OPE'S position, as we have seen, had become extremely critical; he divined at last the danger that threatened him, and set to work to make up for lost time.
When, on the evening of the 26th, he massed his army between Warrenton
and Warrenton Junction, he believed that he had nothing to fear on the side of Thoroughfare Gap and Manassas
, relying upon Halleck
to protect his right and rear; he thought of nothing then but to maintain himself in the positions he occupied along the line of railway, to preserve his communications with Aquia, and at the same time strike a blow at the enemy on the other side of the Rappahannock
, if the opportunity should offer.
But during the night he received information of the capture of Bristow station by the enemy's cavalry, and of Jackson
's presence at Salem
the evening before.
Such a coincidence could leave him no longer in doubt.
had penetrated between him and Washington
with a considerable force, and he knew that the remainder of the enemy's army was still on the Rappahannock
in front of Sulphur Springs
on that very night.
It was evident that the reinforcements so oftened promised had not even reached Manassas
The question with him, therefore, was no longer to defend this or that line, but to save his army, thus taken between two fires.
He could retire to Aquia Creek
, but this would uncover Washington
He justly preferred to regain his communications with the capital by a rapid movement which offered him a chance of meeting, with all his forces, the isolated corps of Jackson
, and of making him pay dearly for his audacity.
On the 27th of August, at daybreak, he put his whole army in march in that direction just as Jackson
was completing his work of destruction at Manassas
, on his side, seeing the line of the Rappahannock