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[205] by bridging the Chickahominy, and should have had the army massed in one body instead of being necessarily divided by that stream. This judicious military plan, which in all probability would have resulted in the capture of Richmond, could not be carried out, because to the President's distempered fancy Washington was not safe unless it was covered by McDowell's division in a direct line between that city and Richmond. Under the circumstances of the case, an attack upon Washington by a Confederate force strong enough to carry its defences was about as probable an event as an inundation of the city by an overflow of the Potomac.

By these orders it will be also noticed that General McClellan was commanded to extend his right wing to the north of Richmond, in order to establish the communication between himself and General McDowell. This was running a great risk in case General McDowell should not come, because it exposed our right in a way that no prudent officer would have done; and, as General McDowell did not come, the enemy did not fail to take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded them.

The Secretary's communication of the 18th was accompanied by a copy of the instructions which had been sent to General McDowell on the previous day, of which the following is the substance:--

War Department, Washington, May 17, 1862.
General:--Upon being joined by General Shields's division, you will move upon Richmond by the general route of the Richmond & Fredericksburg Railroad, co-operating

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