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[302]

Early on the 18th the Confederates sent in a flag of truce, asking permission to bury their dead who had fallen between the lines of the two armies. The request was granted. General McClellan says, in his Report, after a detailed account of the battle,--

Night closed the long and desperately-contested battle of the 17th. Nearly two hundred thousand men and five hundred pieces of artillery were for fourteen hours engaged in this memorable battle. We had attacked the enemy in a position selected by the experienced engineer then in person directing their operations. We had driven them from their line on one flank, and secured a footing within it on the other. The Army of the Potomac, notwithstanding the moral effect incident to previous reverses, had achieved a victory over an adversary invested with the prestige of recent success. Our soldiers slept that night conquerors oh a field won by their valor and covered with the dead and wounded of the enemy.

The night, however, brought with it grave responsibilities. Whether to renew the attack on the 18th or to defer it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was the question before me.

After a night of anxious deliberation, and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, and the strength and position of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success. At that moment — Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded — the

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