17th.—Left Charles City at 5 1-2 o’clock this A. M. Beautiful day; clear, windy and cool, but terribly dusty. At 3 P. M., crossed the Chickahominy near the mouth, on a pontoon bridge. * Pontoon bridges are a success. To-night we lie at the mouth of the Chickahominy, under protection of our gun boats. What a commercial world this State of Virginia should be. Its navigable waters are nearly equal to that of all the Free States combined; yet there are single cities in the North which have a larger commerce than the whole of the Slave States. Why is this? Has the peculiar institution any thing to do with it? If so, God, nature— everything speaks aloud against it as a curse. The ground which we now occupy is one of the most beautiful, as well as one of the most desirable sites for a city in America, high and dry, with an easy ascent from the water, presenting three fronts to the navigable rivers, with fine water views in all directions, as extensive as the range of vision, with business amounting to one house and a few cords of dry pine wood, which seems to be the article of export from this part of the State.
There is no longer a doubt that we are leaving the Peninsula. What now becomes of the statement that our retreat was only “a change of base?”
A pontoon bridge is thus built: Narrow, flat-bottomed boats, about twenty-five feet long, are anchored in the stream. They lie side by side, from ten to fifteen feet apart, so as to make a row of boats from one bank to the other. From one to the other, clear across the stream are tied stringers, on which are laid down heavy planks, about sixteen feet long, which makes the bridge, and which is sufficient to bear up any number of teams which can be crowded on it.