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[182] the advance upon Williamsburg with the entire cavalry force and four batteries of horse-artillery, as fast as the muddy condition of the roads would permit, and, on reaching a space where the roads from Yorktown and Warwick Court-House debouch upon the isthmus, he found a large Confederate force in a strongly-defended position. After sustaining and repelling a cavalry charge of the enemy, and gallantly returning with his batteries the fire of their artillery, as he had no infantry to carry the works, he withdrew his command and fell back to a clearing about half a mile distant.

By this time night was falling. The Federal infantry had come up slowly, retarded by the bad state of the roads, and it was completely dark before they arrived in full force; and, though General Sumner, who had come up and assumed the command, desired to make an attempt to carry the works that night, it was impossible to do so, owing to the late hour and the darkness. The troops bivouacked in the woods, and, unfortunately, a heavy rain set in, and continued for thirty hours, converting the country into a vast lake and the roads into channels of liquid mud. The battle of the next day cannot be better described than in the clear and graphic language of the Prince de Joinville, besides which his account contains the criticism of a candid and intelligent observer upon a defect in the organization of our armies, which is the more worthy of our consideration because offered in so kindly a spirit.

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