that his right flank did not extend for any distance northward from the Chickahominy
and rested on no natural obstacle.
But the expedition could not safely return, Stuart
thought, by the route taken in going.
He determined, therefore, to make the circuit of the Federal
army, crossing the Chickahominy
below by a bridge which he expected to find.
In this he was disappointed, but with great resource he got safely across, partly by swimming, and partly by rebuilding a bridge, and brought off his guns and a few prisoners.
But this raid, though ordered by Lee
and handsomely conducted, had one unfortunate effect.
It would have been much better to have obtained the necessary information by scouts.
It seriously alarmed McClellan
for his rear.
But for it the probabilities are that he would never have given the subject any thought, and he would certainly not have been prepared with a fleet of loaded transports on hand when he was, soon after, forced to change his base to Harrison's Landing
on the James River
It is hard to estimate the difference in the result, had McClellan
been taken by surprise on this occasion and been forced, perhaps, to retreat down the Peninsula
On the whole, therefore, the éclat of our brilliant raid cost us much more than its results were worth.
Where important strategy is on foot, too great care can scarcely be used to avoid making any such powerful suggestions to the enemy as resulted in this case.
It is interesting to note that the enemy got no intimations of what was going on until June 24.
On that day a deserter from Jackson
's force was brought in. After trying in vain to pass himself off as a Union prisoner, escaped from Jackson
, he had told of Jackson
's march and its supposed intent to attack Mc-Clellan's flank.
wired the story to Stanton
, and also sent out two negroes to go along the railroad and investigate, but Stuart
's pickets were too vigilant for the negroes to pass them.
gave some credence to the deserter's story, but it cut small figure among the rumors which McClellan
was receiving from his detective bureau.
He believed that Beauregard
had arrived and that Lee
now had 200,000 men.
On June 25 he made his first forward movement by advancing