Monday, June 18, 2012

June 19, 1862 (Thursday): The Engineers Bridge the Chickahominy

Camp Lincoln, Va., June 19, 1862. 

GENERAL: Since my last report, of June 7, the Engineer Brigade has been engaged chiefly in the construction of a permanent bridge across the Chickahominy nearly opposite Dr. Trent's. This bridge was commenced June 9, and completed so as to allow the passage of teams June 14. It was subsequently covered with earth, and the approaches, constructed under Colonel Alexander by other regiments, were completed on the 16th and 17th instant. The dimensions of the bridge are as follows: Length, 1,080 feet; roadway, 11 feet; number of cribs, 40; number of trestles, 6. The accompanying drawing will furnish any other details required.* The Third Vermont Regiment, Colonel Hyde commanding, furnished valuable assistance in covering a portion of the crib work after completing excellent approaches on the south side.
For the last week Captain Spaulding, with a detachment of 250 men, has been engaged in constructing an infantry bridge about 1 mile above the permanent bridge. Good progress has been made in the work.
June 17 and 18 several detachments of the brigade, amounting to some 400 men, were engaged in constructing bridges and corduroying on the road leading to the railroad station near Fair Oaks and the road from general headquarters to General Smith's division. I have not yet received the reports of the officers in charge of the work.
    June 19, a detachment of 50 men, with their officers, still engaged on the road to Smith's division; a detachment of 500 men, with their officers, employed constructing fascines; 224 fascines were made on the line of the railroad near Fair Oaks Station.

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

*Not found.

Series I., Vol. 11, Part 1, Page 149.

No account of the Seven Days battles is complete without an understanding of the role of McClellan's engineers in bridging the Chickahominy River so as to make movement between the two wings of the army possible.  The bridge referred to here is also known as the Woodbury-Alexander Bridge.  It was built at a right angle across the river and flooded bottom land.  The 1,080 foot length included a long run down to the bridge from the north side of the river (running parallel to the river).  The fascines referred to were reinforced cylindrical bundles of sticks which were used to reinforce parts of the bridge.  About 1/4 mile downstream from this bridge is the Grapevine Bridge, much more well known to history as the crossing point for a large portion of McClellan's army during the "change of base".   

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