right bank of the James River, about 500 yards below the right of our line, which commands the reach below Doctor Howlett's house, and can act a counter-battery to the rebel battery there. The signal and lookout tower mentioned previously was completed early in the month. It is on ground ninety feet above the Appomattox River, and is itself 125 feet high. From it can be seen the city of Petersburg, the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, the rebel Fort Clifton, and works, Port Walthall Junction, and the Appomattox River, and all the cleared country this side of the railroad.
June 11, in company with the commanding general, I made the inspection of the defenses of the posts on the James River.
June 12, in anticipation of the crossing of the James River by the Army of the Potomac, I sent Lieutenant Michie, U. S. Engineers, to examine the river in the vicinity of Fort Powhatan to get all information on the subject. He reported the width of the river at the three points (A, B, C) to be, respectively, 1,250 feet, 1,570 feet, 1,992 feet; that the two approaches on the east bank at A would be from an old field across a marsh 1,000 yards wide; at B over a marsh about 800 yards wide; from these a spit of sand and gravel bordering the river from the bridge-head averaging about forty feet wide and easily made into a good roadway sufficient for the passage of two columns of troops. On the west bank the approaches to the two first were already prepared, leading by gradual ascent to the bluff on which Fort Powhatan is situated. It would require, to make approaches to the third, the clearing away of trees, making a ramp of one-third leading to the field above, the filling up of ruts and gullies and making a roadway to the Petersburg and City Point road. In consequence of these facts, I telegraphed to Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, senior aide to General Grant, that if the passage was to be made here I would only required, at the farthest, previous notice of thirty-six hours to have the approaches for the bridge ready.
June 13, without waiting for a reply, I directed Lieutenant Michie to proceed to the place and prepare the timber necessary for the corduroy across the marsh, as it seemed probable that it would be wanted. With 150 axmen, 1,200 feet of timber, in sticks averaging 6 inches in diameter and 20 feet long, was cut and prepared before dark, and over 3,000 feet was brought down to the creek above Fort Powhatan ready to be rafted across. At about 3 p.m. I received a dispatch from General Grant informing me that the head of his column would be at the bridge head at 10 a.m. the next day, and directing me to build approaches to the bridge at once at the point designated. An officer was immediately dispatches to Lieutenant Michie, with instructions to begin at once, using the detail that he had with him, and that I would join him as soon as possible with a heavy detail to carry on the work. With the greatest exertion on the part of both officers and men the approaches on both sides of the river, with a pier 150 feet long over the soft marsh on the east bank, was completed at 9.45 a.m., a quarter of an hour before the time indicated by General Grant; and the bridge would have been built, ready for the passage of the troops, at or before 10 a.m. on the 14th if the pontoon train had arrived, as it should, at this time. Through inexcusable tardiness, and more than culpable neglect of duty, Captain Robbins, of the Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, did not appear in sight with his pontoons until after 12 o'clock at noon on the 14th, although he had but eighty miles to come from Fort Monroe, and received his orders to go as fast as he could at 2 p.m. on the 13th. So anxious was I that there should be no delay that I sent a dispatch boat to look for the pontoons down the river, with orders to go until