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[55] McClellan to the north side of Richmond was vanishing entirely away. McDowell had received fresh instructions; Shields was on his way to Front Royal; great excitement prevailed in Washington, and Mr. Lincoln telegraphed to the commander of the army of the Potomac that if he could not attack Richmond with the forces at his disposal, he had better give up the job and come to defend the capital.1 The next day the President urged him to send out the proposed expedition on his right, but with a very different object from that which had at first been contemplated, and to destroy the bridges on the South Anna, which two days before he was desirous to preserve at any price. Jackson had thus succeeded beyond his expectations; for it was for the purpose of cutting off the pretended reinforcements which, according to the Washington authorities, were to be forwarded to him from Richmond, that the Federals sought to destroy with their own hands the road which would have enabled them to concentrate their forces in front of the enemy's capital.

Tired out by such constant vacillations, McClellan prepared to execute this fatal order without offering any comments; but he determined to take advantage of the opportunity thus offered to exercise his right wing by striking an unexpected blow at Branch's division, which might threaten his depot while he was engaged in a great battle before Richmond. On the morning of the 27th, Porter, with Morell's division, Warren's brigade and three regiments of cavalry, two of which were regulars, little less than ten thousand men in all, left Mechanicsville and Cold Harbor and proceeded toward Hanover Court-house. After a fatiguing march of twenty-two kilometres, his vanguard, consisting of the cavalry and two regiments of infantry, encountered Branch, who, on being apprised of this threatening movement, had taken position at the intersection of the Hanover and Ashland roads. The Confederates thus covered the two railroadbridges on the South Anna; but they were vigorously attacked, and Butterfield's brigade, arriving in time, put them completely to flight. Branch lost in this first engagement one cannon and a large number of prisoners. Continuing his route, Porter, after

1 ‘Either attack Richmond, or give up the job and come to the defence of Washington.’

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