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[230]

General Sumner had crossed the river by the upper of the two bridges which he had built, called the Grape-vine bridge; the lower, called the Sunderland bridge, having been carried away. But before the next morning the Grape-vine bridge was also carried away by the rising flood. “This bridge,” says the Prince de Joinville, “saved that day the whole Federal army from destruction.”

Such are the momentous consequences in war which flow from causes so seemingly trivial as the state of the atmosphere, the rising or falling of a petty stream, a sudden tempest of rain, or the condition of a road over which artillery must be moved. These things should teach civilian critics a wise self-distrust, and a tenderness of judgment towards generals who have had the misfortune not to succeed in winning a battle or taking a fortress.

General McClellan has been blamed for not having followed up the enemy after the battle of Fair Oaks, and, among others, by General Barnard, who says, in his Report, “The repulse of the rebels at Fair Oaks should have been taken advantage of. It was one of those ‘occasions’ which, if not seized, do not repeat themselves. We now know the state of disorganization and dismay in which the rebel army retreated. We now know it could have been followed into Richmond.” The italics are General Barnard's own. Without repeating the obvious remark that General McClellan should be judged by what was known then, and not by what we know now, it may be stated that there is nothing to justify the assertion that the rebel army retreated

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George Brinton McClellan (2)
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