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 really expected General Butler to capture Richmond. Equally remote was the possibility of investing it from the south bank of the James, where the ground is a low, open plain. But there is another circumstance that greatly complicates any operation on that line, whether directed against Richmond immediately, or with a view to invest it from the south side, or with the object of holding a debouche for the Army of the Potomac above that city. This is the dangerous exposure of its rear and communications which the operating column must make. It is hardly to be supposed that, in framing a plan of operations for the James River column, there could be failure to note the certainty of the approach of adverse masses from the south; for the withdrawal of Gillmore's force from South Carolina left Beauregard free to hurry forward with a considerable army to Richmond, the danger to which was apparent the moment Butler landed on the south side of the James River. It is marvellous how it could have been expected that in this event Butler's army could have maintained a position above Richmond when not only its rear must have been so greatly exposed, but its line of communications, with its depot at Bermuda Hundred, must have been quite uncovered to the enemy. In the actual situation the only effective service that Butler's force could render towards the execution of the general plan was to secure a lodgment on the south side of the James River, below Richmond, in case the Army of the Potomac should need to be transferred thither. This purpose might best of all have been attained by another operation, which, while serving this end, would have had the most important bearings on the general object of the campaign. This is to have immediately seized Petersburg, which, as the strategic key to Richmond, would probably have been decisive of the fall of that city. Had Petersburg been taken at this time, it is probable that Lee, abandoning as vain the attempt to defend the Confederate capital, would have fallen off on the Lynchburg or Danville line. But even had Lee attempted, by throwing himself upon Butler, to recover Petersburg, the
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