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Chapter 14. Pickaxe And Trowel
The same evening Barbicane and his companions returned to Tampa Town; and
Murchison, the engineer, re-embarked on board the Tampico for New Orleans. His object
was to enlist an army of workmen, and to collect together the greater part of the
materials. The members of the Gun Club remained at Tampa Town, for the purpose of
setting on foot the preliminary works by the aid of the people of the country.
Eight days after its departure, the Tampico returned into the bay of Espiritu Santo, with a
whole flotilla of steamboats. Murchison had succeeded in assembling together fifteen
hundred artisans. Attracted by the high pay and considerable bounties offered by the Gun
Club, he had enlisted a choice legion of stokers, iron-founders, lime-burners, miners,
brickmakers, and artisans of every trade, without distinction of color. As many of these
people brought their families with them, their departure resembled a perfect emigration.
On the 31st of October, at ten o'clock in the morning, the troop disembarked on the quays
of Tampa Town; and one may imagine the activity which pervaded that little town,
whose population was thus doubled in a single day.
During the first few days they were busy discharging the cargo brought by the flotilla, the
machines, and the rations, as well as a large number of huts constructed of iron plates,
separately pieced and numbered. At the same period Barbicane laid the first sleepers of a
railway fifteen miles in length, intended to unite Stones Hill with Tampa Town. On the
first of November Barbicane quitted Tampa Town with a detachment of workmen; and
on the following day the whole town of huts was erected round Stones Hill. This they
enclosed with palisades; and in respect of energy and activity, it might have been
mistaken for one of the great cities of the Union. Everything was placed under a complete
system of discipline, and the works were commenced in most perfect order.
The nature of the soil having been carefully examined, by means of repeated borings, the
work of excavation was fixed for the 4th of November.
On that day Barbicane called together his foremen and addressed them as follows: "You
are well aware, my friends, of the object with which I have assembled you together in this
wild part of Florida. Our business is to construct a cannon measuring nine feet in its
interior diameter, six feet thick, and with a stone revetment of nineteen and a half feet in
thickness. We have, therefore, a well of sixty feet in diameter to dig down to a depth of
nine hundred feet. This great work must be completed within eight months, so that you
have 2,543,400 cubic feet of earth to excavate in 255 days; that is to say, in round
numbers, 2,000 cubic feet per day. That which would present no difficulty to a thousand
navvies working in open country will be of course more troublesome in a comparatively
confined space. However, the thing must be done, and I reckon for its accomplishment
upon your courage as much as upon your skill."