points above the bridge to isolated trees, gave us some glimpse of the enemy's side near this point. Through this belt of swamp the stream flows, sometimes in a single channel, more frequently divided into several, and when but a foot or above summer level overspreads the whole swamp.
The bottom lands between the swamp and high lands are little elevated at their margins above the swamp, so that a few feet rise of the stream overflows large areas of them. They rise very gently toward the foot of the high-land slopes. These bottom lands are generally cultivated, intersected by deep ditches, and their lower portions are in wet weather, even when not overflowed, spongy, and impracticable for cavalry and artillery. The total width of bottom land varies from three-quarters to one and a quarter miles. The crests of the opposite high-land spurs are about one and a half or one and three-quarter miles apart. The road via Cold Harbor to Richmond crosses the stream by a wooden bridge on piles, which had been destroyed. After passing the bridge the road or causeway takes a direction obliquity the course of the stream, having reaches nearly parallel with it, and ascends the opposite heights by a ravine at a point nearly a mile from the bridge. Above New Bridge the character of the stream and margins is not much different from what has been described, though the swamp was somewhat less regular in its width and density. The Mechanicsville and Meadow Bridges each consisted of several bridges, crossing different arms of the stream, the swamp being wide at both places. These were the only bridges and roads crossing the stream in the vicinity of the positions of the army.
The distance from New Bridge to Bottom's Bridge is 8 miles. In this space there were two or three indifferent summer fords or places where a pedestrian could make his way through the swamp and stream, but it currently reported at the time of our arrival that the stream was nowhere fordable.
The knowledge of the Chickahominy gained at Bottom's Bridge showed me that the stream might be reached at almost any point with little risk and thoroughly examined, provided the enemy's pickets did not actually hold our side. Taking with me Lieutenant Custer, of Fifth U. S. Cavalry, I reached it at a point three-fourths of a mile below New Bridge, and caused him to enter it. He waded across without any difficulty (the depth being about 4 feet), and a few days afterward, emboldened by this experiment, he caused the length of the stream to be waded from the bridge for a half a mile down. The attack and capture of the enemy's pickets by him and Lieutenant Bowen was founded upon these reconnaissances, to which the successful results are due.
Although it was thus shown that the stream was no obstacle for infantry, the swamp and the bottom lands were impracticable to cavalry and artillery. It was necessary to provide bridges, and (except at the site of the New Bridge) to corduroy a certain length of road on each margin. Three points were selected: New Bridge, a point a mile above, and another the same distance below. The bridge materials and corduroy stuff were collected and deposited at convenient points. At the time General Sumner, whose corps had been stationed at a point intermediate between New Bridge and Bottom's Bridge, constructed two corduroy bridges across the stream and swamp, one of which was completed on or before the 28th and other on or before the 30th of May. So far as engineering preparations were concerned, the army could have been thrown over as the 28th, Sumner