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[35]

Chapter 2:

Fair Oaks.

THE departure of General McClellan had left a clear field for the strategic experiments of Mr. Lincoln and his military advisers. They had at once proceeded to alter all the arrangements that had been made by the commander of the army of the Potomac for the safety of Washington. Instead of confining themselves to such points as were of importance for the defence of the capital, and considering the rest as the enemy's country, given up to the guerillas of both parties, they sought to extend the Federal rule over the whole region comprised between the Rappahannock and the Potomac, and to make a political conquest of them before having achieved the victories which alone could secure it. With this object in view, the numerous troops they had kept back under the pretext of protecting Washington were scattered over so extended a line that they possessed no power of resistance. McDowell's corps had been sent as far as the Rappahannock. Shields' division, detached from Banks' corps, had come to replace under McDowell's command that of Franklin, which had been sent to Yorktown. It had left the valley of Virginia in the second week of May to join its new corps commander, who already occupied Fredericksburg with the three divisions of Ord, McCall and King, and who was watching an enemy reduced in reality to a thin line of mounted scouts. Geary, with a few regiments, equivalent to a small division, occupied Manassas. Banks, instead of remaining on the defensive, after having successfully repulsed Jackson at Winchester, had followed his adversary step by step into the great valley watered by the Shenandoah; and the President, encouraged by this easy success, had urged him to push on to Harrisonburg, one hundred and ten kilometres from Winchester, without troubling himself

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