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[286] although he had no sign from Jackson that he was in position and ready to co-operate in an attack, took upon himself the responsibility of moving on McClellan's right, fearing, as he says in his report, that delay might ‘hazard the failure of the whole plan.’ His advance was courageous and impetuous, but exceedingly imprudent. The issue being taken, and the Federals driven from Mechanicsville to their intrenchments across Beaver Dam creek, and the Mechanicsville bridge uncovered, D. H. Hill and Longstreet, of necessity, marched to A. P. Hill's support, and Lee, in person, pressed the attack in front without the help of Jackson in the rear.

Beaver Dam creek, or swamp, as it is called locally, is a short stream running from the north into the Chickahominy; it is crossed by the main road from Mechanicsville down the north side of the Chickahominy, by way of Gaines' mill, to Old Cold Harbor. For about a mile from its mouth up to this road this swamp-bordered stream is well-nigh impassable. Above the road a dam is thrown across it, making an extensive pond above it for the use of Ellison's mill on the north side of the road. This sluggish stream deeply trenches the plateau or high ground north of the Chickahominy. The position was admirably chosen for defense against a movement from the west. The highest engineering skill in the Federal army had crowned the open, high ground with earthworks for numerous batteries, and with intrenchments for troops on the crest and down the slopes looking toward Beaver Dam swamp; while the heavy timber that fringed the stream and covered its high banks was cut down and so disposed as to make an almost impassable abatis in front of the position. The Federal batteries were so placed as to sweep all the approaches to their position, and five brigades of riflemen, of McCall's division, filled the intrenchments and log breastworks provided for the defense.

By 5 in the afternoon of this 26th of June, Branch's skirmishers had driven in those of Porter, and A. P. Hill was ordering the brigades of Archer, Anderson and Field into action along the road leading from Mechanicsville northwestward to Bethesda church, to move upon the rear of McClellan's immediate right, while Pender, supported by Ripley, moved along the river road toward Ellison's mill. The attack was fierce, but the defense was furious, and the Confederates were forced to recoil, shattered by

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George B. McClellan (2)
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