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[86] directed the troops to cross and halt at the first good water on the southern side, which he supposed would be found near to the river. He also adverted to the advantage of having the river in front rather than in the rear of him—an advantage certainly obvious enough, if the line was to be near to it on either of its banks.

The considerations which induced General McClellan to make his base on the York River had at least partly ceased to exist. From the corps for which he had so persistently applied, he had received the division which he most valued, and the destruction of the Virginia had left the James River open to his fleet and transports as far up as Drewry's Bluff, and the withdrawal of General Johnston across the Chickahominy made it quite practicable for him to transfer his army to the James River, the south side of which had then but weak defenses, and thus by a short march to gain more than all the advantages which, at a later period of the war, General Grant obtained at the sacrifice of a hecatomb of soldiers.

Referring again to the work of the Comte de Paris, who may be better authority in regard to what occurred in the army of the enemy than when he writes about Confederate affairs, it appears that this change of base was considered and not adopted because of General Mc-Clellan's continued desire to have McDowell's corps with him. The count states:

The James River, which had been closed until then by the presence of the Virginia, as York River had been by the cannon of Yorktown, was opened by the destruction of that ship, just as York River had been by the evacuation of the Confederate fortress. But it was only open as far as Drury's Bluff; in order to overcome this last obstacle interposed between Richmond and the Federal gunboats, the support of the land forces was necessary. On the 19th of May Commodore Goldsborough had a conference with General McClellan regarding the means to be employed for removing that obstacle. . . . General McClellan, as we have stated above, might have continued to follow the railway line, and preserved his depots at Whitehouse, on the Pamunkey, . . . but he could also now go to reestablish his base of operations on James River, which the Virginia had hitherto prevented him from doing. By crossing the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge, and some other fords situated lower down, . . . could have reached the borders of the James in two or three days. . . . This flank march effected at a sufficient distance from the enemy, and covered by a few demonstrations along the upper Chickahominy, offered him great advantages without involving any risk. . . . If McClellan could have foreseen how deceptive were the promises of reenforcement made to him at the time, he would undoubtedly have declined the uncertain support of McDowell, to carry out the plan of campaign which offered the best chances of success with the troops which were absolutely at his disposal.1

1 History of the Civil War in America, Comte de Paris, Vol. II, pp. 32-34.

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