general what I had done in the afternoon, he rose to leave, intimating that he desired me to remain with General Porter.
On his leaving General Porter seemed to be in doubt whether he should withdraw his troops from their actual positions. finding that he had no positive instruction, I told him that I supposed it indispensable to fall back at least to the position covering the bridges, in order to put himself in communication with the rest of the army, and he issued his orders to this effect about 1 a. m. (27th), and at dawn or early daylight the troops were in mention near us, falling back.
At this time the doubts seemed to have revived in General Porter's mind as to the expediency of the movement, he alleging the probability of McCall's division being cut to pieces in the operation. I could only repeat my conviction that it was indispensable in order to put himself in connection with the rest of the army, and it was continued, and we proceeded together to the ground I visited the evening before. On the way, or before starting, he asked me how many troops I thought he ought to be re-enforced with. I replied substantially that I could not answer the question; that, according to any understanding I had of the matter, I supposed that the whole army was to fight on one side or the other; that I had all along suppose that he was to retire to the other side.
After reaching the ground he put his left on the spur of Watts' house, and riding farther along the position he concluded he could not extend his beyond the clearing and spur where McGee's house is. After this I returned to headquarters, presuming that in reference to the arrangements of the day the commanding general might have further instructions for me. I reached headquarters about 9 or 10 a. m., and being informed that the commanding general was reposing, I went to my tent, and remained there until afternoon.
I have gone somewhat minutely into the history of my connection with that battle-field, because upon this battle-fought by General Porter with 27,000 men-hinged the fate of the campaign.
On the afternoon of the 26th Lieutenant Reese was sent by Captain Duane (who had orders, I presume, direct from headquarters) to destroy the upper trestle and New Bridge. He found the first already taken up by a detachment of the Engineer Brigade, the trestles being destroyed and the flooring collected on the bank for burning. He took up the pontoons of the two bridges at New Bridge, loaded them with the flooring, and attempted to float them down the stream to the lower trestle bridge, but being unable to get them along the channel, scuttled and sank them 100 or 200 yards below the bridge site. The afternoon of the 27th Colonel Alexander thoroughly destroyed Duane's bridge. General Porter's forces passed over the two lower bridges in the night, and Captain Duane had orders to see all those bridges destroyed.
That night it was understood, I believe, that the army was to march to the James River. General Woodbury received orders from headquarters to proceed immediately to the White Oak Swamp and construct bridges, and I was ordered at an early hour the next morning to send out all the engineers to aid in the same and to explore the roads. Having retired to the headquarters camp at Savage Station, suffering with a violent headache, I was unable to go out in person in the morning. In the course of the day Captain Duane's battalion, which had been destroying the lower bridges, arrived at the headquarters camp. I directed him to continue on, by the shortest route he could find, to the vicinity of points of crossing the White Oak Swamp, and myself started by the beaten road to White Oak Bridge. I found that