The Warwick Line of Confederate fortifications ran across the Virginia peninsula from Skiff Creek to Yorktown. Its defence against McClellan’s invading Union Army of the Potomac was entrusted to General Magruder, a keen amateur actor, who paraded his meagre defence force up and down the line with elaborate theatricality, gulling McClellan into believing a substantial army confronted him. This bought a crucial 30 days for Confederate Commander J.E. Johnston to assemble his forces. Readied, on the night of 3 May, Johnston ordered the Warwick Line’s abrupt evacuation. Flummoxed, McClellan wasted further precious hours in preparation before mounting a pursuit. General Hooker caught up with the Confederate rearguard at Fort Magruder, but was held off by General Longstreet. Reinforcements led by General D.H. Hill rushed to the scene but were mown down by a Union cavalry charge. By nightfall, the Union held the field, but the withdrawing Confederate army had gained further time.
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