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[134] in search of his brigade, from which he had become separated at the time of his rout at Glendale, accidentally fell in with Franklin's heads of column. There was no longer time to ask for instructions from headquarters at Malvern Hill. Franklin's retreat opened the way for Jackson. Heintzelman and Sumner prepared at once to carry their troops to the borders of the James. In this they only anticipated the orders which McClellan was about to send them. The general-in-chief had no reason to blame his lieutenants for this great eagerness to fall back, for the ignorance in which he remained till evening in regard to their situation, and which occasioned the delay in forwarding the orders for retreat, could only be attributed to the very imperfect organization of the Federal staffs. The necessity of providing for the ulterior movements of his troops justified his remaining on the gun-boats of Rodgers; but his momentary absence had been noticed by soldiers who needed encouragement in the midst of a bloody strife, and also by lieutenants who were already too much inclined to criticism. By not waiting for his tardy instructions, his corps commanders rendered the retreat which had become inevitable more easy of accomplishment. The night march was performed in the best order, and before daybreak the Federal army was concentrated around the approaches of Malvern Hill.

This hill afforded an admirable position. Its summit, two thousand five hundred metres in length by one thousand two hundred in width, formed a level and open plateau. Rising gradually from north to south to the ridge of the acclivity overlooking the James, it presented great facilities for the manoeuvring of troops. From north-east to south, at the foot of the barren slopes which terminated the descent, its base was enveloped by the Western Run and thick underwood. To the west wound one of the tributaries of this stream, also surrounded by swampy forests, and quite difficult for artillery to cross. The approaches to Malvern Hill were only easy between these two water-courses. On this side, below the principal hillock, the slopes extended gradually across an open country. The Quaker road, after joining a crossroad coming from the New Market road, took advantage of these slopes to ascend Malvern Hill, leaving a small wood and the West house on the left, then forked before reaching the summit.

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