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[550]

On the 26th of October two divisions of the Ninth corps, with Pleasanton's cavalry, crossed at Berlin, and occupied the village of Lovettsville, at the foot of the Loudon Hills. On being informed of this movement, the President sent a despatch to General McClellan to congratulate him upon his having taken the field. Notwithstanding the rain, which was falling in torrents, the army and its chiefs hailed with joy and confidence this first step taken once more on the road to Richmond. In following the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, General McClellan intended to occupy its passes successively in proportion as he came on a line with them. If the enemy lingered in the vicinity of the Potomac, he could thus throw himself upon his rear; if, on the contrary, Lee proceeded up the valley, he counted upon compelling him to fall back as far as Gordonsville, after which means would be devised for approaching once more the capital of Virginia. The line of march adopted by the army of the Potomac followed a valley lying parallel to that of the Shenandoah, comprised between the Blue Ridge westward and the Bull Run Mountains eastward, an open valley intersected by numerous roads. The passes of the Blue Ridge beginning at the north are Vestal's Gap, Gregory's Gap, Snicker's Gap, Ashby's Gap, Manassas Gap and Chester Gap. The railroad called the Manassas Gap Railway leaves Strasburg on the Upper Shenandoah, passes through this defile, intersects the valley which the army of the Potomac had entered, crosses the Bull Run Mountains at the pass of Thoroughfare Gap, and joins the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in the vicinity of Bull Run, giving to this junction the already famous name of Manassas. McClellan was to receive all his supplies by way of the bridge of boats at Berlin until he could strike this line; once within reach of Thoroughfare Gap, he could revictual his army directly by the Washington Railroad and abandon his communications with the Potomac. It was also at this place that he was to rally the reinforcements which Heintzelman and Siegel were commissioned to bring him.

The cantonments of the army in Maryland were considerably scattered. It required several days to enable him to concentrate his forces and cross over the two bridges—an operation which was only terminated on the 2d of November. The Ninth corps, the

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