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[129]

Nine large barges, laden with stores, were on fire as we approached; immense numbers of tents, wagons, and cars in long trains, loaded, and five locomotives; a number of forges; quantities of every species of quartermaster's stores and property, making a total of many millions of dollars—all more or less destroyed. . . . I replied (to a note from the commanding General) that there was no evidence of a retreat of the main body down the Williamsburg road, and I had no doubt that the enemy, since his defeat, was endeavoring to reach the James as a new base, being compelled to surrender his connection with the York. If the Federal people can be convinced that this was a part of McClellan's plan, that it was in his original design for Jackson to turn his right flank, and our generals to force him from his strongholds, they certainly never can forgive him for the millions of public treasure that his superb strategy cost.

Leaving one squadron at the White House, he returned to guard the lower bridges of the Chickahominy. On the 30th he was directed to recross and cooperate with Jackson. After a long march, he reached the rear of the enemy at Malvern Hill, on the night of July 1st, at the close of the engagement.

On July 2d the pursuit was commenced, the cavalry under General Stuart in advance. The knowledge acquired since the event renders it more than probable that, could our infantry, with a fair amount of artillery, during that day and the following night, have been in position on the ridge which overlooked the plain where the retreating enemy was encamped on the bank of the James River, a large part of his army must have dispersed, and the residue would have been captured. It appears, from the testimony taken before the United States Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, that it was not until July 3d that the heights which overlooked the encampment of the retreating army were occupied, and from the manuscript notes on the war by General J. E. B. Stuart, we learn that he easily gained and took possession of the heights, and with his light howitzer opened fire upon the enemy's camp, producing great commotion. This was described by the veteran soldier, General Casey of the United States Army, thus:

The enemy had come down with some artillery upon our army massed together on the river, the heights commanding the position not being in our possession. Had the enemy come down and taken possession of those heights with a force of twenty or thirty thousand men, they would, in my opinion, have taken the whole of our army except that small portion of it that might have got off on the transports.

General Lee was not a man of hesitation, and they have mistaken his character who suppose caution was his vice. He was prone to attack, and not slow to press an advantage when he gained it. Longstreet and Jackson were ordered to advance, but a violent storm which prevailed throughout the day greatly retarded their progress. The enemy, harassed

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