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[271] obliged to retrace their steps across roads entirely broken up. This accident, however, was not without some compensation; by separating Early from the rest of the Confederate army, the freshet exposed him to the Federal attacks. Pope saw this, and tried to avail himself of the opportunity thus offered him. But he committed the error, common among the Federals, of attributing a larger numerical strength to the enemy he designed to attack than the latter really possessed. In order to hem in and crush him irretrievably, he concentrated nearly the whole of his army, which the flood had relieved from the care of defending the fords along the river. This combination necessitated another very fatiguing march for his men. Siegel was directed upon Sulphur Springs and Waterloo Bridge; Banks and Reno, who were lower down, were to follow him; McDowell, with his corps reinforced by Reynolds' division, was brought back to the rear and right as far as Warrenton.

During these contrary movements, which were beginning to infuse doubt and uneasiness into the minds of chiefs and soldiers, he learned that the enemy's cavalry had appeared in the rear of the army, cut the railway and plundered the baggage of most of the general officers. In fact, Stuart, faithful to his traditions, had crossed Waterloo Bridge with three hundred horse on the 22d, and by a rapid march had reached Catlett's station that same evening, where he fired into a passing train of cars; then he captured a park of wagons containing all the staff papers of General Pope, a valuable prize for Lee, which was perhaps of great assistance to him in the movements he was about to undertake. He then quickly resumed his retreat, eluding the twelve or fifteen hundred men encamped in the vicinity, whom his daring exploits threw into the utmost confusion. But the darkness which had protected him also made him miss a rich prey; for he passed without perceiving an immense convoy parked in the neighborhood of the station, which was then almost entirely without defenders. Although he had not had time to do much damage, he succeeded in disorganizing the wagon and railway service through which his opponent obtained his supplies.

During the whole of the 23d, Pope's soldiers were painfully marching toward the positions which had been assigned to them.

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