From the time at which the enemy withdrew his forces to this side of the Chickahominy and destroyed the bridges to the moment of his evacuation-that is, from Friday night until Sunday morning-I considered the situation of our army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger portion of it was on the opposite side of the Chickahominy, the bridges had been all destroyed, but one was rebuilt (the New Bridge), which was commanded fully by the enemy's guns from Golding's, and there were but 25,000 men between his army of 100,000 and Richmond.
I received repeated instructions during Saturday night from General Lee's headquarters enjoining upon my command the utmost vigilance, directing the men to sleep on their arms, and to be prepared for whatever might occur. These orders were promptly communicated by me to the different commanders of my forces and were also transmitted to General Huger, on my right. I passed the night without sleep and in the superintendence of their execution.
Had McClellan massed his whole force in column and advanced it against any point of our line of battle, as was done at Austerlitz under similar circumstances by the greatest captain of any age, though the head of his column would have suffered greatly, its momentum would have insured him success, and the occupation of our works about Richmond, and consequently of the city, might have been his reward.
His failure to do so is the best evidence that our wise commander fully understood the character of his opponent. Our relief was therefore great when intelligence reached us almost simultaneously from Colonel Chilton and one of my staff that the enemy, whose presence had been ascertained as late as 3.30 a. m., had evacuated his works and was retreating.
Colonel Chilton, who rode into my camp on Sunday morning, hurried me off to see General Lee, on the Nine-mile road, and I gave, while riding with him, the necessary orders to put in motion my whole command, which extended over a distance of some miles, directing Brigadier-General Griffith's brigade, which was nearest to the road, to advance at once from the center, and ordering Brigadier-General Jones' division in advancing to incline toward Fair Oaks Station, as I had been informed that Major-General Jackson had crossed or was crossing the Grapevine Bridge, and would operate down the Chickahominy.
Having overtaken General Lee, we rode together down the Nine-mile road, and the general informed me of the plans which he had adopted for the pursuit of the enemy. They were as follows: Major-General Longstreet's division was to have crossed the New Bridge and to take position on our extreme right, so as to intercept the enemy in his attempt to reach James River; Major-General Huger's division to march down the Williamsburg road on my right flank, and Major-General Jackson's division, which he stated had crossed or was crossing the Grapevine Bridge over the Chickahominy River, was to operate down that river on its right bank, while my own command would press him vigorously in front.
On our arrival at Fair Oaks Station we found the enemy's lines in that vicinity, which had been evacuated, in possession of a part of Brigadier-General Kershaw's brigade, the remainder of my command being then on the march. Here General Lee, having repeated his instructions, left the ground.
I directed Major-General McLaws to consolidate Kershaw's brigade and place it on the right of the railroad, and as the other brigade of