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[69] the river with three others in the vicinity of New Bridge, and fallen upon the flank of the Confederates; such an attack would have made them pay dear for their first success. He had already made every preparation for this movement, when, the two corps commanders having represented to him that the condition of the valley would not admit the passage of their artillery unless causeways were constructed for that purpose, he consented to defer the movement until the next day. This was a great misfortune, for he thus lost an opportunity unexampled in the whole course of the campaign. Nevertheless, while abandoning the idea of crossing the Chickahominy at New Bridge, he could bring back his right wing to the rear, in order to cross the river over the same bridge as Sumner. This bridge was situated only about four miles and a half from the encampments of the right wing; and if the troops had been put in motion at the time Sumner received the order to cross, they would have arrived in time to follow him over the bridge, which withstood the flood until noon the next day. In this case, five fresh divisions, instead of two, could have resumed the offensive in the morning. But General McClellan, knowing that a single defeat might involve the loss of his whole army, isolated as it was in the enemy's country, and ruin the Federal cause for ever, was not willing to weaken his right wing. Fearing lest the enemy might debouch by way of Meadow Bridge and cross the Chickahominy, he did not dare to entrust to a thin line of troops the guard of his communications and the immense park of artillery, which the condition of the roads prevented from being removed; and he left nearly fifty thousand men inactive on the plateau of Cold Harbor. We cannot blame his prudence, but it may be asserted that if he had known what was passing among the Confederate bivouacs, and at the camp-fires around which the generals in command of the enemy's troops were trying to find shelter from the penetrating dampness of that night, he would have acted very differently. Indeed, their new commander-in-chief had no idea of throwing himself on both banks of the Chickahominy, in the position which had so nearly proved fatal to the Federals. He did not believe it possible to complete the manoeuvre which had been interrupted by Sumner against their left wing. It must be acknowledged, however, that the chances were

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