Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/388

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354
[1862
HENRY VILLARD

letter-writing, and talk about the expected fighting, throughout the encampments, special inspections of the arms and accoutrements of infantry and artillery, distribution of ammunition, cooking of extra rations, and enlargement of field-hospital accommodations. The artillery was assembled in four groups or divisions at as many convenient points, and the pontoon trucks advanced nearer to the edge of the plateau. The artillery moved first into position between dusk and midnight. No less than one hundred and seventy-nine guns, nearly all rifled, and ranging from 4½-inch siege and 20-pounder Parrott to 3-inch guns, were arrayed, forming a close chain from Falmouth down the bank for two miles, ready to belch forth death and destruction in terrible concert whenever the signal was given. I believe it was the greatest assemblage of artillery in any battle of the Civil War. I watched the movement in front of the Right Grand Division for several hours, and was much impressed with the regularity, quickness, and noiselessness of it.

The first duty of the artillery was to cover the construction of the five bridges. The line of batteries being established, the Brigade of Volunteer Engineers, under General Woodbury, with a battalion of regular engineers, started with five bridge trains so as to reach the bank of the river at three o'clock in the morning (December 11). The way for the descent of the trains had been carefully prepared; still it was a difficult and risky undertaking, for there were no less than one hundred and fifty boats to be hauled on wagons, each of which required four horses. From the upper plateau with the encampments, a steep road led to a second plateau about one hundred feet below, nearly half a mile wide, which gradually inclined to the bank proper; the last hundred feet to the water being rather abrupt. The movement of the pontoons was to be concealed from the enemy, but, what with the accompanying five hundred engineers, the six hundred animals, and the escort of an infantry regiment to each of the trains,