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 even perceived its departure; and while McDowell, Banks and Fremont remained motionless, all the Confederate forces were massing in order to crush the army of the Potomac. In a few more hours the cannon would announce the commencement of the great struggle. As Mr. Lincoln candidly wrote to McClellan a few days after, even if they had had a million of men to send him they would have arrived too late. The commander of the army of the Potomac had no alternative but to fight with the resources at his command. He set himself immediately to work. Those only who have felt the weight of a heavy responsibility, who have long predicted the dangers incurred through the mistakes of others, and who, after having pointed them out in vain, find themselves suddenly obliged to face them, can form a conception of what was then passing in the mind of the Federal commander. But far from faltering, this ordeal suggested to him the finest inspiration of his entire career—to abandon his communications with York River, in order to establish a new base of operations on the James immediately after the battle which was now pending. Such was the bold and masterly plan conceived by McClellan, in response to the movement of his opponent, which he had divined even before it had commenced. Jackson's presence at Hanover Court-house had convinced him that Lee designed to fall upon his right wing, and oblige him to hastily evacuate the works which menaced Richmond, in order to save his communications with York River. This movement of retreat on his right was such as would most naturally suggest itself to the mind of the commander-in-chief of the army of the Potomac in the position he occupied; but it was also precisely the movement which his adversary expected him to make, and it thus afforded excellent chances of success to the Confederates, who must have made every preparation for turning, during this flank march, his retreat into an irreparable rout. In relinquishing the idea of covering the York River road, he deceived all the calculations of the enemy. The more the latter extended his lines on the right, the easier it became for McClellan to establish, by his left, new communications with the James. This done, he could concentrate the whole of his army on the right bank of the Chickahominy, and, if forced by circumstances, proceed in the direction of the
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