No. 176. Reports of Bvt. Major Peter S. Michie, U. S. Army, Chief Engineer, Department of Virginia, of operations February 4-March 18.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, CHIEF ENGINEER'S OFFICE,
February 13, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of engineer operations in the Army of the James for the week ending February 11, 1865:
At Fort Burnham, casemates have been constructed, the parapet strengthened, the trench widened, and chevaux-de-frise, wire entanglements, &c., added to the obstructions. On the flanks of the fort works have been commenced for two guns each, that on the right in embrasure, and on the left en barbette. The parapet of Battery No. 1 has been strengthened, embrasures repaired, platforms made good, and traverses thrown up. In Fort Brady one of the 100-pounders has been mounted in its new position and the work in strengthening the fort generally proceeded with. The new battery below Fort Brady is sufficiently advanced to receive one of the 100-pounders; its magazine is nearly completed. The gateway and draw-bridge of Redoubt Southard is progressing favorably. The proposed work between Redoubts Southard and Brooks has been staked out, and will be at once proceeded with. Some small repairs to other parts of the line have been done by parties furnished by the regiments manning such portions of the works. I have the honor to report also that the detachment of the company of pontoniers who have been on duty at the saw-mills have been replaced by infantry, and the whole company are at work repairing and putting in order the pontoon trains of this army . In this connection, it will be proper to call attention to the fact that the material used in the construction of the pontoon and chess wagons has been of the poorest kind. The oak used for poles and reaches is old and in some cases was dead wood and broke clean across, showing a fracture indicating very little strength. Almost all the wagons show great shrinkage in the parts that are rejoined together,some joints opening as much as three-quarters of an inch. Owing to these defects, each wagon is carefully examined and repaired, so that it is better able to do good service than when new.
I cannot speak too highly of this company (Company I, Third Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, formerly Thirteenth Company Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, unattached), commanded by Captain Pickering. It is composed of men enlisted from Springfield Armory, many of whom are the best kind of mechanics. They have kept the pontoon trains of this army up to the best standard, so that after their long-continued service our trains, are now, or soon will be, as fit for service as if they were entirely new, and this without additional expense to the Government. Owing to the facilities we have here at present I have the honor to propose that we furnish the Engineer Department at Washington with such oak lumber, of the best quality, cut to any size, that may be required. There are a great many white-oak trees here which might as well be used for this purpose as not. This will only cost the Government transportation, and will save the $70 or $80 a thousand feet, which is about the price at present, buying from the market.
I also transmit herewith a suggestion of Captain Lyon, assistant engineer, in the improvements of a part of the pontoon wagon. It is the substitution of a roller for the sharp-edged stanchion on the rear