Peninsula Campaign Map
The Seven Days Battle
American Civil War
March to July
The Seven Days' Battles
At this point McClellan yielded the initiative to Lee. With his line of communications to White House, his supply base on the York River, cut and with the James River open to the U.S. Navy, the Union commander decided to shift his base to Harrison’s Landing on the south side of the peninsula. His rear areas had been particularly shaky since Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart had ridden completely around the Union Army in a daring raid in early June. The intricate retreat to the James, which involved 90, men, the artillery train, 3, wagons, and 2, head of cattle, began on the night of June 27 and was accomplished by using two roads. Lee tried to hinder the movement but was held off by Federal rear guards at Savage Station on June 29 and at Frayser’s Farm (Glendale) on the last day of the month..
By the first day of July McClellan had concentrated the Army of the Potomac on a commanding plateau at Malvern Hill, northwest of Harrison’s Landing. The location was strong, with clear fields of fire to the front and the flanks secured by streams. Massed artillery could sweep all approaches, and gunboats on the river were ready to provide fire support. The Confederates would have to attack by passing through broken and wooded terrain, traversing swampy ground, and ascending the hill. At first Lee felt McClellan’s position was too strong to assault. Then, at P.M. on July 1, when a shifting of Federal troops deceived him into thinking there was a general withdrawal, he changed his mind and attacked. Again staff work and control were poor. The assaults, all frontal, were delivered piecemeal by only part of the army against Union artillery, massed hub to hub, and supporting infantry. The Confederate formations were shattered, costing Lee some 5, men. On the following day the Army of the Potomac fell back to Harrison’s Landing and dug in. After reconnoitering McClellan’s position, Lee ordered his exhausted men back to the Richmond lines for rest and reorganization. His attacks, while costly, had saved Richmond for the Confederacy.
The Peninsula Campaign cost the Union Army 15, men killed, wounded, and missing. The Confederates, who had done most of the attacking, lost more: 20, Improvement in the training and discipline of both armies since the disorganized fight at Bull Run was notable. But just as significant was the fact that higher commanders had not yet thoroughly mastered their jobs. Except in McClellan’s defensive action at Malvern Hill, which was largely conducted by his corps commanders, neither side’s higher command had been able to bring an entire army into coordinated action.
In the spring of General George B. McClellan’s army of more than , Union soldiers landed at Fort Monroe and fought its way up the peninsula. By mid-May the Army of the Potomac lay on the outskirts of Richmond. McClellan planned to capture the capital of the Confederacy and perhaps end the war. If his strategy succeeded the nation might be reunited, but without the abolition of slavery.
In June the city’s defenders, members of the Army of Northern Virginia, had a new leader. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had conducted the campaign through May, but he fell wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines just east of the city on May His successor, General Robert E. Lee, inherited a gloomy set of circumstances. His 65, man army would fight with its back to Richmond.
Several variables affected the events in June. Sickness ravaged both armies, particularly McClellan’s. The volatile weather, with extensive rain, greatly injured the Union army’s complicated supply system. Being far from home, that army relied on shipping, wagon trains, and the Richmond & York River Railroad to keep itself fed and clothed. McClellan required an estimated tons of supplies every day merely to stay in the field. The rain produced unbelievably muddy roads, forcing the railroad to assume an even greater portion of the transportation burden. The Chickahominy River, swampy even in the best of times, raged across a wide valley northeast of Richmond. That river divided the Army of the Potomac.
General Lee reorganized his army and through the first three weeks of June emphasized the construction of earthen fortifications nearly encircling the city. That unpopular directive earned Lee the derisive nickname “King of Spades.” But Lee had a plan for the salvation of Richmond, and those fortifications were a key ingredient. By erecting powerful defenses, he intended to leave a relatively small portion of his army to guard the direct line to Richmond while he took the balance and attacked McClellan. Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and his army were important components in Lee’s strategy. On June , Jackson completed the defeat of three Union armies in the Shenandoah Valley. With the Valley temporarily secure, Jackson could reinforce the imperiled capital. His 20, men would bring Lee closer to numerical parity with McClellan. Their arrival, under Lee’s plan, would trigger the offensive. Jackson’s men moved by railroad and by foot. When they approached Richmond from the northwest on June 26, Lee struck.
With Stonewall Jackson advancing along the northern side of the Chickahominy, Lee began moving much of Richmond’s defense force toward Jackson. Together, Lee hoped, they could threaten McClellan’s supply railroad and trigger a decisive battle for the fate of Richmond. The ensuing week of operations produced five major battles and several smaller ones and resulted in the Union army retreating to the banks of the James River. With Richmond secure, Lee’s army moved north, defeated Union forces at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas (Bull Run), and then marched toward Maryland and the first invasion of the North.
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Seven Days Battles
US civil war battles in
|Seven Days Battles|
|Part of the American Civil War|
George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee, respective commanders of the Union and Confederate armies in the Seven Days
|United States (Union)||Confederate States (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|George B. McClellan||Robert E. Lee|
|Army of the Potomac||Army of Northern Virginia|
, ("present for duty equipped"):
|Casualties and losses|
The Seven Days Battles were a series of seven battles over seven days from June 25 to July 1, , near Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove the invading UnionArmy of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen.George B. McClellan, away from Richmond and into a retreat down the Virginia Peninsula. The series of battles is sometimes known erroneously as the Seven Days Campaign, but it was actually the culmination of the Peninsula Campaign, not a separate campaign in its own right.
The Seven Days began on Wednesday, June 25, , with a Union attack in the minor Battle of Oak Grove, but McClellan quickly lost the inittative as Lee began a series of attacks at Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville) on June 26, Gaines's Mill on June 27, the minor actions at Garnett's and Golding's Farm on June 27 and 28, and the attack on the Union rear guard at Savage's Station on June McClellan's Army of the Potomac continued its retreat toward the safety of Harrison's Landing on the James River. Lee's final opportunity to intercept the Union Army was at the Battle of Glendale on June 30, but poorly executed orders and the delay of Stonewall Jackson's troops allowed his enemy to escape to a strong defensive position on Malvern Hill. At the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, Lee launched futile frontal assaults and suffered heavy casualties in the face of strong infantry and artillery defenses.
The Seven Days ended with McClellan's army in relative safety next to the James River, having suffered almost 16, casualties during the retreat. Lee's army, which had been on the offensive during the Seven Days, lost over 20, As Lee became convinced that McClellan would not resume his threat against Richmond, he moved north for the northern Virginia campaign and the Maryland campaign.
Main article: Eastern Theater of the American Civil War
Further information: American Civil War
The Peninsula campaign
Main article: Peninsula campaign
The Peninsula campaign was the unsuccessful attempt by McClellan to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond and end the war. It started in March , when McClellan landed his army at Fort Monroe and moved northwest, up the Virginia Peninsula beginning in early April. Confederate Brig. Gen.John B. Magruder's defensive position on the Warwick Line caught McClellan by surprise. His hopes for a quick advance foiled, McClellan ordered his army to prepare for a siege of Yorktown. Just before the siege preparations were completed, the Confederates, now under the direct command of Johnston, began a withdrawal toward Richmond.
To start this was a very good move. The first heavy fighting of the campaign occurred in the Battle of Williamsburg (May 5), in which the Union troops managed some tactical victories, but the Confederates continued their withdrawal. An amphibious flanking movement to Eltham's Landing (May 7) was ineffective in cutting off the Confederate retreat. In the Battle of Drewry's Bluff (May 15), an attempt by the United States Navy to reach Richmond by way of the James River was repulsed.
As McClellan's army reached the outskirts of Richmond, a minor battle occurred at Hanover Court House (May 27), but it was followed by a surprise attack by Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks on May 31 and June 1. The battle was inconclusive, with heavy casualties, but it had lasting effects on the campaign. Johnston was wounded and replaced on June 1 by the more aggressive Robert E. Lee. Lee spent almost a month extending his defensive lines and organizing his Army of Northern Virginia; McClellan accommodated this by sitting passively to his front, waiting for dry weather and roads, until the start of the Seven Days. Lee, who had developed a reputation for caution early in the war, knew he had no numerical superiority over McClellan, but he planned an offensive campaign that was the first indication of the aggressive nature he would display for the remainder of the war.
Planning for offensives
Lee's initial attack plan, similar to Johnston's plan at Seven Pines, was complex and required expert coordination and execution by all of his subordinates, but Lee knew that he could not win in a battle of attrition or siege against the Union Army. It was developed at a meeting on June The Union Army straddled the rain-swollen Chickahominy River, with the bulk of the army, four corps, arrayed in a semicircular line south of the river. The remainder, the V Corps under Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter, was north of the river near Mechanicsville in an L-shaped line facing north–south behind Beaver Dam Creek and southeast along the Chickahominy. Lee's plan was to cross the Chickahominy with the bulk of his army to attack the Union north flank, leaving only two divisions (under Maj. Gens. Benjamin Huger and John B. Magruder) to hold a line of entrenchments against McClellan's superior strength. This would concentrate about 65, troops to oppose 30,, leaving only 25, to protect Richmond and to contain the other 60, men of the Union Army. The Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart had reconnoitered Porter's right flankas part of a daring but militarily dubious circumnavigation of the entire Union Army from June 12 to 15and found it vulnerable.
Lee intended for Jackson to attack Porter's right flank early on the morning of June 26, and A.P. Hill would move from Meadow Bridge to Beaver Dam Creek, which flows into the Chickahominy, advancing on the Federal trenches. (Lee hoped that Porter would evacuate his trenches under pressure, obviating the need for a direct frontal assault.) Following this, Longstreet and D.H. Hill would pass through Mechanicsville and join the battle. Huger and Magruder would provide diversions on their fronts to distract McClellan as to Lee's real intentions. Lee hoped that Porter would be overwhelmed from two sides by the mass of 65, men, and the two leading Confederate divisions would move on Cold Harbor and cut McClellan's communications with White House Landing.
McClellan also planned an offensive. He had received intelligence that Lee was prepared to move and that the arrival of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's force from the Shenandoah Valley was imminent (McClellan was aware of Jackson's presence at Ashland Station, but did nothing to reinforce Porter's vulnerable corps north of the river). He decided to resume the offensive before Lee could. Anticipating Jackson's reinforcements marching from the north, he increased cavalry patrols on likely avenues of approach. He wanted to advance his siege artillery about a mile and a half closer to the city by taking the high ground on Nine Mile Road around Old Tavern. In preparation for that, he planned an attack on Oak Grove, south of Old Tavern and the Richmond and York River Railroad, which would position his men to attack Old Tavern from two directions.
The armies that fought in the Seven Days Battles comprised almost , men, which offered the potential for the largest battles of the war. However, the inexperience or caution of the generals involved usually prevented the appropriate concentration of forces and mass necessary for decisive tactical victories.
The Confederate army was not a proper unified command as the Army of the Potomac was, but simply a thrown-together collection of all the troops that could be gathered for the defense of Richmond. This contributed to the poor coordination of the army during the battles and the inability of Robert E. Lee to destroy the Union army.
The average strength of a division in the Army of the Potomac was about men (including non-combatants) with Casey's division being the smallest at around and Morell's being the largest at 11, men. The average strength of Confederate divisions varied from 12, men (A.P. Hill's division) to men (Theophilus Holmes's division). Confederate reports listed only combat troops and excluded non-combatants such as couriers, staff officers, and wagon drivers. Jackson's command was severely understrength from the Valley campaign and his own division had less than men, most of them being in the Stonewall Brigade while the brigades of Samuel Fulkerson and John R. Jones were down to nearly regimental size and were held in reserve for most of the Seven Days Battles. Ewell's three brigades numbered men total. Jackson was reinforced with the brigade of Alexander Lawton, recently arrived from Georgia, and numbering men. This brought his total strength to around men.
D.H. Hill's division numbered around men, having numbered close to 10, before the heavy losses at Seven Pines. They were reinforced with Roswell Ripley's brigade, newly arrived from North Carolina, and numbering men, bringing the total strength of Hill's command to 10, men. James Longstreet's division numbered men on June 25 according to army ordnance chief Edward P. Alexander. It had numbered close to 12, men prior to losses at Seven Pines. Benjamin Huger's division numbered approximately men. William Whiting had around men in his two brigades. John Magruder's three divisions numbered about 13, men.
Further information: Seven Days Battles Union order of battle
McClellan's Army of the Potomac, with approximately , men, was organized largely as it had been at Seven Pines.
Further information: Seven Days Battles Confederate order of battle
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was larger than the one he inherited from Johnston, and, at about 92, men, the largest Confederate army assembled during the war.
- Maj. Gen.Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, having just arrived from his victories in the Valley campaign, commanded a force consisting of his own division (now commanded by Brig. Gen. Charles S. Winder) and those of Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, Brig. Gen.William H. C. Whiting, and Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill.
- Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's "Light Division" (which was so named because it traveled light and was able to maneuver and strike quickly) consisted of the brigades of Brig. Gens. Charles W. Field, Maxcy Gregg, Joseph R. Anderson, Lawrence O'Bryan Branch, James J. Archer, and William Dorsey Pender.
- Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's division consisted of the brigades of Brig. Gens. James L. Kemper, Richard H. Anderson, George E. Pickett, Cadmus M. Wilcox, Roger A. Pryor, and Winfield Scott Featherston. Longstreet also had operational command over Hill's Light Division.
- Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder commanded the divisions of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, Brig. Gen. David R. Jones, and Magruder's own division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb.
- Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger's division consisted of the brigades of Brig. Gens. William Mahone, Ambrose R. Wright, Lewis A. Armistead, and Robert Ransom, Jr.
- Maj. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes' division consisted of the brigades of Brig. Gens. Junius Daniel, John G. Walker, Henry A. Wise, and the cavalry brigade of Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
Further information: Battle of Oak Grove
McClellan planned to advance to the west, along the axis of the Williamsburg Road, in the direction of Richmond. Between the two armies was a small, dense forest, 1, yards (1,m) wide, bisected by the headwaters of White Oak Swamp. Two divisions of the III Corps were selected for the assault, commanded by Brig. Gens. Joseph Hooker and Philip Kearny. Facing them was the division of Confederate Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger.
Soon after 8 a.m., June 25, the Union brigades of Brig. Gens. Daniel E. Sickles (the Excelsior Brigade), Cuvier Grover, both of Hooker's division, and John C. Robinson stepped off. Although Robinson and Grover made good progress on the left and in the center, Sickles's New Yorkers encountered difficulties moving through their abatis, then through the upper portions of the creek, and finally met stiff Confederate resistance, all of which threw the Federal line out of alignment. Huger took advantage of the confusion by launching a counterattack with the brigade of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright against Grover's brigade. At a crucial moment in the battle, the 26th North Carolina of Brig. Gen. Robert Ransom's brigade, in their first combat engagement, delivered a perfectly synchronized volley of rifle fire against Sickles's brigade, breaking up its delayed attack and sending the 71st New York into a panicked retreat, which Sickles described as "disgraceful confusion."
Heintzelman ordered reinforcements sent forward and also notified army commander McClellan, who was attempting to manage the battle by telegraph from 3 miles (km) away. McClellan ordered his men to withdraw back to their entrenchments, mystifying his subordinates on the scene. Arriving at the front at 1 p.m., seeing that the situation was not as bad as he had feared, McClellan ordered his men forward to retake the ground for which they had already fought once that day. The fighting lasted until nightfall.
The minor battle was McClellan's only tactical offensive action against Richmond. His attack gained only yards (m) at a cost of over 1, casualties on both sides and was not strong enough to derail the offensive planned by Robert E. Lee, which had already been set in motion.
Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville)
Further information: Battle of Beaver Dam Creek
Lee's plan called for Jackson to begin the attack on Porter's north flank early on June A.P. Hill's Light Division was to advance from Meadow Bridge when he heard Jackson's guns, clear the Union pickets from Mechanicsville, and then move to Beaver Dam Creek. D.H. Hill and Longstreet were to pass through Mechanicsville and support Jackson and A.P. Hill. South of the river, Magruder and Huger were to demonstrate to deceive the four Union corps on their front.
Lee's intricate plan went awry immediately. Jackson's men, fatigued from their recent campaign and lengthy march, ran at least four hours behind schedule. By 3 p.m., A.P. Hill grew impatient and began his attack without orders, a frontal assault with 11, men. Porter extended and strengthened his right flank and fell back to concentrate along Beaver Dam Creek and Ellerson's Mill. There, 14, well entrenched soldiers, aided by 32 guns in six batteries, repulsed repeated Confederate attacks with substantial casualties.
This was the first of four occasions within the next seven days when Jackson would fail to display initiative, resourcefulness, or dependabilitythe very qualities that were later to raise him to the stature of one of the foremost military leaders.
Col. Vincent J. Esposito, The West Point Atlas of American Wars
Jackson and his command arrived late in the afternoon and he ordered his troops to bivouac for the evening while a major battle was raging within earshot. His proximity to Porter's flank caused McClellan to order Porter to withdraw after dark behind Boatswain's Swamp, 5 miles (km) to the east. McClellan was concerned that the Confederate buildup on his right flank threatened his supply line, the Richmond and York River Railroad north of the Chickahominy, and he decided to shift his base of supply to the James River. He also believed that the diversions by Huger and Magruder south of the river meant that he was seriously outnumbered. (He reported to Washington that he faced , Confederates, but there were actually 85,) This was a strategic decision of grave importance because it meant that, without the railroad to supply his army, he would be forced to abandon his siege of Richmond. A.P. Hill, now with Longstreet and D.H. Hill behind him, continued his attack, despite orders from Lee to hold his ground. His assault was beaten back with heavy casualties.
Overall, the battle was a Union tactical victory, in which the Confederates suffered heavy casualties and achieved none of their specific objectives due to the seriously flawed execution of Lee's plan. Instead of over 60, men crushing the enemy's flank, only five brigades, about 15, men, had seen action. Their losses were 1, versus Porter's Despite the short-term Union success, however, it was the start of a strategic debacle. McClellan began to withdraw his army to the southeast and never regained the initiative.
Further information: Battle of Gaines's Mill
By the morning of June 27, the Union forces were concentrated into a semicircle with Porter collapsing his line into an east–west salient north of the river and the four corps south of the river remaining in their original positions. McClellan ordered Porter to hold Gaines's Mill at all costs so that the army could change its base of supply to the James River. Several of McClellan's subordinates urged him to attack Magruder's division south of the river, but he feared the vast numbers of Confederates he believed to be before him and refused to capitalize on the overwhelming superiority he actually held on that front.
Lee continued his offensive on June 27, launching the largest Confederate attack of the war, about 57, men in six divisions. A.P. Hill resumed his attack across Beaver Dam Creek early in the morning, but found the line lightly defended. By early afternoon, he ran into strong opposition where Porter had deployed along Boatswain's Creek; the swampy terrain was a major obstacle to the attack. As Longstreet arrived to the south of A.P. Hill, he saw the difficulty of attacking over such terrain and delayed until Stonewall Jackson could attack on Hill's left.
For the second time in the Seven Days, however, Jackson was late. D.H. Hill attacked the Federal right and was held off by the division of Brig. Gen. George Sykes; he backed off to await Jackson's arrival. Longstreet was ordered to conduct a diversionary attack to stabilize the lines until Jackson could arrive and attack from the north. In Longstreet's attack, Brig. Gen. George E. Pickett's brigade attempted a frontal assault and was beaten back under severe fire with heavy losses. Jackson finally reached D.H. Hill's position at 3 p.m. and began his assault at p.m.
Porter's line was saved by Brig. Gen. Henry W. Slocum's division moving into position to bolster his defense. Shortly after dark, the Confederates mounted another attack, poorly coordinated, but this time collapsing the Federal line. Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade opened a gap in the line, as did Pickett's Brigade on its second attempt of the day. By 4 a.m. on June 28, Porter withdrew across the Chickahominy, burning the bridges behind him.
For the second day, Magruder was able to continue fooling McClellan south of the river by employing minor diversionary attacks. He was able to occupy 60, Federal troops while the heavier action occurred north of the river.
Gaines's Mill was the only clear-cut Confederate tactical victory of the Peninsula Campaign. Union casualties from the 34, engaged were 6, ( killed, 3, wounded, and 2, captured or missing). Of the 57, Confederates engaged, losses totaled 7, (1, killed, 6, wounded, missing or captured). Since the Confederate assault was conducted against only a small portion of the Union Army (the V Corps, one fifth of the army), the army emerged from the battle in relatively good shape overall. However, although McClellan had already planned to shift his supply base to the James River, his defeat unnerved him and he precipitously decided to abandon his advance on Richmond.
The night of June 27, McClellan ordered his entire army to withdraw to a secure base at Harrison's Landing on the James River. His actions have puzzled military historians ever since. The Union army was in a good position, having withstood strong Confederate attacks while only deploying one of its five corps in battle. Porter had performed well against heavy odds. Furthermore, McClellan was aware that the War Department had created a new Army of Virginia and ordered it to be sent to the Peninsula to reinforce him. But Lee had unnerved him, and he surrendered the initiative. He sent a telegram to the Secretary of War that included the statement: "If I save this Army now I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washingtonyou have done your best to sacrifice this Army." (The military telegraph department chose to omit this sentence from the copy given to the Secretary.)
McClellan ordered Keyes's IV Corps to move west of Glendale and protect the army's withdrawal, while Porter was sent to the high ground at Malvern Hill to develop defensive positions. The supply trains were ordered to move south toward the river. McClellan departed for Harrison's Landing without specifying any exact routes of withdrawal and without designating a second-in-command. For the remainder of the Seven Days, he had no direct command of the battles. The Union retreat across the Chickahominy after Gaines's Mill was a psychological victory for the Confederacy, signaling that Richmond was out of danger.
Lee's cavalry reported that Union troops had abandoned their defense of the Richmond and York River Railroad and the White House supply depot on the York River. That information, plus the sighting of large dust clouds south of the Chickahominy River, finally convinced Lee that McClellan was heading for the James. Until this time, Lee anticipated that McClellan would be withdrawing to the east to protect his supply line to the York River and positioned his forces to react to that, unable to act decisively while he awaited evidence of McClellan's intentions.
Garnett's & Golding's Farm
Further information: Battle of Garnett's & Golding's Farm
While Lee's main attack at Gaines's Mill was progressing on June 27, the Confederates south of the Chickahominy performed a reconnaissance in force to determine the location of McClellan's retreating army. Magruder ordered Brig. Gen. Robert A. Toombs's brigade forward to "feel the enemy." Toombs, a Georgia politician with a disdain for professional officers, instead launched a sharp attack at dusk against Baldy Smith's VI Corps division near Old Tavern at the farm of James M. Garnett. The attack was easily repulsed by the brigade of Brig. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock.
On June 28, Toombs again was ordered to conduct a reconnaissance, but turned it into an attack over the same ground, meeting the enemy at the farm of Simon Gouldin (also known as Golding). Toombs took it upon himself to order his fellow brigade commander, Col. George T. Anderson, to join the assault. Two of Anderson's regiments, the 7th and 8th Georgia, preceded Toombs's brigade into the assault and were subjected to a vigorous Federal counterattack by the 49th Pennsylvania and 43rd New York, losing men.
These were the only attacks south of the Chickahominy River in conjunction with Gaines's Mill, but they helped to convince McClellan that he was being subjected to attacks from all directions, increasing his anxiety and his determination to get his army to safety at the James.
Further information: Battle of Savage's Station
On Sunday, June 29, the bulk of McClellan's army concentrated around Savage's Station on the Richmond and York River Railroad, a Federal supply depot since just before Seven Pines, preparing for a difficult crossing through and around White Oak Swamp. It did so without centralized direction because McClellan had personally moved south of Malvern Hill after Gaines's Mill without leaving directions for corps movements during the retreat nor naming a second in command. Clouds of black smoke filled the air as the Union troops were ordered to burn anything they could not carry. Union morale plummeted, particularly so for those wounded, who realized that they were not being evacuated from Savage's Station with the rest of the Army.
Lee devised a complex plan to pursue and destroy McClellan's army. Longstreet's and A.P. Hill's divisions looped back toward Richmond and then southeast to the crossroads at Glendale, Holmes's division headed farther south, to the vicinity of Malvern Hill, and Magruder's division was ordered to move due east to attack the Federal rear guard. Stonewall Jackson, commanding three divisions, was to rebuild a bridge over the Chickahominy and head due south to Savage's Station, where he would link up with Magruder and deliver a strong blow that might cause the Union Army to turn around and fight during its retreat. McClellan's rear guard at Savage's Station consisted five divisions from Sumner's II Corps, Heintzelman's III Corps, and Franklin's VI Corps. McClellan considered his senior corps commander, Sumner, to be incompetent, so he appointed no one to command the rear guard.
Initial contact between the armies occurred at 9 a.m. on June 29, a four-regiment fight about 2 miles (km) west of Savage's Station, lasting for about two hours before disengaging. Meanwhile, Jackson was not advancing as Lee had planned. He was taking time to rebuild bridges over the Chickahominy and he received a garbled order from Lee's chief of staff that made him believe he should stay north of the river and guard the crossings. These failures of the Confederate plan were being matched on the Union side, however. Heintzelman decided on his own that his corps was not needed to defend Savage's Station, so he decided to follow the rest of the army without informing his fellow generals.
Magruder was faced with the problem of attacking Sumner's 26, men with his own 14, He hesitated until 5 p.m., when he sent only two and a half brigades forward. Union artillery opened fire and pickets were sent forward to meet the assault. The two brigade front of Kershaw and Semmes began to push the narrow defensive line of one of Sedgwick's brigades. Sumner managed this part of the battle erratically, selecting regiments for combat from multiple brigades almost at random. By the time all of these units reached the front, the two sides were at rough paritytwo brigades each. Although Magruder had been conservative about his attack, Sumner was even more so. Of the 26 regiments he had in his corps, only 10 were engaged at Savage's Station.
The fighting turned into a bloody stalemate as darkness fell and strong thunderstorms began to move in. The "Land Merrimack"the first instance of an armored railroad battery to be used in combatbombarded the Union front, with some of its shells reaching as far to the rear as the field hospital. The final action of the evening was as the Vermont Brigade, attempting to hold the flank south of the Williamsburg Road, charged into the woods and were met with murderous fire, suffering more casualties of any brigade on the field that day.
There were about 1, casualties on both sides, plus 2, previously wounded Union soldiers who were left to be captured when their field hospital was evacuated. Stonewall Jackson eventually crossed the river by about a.m. on June 30, but it was too late to crush the Union Army, as Lee had hoped. General Lee reprimanded Magruder, but the fault for the lost opportunity must be shared equally with the poor staff work at Lee's own headquarters and a less than aggressive performance by Jackson.
Glendale and White Oak Swamp
Further information: Battle of Glendale and Battle of White Oak Swamp
Most elements of the Union Army had been able to cross White Oak Swamp Creek by noon on June About one third of the army had reached the James River, but the remainder was still marching between White Oak Swamp and Glendale. After inspecting the line of march that morning, McClellan rode south and boarded the ironclad USS Galena on the James.
Lee ordered his army to converge on the retreating Union forces, bottlenecked on the inadequate road network. The Army of the Potomac, lacking overall command coherence, presented a discontinuous, ragged defensive line. Stonewall Jackson was ordered to press the Union rear guard at the White Oak Swamp crossing while the largest part of Lee's army, some 45, men, would attack the Army of the Potomac in mid-retreat at Glendale, about 2 miles (km) southwest, splitting it in two. Huger's division would strike first after a three-mile (5km) march on the Charles City Road, supported by Longstreet and A.P. Hill, whose divisions were about 7 miles (11km) to the west, in a mass attack. Holmes was ordered to capture Malvern Hill.
The Confederate plan was once again marred by poor execution. Huger's men were slowed by felled trees obstructing the Charles City Road, spending hours chopping a new road through the thick woods. Huger failed to take any alternative route, and, fearing a counterattack, failed to participate in the battle. Magruder marched around aimlessly, unable to decide whether he should be aiding Longstreet or Holmes; by 4 p.m., Lee ordered Magruder to join Holmes on the River Road and attack Malvern Hill. Stonewall Jackson moved slowly and spent the entire day north of the creek, making only feeble efforts to cross and attack Franklin's VI Corps in the Battle of White Oak Swamp, attempting to rebuild a destroyed bridge (although adequate fords were nearby), and engaging in a pointless artillery duel. Jackson's inaction allowed some units to be detached from Franklin's corps in late afternoon to reinforce the Union troops at Glendale. Holmes's relatively inexperienced troops made no progress against Porter at Turkey Bridge on Malvern Hill, even with the reinforcements from Magruder, and were repulsed by effective artillery fire and by Federal gunboats on the James.
At 2 p.m., as they waited for sounds of Huger's expected attack, Lee, Longstreet, and visiting Confederate President Jefferson Davis were conferring on horseback when they came under heavy artillery fire, wounding two men and killing three horses. A.P. Hill, the commander in that sector, ordered the president and senior generals to the rear. Longstreet attempted to silence the six batteries of Federal guns firing in his direction, but long-range artillery fire proved to be inadequate. He ordered Col. Micah Jenkins to charge the batteries, which brought on a general fight around 4 p.m.
Although belated and not initiated as planned, the assaults by the divisions of A.P. Hill and Longstreet, under Longstreet's overall command, turned out to be the only ones to follow Lee's order to attack the main Union concentration. Longstreet's 20, men were not reinforced by other Confederate divisions of Huger and Jackson, despite their concentration within a three-mile (5km) radius. They assaulted the disjointed Union line of 40, men, arranged in a two-mile (3km) arc north and south of the Glendale intersection, but the brunt of the fighting was centered on the position held by the Pennsylvania Reserves division of the V Corps, 6, men under Brig. Gen. George A. McCall, just west of the Nelson Farm. (The farm was owned by R.H. Nelson, but its former owner was named Frayser and many of the locals referred to it as Frayser's, or Frazier's, Farm.)
Three Confederate brigades made the assault, but Longstreet ordered them forward in a piecemeal fashion, over several hours. Brig. Gen. James L. Kemper's Virginians charged through the thick woods first and emerged in front of five batteries of McCall's artillery. In their first combat experience, the brigade conducted a disorderly but enthusiastic assault, which carried them through the guns and broke through McCall's main line with Jenkins's support, followed up a few hours later by Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox's Alabamians. The Confederate brigades met stiff resistance in sometimes hand-to-hand combat.
On McCall's flanks, the divisions of Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker (to the south) and Brig. Gens. Philip Kearny and Henry W. Slocum (to the north), held against repeated Confederate attacks. Brig. Gen. John Sedgwick's division, which had units both in reserve and around White Oak Swamp, came up to fill a gap after a brutal counterattack. Heavy fighting continued until about p.m. Longstreet committed virtually every brigade in the divisions under his command, while on the Union side they had been fed in individually to plug holes in the line as they occurred.
The battle was tactically inconclusive, although Lee failed to achieve his objective of preventing the Federal escape and crippling McClellan's army, if not destroying it. Union casualties were 3,, Confederate about the same at 3,, but more than 40% higher in killed and wounded. Although Jackson's wing of the army and Franklin's corps comprised tens of thousands of men, the action at White Oak Swamp included no infantry activity and was limited to primarily an artillery duel with few casualties.
Further information: Battle of Malvern Hill
The final battle of the Seven Days was the first in which the Union Army occupied favorable ground. Malvern Hill offered good observation and artillery positions, having been prepared the previous day by Porter's V Corps. McClellan himself was not present on the battlefield, having preceded his army to Harrison's Landing on the James, and Porter was the most senior of the corps commanders. The slopes were cleared of timber, providing great visibility, and the open fields to the north could be swept by deadly fire from the guns placed by Col. Henry J. Hunt, McClellan's chief of artillery. Beyond this space, the terrain was swampy and thickly wooded. Almost the entire Army of the Potomac occupied the hill and the line extended in a vast semicircle from Harrison's Landing on the extreme right to Brig. Gen. George W. Morell's division of Porter's corps on the extreme left, which occupied the geographically advantageous ground on the northwestern slopes of the hill.
Rather than flanking the position, Lee attacked it directly, hoping that his artillery would clear the way for a successful infantry assault. His plan was to attack the hill from the north on the Quaker Road, using the divisions of Stonewall Jackson, Richard S. Ewell, D.H. Hill, and Brig. Gen. William H.C. Whiting. Magruder was ordered to follow Jackson and deploy to his right when he reached the battlefield. Huger's division was to follow as well, but Lee reserved the right to position him based on developments. The divisions of Longstreet and A.P. Hill, which had been the most heavily engaged in Glendale the previous day, were held in reserve.
Once again, Lee's complex plan was poorly executed. The approaching soldiers were delayed by severely muddy roads and poor maps. Jackson arrived at the swampy creek called Western Run and stopped abruptly. Magruder's guides mistakenly sent him on the Long Bridge Road to the southwest, away from the battlefield. Eventually the battle line was assembled with Huger's division (brigades of Brig. Gens. Ambrose R. Wright and Lewis A. Armistead) on the Confederate right and D.H. Hill's division (brigades of Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood and Col. Evander M. Law) on the Quaker Road to the left. They awaited the Confederate bombardment before attacking.
Unfortunately for Lee, Henry Hunt struck first, launching one of the greatest artillery barrages in the war from 1 p.m. to p.m. The Union gunners had superior equipment and expertise and disabled most of the Confederate batteries. Despite the setback, Lee sent his infantry forward at p.m. and Armistead's brigade made some progress through lines of Union sharpshooters. By 4 p.m., Magruder arrived and he was ordered forward to support Armistead. His attack was piecemeal and poorly organized. Meanwhile, D. H. Hill launched his division forward along the Quaker Road, past Willis Church. Across the entire line of battle, the Confederate troops reached only within yards (m) of the Union Center and were repulsed by nightfall with heavy losses. Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill is quoted as saying that, "It wasn't war, it was murder."
Lee's army suffered 5, casualties (versus 3, Union) in this wasted effort, but continued to follow the Union army all the way to Harrison's Landing. On Evelington Heights, part of the property of Edmund Ruffin, the Confederates had an opportunity to dominate the Union camps, making their position on the bank of the James potentially untenable; although the Confederate position would be subjected to Union naval gunfire, the heights were an exceptionally strong defensive position that would have been very difficult for the Union to capture with infantry. Cavalry commander Jeb Stuart reached the heights and began bombardment with a single cannon. This alerted the Federals to the potential danger and they captured the heights before any Confederate infantry could reach the scene.
Our success has not been as great or complete as we should have desired. Under ordinary circumstances the Federal Army should have been destroyed.
General Robert E. Lee
My conscience is clear at least to this extentviz.: that I have honestly done the best I could; I shall leave it to others to decide whether that was the best that could have been done& if they find any who can do better am perfectly willing to step aside & give way.
Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, letter to his wife
The Seven Days Battles ended the Peninsula Campaign. Malvern Hill was not a tenable position to stay in, and the Army of the Potomac quickly withdrew to Harrison's Landing, where it was protected by Union gunboats on the James River. The army was in no condition for a renewed offensive; close to 16, men and officers had been killed, wounded, or captured between June 25 and July 1, particularly in the V Corps, which had done the heaviest fighting, while the survivors were extremely tired after a week of fighting and marching with little food or sleep, most of the artillery ammunition had been used up, and the summer weather was taking its toll with the army sick lists getting longer and longer. Meanwhile, the equally-exhausted Army of Northern Virginia, with no reason to remain in the James bottomlands, pulled back to the Richmond lines to lick its wounds.
McClellan wrote a series of letters to the War Department arguing that he was facing upwards of , Confederates and that he needed major reinforcements to launch a renewed offensive on Richmond. McPherson notes that the maximum number of Army of Northern Virginia troops that Lee could bring was, in fact, 92, By giving him the commands in Northern Virginia, troops from the Washington garrison, and whatever forces could be pulled from the West, he argued that he might have a fighting chance. General-in-chief Henry Halleck replied back that McClellan's requests were impossible and that if the Confederate army were really as large as he claimed, then trying to reinforce him with Pope and Burnside's commands in Northern Virginia was suicide, since the Confederates could easily crush either Union army with overwhelming strength. Halleck also pointed out that mosquito season was coming up in August–September, and to remain on the swampy Virginia Peninsula at that time of the year was inviting a disastrous malaria and yellow fever epidemic. On August 4, the order came down for McClellan to withdraw from the Peninsula and return to the Aquia Creek area at once.
Both sides suffered heavy casualties. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia suffered about 20, casualties (3, killed, 15, wounded, and captured or missing) out of a total of over 90, soldiers during the Seven Days. McClellan reported casualties of about 16, (1, killed, 8, wounded, and 6, captured or missing) out of a total of , Despite their victory, many Confederates were stunned by the losses. The number of casualties in the Seven Days Battles surpassed the total number of casualties in the Western Theater of the war up until that point in the year.
The effects of the Seven Days Battles were widespread. After a successful start on the Peninsula that foretold an early end to the war, Northern morale was crushed by McClellan's retreat. Despite heavy casualties which the less populated South could ill afford and clumsy tactical performances by Lee and his generals, Confederate morale skyrocketed, and Lee was emboldened to continue his aggressive strategy through the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Maryland Campaign. McClellan's previous position as general-in-chief of all the Union armies, vacant since March, was filled on July 23, , by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, although McClellan did retain command of the Army of the Potomac. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee embarked on a thorough reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia, forming it into two corps commanded by James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson. Lee also removed several generals such as John Magruder and Benjamin Huger who had performed poorly during the Seven Days Battles.
- ^McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p
- ^Further information: Official Records, Series I, Volume XI, Part 3, page
- ^ ab, according to Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. "on June 26, Porter's corps had 28,; south of the Chickahominy River, the other four corps had 76," Rafuse, p. , cites , Union present for duty.
- ^ abSears, Gates of Richmond, p. "on June 26, Magruder and Huger had 28, south of the Chickahominy; Longstreet, A.P. Hill, D.H. Hill, Jackson, and part of Stuart's cavalry brigade, 55,; Holmes in reserve, 7," Rafuse, p. , cites , Confederate present for duty after the arrival of Jackson's command.
- ^Further information: Official Records, Series I, Volume XI, Part 2, pages
6, missing/captured according to Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Further information: Official Records, Series I, Volume XI, Part 2, pages and pages
- ^20, total (3, killed; 15, wounded; missing/captured) according to Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^ abSears, Gates of Richmond, p. xi; Miller, pp. 818; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, p. 5; Eicher, pp.
- ^ abRafuse, p. ; Miller, pp. 2025; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. 26; Eicher, pp.
- ^Esposito, text to map 45 (called Stuart's raid "of dubious value"); Time-Life, p. 2530; Rafuse, p. ; Harsh, pp. 8081; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 1823; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 97; Eicher, pp.
- ^Eicher, p. ; Time-Life, p. 31; Rafuse, p.
- ^Salmon, pp. 96
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Esposito, map 44; Time-Life, p. 31; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 4143; Salmon, p.
- ^Eicher, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. ,
- ^Eicher, pp. 82; Sears, Gates of Richmond, ,
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. 43; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 87; Time-Life, p. 31; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. 45; Salmon, p.
- ^Eicher, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 4748; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp.
- ^Salmon, p. 98; Eicher, p.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, p. 63; Eicher, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Esposito, map 45; Harsh, p. 92; Eicher, p. ; Salmon, pp. 99
- ^Esposito, map
- ^Sears, Young Napoleon, p.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp. 66, 88; Time-Life, pp. 3436; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 62, 8081; Rafuse, pp. 25; Salmon, pp. ; Eicher, pp.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. ; Eicher, pp. 85; Salmon, p.
- ^Kennedy, pp. 9394; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. ; Salmon, pp. 99
- ^Time-Life, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 26; Kennedy, p. 96; Eicher, p. ; Salmon, pp. ; Time-Life, p. 45; Harsh, p. 94; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. 89; Eicher, p. ; Kennedy, p. 96; Salmon, pp.
- ^Kennedy, pp. 9697; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 42; Salmon, p.
- ^Eicher, p.
- ^Salmon, p.
- ^Eicher, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. ; Rafuse, p. ; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, p. 88; Esposito, map 46; Time-Life, pp. 47
- ^Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. , ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 65,
- ^Salmon, p. ; Sears, Young Napoleon, p. ; Rafuse, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. ; Esposito, map 46; Time-Life, p. 49; Harsh, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. , ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. ; Salmon, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 59; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 74; Salmon, p.
- ^Salmon, p.
- ^Miller, p. 46; Eicher, p. ; Salmon, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Salmon, p. ; Eicher, p.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, 90; Eicher, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 84; Salmon, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp.
- ^Esposito, map 46; Time-Life, p. 50; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. ; Eicher, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Salmon, pp.
- ^Salmon, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, p. 93; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 20; Salmon, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 72; Eicher, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 23; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Salmon, p. ; Eicher, p.
- ^Time-Life, p. 52; Rafuse, pp. 28; Eicher, pp. 91; Kennedy, p. 98; Salmon, p.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 35; Esposito, map 47; Eicher, p. ; Salmon, pp.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp. 9798; Time-Life, pp. 52, 55; Rafuse, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 54; Kennedy, p. ; Salmon, p. ; Eicher, pp.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 67, ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Kennedy, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. ; Kennedy, p. ; Time-Life, p. 56; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 80; Salmon, p.
- ^Esposito, map
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 99; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. ; Kennedy, p. ; Salmon, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. ; Kennedy, p. ; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp. ; Time-Life, p. 59; Salmon, p.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. , ; Time-Life, p. 60; Salmon, p. ; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p.
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p. , cites "available for use, not including siege artillery."
- ^Time-Life, p. 63; Eicher, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp. 10; Esposito, map
- ^Eicher, p. ; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp.
- ^Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, pp. 19; Eicher, p. ; Time-Life, pp. 63, 87
- ^Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp.
- ^ abBurton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p.
- ^McPherson, Tried By War, p
- ^Rafuse, p. ; Burton, Peninsula & Seven Days, p. ; Time-Life, p. 72; Eicher, p.
- ^Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 45; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, p.
- ^McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p.
- ^Harsh, pp. 9697; Eicher, p. ; Burton, Extraordinary Circumstances, pp. 98; Time-Life, pp. 90
- Burton, Brian K. Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN
- Burton, Brian K. The Peninsula & Seven Days: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN
- Editors of Time-Life Books. Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, ISBN
- Eicher, David J.The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN
- Esposito, Vincent J. West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, OCLC The collection of maps (without explanatory text) is available online at the West Point website.
- Harsh, Joseph L. Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, . Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, ISBN
- Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide[permanent dead link]. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., ISBN
- McPherson, James M.Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press,
- McPherson, James M.Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. New York, NY: Penguin Press,
- Miller, William J. The Battles for Richmond, . National Park Service Civil War Series. Fort Washington, PA: U.S. National Park Service and Eastern National, ISBN
- Rafuse, Ethan S. McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN
- Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, ISBN
- Sears, Stephen W.George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. New York: Da Capo Press, ISBN
- Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Ticknor and Fields, ISBN
- National Park Service battle descriptions
Memoirs and primary sources
- Crenshaw, Doug. Richmond Shall Not Be Given Up: The Seven Days' Battles, June 25July 1, . Emerging Civil War Series. El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, ISBN
- Gallagher, Gary W., ed. The Richmond Campaign of The Peninsula & the Seven Days. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, ISBN
- Martin, David G. The Peninsula Campaign MarchJuly . Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, ISBN
- Robertson, James I., Jr.Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York: Macmillan Publishing, ISBN
- Webb, Alexander S.The Peninsula: McClellan's Campaign of . Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, ISBN First published
- Wert, Jeffry D.General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN
- Welcher, Frank J. The Union Army, Organization and Operations. Vol. 1, The Eastern Theater. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN
- Wheeler, Richard. Sword Over Richmond: An Eyewitness History of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, ISBN
The Battles for Richmond,
On the morning of July 1, , Lee knew he was about out of time. McClellan's army was already on the banks of the James. If any chance to damage the Federals remained, that chance would have to be seized today. Malvern Hill was a narrow plateau of cleared land planted mostly in wheat. After months in the forests and swamps around the Chickahominy, the Northerners felt a sort of elation to be on high ground bathed in warm sunshine. "Gazing out over the sea of waving grain," wrote one New Yorker, "rippling beneath the touch of each passing breeze up to the very breast of the high forest wall, whose dark green foliage formed a fitting background to the picture, one could not help being entranced. The sky, so high above, and so blue, was flecked with light, fleecy, silvery-white clouds, which cast soft shadows upon the scene below, . . . growing wheat, beneath the rays of the declining sun, undulated and shone like a sea of liquid gold."
(click on image for a PDF version)
|SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES: DAY SEVENJULY 1 BATTLE OF MALVERN HILL|
McClellan's forces spread themselves out in a U-shaped defense, with front lines defended by more than two dozen cannon. It was, many participants later said, the strongest position held by either army during the war. After a morning of little action, a series of confusing events prompted a Confederate assault. Lee's men were forced to cross open fields and climb steep slopes before reaching the enemy's line. All the while Union cannoneers fired on the Confederate ranks with cruel efficiency. Only darkness ended the frightful slaughter.
McClellan's engineers, of course, had selected the position not for its beauty but for its defensive strength. Steep slopes on the west, south, and east offered protection to the army's flanks and rear, so the Federals prepared to defend the long, open northern approachthe direction from which Lee's men would come. McClellan and his officers arranged their cannon in long lines at the crest of Malvern Hill, and the guns, with the 18, men of George Morell's and Darius Couch's divisions in support, completely dominated the fields of wheat between them and the Confederates. The rest of the Army of the Potomac reposed nearby on the hill, waiting in support of Morell and Couch. In addition to the artillery and infantry on Malvern Hill, U.S. Navy gunboats in the James River, a little over a mile to the south, would be able to lob their enormous heavy projectiles into the ranks of Confederate attackers. The Federal position seemed impregnable.
|THE OPEN GROUND AT MALVERN HILL. GENERAL PORTER'S ARTILLERY CROWNED THE DISTANT RIDGELINE. CONFEDERATE ASSAULTS CROSSED HERE BUT COULD ADVANCE NO FARTHER THAN THE CABINS IN THE CENTER OF THE VIEW. (BL)|
Jackson's men, in their assigned place on time for the first time that week, formed Lee's left flank, stretching around the northern and northeastern approaches to Malvern Hill. D. H. Hill's troops were in position in the Confederate center on the Willis Church and Carter's Mill Roads. John Magruder's guides had misled him on the morning's march and his men did not find their way to the battlefield until late in the afternoon. They formed Lee's right, facing a narrow causeway between the Carter's Mill Road and Malvern's steep western slopes.
While Lee waited for Magruder's troops to arrive, he discussed the day's prospects with Longstreet, D. H. Hill, and Jackson. Hill recognized the great strength of the Federal position and stated flatly, "If General McClellan is there in strength, we had better let him alone." Longstreet felt differently, however, and chided Hill, "Don't get scared, now that we have got him whipped." Longstreet, though ignorant of the terrain, urged an attack. Lee agreed in principle but wished to reconnoiter the Federal position before making a decision. He found a fine artillery position on Jackson's front, and Longstreet discovered a long ridge suitable for batteries on the army's right. The two generals thought that massing Confederate guns on these two elevations would produce a converging fire on the Federal guns. The crossfire, they hoped, would weaken the Federals enough for a Confederate infantry assault to succeed. Having designed the plan of the day's action and issued the orders, Lee refrained from directing the actual operations. He was ill and though he remained on the field, he left management of the battle largely to his subordinates.
|POWERFUL FEDERAL BATTERIES SKILLFULLY OPERATED BY MEN LIKE THESE MASSACHUSETTS ARTILLERISTS DOMINATED THE SLOPES OF MALVERN HILL. (USAMHI)|
|UNION GUNBOATS GALENA AND MAHASKAIN THE JAMES RIVER LOBBED HUGE SHELLS TOWARD THE BATTLEFIELD WITH MIXED RESULTS. "OUR TROOPS FEARED THEM QUITE AS MUCH AS THE ENEMY, AND AS A FACT I THINK THEY INJURED OUR TROOPS MORE THAN THEY DID THE ENEMY," WROTE ONE NORTHERN ARTILLERIST. (COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON)|
But the plan began to go wrong almost immediately. The Confederate artillery was so dispersed through the column stretching back toward Glendale that commanders could not get enough guns forward to the positions selected by Lee and Longstreet, and the bombardment never materialized. The few Southern batteries that did get into action were knocked to pieces in minutes by the Federal gunners.
The tragedy continued when the staff officer who wrote out Lee's orders for the attack produced a badly written paper that would add to the confusion of the afternoon. Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead's brigade of Huger's division was to trigger the assault by observing the effects of the artillery bombardment and, at what he judged the most propitious time, lead his brigade forward "with a yell." The cheering of Armistead's men would signal other commands to come forward and join the assault. Unfortunately, some of Armistead's Virginians went forward prematurely and set off a larger, badly timed advance of Confederate infantry. Magruder ordered two more brigadesthose of Ambrose R. Wright and William Mahoneto support Armistead's Virginians.
The Northern artillerymen responded with a thunderous discharge of case shot and canister. Federal sharpshooters and the infantrymen of Morell and Couch laid clown a steady musket fire, and the gunboats in the river added their enormous shells for good measure, though the Navy gunners' fire was inaccurate and certainly more frightening than destructive.
D. H. Hill sent his men forward in support of Magruder, but his assault lacked coordination. Though Hill had about 8, men available to him, he did not send them forward en masse, and the Federals were able to beat back each of the small attacks as they came. Still, wave after wave of Confederates moved out of the woods"grim and silent as destiny itself," thought one Federaland into the carnage in the wheat. "We have seen some grand sights," a watching Northerner wrote after the war, "some glorious and sublime spectacles in our daybut never have we beheld anything to compare in sublimity and grandeur with the scene upon which our eyes rested as column after column marched into view."
|UNION SKIRMISHERS, INCLUDING MEN PROM BERDAN'S SHARPSHOOTERS, PEPPERED THE CONFEDERATE POSITIONS BEFORE THE GRAND ASSAULT ON JULY 1. (BL)|
And rarely in American history had as many men fallen killed and maimed as quickly as were D. H. Hill's infantrymen cut down that afternoon. "Within fifteen or twenty minutes," wrote brigade commander Colonel John B. Gordon "the centre regiment (Third Alabama), with which I moved, had left more than half of its number dead and wounded along its track, and the other regiments had suffered almost as severely. One shell had killed six or seven men in my immediate presence. My pistol, on one side, had the handle torn off; my canteen, on the other, was pierced, emptying its contents; my coat was ruined by having a portion of the front torn away."
The Confederates were relentless in pressing their attacks; brigade after brigade strode out of the woods, over the field littered with bodies and debris, and up the slope. For all the tremendous volume of fire from the Federal artillery, determined Southerners under Brigadier General Lafayette McLaws fought their way all the way to the crest. "The battle was desperately contested," recalled Union artillery commander Colonel Henry Hunt, "and frequently trembled in the balance." At least one battery withdrew, and the Federal infantry found themselves hard-pressed. Fitz John Porter, who commanded the defense of Malvern Hill, for McClellan was inexplicably absent from the front for much of the day, scrambled to meet the threat. Brigades from the rear rushed forward to reinforce Morell and Couch, restored equilibrium, and drove the Confederates back with heavy loss.
The killing finally stopped just after dark, and the battlefield presented a revolting sight. Hundreds of men lay dead or dying and thousands more writhed in agony from wounds, giving the field, a Union cavalry officer thought, "a gruesome crawling appearance." The New Yorker who hours before had been entranced by the beauty of the wheat and sky wrote, "The golden sea has vanished . . . . The ground is crimson now."
|AS THE SUN SET, UNION GUNNERS CONTINUED TO BLAST THE CONFEDERATE INFANTRY ASSAULTS AGAINST THE WESTERN FACE OF MALVERN HILL. (LC)|
|WITH THE AID OF A BUGLER, UNION GENERAL DANIEL BUTTERFIELD ARRANGED PERHAPS THE MOST FAMOUS BUGLE CALL IN MILITARY HISTORY"TAPS"WHILE AT HARRISON'S LANDING. (USAMHI)|
With the advantages of position and plentiful artillery, the Federals still lost more than 3, men at Malvern Hill, but the Confederates, with few advantages at all, suffered more than 5, casualties. A Northerner, writing about the battle after the war, thought "the grand charge of the Confederates at Malvern is worthy of more than passing notice; it is worthy, as an exhibition of manly daring, of immortality." But D. H. Hill, less concerned with glory, saw that Malvern Hill was nothing but a terribly expensive defeat. Angry about the chaos and mismanagement that had cost so many Southern lives, Hill recorded for posterity his own judgment on Malvern Hill. "It was not war," he wrote bitterly, "It was murder."
The next day, July 2, McClellan retreated from his strong position at Malvern Hill and moved his army through a rainstorm to Berkeley and Westover Plantations on the James River. Supply officers had already begun arrangements to feed the army from Harrison's Landing at Berkeley. Lee pursued, but he and his officers decided they could do no more damage to the invaders.
So ended a week of combat that would be known at the Seven Days Battles. At the cost of nearly 20, casualties, Lee had delivered Richmond from immediate danger, but the Army of the Potomac, ensconced at last on the James in a strong position under the protection of the heavy artillery of the Federal gunboats, had survived to fight another day.
But how soon would that day come? Though several of his officers urged him to take the offensive and march on Richmond, McClellan was reluctant to do so until he was heavily reinforced. He had lost some 15, men that week. "Little Mac" assured Washington that he was ready to resume the offensive as soon as he had enough men to do so. Lincoln visited the army at Harrison's Landing and was pleased to learn that it was not demoralized (although sickness was widespread and disease continued to cost the army thousands of men). Washington sent McClellan small numbers of reinforcements in July, but the general insisted he needed many thousands more to contend with what he believed was the Confederates' overwhelming numerical advantage. Newly appointed General in Chief Henry W. Halleck conferred with the army commander on the James and explained that the North simply did not have enough soldiers to give McClellan all the men he desired. McClellan agreed to push the campaign forward with what was available, but a few days later he resumed his pleas for more and more men. Lincoln, his patience exhausted, declared that if he could do the impossible and send McClellan , reinforcements, the general would only ask for , more. Halleck ordered the general to pack up his army and return with it to northern Virginia. The Federals began taking steamers back up the Chesepeake, and by mid-August the Peninsula campaign was over.
|PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN REVIEWING THE SURVIVORS OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC AT HARRISON'S LANDING. (LC)|
The Peninsula campaign was the largest, most complicated and expensive campaign of the Civil War, and that it should end in failure after so much time, money, and so many lives had been invested in its success was a source of great frustration, even embarrassment, for the Lincoln administration. The president and the War Department began making war plans that did not include McClellan, transferring most of "Little Mac's" troops to another command and removing his authority over troops in the field. The Federal disaster at Second Manassas in August moved Lincoln reluctantly to reinstate McClellan, but the general's star never again regained the luster that had so brightened Union hopes before the Peninsula campaign. In November , McClellan was relieved of command and sent out of the war for good.
Much of the criticism leveled at McClellan stems from his failure to win battles. He habitually absented himself from his army's battlefields and showed none of the aggressiveness required of a great captain. After the war, a private who had fought on the Peninsula passed judgment on his former commander and seemed to capture the essence of the McClellan era of the war in the East.
"Southern generals who fought against McClellan have said that they feared him more than any other general who commanded the Army of the Potomac, and that he struck them harder blows. This is probably correct; but it was due to the fact that the rank and file of the Army of the Potomac loved McClellan more than they loved any other commander, not even excepting Grant. Had McClellan possessed half of Grant's will and willingness to fight he would have finished up the war like a clap of thunder. Grant did not know how to retreat; McClellan did not know how to fight. There was always a lion in his path."
|WITH NAVAL SUPPORT, THE UNION ARMY ON THE LITTLE PENINSULA AT HARRISON'S LANDING ENJOYED AN IMPREGNABLE POSITION. (LC)|
|RICHMOND HAD SURVIVED ITS FIRST IMMEDIATE THREAT. THREE MORE YEARS OF WAR WOULD FURTHER TEST THE RESOLVE OF THE CAPITAL CITY AND ITS PEOPLE. (BL)|
One of the generals who rated McClellan highly and suffered hard blows by him was Robert E. Lee, so there is irony in that Lee contributed so heavily to the ruin of McClellan's fortunes on the Peninsula. Lee was disappointed with the result of his first campaign in command of the Army of Northern Virginia"Under ordinary circumstances," he wrote in his report, "the enemy should have been destroyed"but history need not share Lee's disappointment. When he took command of the army on June 1, the Confederacy stood on the precipice of defeat. Less than 30 days later, Lee had so altered the situation that his men were maneuvering for the Federal jugular, and the Army of the Potomac was fighting for its life at Glendale. It was Lee, not any other man in the Confederacy, who put the army on the offensive, directed the aggressive effort to push McClellan back from Richmond, and attempted the destruction of his army. Lee, in the right place at the right time, was the key ingredient in the Confederate renaissance in Virginia in
For almost three more years, Lee would lead his army across Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, compiling a record of military achievement unmatched by any American soldier. The Virginian's talents as a strategist, his ability to inspire his troops to exceptional efforts, and his often untempered audacity earned him an international reputation as one of history's great generals, and nowhere did Lee's exceptional gifts flower more handsomely than amid the dismal swamps of the Chickahominy during the battles for Richmond in
|Back cover: Malvern Hill by Don Stivers.|
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I rented the apartment to some girl, the mistress of a famous singer. From time to time we sit in his BMW, and go to the City of Our Dreams (where we studied), to come. Off there in full, returning again to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of provincial life.Seven Days Battle
They dropped me off at Bologoye. I explained in writing to ensign, bought a ticket for a train standing at the platform and continued on to Moscow. Although the conductor had absolutely burning, beautiful eyes, plump legs, I knew whiskey is not my drink anything can happen.
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At first, my mother protested, and then pretended that everything was purple to her. PS: Sorry for not writing for so long. Well, let's say for family reasons.