diately load about fifty boats, with, say, 2,000 men, and let the boats at a given signal pull for the shore; the men manning the boats would then pull back for another load. The only preparations that it was necessary to make in reference to this operation was to provide proper facilities to enable the men to get from the transports into the pontoon-boats. It was at first proposed to leave this matter to the captains of the vessels, letting each captain provide the means of getting the men from his vessel into the pontoon-boats; but our experience at Cheeseman's Creek soon showed that this would not do, if any haste should become necessary.
It was observed when a vessel containing several hundred men would get permission to land the men for a day that the men had to climb down the sides of the vessel one by one, and that one man would not start until the man before him was in the pontoon-boat. In this way it was found that fully half a day would be consumed in landing the men from some of the larger transports, although they had plenty of boats to carry them at one trip, and they could have been landed in an hour if the proper facilities for getting from the vessel into the boats had been provided. I deemed it proper, therefore, to make a number of gang-planks, so that the men could walk in single file from the deck of the vessel up to the gunwales on either side and down the sides by an easy slope to the boats, the exterior gang-planks being supported from the vessels and extending down into the water, and not resting on the boats, but being entirely independent of them. Two planks of the proper length, each 1 foot wide and 1 1/2 inches thick, laid side by side and battened together on both sides with strips of boards about 3 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches thick, were found to be very convenient for this purpose.
All these preparations were about completed, and we were engaged in making scaling landers, thinking we might be called upon to assault the works at Gloucester Point, when suddenly, on the morning of May 4, the news spread through the fleet that the enemy had evacuated Yorktown. Orders were received during the day by General Franklin to take his command around to Yorktown and prepare to proceed with it up the York River.
The next morning found most of the fleet at Yorktown, all the preparations we had made for landing accompanying it. This was the day of the battle of Wiliamsburg. During the forenoon General McLellan came over to Yorktown and held a consultation with General Franklin. It was decided that he should proceed with his command at once to West Point, at the head of the York River, and try and effect a landing in the right bank of that river, just at the mouth of the Pamunkey River. All the information we could obtain on the subject led us to believe that Brick-House Point offered the greatest advantages for this purpose.
A delay in the arrival of some of the transports prevented our leaving Yorktown during Monday, and it is probable that the general decided that it was not wise to move from that place until the result of the battle then going on at Wiliamsburg should be known. However this may be, orders were received from General McLellan late in the evening to proceed at once up the river; but it was then dark, and it was found impossible to communicate the proper orders for much a movement at night; besides, one or two of the large transports had run aground during the day, and as we were deficient in river pilots it was feared there would be danger of many more of them getting aground during a movement at light . In fact, the officers of the gun boats re-