Official Records of the Rebellion

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


A further retreat to Harrison’s Landing was ordered for that night (July 1), it being difficult to keep open our communication with the transports at Malvern. I made a reconnaissance at daylight, July 2, to form some idea of the position. Entirely ignorant of the locality, having arrived in the darkness of the night, it took some time to get a clear idea of it; a pouring rain, which commenced soon after sunrise, being unfavorable to distant vision. Finding a broad estuary to the northward, I followed it down beyond Westover, to ascertain that there was neither bridge nor ford leading out of it. I then hastened back to find at the entrance of this cul-de-sac a temporary position, where our rear guard could cover its mouth, for the main body of the army was now pouring in. Having done this, I returned to the camp, and reported as speedily as possible to the commanding general, who accompanied me in the afternoon to the position, directing General Keyes, whose corps had covered the retreat, to occupy it.

It is in place here to remark that in moving up from Yorktown to the Chickahominy the only pontoon equipage which accompanied the march of the army was the train with Captain Duane’s command. All the other material which had been used at Yorktown or by General Franklin in his disembarkation was taken up to the White House.

The pontoons of Captain Duane’s train were all used in the various bridges on the Chickahominy, and several more (twenty-four, I believe) were brought up from White House (on abandoning the White House the bridge material remaining there was sent back, I think, to Fort Monroe); also a train consisting of thirty Birago trestles and four Russian canvas pontoons.

The pontoons at New Bridge were, with the flooring and other accessories, sunk in the stream, and the upper and lower trestle bridges destroyed. What remained of bridge equipage, say thirty French and two canvas pontoons and ten trestles, was packed and collected on the south side of the Chickahominy by Captain Spaulding (under General Woodbury’s orders), but for want of transportation part of it was destroyed here and part after crossing the White Oak Swamp. About fifteen pontoons (with balks and chess) and a few trestles were brought safely through to Harrison’s Landing.

On the retreat from Malvern Hill and Haxall’s a portion of the Engineer Brigade was directed to keep the road in order. The crossing of Kimage’s Creek (much swollen by the rain) in particular required incessant labor during the whole period of the passage of the army and trains to keel) it practicable. One pontoon and four bays of balks and chess were used there in two bridges, all of which, with the wagons, were afterward destroyed by our own troops.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.121

web page Rickard, J (20 June 2006)