the enemy's forces upon the Richmond side of the river operating upon our rear, and if in the chances of war we had been ourselves defeated in the effort, we would have been forced to fall back to the White House, and probably to Fort Monroe, and as both our flanks and rear would then have been entirely exposed, our entire supply train, if not the greater part of the army itself, might have been lost. The movements of the enemy showed that they expected this, and, as they themselves acknowledged, they were prepared to cut off our retreat in that direction. I therefore concentrated all our forces on the right bank of the river. During the night of the 26th and morning of the 27th all our wagons, heavy guns, &c., were gathered there.
It may be asked, why, after the concentration of our forces on the right bank of the Chickahominy, with a large part of the enemy drawn away from Richmond upon the opposite side, I did not, instead of striking for James River, 15 miles below that place, at once march directly on Richmond. It will be remembered that at this juncture the enemy was on our rear, and there was every reason to believe that he would sever our communications with the supply depot at the White House. We had on hand but a limited amount of rations, and if we had advanced directly on Richmond it would have required considerable time to carry the strong works around that place, during which our men would have been destitute of food, and even in Richmond had fallen before our arms the enemy could still have occupied our supply communications between that place and the gunboats and turned the disaster into victory. If, on the other hand, the enemy had concentrated all his forces at Richmond during the progress of our attack, and we had been defeated, we must in all probability have lost our trains before reaching the flotilla.
The battles which continued day after day in the progress of our flank movement to the James River, with the exception of the one at Gaines' Mill, were successes to our arms, and the closing engagement at Malvern Hill was the most decisive of all.
On the evening of the 27the of June I assembled the corps commanders at my headquarters and informed them of my plan, its reasons, and my choice of route and method of execution.
General Keyes was directed to move his corps, with its artillery and baggage, across the White Oak Swamp Bridge and to seize strong positions on the opposite side of the swamp, to cover the passage of the other troops and trains.
This order was executed on the 28th by noon. Before daybreak on the 28th I went to Savage Station and remained there during the day and night, directing the withdrawal of the trains and supplies of the army.
Orders were given to the different commanders to load their wagons with ammunition and provisions and the necessary baggage of the officers and men, and to destroy all property which could not be transported with the army.
Orders were also given to leave with those of the sick and wounded who could not be transported a proper complement of surgeons and attendants, with a bountiful supply of rations and medical stores.
The large herd of 2,500 beef cattle was by the chief commissary, Colonel Clarke, transferred to the James River without loss.
On the morning of the 28th, while General Franklin was withdrawing his command from Golding's farm, the enemy opened upon General Smith's division from Garnett's Hill, from the valley above, and from Gaines' Hill, on the opposite side of the Chickahominy, and shortly