[p.138: SPLIT 6: CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY]
Early the next morning (May 7) the enemy came in contact with our pickets, and about 9 o’clock the firing grew serious. The affair of that day was a musketry contest in the woods. Very little cannonading was done on either side. The plateau upon which we landed was separated from the high land by a stream and impracticable marsh on the west side and by a smaller stream and ravine on the south side, leaving, however, a peninsula about a quarter of a mile wide between the heads of the streams. This peninsula was thickly wooded; it was the key of the position, and it was there, or rather just in front of it, that the contest for its possession took place. Our troops held it throughout the day. [p.139] The division of General Sedgwick arrived on the morning of the 7th and were landed in the same manner during that day.
Finding our landing deficient in depth of water for a permanent depot for supplying the army, I examined the Pamunkey River during the next day, with a view of selecting a spot higher up, where we could make better wharf accommodations. For our immediate wants I selected Eltham, a point on the right bank of the Pamunkey, some 6 or 7 miles above its mouth.
The following day I reconnoitered the roads leading to it and from it, and commenced the construction of two temporary wharves. In the course of the day Colonel Ingalls and Colonel Clarke arrived with some of the quartermaster’s and commissary transports.
On the 10th I received instructions from General McClellan through General Franklin to proceed up the river as high as Cumberland, and report as to the possibility of carrying our transports to that point. With two gunboats and a steamer we proceeded up the river to an island some few miles below Cumberland. Here we found the river obstructed by a line of sunken vessels extending from the island to either shore. The obstructions looked formidable, but a short reconnaissance in boats showed that we could pass with our vessels between two of the sunken vessels. We did so, and then anchored for the night.
Next morning, just at sunrise, we reached Cumberland, where we found General Stoneman had arrived the night before. The examination showed that there was sufficient water for our light transports as far up as Cumberland, and that we could easily make wharves there. I accordingly sent back Captain Arnold, of the artillery, to report to this effect. Learning here some particulars that led me to suppose we might go still higher up the river, I determined to proceed to White house, where the railroad from West Point to Richmond crosses the Pamunkey River. We reached there early in the day, and finding that General Stoneman had thrown forward a squadron of cavalry to that place, I was enabled to go on shore and make such a thorough examination as induced me to believe that this was the proper spot for our final depot of supplies. Deeming this information of great importance, I took the lightest-draught steamer and returned to Eltham the following night, and early next morning reported to General Franklin the result of my observations.
During the day (the 12th) I joined the army on the march towards Cumberland, and reported in person to General McClellan, when he reached that place on Tuesday, May 13.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. S. ALEXANDER,
Lieutenant- Colonel of Engineers.
Brig. Gen. J. G. BARNARD,
Late Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac.
Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.138-139
web page Rickard, J (25 July 2006), http://www.historyofwar.org/source/acw/officialrecords/vol011chap023part1/00003_06.html
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