Engineers on the Rappahannock (Part 3) – How to Build a Pontoon Bridge

So, how do you construct a pontoon bridge? It should be easy, right? After all you just get some pontoons, lay some boards across them, and then let your army march across. Anyone can do that? Or can they?

In this writing, I draw heavily upon the work of Captain James C. Duane, US Army. He wrote the instruction manual, following the testing of pontoon bridge systems conducted by the army in the late 1850’s. This manual was updated several times during the Civil War as the engineer units, regular and volunteer, gained practical experience during various campaigns.  The first was the Peninsula Campaign, followed by bridging the Continue reading

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Remembering the sacrifices of the 50th New York Volunteer Engineer Regiment

On this Memorial Day, 156 years after the event, I take time to mention the men of the 50th New York Volunteer Engineer (NYVE) Regiment who became casualties during the crossing of the Rappahannock River at the upper and middle crossings sites on 11 December 1862 at the start of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

The engineers were unarmed and fully exposed in the middle of the river, or on the river bank gathering bridging material. Two of the pontoon bridges, Captain Brainerd’s and Continue reading

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Millrace for Howison’s Mill

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Just one more visit to Howison’s Mill, this time to look at the millrace that fed and provided the motive power for the mill. Click here for my previous posts on the mill. The mill proved to be an impediment … Continue reading

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Engineers on the Rappahannock (Part 2)

Organization and Pay of Engineer Regiments

During the Civil War, engineer support to the Union war effort was limited to engineers in the U.S. Regular Army and volunteer engineer regiments from five Union states.  These volunteers were organized into thirteen engineer regiments, one engineer battalion, and seven engineer companies. Volunteer engineer regiments were not Continue reading

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Howison’s Mill

I return to the crossing of Hazel Run (click here) to look at the mill which operated in this location for over 100 years. Howison’s Mill was constructed of wood and stone in 1797 by William Drummond. It stood two stories tall and got access to water from the mill pond built upstream on Hazel Run. Ownership of the mill changed hands several times, but at the time of the Civil War it was owned by John Howison.

Confederate Use of Howison’s Mill

The mill first appeared in a drawing of Fredericksburg, as seen from Lee’s Hill, sketched by London Illustrated News Civil War Artist Frank Vizetelly. On the morning of 11 December, while Burnside’s Union Army of the Potomac is attempting to cross the Continue reading

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