No. 531.
Mr. Heap to Mr. Hunter.

No. 259.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that I have availed myself of the kind invitation of Lieut. Commander H. H. Gorringe, commanding the United States steamer Gettysburg, to visit the western ports of this regency, [Page 930] and after returning to Tunis to assist at the official court reception on the 16th of December (the Great Bairam), to proceed to the eastern coast to visit the ports on that side of Tunisia.

The Bey having been informed of my intention to make this tour in the Gettysburg, gave particular instructions to the governors and other authorities of the coast towns to receive and treat us with every honor and attention, and to see that we were supplied with whatever we might require.

We sailed accordingly on the 6th December last to the westward, visiting Porto Farina, Bizerta, the island of Galita, and Tabarca. The captain was able to render a service to the Tunisian Government in conveying from Bizerta to the island of Galita some officers and a party of men the Bey wished to send there, and who had been windbound at Bizerta for forty-five days.

Captain Gorringe has submitted to the Navy Department the necessity that exists for a light-house on the island of Galita, which will be the subject of a communication I shall have the honor to make to the department after ascertaining the views of the Bey in the matter.

Having returned from the western coast, I presented Captain Gorringe and some of his officers to the Bey, on the 16th of December, at the grand court reception which is held annually on the recurrence of the festival of Bairam. The court is arrayed with great magnificence, and I was glad the officers were afforded an opportunity of witnessing this splendid spectacle.

On the 21st December I sailed again on the Gettysburg to the eastern coast. When we reached Monastir, on the 24th, the captain was compelled to sail for Malta, as he was getting short of coal. On arriving there on Christmas night and drawing the tires it was found that the boilers and machinery required some repairs, which were not completed until the 7th January, when we sailed for Cape Mesurata, 100 miles east of the city of Tripoli. Thence we sailed westward, touching at every point of the coast which required examination; were detained several days at the port of Tripoli by stormy weather, and finally reached Zerzis, the southernmost town on the Tunisian coast, on the 17th.

When we arrived at Gabes, on the gulf of that name, a party was made up to visit the site of the proposed canal to connect the Mediterranean with the Schotts and Sebkhas of the Great Desert of Sahara, which have been found to be beneath the level of the sea. The party returned after an absence of two days. The weather was excessively cold on the desert, the thermometer falling to 29 degrees. I have already transmitted a report on the project of introducing the waters of this sea into the desert by a cutting at some point on the Gulf of Gabes. Captain Gorringe is preparing a report on the same subject, which will, I think, be found not only exceedingly interesting, but exhaustive. We returned here this morning.

This excursion will, I hope, have a beneficial effect on our interests. The United States flag has been shown at points where it had never before been seen and was unknown, and valuable information and statistics have been collected, which will be useful to our commerce.

The politeness and attention of the authorities of the numerous places we visited on this coast could not be exceeded. Everywhere provisions were sent on board in quantities sufficient to supply the entire crew of the Gettysburg, and nothing we could say could prevent their sending them. Bullocks, sheep, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, eggs, butter, milk, & c., were sent in profusion. At Gabes the governor gave his carriage and furnished a number of excellent horses, together with an escort [Page 931] for the visit to the desert, which I regret I was unable to join. Captain Gorringe will submit to the Navy Department the expediency of making some return for these attentions.

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While we were in Malta, General Grant and family arrived in the United States ship Vandalia, and Captain Gorringe and I immediately called on the ex-President. When he returned our visit he desired me to inform the Bey that he should visit Tunis in April next. The Bey intends, I believe, to receive General Grant with the same honors with which he has received royal personages who have visited this regency, and to offer him his palace in town as a residence during his stay here.

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I am, & c.,