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[276] advancing on that city, McClellan anxiously awaited the arrival of McDowell, that his right might be extended with the 40,000 men that were already on the march from Fredericksburg to Richmond. To open the way for this approach, he ordered Fitz John Porter, on the 26th, to move a strong force northward, along the direct road from Mechanicsville to Hanover Court House, running nearly parallel with the Virginia Central railroad, to destroy that road and also the railroad leading to Fredericksburg, and drive away any Confederate forces in that direction. Porter dispatched three infantry brigades, two cavalry regiments and four batteries on this expedition; at the same time he dispatched Warren, with a strong force of all arms, eastward by the Old Church road, to destroy the bridges across the Pamunkey, and then follow up toward Hanover Court House and support the right of the column sent in that direction.

Branch's Confederate brigade, consisting of one cavalry and six infantry regiments and a battery, had been moved from Gordonsville to Ashland, on the Richmond & Fredericksburg railroad, to protect the two railways leading northward from Richmond. He was encamped between these roads, near Slash church, not far from Peake Station of the Virginia Central railroad. The Federal cavalry, moving by roads more to the eastward, sent its scouts to the vicinity of Hanover Court House on the 26th, thus informing Porter as to the condition of affairs in that vicinity. On the 27th, Branch, ignorant of the movements of Porter, had sent a portion of his force to repair the Virginia Central railroad near Peake. Porter's column, which had left Mechanicsville at 4 in the morning with fourteen regiments of infantry, fell upon Branch's force near Peake and quickly routed it, and when Branch reinforced that with the rest of his command, they also, after a spirited resistance, had to give way before overwhelming numbers, and he fell back to Ashland, after the loss of one gun and some 700 prisoners. His loss in action was 265, and the Federal loss 285, numbers showing that this Hanover Court House engagement, as it is called, but Peake Station or Slash Church as it should be called, was hotly contested by Branch with his comparatively small force. Warren also appeared upon the field near the close of the action with his four

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