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[75] important success on the 1st of June, if they had put in motion the troops encamped at Gaines' Mill, on the evening of the 31st, or during the night, so as to find themselves on the right banks of the Chickahominy at daybreak, with all the disposable portion of their army. This opportunity had been allowed to pass; but they were yet in time to change their base of operations, and mass all their forces between the Chickahominy and the James. General McClellan having given up this project in order to remain within reach of Fredericksburg, nothing was left for him to do but to carry out the plan which had been temporarily interrupted by the battle of Fair Oaks. This plan consisted in gaining ground gradually by capturing, one day a wood, another day a clearing, and thus advancing step by step until, by a succession of battles more or less fierce, Richmond should be so closely hemmed in that the enemy's army would either abandon it, or renew, under less favorable circumstances, the dangerous experiment of Fair Oaks. But even a slow operation of this kind required fine weather. It was necessary before joining battle to have facilities—in fact, to be able to move and victual the troops with ease; it was necessary before joining battle to conquer the treacherous waters of the Chickahominy, and to connect both banks by bridges numerous and always passable; it was necessary, finally, to be able to take to the battle-field that powerful artillery, without which the generals of the army of the Potomac were unwilling to lead their soldiers to the attack. These two weeks, therefore, were employed on the part of the Federals in repairing the roads which connected their several camps, in constructing new ones, in extricating from the mud the large supply-trains, which scarcely sufficed for the distribution of daily rations, in strengthening the bridges and increasing their number, and finally in covering the whole battle-field of the 31st of May with vast works.

About the middle of June the ground was once more practicable, and the Chickahominy, having again become a modest stream, did not appear inclined to renew its fatal freaks of violence. The army of the Potomac was at length firmly established, provided with excellent communications, and surrounded by strong entrenchments, which enabled it to concentrate without danger a

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