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[292] men and 22 guns and the capture of two almost impregnable fortress-like hills, crowned by embattled hosts, attested the daring courage of Lee's men and the vigorous defense of Porter's. Only the closing in of night prevented the capture of the whole Federal force north of the Chickahominy.

Lee had now successfully carried out the first part of his plan, having driven McClellan from his menacing position north of the Chickahominy and become master of his line of communication with his base on the York. He now proposed to follow up his victory and capture the Federal army, but McClellan gave him but a partial opportunity for accomplishing this result. Astute enough to forecast what might happen when Lee, reinforced by Jackson, should fall upon his right, which he had fondly hoped would have been doubled in strength by the arrival of McDowell, he had provided for a change of base by having supplies for his army sent up the James, to Westover, accompanied by a fleet of gunboats to convoy and safeguard them, and at the same time furnish a defense in case his army should have to fall back to that river.

Disheartened by the severe punishment he had received, at the hands of Lee, at Gaines' mill and Cold Harbor, McClellan at midnight of the 27th, after the remnant of Porter's corps was safely across the Chickahominy and had destroyed the bridges behind it, ordered five of his corps to begin the retreat across White Oak swamp to the banks of the James. This was the only way of escape now left him from the toils of Lee. It is true that on the morning of the 28th he had 105,000 men, more than two-thirds of whom had not been engaged the day before, and that between him and Richmond was a force, under Magruder and Huger, only about one-fourth as large as his own, while two-thirds of Lee's army were still north of the unbridged and unfordable Chickahominy and farther from Richmond than his own. Here was an opportunity for a great captain, who ‘took no counsel of his fears,’ to capture the Confederate capital by a prompt and vigorous assault, and accomplish the object of his grand campaign. But McClellan was not such a leader and Lee knew it, and had no apprehension that such an attack would be made, although he expected and prepared for a renewal of the combat before McClellan would give

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