Reports of Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham, U.S. Army, Commanding Engineer Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 29, 1863.
Commanding Engineer Brigade.
SIR: Your attention is called to the following extract from orders issued yesterday, of which you were furnished a copy:
The bridges, two at each crossing, to be laid complete before 3.30 a.m. of the 29th, under the supervision of General Benham, who is charged with the responsibility thereof.
The major-general commanding is informed that, agreeably to your request, General Sedgwick placed at your disposal a brigade of infantry, and he desires to know why these orders were not complied with and those bridges laid at the hour specified.
Very respectfully, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE,
Near Falmouth, Va., April 29, 1863.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of this date, giving an extract from the orders of the commanding general, which stated that I was charged with placing the bridges, two at each crossing, to be laid complete before 3.30 a.m. of the 29th, directing me to state why those orders were not complied with. To show how completely every effort on my part was made to accomplish this, and through what causes it failed, as far as known, a statement somewhat in detail may be necessary, though it is summed up in a few words at the close of this letter.
These orders were communicated to me about 11 a.m. yesterday morning, as I was mounted to go to General Sedgwick's camp, I having about one hour previously been shown by General Butterfield a press copy of the original in the adjutant general's office, and immediately after my return to my camp, and finding an aide of General Sedgwick's, I communicated through him by note the main features of my project for laying the bridges. On meeting General Sedgwick, it was agreed to, or approved by him, as follows: I proposed to use all the boats of the three bridges, or about one hundred in number, which it was estimated would carry about 6,000 men at a single trip, which number it was decided by General Sedgwick to throw over at each place, as I understood it, before laying the bridges. To avoid the alarm and consequent preparation for us, which the sound of the pontoon boats might give to the enemy long before we could reach the river bank, I proposed (having previously drawn the pontoons to the edge of the woods by animals) to have the boats carried from these points, about two-thirds of a mile, to the river, by the men of the command, which it was judged 72 men for each boar, forming double reliefs, could easily do. Captain Reese having reported to me that on trial he had found that 36 men were ample to carry each boat to the river, with one rest; that as soon as it could be discovered that the enemy had taken the alarm, the pontoon equipage on its tracks, preceded by the protecting artillery, should be ordered to come down rapidly, during the crossing of which the boats, manned by oarsmen from the engineers (and with each its crossing party of 60 men, previously assigned, who should be with each boat, with an equal force awaiting there for a second trip), were to be put in the river and thrown to the opposite bank. The equipage was expected to be down by the time of the second return of the boats, when the laying of the bridges was to be commenced.
The pontoons were to be, and were, closed up at the edge of the woods at twilight, or soon after. It was judged best not to commence too early, not to alarm the enemy before the usual hour of rest. The hours were carefully discussed with General Sedgwick, and I judged that, if the boats left the edge of the woods at 11 or 11.30 o'clock, one hour would amply suffice to carry them down, one hour more be more than ample to pass the men over, and, in the moonlight, his forces would suffice to lay the bridges, and eventually ordered the boats to be started at 11.30 o'clock for both crossings.
I asked that General Wadsworth's command might be assigned to aid with the lower boats, and directed Lieutenant-Colonel [William H.] Pettes to call on General Wadsworth as early as he should arrive, to assign about 72 men to carry each boat, and to have told off 60 other men with their proper officers for the passage. This, Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes informs me, he complied with; that General Wadsworth furnished the carrying parties, and that he was informed that the other details were also made.
General Pratt's command was assigned to me for carrying parties for the upper three sets of boats used, and General Sedgwick informed me that General Brooks' division would be the crossing force. When General Pratt reported to me at my camp, between 2 and 3 p.m., I requested him to assign as early as practicable the carrying parties and order them to each boat, and I have the pleasure of saying that he appeared to use every possible effort to accomplish this, though I believe it was scarcely completed till the very last hour.
Of General Brooks I requested (General Sedgwick being present at General Brooks' bivouac, in advance and to the right of the upper trains) that he should assign the men to cross in each boat, as I told him, from 50 to 70 men each. He stated that he proposed to put his left in front, and that on receiving notice of the starting of the boats he would have the squads at the junction of the path from his position to the river road, to join the boats as they passed in succession, which last appeared a good arrangement. I then left for my camp, leaving soon after 9 p.m. with General Hunt, and, after an interview with General Sedgwick, at nearly 11 p.m., I started to make a second visit to the lower pontoons by way of the river road. I gave the direction to my officers of the upper trains to leave positively at 11.30 o'clock if I did not return by that time, stating that I would join them before they got into position, and I requested Captain [Richard F.] Halsted, of General Sedgwick's staff, who accompanied me for the purpose, to remain till the moment of starting, and then push rapidly to inform General Brooks, that he might have his crossing squads ready to meet and accompany the boats as they passed, and Captain Reese, who was to lead, was charged to see that these squads joined him as he passed. In giving the instruction to Captain Halsted for the forwarding and delivery of the message to General Brooks, it may, perhaps, be proper, under the present circumstances, to state that I found it necessary to go over and report them for the third time, in consequence, as it appeared to me, of the difficulty in making him understand them or of keeping his attention to me as I stated it to him.
I then pushed rapidly round to the other boats, and finding General Reynolds, General Wadsworth, as also Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes, I gave my final instruction to him, and during the interview, finding it was then 11.30 o'clock, I directed the pontoons to be at once dismounted and the movement to commence, stating that I would send an officer to inform them when the equipage and artillery should move.
Returning rapidly, I should judge about or just before 12 o'clock, I found the two or three leading pontoons just entering the field between the road and the river, but without the crossing squads accompanying them. I soon met General Brooks, however, expressing my disappointment, and reported to him this failure, stating to him that the mistake lay between himself, Captain Halsted, and Captain Reese. The fear of delay to the crossing and in the laying of my bridges from the want of cooperation may have caused an earnestness of manner in me at this time, but no harsh words were used to General Brooks, as my staff can testify, and he informed me that this should be rectified, and that the squads should join their respective boats immediately. I then proceeded toward the river, leaving my quartermaster at a covered position about half-way down the field, to have the pontoons close up and the crossing squads join them, and, taking the corporal of the pickets, went carefully down the bank and along the shore for the distance I judged it expedient to have the boats placed, and, returning, I found Captain Reese at the edge of the bank, and then went down again with him the whole distance to show him the position, directing him to commence the placing of his boats at once for the crossing. On my return again to the top of the bank, I found the evidence of alarm in the signal lights of the enemy, and at once dispatched my topographical officer to hurry up the equipage of the two upper bridges and my quartermaster to order down that of the two lower. This was not far from I o'clock. I then went down the bank a third time, and personally directed the placing of the first four or five boats, but found them without their crossing squads. The arrangement was, that General Pratt's carrying force was to rest during the crossing of General Brooks' men, and then help lay the bridges. During the packing of these boats, I found the rebels had several small boats rowing down opposite to us. I went to search for some officer of the crossing force, and on the ascent of the bank encountered an officer who told me he was General Russell, and he appeared somewhat vexed,accusing me of having ordered his left in front, with his rear rank to the enemy. I at once told him of his mistake; that I had nothing to do with this at all; that it was the plan and order of General Brooks, as announced to General Sedgwick and myself, without appearing to convince him, however, for he repeated that it was Captain Reese who did it, if not myself. On finding my efforts of no avail with him to have the crossing squads assigned to the boats when my oarsmen were waiting, exposed to the danger of a fire that might open at any moment upon them, I told him of the responsibility I had for the laying of these bridges and of the urgent necessity for the previous crossing of his men, and asked him distinctly if he declined to obey my orders, to which he gave no satisfactory reply other than an apparent negative, which he made more explicit on a second meeting with him a few minutes after, when I repeated that question. I then, stating my position and rank, placed him in arrest, as far as I had power to do so. This arrest I directed him to report to General Brooks, for his confirmation. Finding myself there, powerless, with my boats and boatmen at the river and no men to cross in them, I could only join my staff; then sent Lieutenant [Stephen M.] Weld to report this fact to General Sedgwick, and I remained quietly on the river, where, in a short time, General Brooks came to me, to whom I related the above circumstances, and distinctly put the question to him if he acknowledged my right to command, to which he replied in the negative, on which I asked him if he would assume command. I then stated to him, "The responsibility of the crossing now rests with you, but I will aid you in any way that you wish, and all my men are at your orders," a part of my staff being witnesses to this. Upon this he left me, and I did not see him till the main crossing was effected ; and I was detained in this way, inactive and perfectly powerless, <ar39_208> for some hours of time before the earliest daylight. I then sent Lieutenant [Martin] Van Brocklin to General Sedgwick to report these circumstances and request that he would come down and take the command, and soon after I again sent to General Sedgwick by my quartermaster, to urge him to come down or send some officer to take command. Some time after this, Captain [Charles A.] Whittier, of General Sedgwick's staff, met me, and requested me to accompany him, which I did; but he being on foot and I mounted he soon left me, and soon after Colonel [Martin T.] McMahon came to me, and I begged him to remain with me to aid in pushing the work; but we also were soon separated. Some time after daylight, I was told that General Newton had been sent down to take command, but I did not see him, I being then superintending the laying of the bridges, till I left for General Reynolds' column.
Some fifteen to twenty minutes after I had noticed that the day was dawning, I saw the first boat crossing and the firing commenced, and in a few minutes the boats returned, and were in large numbers, as I saw, at the bank on our side without any one being near or ready to refill them, as some of my oarsmen came up to me to report. I then exerted myself to the utmost to rally the men near me, and with success, to go down the bank and fill the boats again, during which exertions my horse was shot under me, but, descending the bank with him, I about this time met General Brooks, telling him what I had done as to the ordering of his men, which he appeared to fully approve, as I then requested him to order my men also if he found it necessary, and at this time, in leaning over to shake hands with General Brooks, my wounded horse staggered so that I could not retain my seat in the saddle, and I slipped to the ground, and immediately after, finding my horse disabled, I sent him away by my brigade veterinary surgeon, and ordered another to be sent down to me.
Immediately after the second crossing of the boats, or at about 6 a.m., the bridges of the Regulars, under Captain Reese, was commenced, being finished at 7 o'clock; the first bridge of the Fifteenth Regiment, under Major [Walter L.] Cassin, was begun after 6 o'clock and finished at about 7.15 o'clock; the third bridge, the boats of which I had brought down to use for crossing, intending to return them to its train, was ordered to be laid, and its equipage, sent down by General Newton's directions, given to------.
I attributed the failure of the crossing of the men and the laying of the bridges by the hours designated to the failure of the crossing squads to join the boats as I had asked, and to the want of the presence of some senior officer with full powers to direct both the crossing and the laboring forces. After the third bridge was commenced, I sent a report of the facts to General Sedgwick by my quartermaster, and hearing that there had been a repulse at the lower crossing, and that the bridges had not been laid there, I proceeded to that position, finding Generals Reynolds and Wadsworth and Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes on the heights just above the road, at Pollock's Mill Creek. I then distinctly learned that the boats were for the most part in the water, but that the fire from the other side had prevented the troops from entering the boats to cross, and, of course, that the bridges could not be laid as projected. General Reynolds gave a reason that the crossing was not effected because I had ordered that the troops should not move till forty boats were put in the water, but I corrected this mistake, and to his satisfaction, as I understood by the further evidence of General Wadsworth that I had ordered that forty boats should be carried from the woods above, and <ar39_209> not twenty, only as he and General Wadsworth had told me the night before that my assistant adjutant-general had ordered, stating, of which some of my officers were witnesses at this previous interview, that the movement of crossing with the number of men would be at the discretion of the commanding officer, then understood to be General Wadsworth. On examining the rebel positions with my glass, I said to General Reynolds, "I doubt if there are 50 men there, and there are certainly not 300," to which he appeared to assent, when I added, "You have 15,000." At first General Reynolds thought he would send his men round by the upper bridges to come down and capture that position, and some troops were so ordered to move, but soon halted, and, after my repetition of similar remarks again to General Reynolds, he then directed General Wadsworth to effect the crossing, which was done very shortly after. This was between 9 and l0 a.m. As soon as I saw the preparations fairly made for crossing, I went down and directed the pushing on the pontoon equipage and a few pontoons then in the field near the road, which Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes informed me had been brought back by the alarmed teamsters when the firing broke out. And the men drawing the wagons down and unloading them rapidly, as the lodgment had been effected by General Wadsworth, the bridges were commenced at once at about 10.15 o'clock, and by 12 o'clock they were both completed and troops crossing, as Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes has stated to me, I having left about five minutes previously to go to General Hooker, as directed.
The report of Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes, a copy of which is herewith respectfully submitted, shows that after I had left Generals Reynolds and Wadsworth, at 11.30 p.m. of the 28th, some of the boats were carried part way to the river by hand, and that then General Wadsworth ordered them to reload the pontoons on the trucks to take them down by the teams. The redistribution of the balks on different wagons, as necessary to protect the boats, and the finding of the teams of the unloaded boats ordered to be sent out of the way, and finding the different boats scattered along the road in the night, must alone have unavoidably caused great delay, as Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes states. Notwithstanding this, the boats for some 1,200 men were ready in the water by 4.30 o'clock, and reported to General Wadsworth, and with my oarsmen in them, but no men were at hand to enter them for crossing; there being thus a failure of what I had considered vital to the whole affair, and that I had directed Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes to ask for, and that I requested at my last previous interview with Generals Reynolds and Wadsworth--that the crossing squads of about 60 each should be detailed for and attached to and accompany each boat down from the edge of the woods.
This failure, with the countermand of my orders about carrying boats by hand, was, in my opinion, the cause of the delay in crossing and laying of the bridges at the hours directed at the lower point, and, as I have stated, at the upper crossings, though a large portion of the boats were down at the water's edge in very good time, or soon after 1 a.m. The failure of the crossing squads to be ready with the boats to cross, as repeatedly asked for previously by me, together with the want of an officer of rank to direct the combinations of the operations, as previously stated by me, were the causes of the delay at this crossing. I can only say that everything that all my forethought could devise and my untiring vigilance could execute, without one particle of sleep for the forty-two hours previous to writing the first part of this letter, of which I was some fourteen hours in the saddle from the first, sixteen after I received the order, and with the aid of all my staff and, as far as I know, every officer and man attached to this brigade--all was done to secure an implicit compliance with the orders of the commanding general.
With the copy of the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes, the only one as yet received, I respectfully inclose a statement of my brigade veterinary surgeon upon one matter referred to in this report.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE,
Near Banks' Ford, Va., May 1, 1863.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac,
SIR: The early calls to other duty prevented my completing the report, as I designed to make it up, on the laying of the bridges below Fredericksburg on the morning of the 29th instant.
I desire to say more explicitly that, being charged by General Hooker with the responsibility of laying the bridges by the hours stated, and my plans being approved or ordered to be carried out, as far as he was concerned, by General Sedgwick, at that time in command, and the necessary troops being supplied therefor by him, I considered myself in command, and, in fact, obliged to give orders, when necessary, to all the troops on this duty, to the close of these operations, equally with the force under General Pratt, required to aid my pontoniers, and to the force also of General Brooks, assigned by General Sedgwick for the purpose of first passing over to protect the laboring force, and required by a part of my plans (also approved with the rest) as indispensable to success.
General Sedgwick is my witness that I planned, and in his presence, about sunset on the 28th, urged on General Brooks that his crossing squads of about 60 men each should be assigned to and accompany the pontoons as they were leaving the limits of concealment at the edge of the woods, my reasons for which had been given--the fear that these squads would otherwise fail in joining the boats properly. General Sedgwick was a witness to General Brooks' proposition to have the squads join at another point, which I assented to reluctantly, and only on condition that General Brooks would be responsible for their accurately joining there on having due notice from me, and which notice on the afternoon of the next day he admitted to have received from Captain Halsted; yet it is a fact that is undeniable that, on returning from a rapid ride to the lower column, at the last moment, and very nearly, if not exactly, at midnight, found that some of the leading pontoons had passed the points designated without being joined by the crossing squads; that, from a strong sense of my own responsibility for the fulfillment of the orders given me by the time indicated, and for the saving of the lives of our men, on meeting General Brooks, whom I fully believed then to be under my orders for the duty, I expressed to him my strong feeling of disappointment at his failure, but in no words personally harsh to himself, and, to his offer to make explanations, I said, "I have no time for explanations; I want no explanations; I want the men." This <ar39_211> he said he would attend to, and at my last interview, above alluded to, he informed me that these squads did join the boats while they were closing up on the upper bank; that is, during the next forty or fifty minutes. This is very possible, but it is also certain that, as the leading boats passed down to the river's edge about or just after 1 a.m., these squads were not with any of the first four or five boats, for I personally superintended the placing of these boats, inquired for them, and went round the boats to assure myself of their presence, if possible, and it could not have been 1.30 o'clock when I met General Russell, who complained that I had inverted the order of his men, &c., or that Captain Reese so ordered it. A subsequent explanation with Captain Reese satisfied me that this arose from his understanding an order of mine for closing up the boats on the upper bank to be intended for the lower or river edge. But it did not relate to the men, nor, from the precautions I took, did it change the placing of the boats from where I intended. As General Russell then would not acknowledge my authority to direct him as to the placing of his men, which I considered so vital to the success of the operation, I did not see what I could possibly do further than to let the boats pass down and become filled whenever it might happen; but, meeting General Russell again, I again made the effort to have him obey me, and, on his refusal, I arrested him and reported it, as stated previously. The interview with General Brooks shortly after was, as can be proved, entirely calm, and showed only an earnest wish on my part that there should be but one directing head, as I think he admits, for, when I found he refused to allow me to direct in relation to his troops, I asked him if he would, or requested him to, take the direction of the whole operations, telling him the responsibility rested with him, and in my first impulse said, " I will obey your orders," but, recollecting myself, said, "I will endeavor to have your wishes complied with, and all my men are at your disposition," to which I heard no reply from him; and this refusal of his was also duly reported to the general in command. I then awaited until after I discovered the approach of daylight and the first movement of the boats before I could take effective action, for which my first efforts were to have the boats filled to cross over the protecting force, and as soon as possible after the boats were available the two bridges first ordered were commenced and completed within one to one and a half hours, as reported.
The first interview with General Russell and his refusal occurred at very nearly 1.30 o'clock, not later, I feel certain, and I had no effective control of the troops from that time until after daylight, more than three hours, which were thus lost toward laying the bridges.
That I had reason to believe the troops of General Brooks were under my direction as well as the others, these being engaged in a precedent part of the operations, I think that, independent of other reasons, the necessity of the case, my security, &c., I feel that I need only appeal to the report I had the honor to make to the commanding general on the 18th of March, expressly stating that for such and similar operations I considered it indispensable to success that the force aiding and protecting the engineer troops should all be under the direction of one head, and upon which report was indorsed, by the proper staff officer of the general, that when troops were needed for such purposes they would be furnished. These were now needed and had been furnished, and, I could only suppose, furnished according to the terms under which I had asked them and had supposed this approved. If anything further were needed, I had the words of General Sedgwick to myself personally as follows, or this effect: "General Pratt will be ordered to report to you for the carrying force, and General Brooks' command will furnish the protecting squads to cross."
No other head than myself could be suspected to be there upon the field, nor, in fact, could any other or staff officer be supposed to be effective, if newly arrived upon the field, for directing such operations and combinations.
It is, of course, to be presumed that General Brooks had not been made aware of the nature of that report of mine or of the indorsement upon it, though how General Sedgwick's order was given to him, I, of course, am not advised.
As to the lower trains of General Reynolds, the same arrangements were made. Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes states that, according to my orders (and request, repeated to General Wadsworth in person, as stated at 11.30 p.m. of the 29th), he called on General Wadsworth for the 72 carriers and 60 men for crossing squads to go with each pontoon, which were promised and the carriers furnished, but that five pontoons only were carried at all, and these only a part less than half the distance, when General Wadsworth ordered Major [Edmund O.] Beers to reload the pontoons, which consumed so much time that only about twenty boats could be got in the water at 4.30 a.m., and these being reported to General Wadsworth as ready for his men and able to carry 60 each, Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes says no men were present ready to cross in them.
That the carrying of the pontoons as proposed was practicable is proved by the noble endurance of General Pratt's command, who brought some three-fourths of the boats of two trains down in excellent time, the distance being about the same as for the lower trains. That enough men, 72 each, were asked for, is shown by the fact that not only this number did the duty for the upper trains, but that Captain Reese had reported that 36 only could do it, with one rest.
That it was of the utmost importance that this plan should be followed is evidenced by the fact, as reported to me, that the rebel lieutenant at the upper crossing stated that they had notice at 11 p.m. the night previous that we were to cross at that point, and that they were directed to listen for the sound of the pontoon wagons, the officer reporting this to me (the commanding officer of the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, I believe), adding, "I have no doubt this saved 500 lives," for there cannot be a doubt that even with all this delay this crossing was really a surprise.
I may be permitted to add, in conclusion, that, in everything except as to the delay beyond the hour required by the order, which I trust has been satisfactorily accounted for as not chargeable to me in any way, I consider the laying of those five bridges in times ranging from one hour to one hour and forty-five minutes as only an instance of signal, if not unprecedented, success, which resulted only from the exact compliance with the directions given by, as far as I learned, every officer and man of the Engineer Brigade and the most hearty assistance of that fine officer, General Pratt, and his command, consisting of the excellent officers and men of his brigade and Colonel [Alexander] Shaler's.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 10, 1863.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
Statement of operations of Engineer Brigade in laying and removing fourteen bridges, between April 28 and May 6, upon the Rappahannock River:
April 27, Captain [Timothy] Lubey, Fifteenth New York Engineers, was sent to Washington, with orders to get a canvas pontoon train, take it to Alexandria, and thence by railroad to Bealeton Station by 10.30 a.m. of the 28th. He reports that he was there, reporting to Captain Comstock by 7.30 a.m. on that day (28th); that he found teams ready, and at once proceeded to Kelly's Ford, where he arrived at 5.30 p.m. on that day, and laid his bridge by 7.45 p.m. on the 28th.
On April 28, about 11 a.m., I received orders to have two bridges laid at the Franklin Crossing and two near the mouth of Pollock's Mill Creek, all complete, by 3.30 a.m. of the 29th. The boats of the first two were ready at the bank for the most part at 1 to 2 a.m., but the covering force not accompanying the boats as planned, and their general not complying with my requisitions and orders, the crossing of this force was delayed till 4.30 to 5 a.m.
Between 5.45 and 7.15 a.m. the two bridges were laid at the Franklin Crossing, as ordered, and within the next three hours a third bridge by the orders of Major-General Newton. At Pollock's Mill Creek my orders were countermanded by the general commanding the working and covering force, for after the pontoons were dismounted and a few carried a short distance by hand, they were ordered to be reloaded on the wagons. This delayed the operations so that it was only at 4.30 a.m. that twenty boats were in the water, enough for 1,000 men, but no men were there to cross to protect the labor on the bridge, and the enemy shortly after opening fire upon the working force there, no further attempt was made to lay the bridge for some hours.
Upon hearing at the upper crossing of the repulse, I went to meet General Reynolds, and the result of our interview was, about 9 a.m., an attempt to cross on the part of his troops, which was at once successful, and the two bridges were laid between 10 and 11.45 a.m.
On April 30, I was ordered to have one of the bridges at each of these crossings taken up after dark and transported to Banks' Ford, and have them in position to be laid before daylight the next morning. These bridges were taken up after 8 p.m. and transported to the points named, about 15 to 16 miles, and were with the rear train entering into park there about 6.15 a.m. the 1st instant, a few teams being delayed by the upsetting of four or five pontoons and other wagons.
May 3, the enemy having left Banks' Ford about 1.30 to 2 p.m., and no countermand arriving, with the concurrent opinion of General [Henry J.] Hunt, although we then had no great force on either side there, one bridge was laid between 3 and 4.30 p.m., when an order arrived to send the second bridge to United States Ford for a third bridge there. This bridge, or sixteen boats of it, then harnessed, were started under Colonel [Clinton G.] Colgate within fifteen minutes, these sixteen being deemed amply sufficient there, as only fourteen had been needed in the bridge just laid at Banks' Ford, and the balance of the two trains, being fourteen boats, were retained for a second bridge at Banks' Ford in case an emergent necessity arrived for it. That necessity arrived, and the bridge was prepared for it, having been laid (a part of the time under a severe fire of shot and shell) in the afternoon of the 4th instant, and it was by these two bridges that General Sedgwick's corps and all his tram and artillery, fifty-five pieces passed in less than one' hour (between 2 and 3 a.m. May 5), immediately after which these bridges were taken up, the boats concealed, and eventually brought away safely on the 6th instant.
On May 3, Captain Reese was ordered to move his bridge from Franklin's Crossing near to the old railroad bridge site, and Major Cassin to take his from the same place to the Lacy house, and both were towed up and relaid at the points named at about 5.30 a.m., May 3. May 3, Major Beers, from Pollock's Mill Creek, was ordered to remove his bridge by teams, and relay it at the Lacy house, which was done by 6.30 a.m., May 3.
As to Colonel Colgate's and Major Spaulding's trains, at upper or United States Ford--April 28, Major Spaulding was first ordered with his two trains from his old encampment, on Warrenton rosA, to Banks' Ford; then, on April 29, he was ordered to United States Ford, where, on April 30, he laid down his two bridges. On May 3, at 10.30 p.m., Colonel Colgate arrived at United States Ford with a third bridge, which was laid down on the 4th instant, 10 to 11.30 a.m. These three bridges, after the recrossing of the main army, were taken up on the 5th by 8 a.m., and arrived at or near this camp last night (Colonel Colgate the night before), every officer and man of the Engineer Brigade having, as far as I am able to learn, I have the pleasure of stating, done his duty in the most praiseworthy manner. And to this I am gratified to sad that every requisition upon the Quartermaster's Department has been most kindly and promptly met by Colonel Ingalls and his assistants, Major [William] Painter and Captains [William G.] Rankin and [Luther H.] fierce.
I may state here that after I had removed the bridges at Banks' Ford, on May 5, at about 9 a.m., I heard there was an order for me to report at United States Ford. I searched for the written order at the telegraph office and elsewhere, but it did not reach me till between 1 and 2 p.m., and at about the latter hour I started with my staff and orderlies to report as directed, arriving at and over United States Ford at about 4 p.m., and from there reported by an aide at general headquarters. This aide informed me that I was authorized to return to my camp if I had good officers to leave there, so I at once returned to the charge of the trains here, starting at 5.30 o'clock, and, after communicating with General Sedgwick's headquarters on my way, arrived here at about 11 p.m. on the 5th instant.
I respectfully submit a tabular schedule of times, places, &c., of the laying of the pontoon bridges during the last movement, which, perhaps, may be deemed desirable.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
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