his work, but he was not impressed with the importance of speed, neither was he empowered with any special authority that would hasten the issuing of the necessary transportation.
The pontoons which started for Belle Plain on raft arrive there on the 18th, but no wagons for their transportation from that place were sent with them, nor was any intimation given to Colonel Spaulding that any would be needed; neither to his knowledge had any information of that kind been given to General Woodbury. Had this information been given to Colonel Spaulding, the necessary wagons could have been placed on the rafts and floated to Belle Plain, from which point the pontoons could have been hauled to Falmouth by teams from the army before the enemy had accumulated sufficient force to resist the crossing. This was not, however, the method by which it was expected the pontoons would arrive, in time to cross the river before the enemy could concentrate to prevent it.
After arranging for these trains to go by water, Colonel Spaulding proceeded at once to make up the overland train, but was not enabled to start with it until the afternoon of the 19th. On this day it commenced raining, in consequence of which the roads became very bad. Great exertions were made by Colonel Spaulding to push his train forward, but before his arrival at the Occoquan he decided to raft his boats when he reached that river, and have them towed to Belle Plain, for which purpose he sent an officer back for a steamer to meet him at the mouth of the river. The animals were sent overland. He arrived at Belle Plain with his pontoons on the 24th, and by the night of the 25th he was encamped near general headquarters.
By this time the enemy had concentrated a large on the opposite side of the river, so that it became necessary to make arrangements to cross in the face of a vigilant and formidable foe. These arrangements were not completed until about December 10. In the mean time the troops were stationed with a view to accumulating supplies and getting in readiness for the movement.
I omitted to say that on the 19th instant I received, through Colonel Richmond, my assistant adjutant-general, a communication from General Hooker, suggesting the crossing of a force at the fords above Falmouth. This letter appears in his [General Hooker's] report, and my reply thereto in the appendix, marked E.
I determined to make preparations to cross the river at Skinker's Neck, about 14 miles below Fredericksburg, and, if the movements of the enemy favored the crossing at that point, to avail myself of such preparations; otherwise, to adopt such a course as his movements rendered necessary. The ground at this point was favorable for crossing, but our preparations attracted the attention of the enemy, after which he mad formidable arrangements to meet us at that place.
The necessary orders, both written and verbal, had been given for the troops to be in readiness to move, with the requisite amount of ammunition and supplies. Before issuing final orders, I concluded that the enemy would be more surprised by a crossing at or near Fredericksburg, where we were making no preparations, than by crossing at Skinner's Neck, and I determined to make the attempt at the former place. It was decided to throw four or five pontoon bridges across the river-two at a point near the Lacy house, opposite the upper part of the town, one near the steamboat landing, at the lower part of the town, one about a mile below, and, if there were pontoons sufficient, two at the latter point.
Final orders were now given to the commanders of the three grand