Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8, 1862 (Monday): Readying a Crossing

Monument to Michigan Troops at Bridgehead at Upper Crossing (NPS)

     Two pontoon bridges to be thrown at site of old pontoon bridge, one of them to have approaches for artillery.
    One pontoon bridge at site of old canal-boat bridge; approaches for artillery.
    Two pontoon bridges just below mouth of Deep Run, a mile below Fredericksburg; one to have artillery approach. Major Spaulding to throw three upper ones; Major Magruder to throw the next, and Lieutenant Cross the lowest one.
    Bridge equipage, now at White Oak Church, to move up and go into park near Phillips' house by dark. At midnight trains to move down within 400 yards of river, and to move down and begin unloading at 3 a.m.
    If enemy's fire is kept down, bridges to be thrown as soon as boats are unloaded; if too hot, wait till artillery silences it.
     Upper two bridges to be covered by two regiments of infantry; canal-boat bridge by one regiment; two lower bridges by two regiments and a 12-pounder battery.
     Corduroy at Skinker's Neck to be laid during to-morrow night; woods to be felled, &c.
    As soon as pontoons are on bank of river, all teams to be taken away.

     Lieutenant of Engineers and Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac.

     [P. S.]-At upper two bridges two pontoon wagons to be loaded with seven balks and twenty-one    chassis, with lashings each, ready for General Sumner to take with him. At canal bridge one such wagon, same at two lower bridges, 2 men with each wagon.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 841.

The movement of pontoon bridges into place for the Fredericksburg crossing was no small undertaking.  The first step was to suppress opposing fire, which was certainly practical given the commanding artillery positions Burnside possessed on the heights of Stafford, and the numerical advantage in riflemen over the scratch force under Barksdale immediately opposite the crossings.  Still, there equipment must be moved and this was no small undertaking as seen by this memorandum.

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