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[70]

General Magruder had, up to and after the time of receiving the reenforcements before mentioned, worked day and night in constructing and strengthening his defenses. His small force had been assisted in this work by a considerable body of negro laborers, and an active participant and competent judge, General Early, thus wrote of his conduct:

The assuming and maintaining this line by Magruder, with his small force, in the face of such overwhelming odds, was one of the boldest exploits ever performed by a military commander; and he had so manoeuvred his troops, by displaying them rapidly at different points, as to produce the impression on his opponent that he had a large army.

As soon as it was definitely ascertained that General McClellan, with his main army, was on the Peninsula, General J. E. Johnston was assigned to the command of the Department of the Peninsula and Norfolk, and directed to proceed thither to examine the condition of affairs there. After spending a day on General Magruder's defensive line, he returned to Richmond and recommended the abandonment of the Peninsula, urging that we take a defensive position nearer to Richmond. The question was postponed, and an appointment made for its discussion, to which I proposed to invite the Secretary of War, General Randolph, and General Lee, then stationed in Richmond and in general charge of army operations. General Johnston asked that he might invite General Longstreet and General G. W. Smith to be present, to which I assented.

At this meeting General Johnston announced his plan to be, the withdrawal of General Magruder's troops from the Peninsula, and of General Huger's from Norfolk, to be united with the main body of the army of Northern Virginia, and the withdrawal of the troops from South Carolina and Georgia, his belief being that General Magruder's line was indefensible with the forces we could concentrate there; that the batteries at Gloucester Point could not be maintained; that the enemy would turn the position at Yorktown by ascending the York River, if the defensive line there should possibly be maintained. To this plan the Secretary of War objected, because the navy yard at Norfolk offered our best if not our only opportunity to construct in any short time gunboats for coastwise and harbor defense. General Lee, always bold in his views and unusually sagacious in penetrating the designs of the enemy, insisted that the Peninsula offered great advantages to a smaller force in resisting a numerically superior assailant, and, in the comprehensive view which he usually took of the necessities of other places than the one where he chanced to be, objected to withdrawing the troops from South Carolina and Georgia, as involving the probable capture of Charleston and Savannah. By recent service in that section he was well informed as to

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