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 McClellan, equally deceived by appearances, thought he had again found behind those mysterious forests the Confederate army which had evacuated Manassas one month before, and did not dare to thrust his sword through the slight curtain which his able adversary had spread before his vision. A vigorous attack upon either of the dams, defended by insignificant works, would have had every chance of success. The enemy could have been kept in suspense by several feints; there were men enough to attempt three or four principal attacks at once; it was easy, in short, to harass him in such a manner that his line of defence would inevitably have been pierced at the expiration of twenty-four hours. In that case Magruder would have paid dear for his audacious resolution, the defenders of Warwick Creek would have been scattered, and Yorktown invested on every side. This place could have been masked until a vigorous bombardment should have compelled it to surrender, and by pressing Magruder close, the whole peninsula would have fallen into the possession of the Federals in a few days. This is what General McClellan would not have failed to do if he had known the situation of his adversaries as their published reports have revealed it since. But at that critical moment no information was received either from spies or from other sources to convey to him the faintest idea of their weakness. The line of defence they had adopted rendered it impossible for him to feel his way before assaulting them seriously. He could not compel them to show themselves except by crossing the narrow dams which intersected Warwick Creek. To attempt this operation he had deemed it proper to wait for the arrival of McDowell's three divisions, which were to turn the enemy's line by the left flank of York River. But on the very evening he reconnoitred the positions of his adversaries he was apprised of the deplorable decision by which the President withdrew from him this entire army corps. An independent command, comprising Fort Monroe and the very country in which the army of the Potomac was then operating, had been created a short time before in favor of General Wool. Finally, the naval force which had been relied upon to assist in the attack on the batteries of Yorktown declared that the necessity of keeping a watch over the Virginia did not permit the detachment of a sufficient number of vessels for that service. This
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