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[68] York River is contracted to less than a mile in width, and General Magruder had constructed batteries at both places which, by their crossfire, presented a formidable obstacle to the ascent of ordinary vessels. The fortifications at Norfolk and the navy-yard, together with batteries at Sewell's Point and Craney Island, in conjunction with the navy, offered means of defense against any attempt to land troops on the south side of James River. After the first trial of strength with our Virginia, there had been an evident disinclination on the part of the enemy's vessels to encounter her, so that, as long as she floated, the deep water of the roads and mouth of James River was not likely to be invaded by ships of war.

As a second line of defense, a system of detached works had been constructed by General Magruder near to Williamsburg, where the width of the Peninsula, available for the passage of troops, was only three or four miles. The advantage thus secured to his forces, if they should be compelled to retreat, will be readily appreciated. I am not aware that torpedoes had been placed in York River to prevent the entrance of the enemy's vessels; indeed, at that time, but little progress had been made in the development of that means of harbor and river defense. General Rains, as will be seen hereafter, had matured his invention of sensitive fuse primers for sub-terra shells, and proposed their use for floating torpedoes. Subsequently he did much to advance knowledge in regard to making torpedoes efficient against the enemy's vessels.

Such was the condition of the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James Rivers when General McClellan embarked the mass of the army he commanded in northern Virginia and proceeded to Fortress Monroe, and when the greater part of our army, under the command of General J. E. Johnston, was directed to move for the purpose of counteracting this new plan of the enemy.

Early in April General McClellan had landed about one hundred thousand men at or near Fortress Monroe.1 At this time General Magruder occupied the lower Peninsula with his force of seven or eight thousand men. Marshes, creeks, and dense wood gave to that position such advantage that, in his report made at a subsequent period, he expressed the belief that with twenty or twenty-five thousand men he could have held it against any supposable attack. When McClellan advanced with his immense army, Magruder fell back to the line of Warwick River, which has been imperfectly described, and there checked the enemy; the vast army of invasion, repulsed in several assaults by the

1 See Report on the Conduct of the War, p. 319. Letter of President Lincoln to General McClellan, April 6, 1862.

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George B. McClellan (4)
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