Ewell's division, was ordered to seize the York River Railroad; and General Stuart, with his main body, to cooperate. When the cavalry reached Dispatch Station the enemy retreated to the south bank of the river and burned the railroad bridge. Ewell, coming up shortly afterward, destroyed a portion of the track. During the forenoon columns of dust, south of the Chickahominy, showed that the Federal army was in motion. The abandonment of the railroad and destruction of the bridge proved that no further attempt would be made to hold that line. But from the position it occupied, the roads which led toward James River would also enable it to reach the lower bridges over the Chickahominy, and retreat down the Peninsula. In the latter event it was necessary that our troops should continue on the north bank of the river, and, until the intention of General McClellan was discovered, it was deemed injudicious to change their disposition. Ewell was therefore ordered to proceed to Bottom's Bridge to guard that point, and the cavalry to watch the bridges below. No certain indications of a retreat to James River were discovered by our forces on the south side of the Chickahominy, and late in the afternoon the enemy's works were reported to be fully manned. The strength of these fortifications prevented Generals Huger and Magruder from discovering what was passing in their front. Below the enemy's works the country was densely wooded and intersected by impassable swamps, at once concealing his movements and precluding reconnoissances except by the regular roads, all of which were strongly guarded. The bridges over the Chickahominy, in rear of the enemy, were destroyed, and their reconstruction impracticable in the presence of his whole army and powerful batteries. We were therefore compelled to wait until his purpose should be developed. Generals Huger and Magruder were again directed to use the utmost vigilance and pursue the enemy vigorously should they discover that he was retreating. During the afternoon and night of the twenty-eighth the signs of a general movement were apparent, and no indications of his approach to the lower bridges of the Chickahominy having been discovered by the pickets in observation at those points, it became manifest that General McClellan was retreating to the James River.
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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