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[111] it. Keyes' corps alone received orders to march on the evening of the 27th. Being placed at White Oak Swamp, it was directed to take the advance, with injunctions to cover continually the right flank of the train. The other corps, unable to move out of their positions in consequence of the crowded condition of the roads, were not even able to put their division-trains in motion before the evening of the 28th, so long was the line of wagons belonging to the general administration.

Meanwhile, the work of destruction, the inevitable consequence of every retreat, was rapidly progressing. No portion of the enemy's cavalry having reached the railroad during the night, that line remained open, and advantage was taken of it to send back upon York River the greatest possible number of sick, wounded, non-combatants of every description, as well as a large quantity of materiel. The last train of cars was then loaded with powder and shell, and the locomotive was despatched, under a full head of steam, in the direction of the Chickahominy bridge, which had been burning for some few minutes. A terrible explosion announced the arrival of this dangerous cargo amid the flames, and the simultaneous destruction of the bridge, cars and ammunition. The telegraph, however, had not ceased to perform its functions, but still continued to be the connecting link between the soldiers of the army of the Potomac and all that was dear to them now left behind. General McClellan was thus enabled to send a last despatch to the government at Washington, giving an account of the dangerous situation of his army. As he said himself, in words full of sadness and dignity, if so many brave soldiers were to perish in vain, the fault rested with those who had so imprudently haggled about reinforcements at the critical moment. This was a responsibility which the Federal authorities were unwilling to accept at any price. In order to get rid of it, they resorted to a culpable stratagem. Far from letting the public know the truth regarding what was taking place around Richmond, the Secretary of War, forgetting that he had to deal with a free people who would not tolerate deception, gave out that the army of the Potomac had undertaken a strategic movement which would result in the capture of Richmond. Consequently, when, after waiting four days, it became known that this army had

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