‘On July 2, it was discovered that the enemy had withdrawn during the night, leaving the ground covered with his dead and wounded, and his route exhibiting abundant evidence of precipitate retreat.
The pursuit was commenced, Gen. Stuart with his cavalry in the advance, but a violent storm which prevailed throughout the day greatly retarded our progress.
The enemy, harassed and followed closely by the cavalry, succeeded in gaining Westover and the protection of his gunboats.
He immediately began to fortify his position, which was one of great natural strength, flanked on each side by a creek, and the approach to his front commanded by the heavy guns of his shipping in addition to those mounted in his intrenchments.
It was deemed inexpedient to attack him, and in view of the condition of our troops, who had been marching and fighting almost incessantly for seven days, under the most trying circumstances, it was determined to withdraw in order to afford them the repose of which they stood so much in need.’
One episode of the pursuit, however, is worthy of note.
On July 2, but little progress was made by the infantry, owing to the heavy rain-storm, but Stuart
's cavalry (which had recrossed the Chickahominy
by fording at Forge Bridge on the afternoon of July 1) followed the enemy and endeavored to shell his columns wherever opportunity offered.
About 5 P. M. the last of these columns had arrived at its destination on the James River
, Harrison's Landing
,— a peninsula about four miles long by one and a half wide, formed by Herring Creek
on the northeast, running for that distance nearly parallel to the James
before emptying into it. At its head a small inlet from the river on the southwest left but a narrow front exposed to attack.
But, across Herring Creek
, an extensive plateau called Evelington Heights dominates the upper part of this peninsula so that, if held by artillery, the enemy would be forced to attack at a disadvantage — the creek being impassable for some distance above.
During Wednesday night, Stuart
received a report from Pelham
, commanding his artillery, describing this position and recommending its being seized.
He forwarded the report to Lee
, through Jackson
, and early on the 3d, with a few cavalry and a single howitzer, nearly out of ammunition, he ran off a Federal squadron and took possession of the heights.
It is a pity that there was any
ammunition, for Stuart
writes that —
‘the howitzer was brought in action in the river road to fire upon the enemy's camp below.
Judging from the great commotion and excitement below, it must have had considerable effect.’