sonally as follows, or this effect: "General Pratt will be ordered to report to you for the carrying force, and General Brooks' command will furnish the protecting squads to cross."
No other head than myself could be suspected to be there upon the field, nor, in fact, could any other or staff officer be supposed to be effective, if newly arrived upon the field, for directing such operations and combinations.
It is, of course, to be presumed that General Brooks had not been made aware of the nature of that report of mine or of the indorsement upon it, though how General Sedgwick's order was given to him, I, of course, am not advised.
As to the lower trains of General Reynolds, the same arrangements were made. Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes states that, according to my orders (and request, repeated to General Wadsworth in person, as stated at 11.30 p. m. of the 29th), he called on General Wadsworth for the 72 carriers and 60 men for crossing squads to go with each pontoon, which were promised and the carriers furnished, but that five pontoons only were carried at all, and these only a part less than half the distance, when General Wadsworth ordered Major [Edmund O.] Beers to reload the pontoons, which consumed so much time that only about twenty boats could be got in the water at 4.30 a. m., and these being reported to General Wadsworth as ready for his men and able to carry 60 each, Lieutenant-Colonel Pettes says no men were present ready to cross in them.
That the carrying of the pontoons as proposed was practicable is proved by the noble endurance of General Pratt's command, who brought some three-fourths of the boats of two trains down in excellent time, the distance being about the same as for the lower trains. That enough men, 72 each, were asked for, is shown by the fact that not only this number did the duty for the upper trains, but that Captain Reese had reported that 36 only could do it, with one rest.
That it was of the utmost importance that this plan should be followed is evidenced by the fact, as reported to me, that the rebel lieutenant at the upper crossing stated that they had notice at 11 p. m. the night previous that we were to cross at that point, and that they were directed to listen for the sound of the pontoon wagons, the officer reporting this to me (the commanding officer of the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, I believe), adding, "I have no doubt this saved 500 lives," for there cannot be a doubt that even with all this delay this crossing was really a surprise.
I may be permitted to add, in conclusion, that, in everything except as to the delay beyond the hour required by the order, which I trust has been satisfactorily accounted for as not chargeable to me in any way, I consider the laying of those five bridges in times ranging from one hour to one hour and forty-five minutes as only an instance of signal, if not unprecedented, success, which resulted only from the exact compliance with the directions given by, as far as I learned, every officer and man of the Engineer Brigade and the most hearty assistance of that fine officer, General Pratt, and his command, consisting of the excellent officers and men of his brigade and Colonel [Alexander] Shaler's.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.