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NOTES ON VIRGINIA.
An exact description of the limits and boundaries of the State of Virginia?
Virginia is bounded on the east by the Atlantic; on the north by a line of latitude crossing the eastern shore through Watkin's Point, being about 37° 57' north latitude; from thence by a straight line to Cinquac, near the mouth of Potomac; thence by the Potomac, which is common to Virginia and Maryland, to the first fountain of its northern branch; thence by a meridian line, passing through that fountain till it intersects a line running east and west, in latitude 39° 43' 42.4" which divides Maryland from Pennsylvania, and which was marked by Messrs. Mason and Dixon; thence by that line, and a continuation of it westwardly to the completion of five degrees of longitude from the eastern boundary of Pennsylvania, in the same latitude, and thence by a meridian line to the Ohio; on the west by the Ohio and Mississippi, to latitude 36° 30′ north, and on the south by the line of latitude last mentioned. By admeasurements through nearly the whole of this last line, and supplying the unmeasured parts from good data, the Atlantic and Mississippi are found in this latitude to be seven hundred and fifty-eight miles distant, equal to 30° 38' of longitude, reckoning fifty-five miles and three thousand one hundred and forty-four feet to the degree. This being our comprehension of longitude, that of our latitude, taken between this and Mason and Dixon's line, is 3° 13′ 42.4" equal to two hundred and
twenty-three and one-third miles, supposing a degree of a great circle to be sixty-nine miles, eight hundred and sixty-four feet, as computed by Cassina. These boundaries include an area somewhat triangular of one hundred and twenty-one thousand five hundred and twenty-five square miles, whereof seventy-nine thousand six hundred and fifty lie westward of the Alleghany mountains, and fifty-seven thousand and thirty-four westward of the meridian of the mouth of the Great Kanhaway. This State is therefore one-third larger than the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, which are reckoned at eighty-eight thousand three hundred and fifty-seven square miles.
These limits result from, 1. The ancient charters from the crown of England. 2. The grant of Maryland to the Lord Baltimore, and the subsequent determinations of the British court as to the extent of that grant. 3. The grant of Pennsylvania to William Penn, and a compact between the general assemblies of the commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania as to the extent of that grant. 4. The grant of Carolina, and actual location of its northern boundary, by consent of both parties. 5. The treaty of Paris of 1763. 6. The confirmation of the charters of the neighboring States by the convention of Virginia at the time of constituting their commonwealth. 7. The cession made by Virginia to Congress of all the lands to which they had title on the north side of the Ohio.
A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable?
An inspection of a map of Virginia, will give a better idea of the geography of its rivers, than any description in writing. Their navigation may be imperfectly noted.
Roanoke, so far as it lies within the State, is nowhere navigable but for canoes, or light batteaux; and even for these in such detached parcels as to have prevented the inhabitants from availing themselves of it at all.
James River, and its waters, afford navigation as follows: The whole of Elizabeth River, the lowest of those which run into James River, is a harbor, and would contain upwards of three hundred ships. The channel is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred fathoms wide, and at common flood tide affords eighteen feet water to Norfolk. The Stafford, a sixty gun ship, went there, lightening herself to cross the bar at Sowel's Point. The Fier Rodrigue, pierced for sixty-four guns, and carrying fifty, went there without lightening. Craney Island, at the mouth of this river, commands its channel tolerably well.
Nansemond River is navigable to Sleepy Hole for vessels of two hundred and fifty tons; to Suffolk for those of one hundred tons; and to Milner's for those of twenty-five.
Pagan Creek affords eight or ten feet water to Smithfield, which admits vessels of twenty tons.
Chickahominy has at its mouth a bar, on which is only twelve feet water at common flood tide. Vessels passing that, may go eight miles up the river; those of ten feet draught may go four miles further, and those of six tons burden twenty miles further.
Appamattor may be navigated as far as Broad ways, by any vessel which has crossed Harrison's bar in James River; it keeps eight or ten feet water a mile or two higher up to Fisher's bar, and four feet on that and upwards to Petersburg, where all navigation ceases.
James River itself affords a harbor for vessels of any size in Hampton Road, but not in safety through the whole winter; and there is navigable water for them as far as Mulberry Island. A forty gun ship goes to Jamestown, and, lightening herself, may pass Harrison's bar; on which there is only fifteen feet water. Vessels of two hundred and fifty tons may go to Warwick; those of one hundred and twenty-five go to Rocket's, a mile below Richmond; from thence is about seven feet water to Richmond; and about the centre of the town, four feet and a half, where the navigation is interrupted by falls, which in a course of six miles, descend about eighty-eight feet perpendicular; above these it is resumed in canoes and batteaux, and is prosecuted safely and advantageously to within ten miles of the Blue Ridge; and even through the Blue Ridge a ton weight has been brought;
and the expense would not be great, when compared with its object, to open a tolerable navigation up Jackson's river and Carpenter's creek, to within twenty-five miles of Howard's creek of Green Briar, both of which have then water enough to float vessels into the Great Kanhaway. In some future state of population I think it possible that its navigation may also be made to interlock with that of the Potomac, and through that to communicate by a short portage with the Ohio. It is to be noted that this river is called in the maps James River, only to its confluence with the Rivanna; thence to the Blue Ridge it is called the Fluvanna; and thence to its source Jackson's river. But in common speech, it is called James River to its source.
The Rivanna, a branch of James River, is navigable for canoes and batteaux to its intersection with the South-West mountains, which is about twenty-two miles; and may easily be opened to navigation through these mountains to its fork above Charlottesville.
York River, at Yorktown, affords the best harbor in the State for vessels of the largest size. The river there narrows to the width of a mile, and is contained within very high banks, close under which vessels may ride. It holds four fathom water at high tide for twenty-five miles above York to the mouth of Poropotank, where the river is a mile and a half wide, and the channel only seventy-five fathom, and passing under a high bank. At the confluence of Pamunkey and Mattapony, it is reduced to three fathom depth, which continues up Pamunkey to Cumberland, where the width is one hundred yards, and up Mattapony to within two miles of Frazier's ferry, where it becomes two and a half fathom deep, and holds that about five miles. Pamunkey is then capable of navigation for loaded flats to Brockman's bridge, fifty miles above Hanover town, and Mattapony to Downer's bridge, seventy miles above its mouth.
Piankatank, the little rivers making out of Mobjack Bay and those of the eastern shore, receive only very small vessels, and these can but enter them.
Rappahannock affords four fathom water to Hobb's hole, and two fathom from thence to Fredericksburg.
Potomac is seven and a half miles wide at the mouth; four and a half at Nomony bay; three at Aquia; one and a half at Hallowing point; one and a quarter at Alexandria. Its soundings are seven fathom at the mouth; five at St. George's island; four and a half at Lower Matchodic; three at Swan's point, and thence up to Alexandria; thence ten feet water to the falls, which are thirteen miles above Alexandria. These falls are fifteen miles in length, and of very great descent, and the navigation above them for batteaux and canoes is so much interrupted ttle used. It is, however, used in a small degree up the Cohongoronta branch as far as fort Cumberland, which was at the mouth of Willis's creek; and is capable, at no great expense, of being rendered very practicable. The Shenandoah branch interlocks with James river about the Blue Ridge, and may perhaps in future be opened:
The Mississippi will be one of the principal channels of future commerce for the country westward of the Alleghany. From the mouth of this river to where it receives the Ohio, is one thousand miles by water, but only five hundred by land, passing through the Chickasaw country. From the mouth of the Ohio to that of the Missouri, is two hundred and thirty miles by water, and one hundred and forty by land, from thence to the mouth of the Illinois river, is about twenty-five miles. The Mississippi, below the mouth of the Missouri, is always muddy, and abounding with sand bars, which frequently change their places. However, it carries fifteen feet water to the mouth of the Ohio, to which place it is from one and a half to two miles wide, and thence to Kaskaskia from one mile to a mile and a quarter wide. Its current is so rapid, that it never can be stemmed by the force of the wind alone, acting on sails. Any vessel, however, navigated with oars, may come up at any time, and receive much aid from the wind. A batteau passes from the mouth of Ohio to the mouth of Mississippi in three weeks, and is from two to three months getting up again. During its floods, which are periodical as those of the Nile, the largest vessels may pass down it, if their steerage can be insured. These floods begin in April, and the river returns into its banks early