Chickahominy, and the stage of water as it was for many days after our arrival, the bridges carried away, and our means of transportation not furnishing a single day's supplies in advance, the troops must have gone without rations and the animals without forage, and the army would have been paralyzed.
It is true I might have abandoned my communications and pushed forward toward Richmond, trusting to the speedy defeat of the enemy and the consequent fall of the city for a renewal of supplies; but the approaches were fortified and the town itself was surrounded with a strong line of intrenchments, requiring a greater length of time to reduce than our troops could have dispensed with rations.
Under these circumstances I decided to retain a portion of the army on the left bank of the river until our bridges were completed.
It will be remembered that the order for the co-operation of General McDowell was simply suspended, not revoked, and theretofore I was not at liberty to abandon the northern approach.
A very dashing and successful reconnaissance was made near New Bridge on the 24th of May by Lieutenant Bowen, Topographical Engineers, escorted by the Fourth Michigan Volunteers and a squadron of the U. S. cavalry, commanded respectively by Colonel Woodbury and Captain Gordon.
Our troops encountered a Louisiana regiment, and with little loss drove it back upon its brigade, killing a large number and capturing several prisoners. Great credit is due to the staff officers, as well as to Colonel Woodbury, Captain Gordon, and their commands, for their conduct on this occasion.
The work upon the bridges was commenced at once and pushed forward with great vigor; but the rains, which from day to day continued to fall, flooded the valley, and raised the water to a great height than had been known for twenty years.
This demolished a great amount of our labor, and our first bridges, with their approaches, which were not made with reference to such extreme high water, were carried off or rendered impassable. We were obliged, with immense labor, to construct others, much longer, more elevated, and stable. Our men worked in the water, exposed to the enemy's fire from the opposite bank.
On the 25th of May I received the following telegram:
WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862.
Your dispatch received. General Banks was at Strasburg, with about 6,000 men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered at various places. On the 23rd a rebel force of 7,000 to 10,000 fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Front Royal, destroying it entirely; crossed the Shenandoah, and on the 24th (yesterday) pushed on to get north of Banks, on the road to Winchester. General Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in which General Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total rout. Geary, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near Front Royal, with 10,000 troops, following up and supporting, as I understand, the force now pursuing Banks. Also that another force of 10,000 is near Orleans, following on in the same direction. Stripped bare, as we are here, I will do all we can to prevent them crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry or above. McDowell has about 20,000 of his forces moving back to the vicinity of Front Royal, and Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg; both these movements intended to get in the enemy's rear.
One more of McDowell's brigades is ordered through here to Harper's Ferry; the rest of his forces remain for the present at Fredericksburg. We are sending such regiments and dribs from here and Baltimore as we can spare to Harper's Ferry, supplying their places in some sort by calling in militia from the adjacent States. We