War of the Rebellion: Serial 107 Page 0637 Chapter LXIII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

destroyed, the superstructure burned, and in some instances the abutments blown up. The reconstruction of the road and wharf demanded immediate attention. A commencement had been made at the whafr, and some ties had been cut in the woods, but there was no proper organization for work. We proceeded on Tuesday to organize and commenced to lay track. The road bed had been used by cavalry; the wet weather had converted the clay surface into tenacious mud; the cross-ties were of all conceivable dimensions; the artificers were soldiers without experience in track-laying; the weather was rainy; yet, by taking some of the most intelligent instruments from sticks, working all night in the rain, spiking rails by the use of lanterns, the three miles of track were laid in three days, so that engines could pass over and transport material for work farther in advance; and more than 3,000 cross-ties were manufactured by soldiers from the swamp during that time and delivered on the road. On Saturday morning, May 3, the first load of bridge lumber was carried from Aquia Creek for the Accokeek bridge. This opening was a single span of about 130 feet, and an elevation of thirty feet.

About noon on Saturday we were honored by a visit from yourself, in company with Secretaries Seward and Chase, and General Moorhead. At that time no part of the bridge had been erected, and only the framing commenced. The next afternoon General McDowell rode across the bridge on an engine. The time occupied in erecting it was about fifteen working hours. The next and most serious obstruction was the deep chasm of Potomac Creek, nearly 400 feet wide, which had been crossed by a deck bridge of about eighty feet elevation above the water. No work was done until the 3rd of May except cutting some logs in the woods, at a point so distant that but few of them could be used. On Saturday, May 3, some of the logs were laid for crib foundations, but it was not until Tuesday of the following week that any proper organization could be effected. Three companies of the Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin, and of the Nineteenth Indiana Regiments, under Lieutenants Harter, Pond, and Ford, had been detailed as a construction force, but many of the men were sickly and inefficient, others were required for guard duty, and it was seldom that more than 100 to 120 men could be found fit for service, of whom a still smaller number were really efficient, and very few were able or willing to climb about on ropes and ples at an elevation of eighty feet. With soldiers unaccustomed to such work, with an insufficient supply of tools, with occasional scarcity of food, and with several days of wet weather, the work was advanced so rapidly that in nine days the bridge was crossed on foot, and in less than two weeks an engine was passed over, to the great delight of the soldiers whose labors had constructed it. By a computation made by A. W. Hoyt, eser, it appears that the number of lineal feet of timber in the bridge across Potomac Creek si 34,760, which if placed in a straight line would reach nearly seven miles. The equivalent in board measure is about 2,500,000 feet. The bridge across the Rappahannock was constructed under the immediate supervision of Daniel Stone, esq., who was placed by you in general charge of construction. This bridge was constructed in about the same time as that at Potomac Creek. It is bout 600 feet long and forty-three feet above water; depth of water, ten feet. The reconstruction of the road and bridges under the circumstances, in so short a time, with an ordinary detail of troops taken promiscuously, without selection, with for part of the time an insufficient supply of tools and implements, is certainly a most extraordinary performance,