Memphis Naval Yard 1843

Goodspeed’s History of Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties of Tennessee origionally published in 1887 and republished 1974 pages 870, 871 and 872 records the building of a naval yard at Memphis.  “After the failure of numerous special projects to build up the city, the navy yard project came up in 1843.  In 1841 Congress had appointed commissioners to locate a navy yard somewhere in the Mississippi Valley, and after a careful examination of the Mississippi River throughout its entire length, from the mouth of the Ohio to New Orleans, these commissioners reported that at the mouth of Wolf River was the best location.  When this subject was first broached it was regarded by many as a joke; but it was necessary then as now for congressmen to do something for their constituents.”  This account continues with the history of how the land was purchased and the navy yard constructed and ends as follows, “After struggling along for a number of years with increasing difficulty to secure the necessary appropriations for its support, the navy yard and its buildings were abandoned the amount of money spent theron having been from $1,200,000 to $1,500,000.  The only creditable piece of work turned out of this novel navy yard, was the great iron steamship of war, “Alleghany,” which was entirely built and equipped here with the exception of her hull.  This was a most wonderful war vessel!   Her speed is said to have been four miles per hour down stream, that being the ordinary rapidity of the current, and four hours to the mile upstream, and after a brief but entirely unsatisfactory history, having cost the government $500,000, she was totally condemned.  In 1853 Senator (ex.-Gov.) James C. Jones, incensed at the parsimony with which Congress made appropriations for the support of the Memphis navy yard, made a demand that the property be returned to the city.  The Senate, as if hoping some such way would be present itself to get the elephant off its hands, instantly took the senator at his word, and thus ended one to the greatest failures in the shape of a navy yard this country has known.”

The more things change the more they seem to stay the same – as far as the politics of spending taxpayers money goes.

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