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[270] 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.

Battle of Savage Station.

Early on the twenty-ninth, Longstreet and A. P. Hill were ordered to recross the Chickahominy at New-Bridge, and move by the Darbytown to the Long Bridge road. Major R. K. Meade and Lieutenant S. K. Johnson, of the engineers, attached to General Longstreet's division, who had been sent to reconnoitre, found about sunrise the work on the upper extremity of the enemy's line of intrenchments abandoned. Generals Huger and Magruder were immediately ordered in pursuit, the former by the Charles City road, so as to take the Federal army in flank; and the latter by the Williamsburgh road, to attack its rear. Jackson was directed to cross at Grapevine Bridge and move down the south side of the Chickahominy. Magruder and Huger found the whole line of works deserted, and large quantities of military stores of every description abandoned or destroyed. The former reached the vicinity of Savage Station about noon, where he came upon the rear-guard of the retreating army. Being informed that the enemy was advancing, he halted and sent for reenforcements. Two brigades of Huger's division was ordered to his support, but subsequently withdrawn, it being apparent that the force in Magruder's front was covering the retreat of the main body. Jackson's route led to the flank and rear of Savage Station, but he was delayed by the necessity of reconstructing Grapevine bridge. Late in the afternoon, Magruder attacked the enemy with one of his divisions and two regiments of another. A severe action ensued, and continued about two hours, when it was terminated by night. The troops displayed great gallantry and inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy; but owing to the lateness of the hour and the small force employed, the result was not decisive, and the enemy continued his retreat, under cover of darkness, leaving several hundred prisoners with his dead and wounded in our hands. At Savage Station were found about two thousand five hundred men in hospital, and a large amount of property. Stores of much value had been destroyed, including the necessary medical supplies for the sick and wounded. But the time gained enabled the retreating column to cross White Oak Swamp without interruption, and destroy the bridge.

Battle of Frazier's farm.

Jackson reached Savage Station early on the thirtieth. He was directed to pursue the enemy on the road he had taken, and Magruder to follow Longstreet by the Darbytown road. As Jackson advanced, he captured such numbers of prisoners, and collected so many arms, that two regiments had to be detached for their security. His progress was arrested at White Oak Swamp. The enemy occupied the opposite side, and obstinately resisted the reconstruction of the bridge. Longstreet and A. P. Hill, continuing their advance on the thirtieth, soon came upon the enemy, strongly posted across the Long Bridge road, about a mile from its intersection with the Charles City road. Huger's route led to the right of this position; Jackson's to the rear; and the arrival of their commands was awaited to begin the attack. On the twenty-ninth, General Holmes had crossed from the south side of James River with part of his division. On the thirtieth, reinforced by General Wise with a detachment of his brigade, he moved down the river-road, and came upon the line of the retreating army near Malvern Hill. Perceiving indications of confusion, General Holmes was ordered to open upon the column with artillery. He soon discovered that a number of batteries, advantageously posted, sup ported by an infantry force superior to his own,

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