Plate 69. Pontoon Bridge, Across the James

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Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by James Gardner, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
This sketch represents one of the pontoon bridges across the James River, at Powhattan Point, near Harrison's Landing, and not far from Charles City Court-House; and which was used by Gen. Grant's army, in his march from Coal Harbor to City Point. The bridge was laid down on the fourteenth of June, 1864, and the troops commenced crossing the next day. Gen. Warren's Corps moved from its position, one mile in rear of Coal Harbor, and marched across the Richmond and York River Railroad, taking the Long Bridge road over the Chickahominy and down to the James, followed by Hancock, Wright and Burnside; the Eighteenth Corps having already occupied Bermuda Hundreds, on the north side of the James, several miles above the pontoons. The enemy made no attempt to interrupt the movement, confining himself to the defences of Richmond. The passage of the James River was effected without the loss of a gun or wagon, Wilson's Cavalry covering the rear from attack, and enabling the army to cross without any undue haste. After the infantry had passed over, the immense wagon trains crossed, followed by the cattle herds, and finally by the Cavalry. The scene at this point during the passage of the river by the army was most spirited. The stream was crowded with gunboats, transports and sailing vessels, as far as the eye could reach, while on both sides of the river a long cloud of dust marked the line of march across the level country. Simultaneously with this movement of our troops, the rebels left their defences [sic] north of Richmond, and marched through that city towards Petersburg, in front of which the first engagement took place on the fifteenth, resulting in the capture of the enemy's entrenchments and the occupation of the city by our Cavalry. Unfortunately the advantage thus gained was not held, the cavalry falling back upon our Infantry, which failed to get up in time to prevent the rebels from reoccupying the city.
During the passage of the army across the James, the mails and passengers were brought on steamers from Washington to these bridges, and transferred by means of small boats, to steamers above the pontoons, thus enabling them to reach City Point and Bermuda Hundreds without much delay. No better summary of these few days' events can be given, than in the despatch of Gen. Grant to the President, on the seventeenth. He says, "The Ninth Corps crossed this morning, carried two more redoubts, forming a part of the defences [sic] of Petersburg, capturing four hundred and fifty prisoners and four guns. Our successes are being followed up. Our forces drew out from within fifty yards of the enemy's intrenchments, at Coal Harbor, made a flank movement, of about fifty-five miles march, crossing the Chickahominy and James Rivers – the latter two thousand feet wide and eighty-four feet deep at the point of crossing – and surprised the enemy's rear at Petersburg. This was done without the loss of a wagon or piece of artillery, and only about one hundred and fifty stragglers were picked up by the enemy. In covering this move, Warren's Corps and Wilson's Cavalry had frequent skirmishing with the enemy, each losing from fifty to sixty killed and wounded, but inflicting an equal if not greater loss upon the enemy."
Currently not on view
date made
Gardner, Alexander
place made
United States: Virginia, Harrisons Landing
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 17.5684 cm x 22.86 cm; 6 15/16 in x 9 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
related event
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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