HDQRS. ENGINEER Brigadier AND DEFENSES OF CITY POINT,
November 15, 1864.
Major General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer Armies Operating Against Richmond:
SIR: As to the pontoons about which you made inquiry lately, I would report that I find that I have of available pontoons here, including the nine now in use as a temporary wharf at the hospital above, seventy-five pontoons effective for transportation or use anywhere. As from the absence of my quartermaster I cannot ascertain exactly how he made the count of the pontoon-boats on hand, in his list of property handed me, I went up the James River yesterday to make an examination of the bridges there. Captain Lubey, the officer of my command in charge of bridges up there, reports in those two bridges 66 of the pontoons I brought up here. These, with the 75 above referred to, give 141, or 14 less than the 155 I originally brought up here, some 3 or 4 of which 14 I presume may have been destroyed by the collisions of the gun-boats with the bridges, and the balance, I presume, have been used in the bridges built by the officers of General Butler's command, as the pontoons I have sent from here have been at different times mixed up with them and transferred from one point to another without my knowledge at the time. In passing the upper bridge (nearest the Aiken house) yesterday I noticed it was in very bad condition, requiring a new covering at once, and I directed Captain Lubey, as he reported it not under his charge, to urge upon Captain Lyon the necessity of recovering this bridge as early as practicable. This distribution of the mass of the pontoon material into the charge of different persons, so that there is no complete record or responsibility for it with any one officer, and that the bridges are left often in the charge of those who have a limited knowledge or experience with them. As I believe the Engineer Brigade proper had had that experience to the greater degree, convincing me of the importance of a suggestion I made to General Grant early after our arrival here, and which I would now respectfully offer for your consideration, that all the pontoon material upon both rivers not directly in use in bridges should be retained at this depot, subject to the calls of either army under the authority of the lieutenant-general, to which I would add, what I now deem of importance also, that all the bridges also should be under the care and direction of the Engineer Brigade.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
November 15, 1864-9.15 a. m. (received 9.35 a. m.)
No change in the disposition of the troops and nothing of interest occurred since last report.
WINF'D S. HANCOCK,