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Chapter 16: the Army of the Potomac before Richmond.

We left the Army of the Potomac within a few miles of Richmond, its advance light troops at Bottom's Bridge, and the Headquarters of its commander at Cool Arbor.

When Huger fled from Norfolk, and the Merrimack was blown into fragments, the Confederate gun-boats in the James River retired to Richmond, closely followed by a flotilla of armed vessels under the command of Commodore John Rodgers, whose flag-ship was the ironclad Galena. She was accompanied by the Monitor, Aroostook, Port Royal, and Naugatuck. They moved up the stream with great caution, for it was known that the Confederates had erected batteries on the shores at different points, and it was believed that guerrillas were abundant on the banks. From an armored look-out near the nast-head of the leading vessel, a vigilant watch for these was kept, but the squadron met with no serious impediment until it confronted ,a formidable battery on a bank nearly two hundred feet in height, called Drewry's Bluff, at a narrow place in the river, about eight miles from Richmond. Below this battery were two separate barriers, formed of spiles and sunken vessels, and the shores were lined with rifle-pits filled with sharp-shooters.

An armored look-out.1

The Galena anchored within six hundred yards of the battery, and opened fire at near eight o'clock in the-morning.

May 15, 1862.
An hour later the Monitor ran above the Galena, but could not bring her guns to bear upon the elevated battery, and fell back. A sharp fight was kept up until after eleven o'clock, when the ammunition of the Galena was nearly expended. Then the flotilla withdrew. Rodgers lost in this attack twenty-seven men, and a 100-pounder rifled cannon that burst on board the Naugatuck, and disabled her. The commander of the battery, [403] Captain E. Farrand (once of the National Navy), reported his loss at fifteen. Rodgers fell back to City Point.2

The James and York rivers were now both offered as a highway for supplies for the Army of the Potomac, and General McClellan was left free to choose his base. He decided to continue it at the head of York until he should form a junction with McDowell's troops. The operations in the Shenandoah Valley, just recorded, speedily postponed that junction indefinitely, for, as we have seen, McDowell was necessarily detained to fight Jackson and Ewell, and to watch an active foe beyond the Rapid Anna River, who was then threatening Washington City.

Site of New Bridge.3

The two great armies were now in close proximity before Richmond, with the sluggish marshbordered Chickahominy between them. Their first collisions occurred on the 23d and 24th of May: one near New Bridge, a short distance from Cool Arbor, where the Fourth Michigan Cavalry,. under Colonel Woodbury, waded the river,4 and after a [404] smart skirmish captured thirty-seven of the Fifth Louisiana, then guarding that point, drove the remainder, and held the position. The other was at and near Mechanicsville, seven or eight miles from Richmond, when a part of McClellan's right wing was advancing toward the Chickahominy. At Ellison's Mill, about a mile from Mechanicsville, a part of Stoneman's command, with Davison's brigade of Franklin's corps, encountered

May 28, 1862.
the Confederates in considerable force, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. A brisk skirmish ensued, and at sunset the Confederates fell back to Mechanicsville, from which they were driven across the Chickahominy the next morning. On this ground a battle was fought a month later.

This bold dash was followed the next day by an inspiriting general order from McClellan, that indicated an immediate advance of the whole army on Richmond.5 Every thing was ready for such movement. The troops were

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