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OR LI P1: Report of Major Nathaniel Michler, Acting Chief Engineer, AotP, September 10-17, 1864

Report of Major Nathaniel Michler, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, Acting Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac, of operations September 10-17.*1

Engineer Department, September 17, 1864.

COLONEL: In compliance with Special Orders, Numbers 91, headquarters Armies of the United States, dated September 12, 1864, I have the honor to report the engineering operations under my direction during the week ending to-day along the line extending from the Appomattox on the north to the Weldon railroad on the south, thence back to the Blackwater Swamp, a distance of sixteen miles; also of other duties appertaining to this department, such as reconnaissances, topographical surveys, completion of maps, and improvement and construction of roads:

The officers and men of the U. S. Engineer Battalion were engaged as follows: Captain Harwood superintended the tracing of the work, erection of profiles, and construction of magazines and drains for Fort Stevenson, one face of which is a bastioned front. The site had been previously selected by me near the Williams house. Two companies, C and D, were detailed for this duty. He also planned the three redoubts Forts McMahon, Blaisdel, and Kelly, located respectively on the same line near the Smith house on the Jerusalem lank road and in front of Widow Smith’s. The construction of these works was subsequently turned over to Captain Van Brocklin, Hine, and Dexter, of the Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers. The details of working parties are furnished by the Ninth and Second Corps. Captain Harwood to-day examined the ground from Prince George Court-House to Zion Church in reference to the defense of the crossings of the Blackwater in those localities. Captain Gillespie has had the immediate charge of the works between Forts Morton and McGilvery. During the week Battery 11 was constructed between Fort Morton and Fort Haskell, and the line connecting the latter for with the battery was also completed, excepting the abatis in front of it. Fort Haskell is also finished with the exception of three traverses for guns. The line connecting Forts Haskell and Stedman is ready to be occupied. Along it a mortar battery for two 8-inch mortars and three Coehorns has been constructed. An epaulement has been made connecting the fort with Battery 10 and additional embrasures pierced in the latter. The new line connecting this battery with the lunette near the City Point railroad is finished within thirty yards of the former, but no abatis has yet been formed. No work has been done on the new line between the railroad and Appomattox, but it will be laid out and thrown up during the next week. Fort McGilvery is in course of construction and will be in readiness to be occupied in about three days. A battalion of the First New York Volunteer Engineers, commanded by Major Walker, has furnished the officers and men to superintend the working parties, details for which have been made from the Tenth Army Corps. Lieutenant W. H. H. Benyaurd, with details from A Company, U. S. Engineers, has had charge during the last several days of the line from the Norfolk railroad south as fast as Fort Davis, conforming it to the position of the new works recently built. In addition to demolishing the old batteries and lines in front of the present one he superintended the


*See also reports. VOL. XLII, Part I, p. 162.


tracing and construction of Battery 19 between Forts Rice and Meikel, drained the former fort, and built a magazine in it, and also drained a magazine in Fort Davis. Battery 18, on the Norfolk railroad, was also finished during the week. Lieutenant Benyaurd is also directed to finish the new line between Fort Sedgwick and Fort Davis. Working parties are furnished him from the Second Corps. The following extracts from the weekly report of Lieutenant-Colonel Spaulding, commanding detachment of Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, will give a succinct statement of the engineering operations performed by the officers and men of his detachment and the probable time to complete the duties assigned them:

Major Brainerd has had general charge of draining and corduroying the covered ways in tear of the works from Fort Sedgwick to the Norfolk railroad, Captain McGrath having immediate superintendence of the work and employing parts of Companies F, G, and M. Major Brainerd reports the drainage of the covered ways completed and about one-third part of the corduroy work done. With the force I have available for this work it will probably require ten days to complete it. Captain Pettes with his company has been engaged upon the two bomb-proofs in Fort Morton. These bomb-proofs are each ten feet in width and about eighty-four feet in length in the clear. Captain Pettes reports them finished, except that additional earth covering should be placed on them by the garrison. Major Beers has had general charge of the line of abatis from the right of Battery Numbers 13 to the left of Fort Sedgwick, and the work has been chiefly done by Companies E (Captain Hine), H (Captain Palmer), and L (Captain Dexter). This work is now completed between the points above-mentioned and around the forts. The whole line of this abatis is believed to be very strong, and from the left of Fort Sedgwick to the ravine near the Norfolk railway it has the additional obstruction of a strong wire entanglement in front of the abatis. Captain Schenck has been occupied with his company upon the nine-gun battery on the left of Fort Sedgwick in completing the platforms, ramps, embrasures, bomb-proofs, and magazines. He reports this battery as being now complete so far as instructions have been received. Captain Schenck went to Fort Alexander Hays with his company this morning to stockade the gorge of this work and build a traverse. Lieutenant Bacon has had charge of the corduroy road from the Jerusalem plank road to the Weldon railway near Major-General Warren’s headquarters. With fifty-five men from this command and an average daily detail of about 460 infantry, he has during the past week completed about one mile of corduroy road and built four bridges–Numbers 1, 145 feet long and 24 feet wide; Numbers 2, 180 feet long and 12 feet wide; Numbers 3, 55 feet long and 12 feet wide; Numbers 4, 33 feet long and 12 feet wide. Captain Folwell has been engaged with his company upon Fort Wadsworth in completing the parapets, revetments, and platforms, building bomb-proofs, magazines, and traverses, and in placing a strong abatis and wire entanglement outside. Captain Folwell reports that four days more good weather will enable him to complete these works, and that the fort has been in a defensible condition for several days. Captain McDonald, having charge of Fort Dushane, has been engaged with his company in completing the parapets, platforms, and ramps, building an abatis in front and placing a wire entanglement within the abatis and also one ouside of it. He has also made considerable progress with the magazines, bomb-proofs, and traverses. Captain Palmer with his company has been engaged upon Fort Davison, and he reports that the work will be finished this evening. Captain Van Brocklin proceeded yesterday with his company to Fort Stevenson and relieved Captain Harwood, in charge of that work. Besides his own men he is working details of 1,500 infantry night and day. Captain Hine marched his company yesterday to the vicinity of the plank road and took charge of the construction of Fort McMahon I directed him this morning to divide his company so as to put a portion of them on Fort Blaisdell, take charge of that work also, and call for sufficient infantry details to push the work on both forts. Captain Dexter moved his company yesterday to Fort Kelly and took charge of laying out and building that work. Captain Palmer will commence work on Battery Numbers 40 to-morrow morning.

In addition to the above duties by different officers, I beg leave to add those performed by Lieutenant Lydecker, U. S. Engineers, and Captain Paine, aide-de-camp, both of whom are connected with the department at these headquarters. The former has been principally occupied in examining the ground in the vicinity of Fort Sedgwick, reporting upon the nature of obstructions in advance of it, and the manner in which it

was connected with Fort Davis. He also located on the map the second line in rear of that fort, to be taken up in the event of its being blown up by the enemy. He also had charge of Fort McMahon until relieved by Captain Hine; assisted Captain Harwood in planning Forts Blaisdell and Kelly, and accompanied him in the reconnaissance in the neighborhood of Prince George Court-House and along the Blackwater. Captain Paine has been engaged in examining and mapping the roads between the Jerusalem plank road and the Weldon railroad as far toward the south as he was able to go. In the topographical department I directed my principal assistant, Major Weyss, assisted by Mr. Theilkuhl, to survey the new line of works extending from Fort Dushane, on the Weldon railroad, to Fort Bross, near the Blackwater Swamp. The survey has been completed and plotted and added to the large 8-inch map of the operations in front of Petersburg. The new line from Fort Sedgwick to Fort Haskell was also surveyed yesterday. The construction and drawing of the large map of Petersburg have been progressing with every prospect of completing it by the end of the next week. Detailed measurements and sketches preliminary to preparing accurate plans and profiles have been made within the last few days of Forts Sedgwick, Wadsworth, Rice, Alexander Hays, Dushane, Howard, Meikel, Morton, and Haskell. Tracings from the original drawings* have been made, and are now respectfully submitted with this report, of Forts Davis and Prescott (redoubts on the plank road); of the eighteen-gun battery (now part of Fort Sedgwick); of the 10-inch mortar battery (now forming one face of Fort Rice), and of the field battery for eighteen guns (located near the Norfolk railroad, but recently demolished). A map of Dinwiddie County (scale one inch to the mile) has also been completed and photographed and copies forwarded for the use of the lieutenant-general. Campaign maps (scale one inch to the mile) are also in course of compilation from the Rapidan to the Appomattox. The Culpeper, Spotsylvania Court-House, and Fredericksburg sheets are already finished, and those of Hanover Court-House, Richmond, and Petersburg are far advanced toward completion; the construction and compilation have been going on during the week. A “copy of section of photograph map captured from the enemy, showing the country adjacent to Richmond and lines of defensive works surrounding the city,” is also being made in the office; part of it is already completed and photographed, and the other part will probably be finished in the course of several days. A sketch (two inches to the mile) giving the relative positions of the different forts, redoubts, and batteries, and the infantry parapets connecting them, of the entire line from the Appomattox to the Blackwater Swamp has just been prepared to show the names, numbers, or letters of the respective works. Sign-boards have also been painted to designate each fort and battery. A list has been prepared to be printed, giving the armament, garrison, name, and locality of each work. The line is sixteen miles in length, and along it have been constructed or are in course of construction nineteen forts and redoubts and forty-one batteries.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major of Engineers.

Lieutenant Colonel T. S. BOWERS,
Assistant Adjutant-General,
Hdqrs. Armies of the United States, City Point, Va.



*On file in Engineer Bureau.



  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume LI, Part 1 (Serial Number 107), pp. 274-276
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