HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,
November 15, 1863-12 m. (Received 2. 30 p. m.)
Colonel C. ROSS SMITH,
Chief of Staff:
I have just returned from a personal inspection of the river between Morton's and Raccoon Fords. The Second Brigade of this division was divided into two parties, one of which I sent to Raccoon Ford, the other to Morton's Ford. At the latter I succeeded in driving that portion of the enemy's force which held the ford back to the high ground beyond. The recent rains have rendered the river impassable. The enemy opened a brisk cannonade from six guns, mounted behind earth-works and commanding the approaches to the ford (Morton's). At the same time a battery was planted below the ford, but was not opened. The heights on the opposite bank are completely covered with intrenchments, which are filled with infantry.
Soon after my command made its appearance at Morton's Ford, the enemy marched a heavy column of infantry into their intrenchments. I saw at least a division of infantry at this point. At a point midway between Mortn's and Raccoon Fords I saw a battery of the enemy's in position, and from which they fired upon my column. At Raccoon Ford a strong infantry force was displayed, and four guns in position. A few shots were fired from the latter. I sent General Davies, with a portion of the First Brigade, to examine Mitchell's and Germanna Fords. The party sent to the latter point have not yet reported. The other party found a strong force of infantry guarding Mitchell's Ford. No cavalry was observed along the entire line. Although the infantry pickets yesterday were relieved by cavalry, the infantry have been replaced along the river on my front.
Very respectfully, &c.,
G. A. CUSTER,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
WASHINGTON, D. C., November 15, 1863.
General JOSEPH G. TOTTEN,
Chief of Engineers:
SIR: As I believe that a method of laying pontoon bridges which has occurred to me, and which I have directed the practice of in this command, may be of general interest, I would respectfully offer you the following report and description of the same; and it may be the more proper to lay this report before the Department, because simple as the process has appeared to me, and most extraordinarily expeditious as it has been found-such that a pontoon bridge one-fourth of a mile in length, and with about 450 men only, is laid complete for the passage of artillery in the course of twenty minutes, as has been done repeatedly across the Eastern Branch of the Potomac, opposite this camp-yet I cannot learn, either from books or otherwise, that this method, or any other of the like rapidity of execution, has ever been previously followed in our own or any other service. In fact, by the method I found in practice, in this brigade at least, six to eight hours were necessary for the construction of a bridge of any such length.
It may be remarked that the building of these bridges by making