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 a ‘wild-goose chase.’ The next day McDowell was ordered to send a second division, and finally to march himself with a third, upon Front Royal. He obeyed with great reluctance; for notwithstanding his unpleasant relations with McClellan, he had too much good sense and patriotism not to see and to deplore the irreparable mistake he was being forced to commit. Jackson, concealing his preparations for a retreat, appeared determined to follow up his successes in the north without troubling himself about what might take place in his rear. His cavalry had followed Banks as far as Williamsport, where the latter had hastened to cross the Potomac. He at once turned against Harper's Ferry, and on the 28th appeared in front of that position. He could have had no serious intention of occupying it; for in order to do so, it would have been necessary for him to have control of the other bank of the Potomac; he simply wished to dislodge the Federals from it, and on the morning of the 29th he took possession of the heights commanding that position south of the Shenandoah. By this bold movement he confirmed all the alarms and anxieties into which his opponents had been thrown by his late successes in menacing Maryland and Washington; he magnified the number of his forces in their imagination, thus relieving Richmond, and securing for his soldiers the repose they needed before undertaking a retrograde movement, which was becoming unavoidable; for on the 29th, while he was preparing to attack Harper's Ferry, he learned that the Federal armies were at last moving from every direction to cut off his retreat, and he set about at once the duty of excelling them in speed. It was high time. His army had been reduced by marching and battles to fifteen thousand men.1 The Washington authorities, being totally ignorant of the difficulties of the campaign, had fixed upon the 30th as the day when the trap which they had set for catching the imprudent Jackson was to be sprung. As we stated before, the Confederate general was to be intercepted by the simultaneous arrival of Fremont at Strasburg and of Shields at Front Royal. If their calculations had been correct, Jackson's
1 He had only lost four hundred men by the fire of the enemy. The five thousand that were missing must therefore have been stragglers, men on the sick-list, and probably a few deserters.
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