhat more than two thousand miles, binding all the way on the British American Provinces.
Whether we regard the strongly marked geographical features of this frontier, presenting, as it does, for the most part, a chain of great lakes or inland seas, stretching along the border, the common property of both nations, and affording facilities for an extensive commerce, alınost rivalling that of the ocean itself; or whether we look to the growing strength of our colonial neighbors, fostered by the immense power and resources of the mother country; its vast importance cannot fail to impress us with the necessity of being prepared, not only for defence along that line, but also to act offensively, with decisive effect, in the event of our being involved in a conflict.
From the peculiar character of this frontier, its defence must necessarily partake somewhat of the system applicable to the seacoast; for, although it is denominated inland, in contradistinction to the latter, it is, nevertheless, maritime in many of its features, and must be treated accordingly for purposes of defence.
So important is the inastery on the lakes, in any military operations in that quarter, that it is scarcely to be doubted that, in the event of war, there will be some naval preparations on both sides, and a struggle for the ascendancy on those waters. Whichever Power shall acquire that, even temporarily, will have the means of assailing his adversary with great effect along the shores of the lakes, in the absence of fortifications, by occupying the harbors, destroying the towns, (some of which are fast advancing to the rank of cities,) and controlling the commercial operations of which those lakes constitute the principal channel. These considerations render it highly expedient-indeed, necessary-to fortify the larger harbors on the lakes, as well as the more important passes on the straits and rivers by which they are connected.
Without entering fully into the military details of the subject, which might be deemed somewhat out of place here, regarding the object of the resolution, which seems to look rather to the expense involved, the board will proceed to enumerate the works of defence deemed necessary on the northern frontier, beginning at Lake Superior ; merely glancing at the effects and advantages which are likely to result from the establishment of those works.
1. Fort at Falls of St. Mary.—A fort here will control the communication between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and, at least, prevent an enemy from availing itself of it for purposes of communication and for the transportation of supplies, if it does not secure those important advantages to us; which it would do, unless counteracted by a work on the British side of the line. In that event, almost certain to occur, it would be neutralized, but would still serve to cover and protect our settlements along the St. Mary, and form a rallying point for local defence in times of alarm.
Estimated expense of fort, barracks, &c.
2. Forl at Michilimackinac.-Although this position is somewhat interior, it is regarded of high importance from its geographical relations. A fort here, in conjunction with float. ing batteries, may be made to command, effectually, the approach to Lake Michigan, and shut out an enemy who might possess a naval ascendancy on Lake Huron; thus protecting the entire circumference of Lake Michigan from attacks to which it would otherwise be exposed, even from a small force, and securing it to ourselves, as a safe channel of com. munication with the rich and productive States in the rear, whose shores it washes.
Estimated expense .
3. Fort at the foot of Lake Huron.-A work here will control the outlet of Lake Huron, and interrupt the navigation between that and Lake St. Clair and the river Detroit. It will serve, also, to cover the settlements on that part of the frontier, and form a rallying point for the neighboring militia for local defence.
4. Fort and barrack establishment at Detroit.-- In the event of war, Detroit would undoubtedly be a point of considerable concentration of troops, not merely for the defence of that portion of the frontier, but for such offensive operations as might be deemed expedient in that quarter. It may be regarded as the centre of the upper section of the northern frontier, and has important relations, both geographical and military. Although true policy would, in such a case, dictate that our chief efforts should be directed against the vital points of the enemy's possessions as low down the line as practicable, still it might become expedient, with a view to distract his attention and divide his forces, to menace him above; and this is one of the points from which he might te assailed by minor expeditions, especially if he should relax his measures of defence, in looking to his safety elsewhere.
Estimated expense of barracks for one regiment, including site
• $150,000 Estimated expense of fort at Spring Wells, including site
- - 100,000
5. Field-work and barrack-establishment at or near Buf. falo. The wealth and commercial importance of Buffalo, and its close proximity to the British line, will make it an object of attack in time of war, unless it be protected by the presence of a respectable force there. It may also become a point of concentration of troops for minor offensive movements, by way of diversion; and is thus, in every view, entitled to seasonable attention. An extensive barrack-establishment, defended by field-works, would be sufficient for all necessary objects.
Estimated expense .
6. Fort Niagara to be rebuilt.—A fort at this position is important, on the assumption (admitting, it is believed, of but
150,000 little doubt) that in time of war there would be some naval preparations on Lake Ontario. It commands the entrance into the Niagara river; and a work here will shut the enemy's vessels out from that harbor, while it will afford protection under which ours may take shelter in case of need.
Estimated expense of completing the work now in pro. gress - - - . . . $27,500
For repairs of buildings and new barracks there 37,500
7. Fort at Oswego.— The growing importance of Oswego, the relation it bears to the great line of internal communication to the west, and its exposed situation, directly on the shore of the lake, from whence it might be assailed by armed vessels without the co-operation of a land attack, call for works of defence to protect the harbor, and thus secure a safe retreat for our vessels in case of need, while we shut out those of the enemy. Besides, this place possesses many advantages for naval preparations for vessels of light draught of water, and would probably be made a subordinate depot in time of war.
Estimated expense of completing the works now in progress •
- $20,000 For barracks, quarters, storehouses, and magazine
• • - 25,000 8. Fort at Sackett's Harbor.-In the event of naval armaments, to any considerable extent, being resorted to on Lake Ontario, Sackett's Harbor, from its bold water, and its excellence as a harbor, would at once become a depot of great importance; the safety of which should be insured against the enterprises of the enemy, by the timely construction of appropriate works of defence. Situated directly opposite to the strong post of Kingston, on the Canadian side, and adjacent to the head of the St. Lawrence, it is one of the points at which a concentration of troops may become expedient for the defence of that portion of the frontier and the protection of the naval depot. The barrack accommodations already established there are deemed sufficient, and it remains to fortify the approach to the harbor.
Estimated expense of fort and barracks within . .
9. Fort at the narrows of the St. Lawrence, below Og. densburg:-The chief object of a work here would be to cut off the enemy's communication, by the river, between Montreal and Kingston, and thus prevent him from availing himself of that channel for the transportation of troops and supplies, . if we cannot entirely secure it to ourselves. By this obstruction on the St. Lawrence, he would be thrown altogether upon his baek line of communication by the Ottawa, which, although it has the merit of being more secure from interruption, is longer and more difficult, especially in seasons of drought. This would also be another point from
which the enemy might be menaced, and from which auxil. jary movements might be made in aid of the chief attack.
Estimated expense of fort and barracks . .
10. Fort near the line on Lake Champlain.--A work here may be made to command the pass of the lake, and is considered by far the most important of any proposed on the whole line of frontier.
The position of Lake Champlain is somewhat peculiar. While Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Superior, stretch their whole length directly along the border, (forming, in fact, the boundary,) Champlain extends deeply into our territory, at right angles with the line of the frontier ; and, while its southern extremity reaches almost to the Hudson, it finds its outlet, to the north, in the St. Lawrence, nearly midway between Montreal and Quebec, the two great objects of attack.
This is undoubtedly the avenue by which the British possessions may be most effectually assailed; while, at the same time, it would afford to the enemy possessing a naval ascendancy equal facilities for bringing the war within our own borders, if it be left unfortified. It therefore becomes important to fortify a point as near the line as practicable, so as to shut out the enemy's vessels, and thus effect the double object of protecting the interior shores of the lake from the predatory attacks to which they would otherwise be exposed, and of secu. ring it to ourselves, as the great channel by which our troops and supplies may be rapidly thrown forward to the points of attack or defence.
For a permanent work on Stony point, (N. Y.,) including purchase of site :
$300,000 For a permanent work on Windmill point,
(Vt.,) including purchase of site · · 300,000
11. Barrack establishment and depot at Plattsburg:In the event of var, Plattsburg will become the great depot for the operations on the Champlain frontier, the point of concentration of troops preparatory to any offensive movements, and the station of the reserve to sustain those movements, and the posts that may be established in advance. Even in time of peace, a respectable force should be posted here, especially during the continuance of the boundary question and border disturbances. Barracks for a regiment, at least, with suitable storebouses, are recommended to be erected, on a plan admitting of extension, if required, and also of suitable defensive arrangements.
Estimated expense of completing the works in progress, on the scale here suggested
12. From Lake Champlain, eastward, the geographical fea. tures of the frontier materially change character, and require a corresponding modification of the means of defence. The line no longer intersects great lakes, admitting of naval preparations, nor binds on straits and rivers, the navigation of which may be controlled or interrupted by fortifications.
150,000 It is altogether inland, until it reaches the St. Croix, where the principles that have been applied to other portions of the frontier similarly situated will again become applicable. Running on a parallel of latitude to the Connecticut river, and thence along a chain of highlands, not yet clearly defined, to the Province of New Brunswick, the board are not aware that there are any points immediately on the frontier suffi. ciently commanding, of themselves, to call for the establishment and maintenance of fortifications, or works of defence.
Should it ever become necessary to sustain, by force, our title to the territory now in dispute, it must be done, not by isolated forts along the frontier, commanding, probably, nothing beyond the range of their own guns, but by an active army, competent not only to occupy the country and hold it, but also to assume the offensive, if necessary, and carry the war beyond our borders.
But while it is not deemed expedient to construct a chain of forts along this portion of the frontier, the board consider it a proper measure of precaution, in the present state of our relations with the British Provinces, that positions should be selected, and preparatory arrangements made, for the estab. lishment of depots of supplies at the head of navigation on the Kennebunk and Penobscot. In the event of movements in that quarter, these would be proper points for the concentration of troops, and would serve as a base of operations, whether these should be offensive or defensive in their character.
Estimated expense of storehouses and other accommodations
13. Fort at Calais, on the St. Croix river.-A work here, while it will serve to cover that part of the State of Maine from the attacks to which it would otherwise be exposed, may, from its advanced position, be made to act an important though indirect part in the defence of the more northern portion of the frontier. Calais appears to be a very eligible point for the concentration of troops, with reference to existing circumstances. A strong force stationed here, türeatening the enemy's posts on the lower St. John's, and held ready to strike in that direction, in case of movements from New Brunswick towards the disputed territory, could not fail to have a decisive influence on such movements; since it is obvious that they could not be made with safety, while exposed to attack in flank and rear, and to have their line of communication intercepted, and their depots seized, by a pronipt movement on our part from the St. Croix.
Estimated expense of fort and barracks . . .
14. In reference to the northern frontier, generally, it is the decided opinion of the board, that, besides the defences which have been suggested along the border, chiefly for purposes of local protection, there should be a great central station at some position in the interior, at which troops might be assembled for instruction, and where they would still be