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[93] great operation of Lee. The number of victims was concealed from the army, and the Confederate generals waited to hear from Jackson, whose cannon had not been once heard during the whole of that day.

The latter, however, had executed the movement which had been prescribed to him. Crossing the Tolopotamoi, he had continually pushed forward, leaving the Chickahominy gradually behind him, but without meeting any of the enemy's forces, except Stoneman's cavalry, and night had overtaken him near the clearings of Hundeley's Corner, where he had bivouacked. Impressed with the purpose of his chief, in haste to outflank the right wing of the Federals and to seize the White House railway, the noise of cannon along the Beaver-dam, on which he had turned his back, had only the effect of hastening his march. McClellan, on his side, had been informed of Jackson's movement, both through Stoneman, who had been watching the march of the Confederate general since morning with several regiments of cavalry, and by the few words which had fallen from prisoners captured by McCall. As the latter all belonged to Lee's army, it was evident that Jackson was manoeuvring on the extreme Federal right, and that his approaching arrival would be sufficient to cause the defences of Beaver-dam Creek to fall. McClellan was expecting this, and had instructed General Barnard, chief of engineers of his army, to select a new position, which covered the bridges of the Chickahominy, upon which the whole right wing was ordered to fall back on the 27th at daybreak.

This position was not very strong; the hills adjoining the Chickahominy, although quite steep on the river side upon which the Federals were resting, sloped down in slight undulations on the side where the enemy was expected, and presented no natural line of defence. Between Mechanicsville and the Alexander bridge, where the forest sweeps down to the edge of the Chickahominy swamps, the hills commanding the left bank of this water-course are for the most part under cultivation, and their crest alone is crowned with isolated clusters of trees. This open space stretches thus a distance of from five to six miles in length, while its width gradually increases from one and a half to three miles on a line with the Alexander bridge.

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