Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

[p.134: 2 THE PLAN]

Many schemes were proposed, which were thoroughly discussed by General Franklin, Captain Rodgers, of the Navy, Captain Arnold, of the artillery, and myself. As the plan which I finally decided to adopt was afterward successfully carried out at West Point, it may be proper to describe it here. In general terms it was this: We had a number (ten or twelve) of canal barges (boats, say, 14 feet wide and 70 to 80 feet long), drawing, when loaded, 5 feet of water; when light, 2 feet; of [p.135] about 80 tons burden. We also succeeded in picking up some four scows (flat-boats), say 12 feet wide and from 40 to 60 feet long. We also had, say, seventy pontoon-boats, with balks, chess, oars, anchors, &c.; in fact everything necessary to make a pontoon bridge, say, 1,400 feet long. In addition, we had all the lumber we wanted, for the precaution had been taken to load the canal barges with lumber of various dimensions before they left Washington. We also had cordage and an abundant supply of tools. By lashing two of the canal barges together, placing the boats some 12 feet apart, and throwing a false or additional deck over the whole, we had an area of some 40 feet wide and 45 feet long, upon which a whole battery of artillery could be placed. This boat, when so loaded, would draw only about 4 feet of water. Two more canal barges fixed in the same manner would carry the horses of a battery, or at least enough of them to move the pieces and caissons, leaving the remainder to follow afterward. Several of these double boats (four, I think) were thus prepared, and the men were drilled for two or three days in taking them as near to the shore as they would float and then making a bridge from there to the shore. When this bridge was completed, the artillerymen were drilled in bringing on their artillery and horses and afterward in taking them off.

As the shore on the south side of Cheeseman’s Creek was similar to that where it was proposed to land, this experience proved that we could land artillery very rapidly in this way, and when it was landed each double canal-boat became a wharf head, alongside of which our light-draught vessels could discharge their cargoes. Four of them could, consequently, give us four wharves as soon as the artillery was discharged. I also prepared several rafts of pontoon-boats, each raft being made of two boats in the usual manner, except that the number of balks were doubled. Each of these rafts would carry one piece of artillery very conveniently, and as they did not, when so loaded, draw more than 9 inches of water, it was intended, when they grounded, to draw the pieces on shore by hand, putting about 200 men to each piece. Instead of drilling the men in the use of these rafts, they were permitted to use them for two or three days in landing both men and horses from the transports in Cheeseman’s Creek. It was noticed that they soon became quite expert in handling them, and that they would carry 80 or 90 men with ease. Horses were also landed from them with considerable facility. These double canal-boats and rafts, with the necessary ground tackle and gang-planks, completed the arrangements for landing the artillery.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.134-135

web page Rickard, J (25 July 2006)