The road along which the army was to move, running at an average distance of 2 1/2 miles from the river, was bordered throughout on the left with forest and on the right by open fields, here and there checkered with woods. From the left the enemy might approach by many roads and paths through the woods, and might follow on the main road over Turkey Bridge unless we could succeed in destroying it.
To insure the destruction of the bridge I requested Colonel Farnsworth, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, to send me an officer and a detachment of men from his regiment, on whom I could rely, for that purpose. He sent Captain Clark, with a party of 25 axmen, who proceeded to make, in advance, the examinations and preparations necessary to secure the prompt demolition of the bridge the moment the last of our troops should have crossed. To provide against a hot pursuit, I directed Major West to select an able officer of artillery to blow up the bridge if it should become absolutely necessary to destroy it in that way. Lieutenant M. Reichenbacher, First Pennsylvania Artillery, was the artillery officer selected. Lieutenants Gibson and Jackson, of my staff [the former an officer of General McClellan's staff and a volunteer with me for the night], were directed to go with the parties to the bridge and to make sure of its destruction, and bring me information. While our troops were passing, many large trees were chopped nearly through, and in fifteen minutes after the tail of the column had crossed the bridge had disappeared without the use of powder, and the road through the jungle was blocked against the possible passage of wheels or cavalry for twenty-four hours and made hazardous for infantry.
Beside the main road, upon which the army was to retire to Harrison's Bar, a road for the accommodation of neighbors starts from Haxall's immense field, below Turkey Bridge, on which vast numbers of our wagons were parked, and joins the main road about 4 miles below the bridge. Near my headquarters on the lower edge of the field this road crosses a stream, wooded on both sides, which extends from the main road to the river. To prevent the enemy passing that way to attack our right flank I had given permission to General Naglee, who came to ask it, to fell trees across the road after he had passed over with his brigade and several batteries of the rear guard.
As the day began to dawn it became evident that all the artillery and wagons could not pass along one road. Immense trains were standing still, and others were turning off the main road, which had become blocked, and were moving down toward my headquarters. At this time the rain began to fall briskly, and though I was not yet certain of the destruction of Turkey Bridge, I knew the roads would be seriously injured by the rain; so, weighing all the chances and dangers, I concluded to save the trains if possible. Accordingly I ordered as many axmen as could work to clear away the felled trees and open the road which Naglee had obstructed. Over the road thus cleared not less than 1,000 vehicles, nearly all drawn by six cattle, passed, and were saved from the enemy, who might otherwise have seized them all.
The troops composing the rear guard were arranged as follows: Wessells' brigade, with Miller's and one section of McCarthy's batteries, all under immediate command of Brigadier-General Peck, commanding division, were formed in line of battle, faced to the rear, on the hill overlooking Haxall's vast farm and in the woods across the roads coming in from the direction of White Oak Swamp. Upon all these roads cavalry scouts were kept in constant motion. Half a mile below Peck's position Colonel Farnsworth's regiment, the Eight Illinois