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[159] Please tell at once the present condition or aspect of things.


Gen. McClellan's army had now been concentrated by the enemy in a very strong position, between the Chickahominy on one side, and our General's elaborate and powerful works facing Richmond on the other. It was still more than 100.00 strong; while, save in his imagination, there were not nearly so many armed Rebels within a circuit of 50 miles. Properly handled, it was abundantly able and willing to meet and beat Lee's entire forces in fair battle; or it might have taken Richmond and the Rebel works below it,1 on the James; thumb reopening its communications and receiving fresh supplies by that river, most elliciently patroled by our gunboats. One tiling it could not do without invoking disaster, and that was to remain cooped up in its intrenchments; since Porter's defeat and retreat across the Chickahominy had severed its communication with its base of supplies at West Point; Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, with the Rebel cavalry, supported by Ewell's infantry, striking and destroying the York River Railroad and severing the telegraph line at Dispatch Station next morning,2 and pushing thence down the road toward White House, meeting no serious opposition, but resting at Tunstall's Station for the night, which our force holding White House devoted to the destruction of the vast aggregate of munitions and provisions there stored. Nine large loaded barges, 5 locomotives, with great numbers of tents, wagons, cars, &c., were involved in this general destruction; while our cavalry, under Stoneman and Emory, fled down the Peninsula, leaving large quantities of forage and provisions to fall into the hands of the enemy. Stuart arrived next morning,3 and found nothing prepared to dispute possession with him but a gunboat, which very soon crowded on all steam and hurried off in quest of safety.

McClellan decided not to fight, but to fly. Assembling his corps commanders on the evening after Porter's defeat, he told them that he had determined on a flank movement through White Oak Swamp to the James; Gen. Keyes, with his corps, being directed to move at once across tile Swamp in the advance, so as to seize and hold the debouches of the roads on the James river side of the Swamp, thus covering the passage of the other troops and trains. Our commander, during the night, removed his headquarters to Savage's Station, thence to superintend the movement of the corps and trains.

1 Gen. Magruder, in his official report of his participation in the memorable Seven Days struggle, says:

From the time at which the enemy withdrew his forces to this side of the Chickahominy land destroyed the bridges to the moment of his evacuation — that is, from Friday night until Sunday morning--I considered the situation of our army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger portion of it was on the opposite side of the Chickahominy; the bridges had been all destroyed; but one was rebuilt, the New Bridge, which was conmmanded fully by the enemy's guns from Golding's; and there were but 25,000 men between his army of 100,000 and Richmond.

“Had McClellan massed his whole force in column, and advanced it against any point of our line of battle, as was done at Austerlitz, under similar circumstances, by the greatest Captain of any age, though the head of his column would have suffered greatly, its momentum would have insured him success, and the occupation of our works about Richmond, and consequently the city might have been his reward. His failure to do so is the best evidence that our wise commander fully understood the character of his opponent.”

2 June 28.

3 June 29.

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G. B. McClellan (3)
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