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[282] Reno also received instructions to leave Greenwich and follow McDowell's movement upon Manassas. The whole Federal army, therefore, was converging upon this point, uncovering Thoroughfare Gap and abandoning the main road, the possession of which was only of importance to the Confederates. But even if this movement had been well timed, its execution was attended by great inconvenience. After a long march, McDowell, Siegel and Reno only reached their encampments in the middle of the night; they were ordered to start at early dawn, although their soldiers were exhausted. Porter was to undertake a night-march through a wooded country and over a road encumbered by the wagons of the whole army. In short, the generals, finding their troops much more reduced in number by such useless fatigues than they would have been by a pitched battle, were no longer in haste to execute orders which they expected every moment to have countermanded. Porter alleged the difficulties of the road as a reason for waiting until daylight, and only reached Bristow at ten o'clock in the morning; it was half-past 7 when Siegel left Gainesville. McDowell on his part, with better judgment than his chief, had detached, on the 27th, one of his divisons, under Ricketts, toward Thoroughfare Gap, to bar its passage. When the order to march in an entirely opposite direction reached him, this division had to be left behind, and to its own resources.

Whilst Pope, to quote his own words, thought that he was going ‘to bag the whole crowd’ of his enemies, Jackson, far from falling into the trap, was only endeavoring to join the rest of Lee's army with all speed. At nightfall on the 27th, at the very time when the Federals were preparing to attack him at Manassas, he was evacuating that position. His work of destruction was finished, the railway track cut and the supplies burned. Jackson was well aware that the Federal army, thus deprived of resources, would be obliged at the end of two or three days to draw near Washington to avoid dying of hunger. Consequently, while retiring, he was desirous of leaving to his chief the means of profiting by the disorder he had just thrown into the Federal army, to give them battle before they could receive any reinforcement from Washington. Longstreet would probably pass through Thoroughfare Gap on the morning of the 28th, and the Confederate

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