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[203] setting forth the disparity of numbers between his forces and those of the enemy, and alluding to the apprehension of his left flank being turned and his communication with Richmond eventually destroyed. ‘In view of the odds against; me’—he wrote in that letter—‘and of the vital importance, at this juncture, of avoiding the hazard of defeat, which would open to the enemy the way to Richmond, I shall act with extreme caution. If forced to retire before an overwhelming force, . . . my line of retreat can be taken, through Brentsville, to a junction with BrigadierGen-eral Holmes, at or near Fredericksburg, whence we could operate on the line of communication of the enemy, . . . so as to retard him by the way.’ He wished it clearly understood, however, that should the enemy offer battle on the line of Bull Run, he would accept it for his command, against whatever odds he (the enemy) might array in his front.

Hardly had this communication been forwarded to Richmond, before he despatched thither Colonel Preston, and, immediately afterwards, Colonel Chestnut, with another and more extensive plan of concentration and aggression. It is given in full in Colonel Chestnut's report of his mission, to which we refer the reader.1 The result was, that, after consultation with Generals Cooper and Lee, the President once more refused to accede to the plan of concentration offered him by General Beauregard. The enemy were yet too near their cover to allow any reasonable hope of the accomplishment of this proposed scheme, which was declared to be a very brilliant and comprehensive one, but, withal, pronounced impracticable. Such, in substance, was the decision against the wisest—as it was undoubtedly the boldest—concentrated, aggressive campaign attempted during the war. Before sending to Richmond, General Beauregard, in a letter dated July 13th, had also communicated the outlines of this plan to General Johnston, whose influence in its support he was anxious to secure. He was as unfortunate there as he was with the President. An expectant and defensive policy was, at that moment, the one absorbing thought of President Davis and of Generals Cooper, Lee, and Johnston.

At last the crisis came upon us. On the 16th of July General Beauregard was informed, by a secret message from Washington,

1 To be found at the beginning of Chapter VIII.

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