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Chapter 21:

  • A New phase to our military problem
  • -- General Johnston's position -- defenses of James River -- attack on Fort Drewry -- Johnston crosses the Chickahominy -- position of McClellan -- position of McDowell -- strength of opposing forces -- Jackson's expedition down the Shenandoah Valley -- panic at Washington and the North -- movements to intercept Jackson -- his rapid movements -- Repulses Fremont -- advance of Shields -- fall of Ashby -- battle of Port Republic -- results of this campaign.


The withdrawal of our army to the Chickahominy, the abandonment of Norfolk, the destruction of the Virginia, and the opening of the lower James River, together with the fact that McClellan's army, by changing his base to the head of York River, was in a position to cover the approach to Washington, and thus to remove the objections which had been made to sending the large force retained for the defense of that city to make a junction with McClellan, all combined to give a new phase to our military problem.

Soon after, General Johnston took position on the north side of the Chickahominy; accompanied by General Lee, I rode out to his headquarters in the field, in order that by conversation with him we might better understand his plans and expectations. He came in after we arrived, saying that he had been riding around his lines to see how his position could be improved. A long conversation followed, which was so inconclusive that it lasted until late in the night, so late that we remained until the next morning. As we rode back to Richmond, reference was naturally made to the conversation of the previous evening and night, when General Lee confessed himself, as I was, unable to draw from it any more definite purpose than that the policy was to improve his position as far as practicable, and wait for the enemy to leave his gunboats, so that an opportunity might be offered to meet him on the land.

In consequence of the opening of the James River to the enemy's fleet, the attempts to utilize this channel for transportation, so as to approach directly to Richmond, soon followed. We had then no defenses on the James River below Drewry's Bluff, about seven miles distant from Richmond. There an earthwork had been constructed and provided with an armament of four guns. Rifle pits had been made in front of the fort, and obstructions had been placed in the river by driving piles and sinking some vessels. The crew of the Virginia, after her

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