[p.135: SPLIT 3: SOME NOTES ON UNLOADING LANDING CRAFT]
As it is frequently overlooked, it may be proper to state precisely what gang-planks are required under such circumstances. We prepared the following: Four gang-planks, built so that a carriage or anything else could be taken from the deck of a vessel up to the gunwale; four about 20 feet long, reaching from thence to the canal barges; four more about 30 feet long, reaching from thence to the flat-boats; four more about 14 feet long, reaching from thence to the pontoon bridges or rafts; four more about 12 feet long, reaching from thence to the shore. All these gang-planks were made 10 feet wide and very strong. Ropes were fastened to their corners, and the larger ones were placed on rollers.
For landing the infantry it was designed to use the pontoon-boats. Each boat, besides the 3 men to manage it, will carry 40 men, with their arms and knapsacks, very conveniently.
When a landing was to be effected, it was designed to move the fleet of transports from Cheeseman’s Landing to the York River, and [p.136] immediately load about fifty boats with, say, 2,000 men, and let the boats at a given signal pull for the shore; the men manning the boats would then pull back for another load. The only preparations that it was necessary to make in reference to this operation was to provide proper facilities to enable the men to get from the transports into the pontoon-boats. It was at first proposed to leave this matter to the captains of the vessels, letting each captain provide the means of getting the men from his vessel into the pontoon-boats ; but our experience at Cheeseman’s Creek soon showed that this would not do, if any haste should become necessary.
It was observed when a vessel containing several hundred men would get permission to land the men for a day that the men had to climb down the sides of the vessel one by one, and that one man would not start until the man before him was in the pontoon-boat. In this way it was found that fully half a day would be consumed in landing the men from some of the larger transports, although they had plenty of boats to carry them at one trip, and they could have been landed in an hour if the proper facilities for getting from the vessel into the boats had been provided. I deemed it proper, therefore, to make a number of gang-planks, so that the men could walk in single file from the deck of the vessel up to the gunwales on either side and down the sides by an easy slope to the boats, the exterior gang-planks being supported from the vessels and extending down into the water, and not resting on the boats, but being entirely independent of them. Two planks of time proper length, each 1 foot wide and 1 ½ inches thick, laid side by side and battened together on both sides with strips of boards about 3 inches wide and 1 ½ inches thick, were found to be very convenient for this purpose.
Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.135-136
web page Rickard, J (25 July 2006), http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/officialrecords/vol011chap023part1/00003_03.html