Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 46

The Odd Trek to Remember the 		
Why would the U.S. Chief Justice, at age 57, take on the treacherous New River in a batteau?
And why would somebody do it again in the same kind of vessel, 150 years later?
By ERIC J. WALLACE

I

magine 57 year-old John Marshall-
who, in 1812, just so happened to
be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court-poised at the stern
of a 60-foot-long wooden batteau.
Picture his arms braced about the
rudder's wooden handle, shouting commands to his crew as they crash
through the New River Gorge's wildly
churning 10-foot waves, seeking to guide
his vessel through the treacherous, class
IV rapids. That's preposterous, you say.
Could never have happened.
And yet, astonishingly enough, it did.
And why would the Chief Justice be
out risking his noteworthy neck adventuring in what was then a largely uninhabited wilderness area?

"Into the early 19th century, the
mid-western territories were highly contested," says Bill Trout, founder of the
Virginia Canal Society. "To control those
territories, the U.S. needed to establish
strong economic ties with its settlers."
In other words, the fledgling nation
had to find a way to make transporting
goods to and from the eastern seaboard
easier. Which, prior to the advent of the
railroad, meant connecting the Ohio
River Valley (via the Kanawha River)
with the James River by means of a network of canals.
Hence the purpose of Marshall's expedition: to determine the feasibility of
such an endeavor.
Now, fast-forward to the year 2012.

ABOUT THIS STORY: A BRC HISTORY CLASSIC

T

his piece, which originally ran in our January/February 2016 issue, is presented here as
part of the magazine's ongoing dedication to the amazing history of the Southern Appalachians. In that context, subscribers can now access the first three installments of Blue
Ridge Country Plus, which are sets of archival history pieces. Those first three sets are Heroic
Women of the Mountains, Tales of the Strange but True and Famous Crime Stories and
Their Mysteries.
We present this piece as a sort of tease toward a coming set-Sports in the Mountains. Yes,
the Marshall Expedition was based on exploration more than pure sport, and the re-creation
also had elements beyond the adventure, but in both cases, the particpants needed ample
measures of athleticism, planning and execution.
Please keep your eye out for the coming BRC+ sets, and subscribers can explore them all at
BlueRidgeCountry.com/PLUS

46

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Andrew Shaw and
company run the New
River Gorge's class IV
rapids to re-create the
1812 trek.


http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com/PLUS http://www.BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 3
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Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover4
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