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 and the arrival of their commands was awaited, to begin the attack. On the 29th General Holmes had crossed from the south side of the James River, and on the 30th was reenforced by a detachment of General Wise's brigade. He moved down the River Road, with a view to gaining, near Malvern Hill, a position which would command the supposed route of the retreating army. It is an extraordinary fact that, though the capital had been threatened by an attack from the seaboard on the right, though our army had retreated from Yorktown up to the Chickahominy, and after encamping there for a time had crossed the river and moved up to Richmond, yet, when at the close of the battles around Richmond McClellan retreated and was pursued toward the James River, we had no maps of the country in which we were operating; our generals were ignorant of the roads, and their guides knew little more than the way from their homes to Richmond. It was this fatal defect in preparation, and the erroneous answers of the guides, that caused General Lee first to post Holmes and Wise, when they came down the River Road, at New Market, where, he was told, was the route that McClellan must pursue in his retreat to the James. Learning subsequently that there was another road, by the Willis church, which would better serve the purpose of the retreating foe, Holmes's command was moved up to a position on that road where, at the foot of a hill which concealed from view the enemy's line, he remained under the fire of the enemy's gunboats, the huge, shrieking shells from which dispersed a portion of his cavalry and artillery, though the faithful old soldier remained with the rest of his command, waiting, according to his orders, for the enemy with his trains to pass; taking neither of the roads pointed out to General Lee, he retreated by the shorter and better route, which led by Dr. Poindexter's house to Harrison's Landing. It has been alleged that General Holmes was tardy in getting into position, and failed to use his artillery as he had been ordered. Both statements are incorrect. He first took position when and where he was directed, and, soon after, he moved to the last position to which he was assigned. The dust of his advancing column caused a heavy fire from the gunboats to be opened upon him, and, in men who had never before seen the huge shells then fired, they inspired a degree of terror not justified by their effectiveness. The enemy, instead of being a straggling mass moving toward the James River, as had been reported, was found halted between West's house and Malvern Hill on ground commanding Holmes's position, with an open field between them. General Holmes ordered his chief of artillery to commence firing upon
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