of this line and the position of the works was made from the reconnaissances of Lieutenant McAlester, and it is, I believe, in the possession of the commanding general.
Previous to the fall of Yorktown the division of General W. B. Franklin had been held in readiness to be embarked and landed at such a point on York River as subsequent events might dictate. The preparations for these operations had been directed by Lieutenant Colonel B. S. Alexander. The division actually made a landing nearly opposite West Point, which was followed by a severe engagement with a portion of the enemy's forces. I inclose a report of Colonel Alexander herewith concerning the engineer operations.*
In the movements of the army in its advance from Yorktown the officers of engineers were employed in various reconnaissances of the routes of the York and Pamunkey Rivers, &c., while detachments from General Woodbury's Engineer Brigade repaired roads and bridges. After reaching a point near Roper's Church, on the Wiliamsburg and Richmond road, the right wing, consisting of the corps of Porter and Franklin, took the road via Cumberland and the White House, striking the Chickahominy at New Bridge, while the left (corps of Heintzelman and Keyes) kept the Richmond road to Bottom's Bridge. The advance guards reached these points about the 16th or 17th of May.
On the 20th I proceeded, by orders of the commanding general, to make a forced reconnaissance of the position of Bottom's Bridge, accompanied by Comstock and McAlester. On arriving, I found the ground already occupied by a portion of the division of General Casey, and I dismissed the force I had ordered. The result of the reconnaissance was the acquiring of a perfect knowledge of the character of the Chickahominy as an obstacle, and the presumption that at this point (Bottom's Bridge) no serious resistance was contemplated; in fact, the next day our troops crossed and occupied the other bank.
General Woodbury, with his brigade, was ordered to this point to repair the old bridge and the railroad bridge and to establish others, while Lieutenants Comstock and McAlester made a reconnaissance in force on the right bank, with the view of establishing a tete-de-pont to cover both Bottom's Bridge and the railroad bridge. This work was begun, but never entirely finished.
On the 22nd the general headquarters reached Cold Harbor, and I proceeded immediately to the New Bridge to reconnoiter that position. A word is proper here concerning the Chickahominy, which at the season we struck it was one of the most formidable obstacles that could be opposed to the advance of the army-an obstacle to which an ordinary river, though be of considerable magnitude, is comparatively slight.
The Chickahominy, considered as a military obstacle, consists of a stream of no great volume, a swamp, and bottom land. The stream flows through a belt of heavily-timbered swamp, which averages 300 to 400 yards wide. A few hundred yards below New Bridge is a short length of the stream not margined by swamp timber, but everywhere else between New and Bottom's Bridges the belt of swamp timber is continuous and wide. The tops of the trees rise just about to the level of the crests of the high lands bordering the bottom, thus perfectly the enemy's side. The disappearance in the place indicated of swamp timber near New Bridge, and the dwindling away of the same at some
* See Numbers 3, Alexander's report, dated January 28, 1863.