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Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

No.2. Reports of Brig. Army, Chief Engineerof operations from May 23, 1861, to August 15, 1862.


The works prepared by the enemy to resist a landing at any point of the Peninsula south of Yorktown or an advance from Fort Monroe having been abandoned, the engineer operations of the army commenced with the siege of Yorktown. These works, however, such as that at Ship Point and others near the mouth of Wormley’s Creek, were of considerable magnitude.

My special report of the siege of Yorktown (a copy of which is furnished you) will preclude the necessity of any further account in this place.

I should have mentioned that beside the engineer officers and troops already enumerated the following engineer officers accompanied the army:

Licut. Col. (Aide-de-Camp) B. Alexander, First Lieut. C. B. Cornstock, First Lieut. M. D. McAlester, and First Lient. W. E. Merrill.

Capt. Stewart, Second Lieut. F. U. Farquhar. These two officers were temporarily detached from their duties at Fort Monroe, and joined the army about the middle of April.

First Lieut. H. L. Abbot, Topographical Engineers. This officer having been detailed for engineer duty on the defenses of Washington, accompanied me as an aide throughout the campaign.

At the commencement of the siege operations, Colonel Alexander (assisted by Lieutenant McAlester) was charged with the very important duty of constructing the roads through the various ravines of Wormley’s Creek, which formed our main communication with the siege works. On the 20th of April he was attached to the headquarters of Brigadier-General Franklin, whose division was then preparing for a landing on some point of the enemy’s shores.

Lieutenant Comstock during the siege acted most of the time under the immediate orders of Captain Duane, with whom he continued until after the battle of Fair Oaks. He was afterward attached to the headquarters of General Sumner.

Lieutenant McAlester was attached to the headquarters of General Heintzelman throughout the campaign.

Lieutenant Merrill was attached to the headquarters of General Keyes. At the action in front of the one-gun battery, April 16, he was severely wounded in the arm. He was hors de combat for the remainder of the campaign, and was brevetted for gallant services on that occasion.

Captain Stewart and Lieutenant Farquhar were attached to General Sunmer’s headquarters during the siege. On the advance of the army they accompanied the advance guard under Brigadier-General Stoneman, with whom they remained until the arrival on the Chickahominy, where Captain Stewart was taken sick from overexertion and was obliged to return to Fort Monroe. Lieutenant Farquhar was subsequently assigned to duty with General Sumner’s headquarters.

I directed full plans of the works constituting the strong defensive line extending across the Peninsula at Williamsburg to be prepared, but they were never made. A sketch, however, showing the general [p.110] character of this line and the positions of the works was made from the reconnaissances of Lieutenant McAlester, and it is, I believe, in the possession of the commanding general.

Previous to the fall of Yorktown the division of Brig. Franklin had been held in readiness to be embarked and landed at such a point on York River as subsequent events might dictate. The preparations for these operations had been directed by Lieut. Alexander. The division actually made a landing nearly opposite West Point, which was followed by a severe engagement with a portion of the enemy’s forces. I inclose a report of Colonel Alexander herewith concerning the engineer operations.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.109-110

web page Rickard, J (20 June 2006)