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[275] bank of the Chickahominy at Dispatch Station, unopposed in his progress, on the 19th.

Johnston, ever wary and on the alert, watching the slow but certain advance of his powerful antagonist, prepared to meet his coming assault on Richmond by gathering to that city the troops that had been left at Fredericksburg, Gordonsville and elsewhere. He instructed Jackson to do what he could to retain in the Valley the Federal forces he was already contending with, but to be prepared to come to Richmond with Ewell on short notice. Apprised of the formidable movement of Mc-Dowell from Fredericksburg with 40,000 men, he decided to attack McClellan before this large addition could be made to his forces. Johnston's new line of defense extended from Drewry's bluff on the James to opposite Mechanicsville on the Chickahominy, in a nearly north and south direction, but trending to the northwest from where it crossed the York River railroad, thus presenting a convex front from that point to opposite Mechanicsville, a few miles north of Richmond.

McClellan reached the Chickahominy on the 19th, and on the 20th moved two corps, about two-fifths of his army, across that swamp-bordered river at Bottom's bridge, the crossing of the Williamsburg and Richmond turnpike, which he followed to Seven Pines, within 8 miles of Richmond, a point a short distance south from Fair Oaks station of the York River railroad. A general deployment followed, with his left resting on White Oak swamp and his right on the Chickahominy, presenting a convex front to Johnston on the south side of the Chickahominy, and covering all the approaches to McClellan's rear from the west and southwest. This line was at once protected by earth and timber works, abatis and fallen timber. By a skillful movement McClellan, at the same time, extended his right wing along the bluffy north side of the Chickahominy, and on the 24th of May took possession of Mechanicsville, placing there the strong and ably commanded corps of Fitz John Porter, thus covering the great highway leading from Richmond northeastward to the Pamunkey by way of Old Church. On the same day the Confederates had a lively engagement with McClellan's advance at Seven Pines.

Having firmly established himself to the east and northeast of Richmond in a well-selected position for

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