Hooker's fight was really quite unnecessary; for the difficult obstacles against which he had to contend might have been easily turned by the right.
This was actually done at last by the flank movement of General Hancock, who, with slight loss, determined the issue.
On the retreat of the Confederates from Williamsburg, the Army of the Potomac was pushed forward as rapidly as the horrible condition of the roads would permit, on a line parallel with the York and Pamunkey; and on the 16th of May headquarters and the advance divisions reached White House, at the head of navigation of the latter stream.
From that point the York River Railroad runs due west to Richmond, distant eighteen miles. Great depots were established at White House, to which supplies were brought by water, and the columns moved forward on the line of the York River and Richmond Railroad; which, repaired as the army proceeded, became its line of communication with the base at White House.
Thus the divisions
enemy's infantry moved against him, coming from the Courthouse.
They made him clear out pell-mell, and were near catching General Meade, who had come upon the ground.
The remainder of the Sixth Corps now came up and massed around the Anderson House [see map]. In the afternoon this important position was retaken, or reoccupied (it being doubtful whether the enemy had not abandoned it), by Ayres' brigade, Fifth Corps, in conjunction with troops of Neil's division, Sixth Corps.
May 15TH and 16TH.—The withdrawal of the Fifth and Sixth corps from the right of the Second to make this movement on the left, caused the Second Corps to be the right of the whole line.
But on the 15th an additional refusal of that flank was made—Hancock being directed to transfer the divisions of Barlow and Gibbon to the Fredericksburg road.
Meanwhile, Birney's division remained covering the right of Burnside's corps, and was the right of the army.
For the other corps, the day passed in getting things in