Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

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No.2. Reports of Brig. Army, Chief Engineerof operations from May 23, 1861, to August 15, 1862.

[p.118: 28th JUNE]

That night it was understood, I believe, that the army was to march to the James River. General Woodbury received orders from headquarters to proceed immediately to the White Oak Swamp and construct bridges, and I was ordered at an early hour the next morning to send out all the engineers to aid in the same and to explore the roads. Having retired to the headquarters camp at Savage Station, suffering with a violent headache, I was unable to go out in person in the morning. In the course of the day Captain Duane’s battalion, which had been engaged destroying the lower bridges, arrived at the headquarters camp. I directed him to continue on, by the shortest route he could find, to the vicinity of points of crossing the White Oak Swamp, and myself started by the beaten road to White Oak Bridge. I found that [p.119] General Woodbury had rebuilt the bridge (with the addition of side bridges, for infantry or cavalry) and repaired the corduroy road through the swamp, and that at a point about a mile and a quarter farther up the stream he had built another bridge. This point, it should be observed, was the site of an old ford (Brackett’s), to which a road conducted on each side.

In reference to the White Oak Swamp it may be observed that the stream itself is quite insignificant, but that, like the Chickahominy, it is bounded by swamp on each side, of which the width is about 200 yards. The extensive wooded region shown on the Henrico County map on the north side of the swamp, and usually included in that designation by us, was generally dry and firm, affording good roads. To make a bridge across the swamp involved, of course, not merely bridging the stream, but the cutting of heavy timber and the making of a raised corduroy over this 200 yards of swamp. Besides which, unless each bridge had an independent wagon road through the forest, it added little to our facilities, since the moving of our immense wagon trains was the principal difficulty of the problem.

I found the upper bridge I have mentioned pretty well advanced to completion, and Major Magruder, of the Fifteenth New York, in charge of the work, promised it should be done before he left off work that night. I was not satisfied with the approaches, however, and feared that the first few wagons which passed would make them impracticable. I found, too, that there was as yet no established connection or fixed route by which the troops and trains near Savage Station were to reach this bridge. I started back to make this connection, and met Captain Duane with his battalion. I directed him to make it his business to keep this bridge and corduroy practicable, and to examine the vicinity to see if there was any other practicable crossing, after which I continued the exploration of the road to connect with the Williamsburg road near the blacksmith’s shop. It was owing to this personal reconnaissance that a connection with the New Bridge was established and troops and, wagons put upon this route that night. (General Heintzelman’s corps reached this bridge by another route, but this would not have answered for other portions of the army nor for wagon trains.) In the evening I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander to take with him Lieutenants Comstock and Farquhar and reconnoiter the country in reference to the march and probable new positions of the army. The accompanying extract from his report will make known his services.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.118-119

web page Rickard, J (20 June 2006)

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