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[110] very uneasy when he thought of the small number of troops he had at his command.

The retreat upon the James afforded McClellan the important advantage of releasing him from the defence of his line of communications with the White House, against which it was evident the Confederates at first intended to direct all their efforts. In the condition in which his army found itself after the battle, a retreat begun across a difficult country for the purpose of covering the White House would probably have only terminated under the walls of Yorktown. By abandoning his depots on York River he avoided this danger; but it then became necessary for him to carry along all that was needed to subsist his troops, until he could find new supplies on the James—that is to say, for five, or perhaps six, days. The foresight of the general-in-chief had fortunately provided beforehand all the resources which such an enterprise required. But while these indispensable resources rendered the march of the army practicable, they could not fail to impede and retard its movements. The soldiers received two or three days cooked rations, additional provisions for three more days being placed in the wagons. A drove of two thousand five hundred head of cattle had been also on its way to White Oak Swamp since the evening of the 27th. This long line of bellowing cattle was in singular contrast with the warlike scenes through which it had to pass. At times these thousands of animals, utterly indifferent to their surroundings, would stop, despite the cries of the drivers, who escorted them on horseback, and persistently browse on the grass silvered by the full moon; again, they would precipitate themselves with blind fury across the bivouacs, where everything contributed to increase their fright.

Three days rations for one hundred thousand soldiers and twenty thousand non-combatants, five days forage for forty thousand horses, three hundred and fifty pieces of artillery—in short, the munitions of such an army—constituted a formidable train. It was the task of the army of the Potomac to protect this train as far as the borders of the James. Consequently, however urgent may have been the march of the army itself; it was compelled to remain motionless, until this interminable ribbon should be unwound along the only and narrow road which was open to

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