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Appendix No.9

  • Maps / Pictures
  • Highway Bridge At Pouilly
2d Engrs building bridge for Heavy Traffic at Pouilly-sur-Meuse. 2d Engrs building bridge for Heavy Traffic at Pouilly-sur-Meuse. 11, Nov. '18
Bridge at Pouilly, France built by 2nd Engineers Nov. 16, 1918 Bridge at Pouilly, France built by 2nd Engineers Nov. 16, 1918
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Pouilly-sur-Meuse 2d Engrs. preparing Approach for Bridge at Pouilly. 11, Nov, '18.
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the old mill in Pouilly-sur-Meuse In Google street view you can still clearly see evidence of the work done by the 2nd Engineers to use the old mill in Pouilly-sur-Meuse as a bridge! Thousands of 2nd Division men began the march to the Rhine as they passed through this building. Both battalions of the 2nd Engineers, the 4th Brigade and much of the artillery began the march here. The 3rd Brigade crossed the Meuse at Stenay. The building has changed dramaticaly since November 1918.
Map showing three bridges at Pouilly-sur-Meuse, France Google map showing three bridges at Pouilly-sur-Meuse
including location of the mill which still stands.
Mill over yhe river at Pouilly-sur-Meuse, France. Google street view

As stated in Chapter VIII, the corps commander ordered the 2nd Engineers to build a bridge at Pouilly for heavy truck traffic. The 114th Engineers, with the 89th Division on our right, had started the work and had torn away a little of the wreck of the old bridge; but the corps commander decided that it had so much other work that it could not build this bridge as quickly as he desired; so, as it was an emergency, he ordered the 2nd Engineers to build the bridge so that our neighbor engineers could attend to their other work. They were ordered to assist if we so desired; but as only a limited number of men could be placed on the bridge, we found it unnecessary to ask for their help. In fact the 1st Bn. of 2nd Engineers and about 50, selected men from the 2nd Bn. built the bridge.


The 114th Engineers had already decided on the plan for the bridge and had commenced work. When we arrived on the site at 1:00 P. M. November 13, we followed their plan, with some slight modifications.

The Meuse river flowed by Pouilly in three uneven streams, viz a canal, a main branch, and a mill race of a saw mill. Consequently, the bridge at Pouilly really consisted of three bridges as follows:

(a) Bridge over the mill-race. This mill-race was 40 feet wide where the bridge crossed it. The stream was actually about 80 feet wide, but the mill floor spanned the rest of it. The bridge formerly over this branch of the river was about 150 yards down stream and was 100 feet long.

(b) The bridge over the main branch; at this point, the river was 186 feet wide.

(c) The bridge over the canal. This was built at the locks, and was 30 feet span.


The bridge as it was constructed is an excellent example of hurried and strong construction, but it was in no way permanent. As one of our friends remarked. it was "an excellent example of how to get the heaviest vehicles over the river in a hurry, and of how not to build a bridge for future generations." As we were building in a hurry and for use for two weeks, we were satisfied with our results.

The bridge over the main branch was the most difficult and required special carpenters. The bridge over the canal was the least difficult. Consequently, the complete bridge work was divided into four parts, viz.:

(a) Captain Wyman, with some 60 special carpenters, mostly from the 2nd Battalion, was directed to build trestles for the bridge over the main branch.

(b) Captain Rossell. with Co. "B," was directed to prepare and lay the stringers of the main branch.

(c) Lieut. Wall with Co. "A," was directed to build the canal bridge and floor the bridge over the main branch.

(d) Captain Smith, with Co. "C," was directed to build the bridge over the mill race and through the mill itself.

In order that the work might go on continuously, the men of each company were divided into two 6 hour shifts, or rather two 7 hour shifts, because we worked during meal hours. For example, one shift ate breakfast at 6: 00 A. M., marched to work and actually began work at 7: 00 A. M.; the other shift left work at 7: 00 A. M. ate breakfast about 7: 30 A. M., slept until 1:00 P. M., then ate dinner and was back on the work at 2:00 P. M.; the first shift ate dinner about 2:30 P. M., ate supper at 8: 00 P. M. and was back at work at 9: 00 P. M. The officers rested and ate whenever status of work permitted it. Captain Wyman had to be constantly with his trestle carpenters, so he did not sleep at all until their work was completed, being thus on duty continuously for about 36 hours.


Captain Wyman used a very simple type of trestle, being the usual wooden trestle with two batter posts and three interior vertical posts. The capsill was 10" deep and about 14" wide, depending upon the log used; the mud-sill was the same depth, but preferably, a little wider; the vertical and batter posts were about 14" in diameter.

However, although no ingenuity was required in selecting a type, considerable ingenuity was required in obtaining materials. In the saw-mill yard, we found a number of oak logs, but they were so crooked that we could get only half enough. Beyond the canal, we found a lumber tramway on a trestle about 4' high, and obtained some posts from that, although most of them were too rotten to use. Finally we tore down a house in the lumber yard and obtained what was still needed.

The main branch required 12 spans, each of 15 1/2 feet. One old trestle was not broken therefore it was used; all of the others had been broken. Two of the old stone piers were still standing, though broken on the ends. These were leveled and short trestles were put on them. The other trestles were 12 feet high and the cap-sills of all trestles were 18 feet long. Thus, Captain Wyman's trestle detachment built 9 trestles of full height and two of approximately half height.

In the matter of foundation for the trestles, we again demonstrated our ability to meet any emergency. The bottom was seen to be uneven where we could see it, but in some cases it could not be seen at all. After a few minutes spent in trying to fit a trestle to the difficult bottom, we decided to fit the bottom to the trestles. So, half of Co. "C" left its mill race for a few hours, tore down a wall and part of a house, carried the stone by hand to the river and built up some emergency piers (foundations). This caused the river to rise about 6 inches, but did not affect the bridge. Co. "A" assisted in this special work by building, as a side issue, a two way foot-brtdge for passage of Co. "C" rock carriers.

Placing the trestles in position was difficult, but not too difficult. The construction of a gin was considered; but we decided we had more muscle than time so we used extra muscle to save a little time. Inclined timbers were run from the last upright trestle to the foundation of the new one; and the new trestle was carried, pulled, and slided into position. As the stringers were placed by Co. "B" as fast as the trestles were raised in position, it is seen that a gin was not needed.

Captian [sic captain] Wyman's first trestle was placed at about 6: 00 P. M. November 13, 4 1/2 hours after his men started to work and about 2 hours after he had assembled the timbers for his first trestle; his last trestle was raised about 11: 00 A. M. November 14, 22 1/2 hours after he started to work.

After the trestles had all been raised, sway braces and longitudinal braces were used to strengthen and stiffen the bridge. Very many braces were used and in time of flood they would have caught much drift; but they strengthened the bridge and the heavy traffic was safely carried.


Captain Rossell had a much simpler proposition as to execution, but his results were more complicated. The bridge had originally been built with 30 foot spans, the stringers being strengthened by corbels on the caps and by straining beams in the center of the span supported by inclined struts to the trestle.

Although every trestle but one had been broken, the corbels and the straining beams were still there. In spite of the objections to the use of corbels, we decided to use them for two reasons: 1st, many pf the available logs from which the timbers were made were only just long enough to abut end to end on the trestle caps and the cap sills were too narrow for a strong end support to both stringers; 2nd, even when the stringers were long enough, it was believed best not to splice them because splicing weakened them. Therefore, corbels were used; and drift pins were driven to unite the corbels to the cap-sills and to unit the stringers to the corbels. In the one span where the straining beam was still in position Captain Rossell's men spent about four hours trying to fix up the broken struts; but finally decided that a trestle under the straining beam was the simplest and quickest solution; so the stone carriers made a foundation and the trestle builders built the trestle in position.

There was a little difficulty in finding stringers. Captain Wyman's detachment had taken the best logs; but by tearing down all of the tramway, Captain Rossell's men were able to find enough logs for the stringers. No new corbels were needed, as the old ones were practically unbroken by the explosion when the bridge was destroyed.

After the first two trestles were raised, the stringers were ready in time and were placed immediately after each trestle was raised.


The materials for trestles and stringers were obtained near the site of the bridge; but the flooring had to be brought to the site. The 114th Engineers had brought several loads of plank, and had discovered more at the saw-mill about 2 miles up stream. Lieut. Wall sent wagons and trucks to the saw-mill and they brought back many planks; but they found this to be slow in results, so they made up several rafts and floated, and paddled and towed down the rest of the useful lumber at the mill. Even this was not enough; so next morning, they wrecked a new wooden building on the bridge site and finished the flooring. It might be said that this one wooden building at the site saved the floors of many houses in PouiIly, for the 2nd Engineer's was in a hurry for results, no lumber supply, was elsewhere available, and abandoned houses cannot be preserved in war time at the expenses of military results.

The plank were placed in two rows diagonal to the axis of the bridge. The total thickness of floor was 4 to 5 inches.

Captain Wyman was placed in charge of the actual finishing work on the bridge over the main branch. By 1:00 P. M. November 14, 24 hours after we started, he reported that the bridge was passable one way for heavy vehicles. At that time, no flooring had been nailed; but heavy vehicles could have passed over. The next 24 hours were employed in nailing the flooring, sawing the edges, building side rails, and otherwise beautifying the bridge; but it is only fair to state that the bridge was never very beautiful; it was only strong and serviceable.


The 114th Engineers had built a strong bridge over the canal. However, Lieut. Wall's men were not satisfied to leave it as they found it. The span was 30 feet, and the more they looked at it, the heavier in their minds grew the vehicles which were to cross it. They wanted a bridge which could carry a locomotive, and they did not feel satisfied. They tried to devise some scheme for placing a trestle midway, but the depth was about 28 feet to foundation. Next, they considered a plan for struts and straining beams, but the lock walls offered no satisfactory abutting edges. Finally, they tore off the planking, and put in enough new stringers to make a total of 10 stringers; so that eventually the space between stringers was not equal to the stringers themselves. They then put back to [sic the] floor, added a second layer of plank, and felt satisfied.


At first, this seemed the simplest proposition. We had only to build a 40 foot span with a short trestle in the middle and finish a hole in each of the two walls. This was easy, and it was done. But, just as it was finished, the orders came from the Corps Engineer to the effect that a two way bridge was wanted. This created complications. A 12 foot hole in a brick wall is simple and safe, as the bricks arch themselves and do not fall. With a 20 foot hole, the wall will generally fall. Consequently, we had to build another separate hole in each wall; and one of them was especially weak because there were two windows just above the place for the hole. However, we managd it. The wall under the window was braced by struts from the sides; and Captain Smith or Lieut. Knight stood continually on the site, probably with the faith of the priest at Panama, that Providence had not let them live through so many dangers, only to let them die by a wall falling on them.

Company "C" also put two more trestles under the 40 foot span; not because they were needed, but simply to be sure that their bridge was stronger than the main bridge or the canal bridge. Likewise, they over came certain difficulties found in constructing the second way through the mill as this came over the water track way; but they stooped [sic] the water wheel, stilled the water, and laid stringers across the water track-way. Their one way road was ready before 24 hours, and their two-way road was ready at the end of 48 hours.


The construction of this bridge at Pouilly was quite a feat and the 2nd Engineers are justly proud of it.The photographs do not show the difficulties encountered, and give no adequate idea of the various methods of overcoming these difficulties. The energy and ingenuity of the regiment was never tested in so many ways. Wagons, trucks, bridges and rafts brought material to the site; a tramway, a lumber-yard, a building and several walls were utilized at the site; men carried stone by hand and built pier foundations; trestles were built and placed in position and trestles were built in position both in the water and above the water; brick walls were pierced and strengthened so that they would not fall; a paved road was built about 50 yards across the island; fires were built on the site so that work could go on day and night; and the regiment stayed on the bridge 24 hours after being relieved from the 5th Corps, simply because they wanted to complete a work well begun.

As a summary of the work, the comments of General Summerall, are considered quite complimentary. He inspected the bridge during construction and stated that he was quite satisfied, that he saw no men who were not actively at work, no useless work being done, all possible tasks were being performed, and all portions of the work were being carried on together.

United States, and W. A. Mitchell. 1920.
The Official History Of The Second Regiment Of Engineers And Second Engineer Train, United States Army, In The World War.
[San Antonio]: [San Antonio printing Co.].
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