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[563] McClellan still largely outnumbered Lee, and it seemed doubtful whether he would throw his whole force, by the lower bridges, to the north side of the Chickahominy and give battle again for his base at the White House--boldly strike for the capture of Richmond by attacking the lines held by Magruder in the hope of carrying them before Lee could come to their help — or retreat to a new base on the James.

Northern historians have severely criticised McClellan for not adopting the second plan, which they assert would have secured the capture of Richmond, and some Southern writers have concurred in this view. Even General Magruder seems to have had serious apprehensions on this point, for he says in his official report: “I considered the situation of our army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger part of it was on the opposite side of the Chickahominy, the bridges had all been destroyed, but one was rebuilt, and there were but twenty-five thousand men between his--General McClellan's — army of one hundred thousand men and Richmond.” But General Lee seems to have had no such apprehensions, as he remarked on General Magruder's report:

General Magruder is under a misapprehension as to the separation of the troops operating on the north side of the Chickahominy from those under himself and General Huger on the south side. * * * The troops on the two sides of the river were only separated until we succeeded in occupying the position near what is known as New Bridge, which occurred before 12 o'clock M. on Friday, June 27th, and before the attack on the enemy at Gaines's Mill.

From the time we reached the position referred to, I regarded communication between the two wings of our army as re-established.

The bridge referred to, and another about three-quarters of a mile above, were ordered to be repaired before noon on Friday, and the New Bridge was sufficiently rebuilt to be passed by artillery on Friday night, and the one above it was used for the passage of wagons, ambulances and troops early on Saturday morning.

Besides this, all other bridges above New Bridge, and all the fords above that point, were open to us.

The simple truth is that the works in front of Richmond, as then manned, were impregnable to direct assault, and if McClellan had tried it he would have sustained a bloodier repulse than Grant received at Cold Harbor two years later, and meantime General Lee would have so moved the victorious columns of Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart and the Hills as to have cut off all hope of a successful retreat. He acted very wisely in determining to retreat, and he certainly planned and conducted the movement with consummate ability.

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