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GENERAL MCCLELLAN'S CAMPAIGN BEFORE RICHMOND-THE BATTLES OF SEVEN PINES
AND FAIR OAKS, MAY-JULY, 1862.
AFTER the retreat from Yorktown, Stoneman, who took possession of the the Confederate army gradually with place, wbich became the next stage in drew before the advance of the Federals the grand movement of the army, and to Richmond and its vicinity within the was used as a permanent base for the line of the Chickahominy, a sluggish landing of supplies during the campaign. stream commencing in the region north-It presently furnished one of the busiest west of the capital, threading a swampy scenes on the continent, as the river beregion in this quarter, and pursuing a came thronged with various transports south-easterly course along the border of of all descriptions, pressed into the sudCharles City county to the James river, den service, and the extemporized into which it empties. The York river wharves in this hitherto peaceful locality and Richmond railway, running nearly resounded with the activities of some due east and west, crossed the Chicka- great shipping emporium, as the vast hominy near Bottom's bridge, distant supplies and equipments of one of the about eleven miles from the capital. As most prodigally furnished armies on rethe Union army advanced by the line of cord were landed upon the shore. These the railway, on which it was dependent necessary arrangements having been set for supplies and keeping up communica-on foot, on the morning of Monday, the tion with its base of operations on the 19th of May, the army bent its course York river, this point of its passage of westward in the direction of Richmond, the Chickahominy became necessarily of the capital of the Confederacy, from the the utmost importance in the operations capture of which so much was anticipated against Richmond. It was on the left by the North, and, perhaps, with as much bank of the river, and along the line of certainty feared by the South. It had the railway, which separated from one resolute defenders, however, who knew another at an acute angle, with the apex its importance as a central position, the at the bridge, that the several battles value of its communications with the were fought which determined the for- rebel States, the advantages it possessed tunes of the campaign.
in the surrounding country to resist the On the 15th of May, ten days after the approach of an enemy, and, above all, surrender of Yorktown, General McClel- who were prepared at all hazards, and lan had gathered the several divisions with every resource of military ingenuity, of his army in the vast plain at Cumber- to oppose the progress of the invaders. land, on the south bank of the Pamun- | The Union commander had found, as he key, where a huge encampment was acknowledged, the enemy for whom he formed, covering, it is said, 20 square had sighed in the beginning of his Virmiles. White House, some five miles ginia campaigns “worthy of his steel.” above on the river, at the head of navi- Its master spirits at this time were the gation, with a railway connection with President of the Confederacy, however the York river road to Richmond, had silent, ever working with a steady purbeen abandoned by the enemy a few pose and energy, Johnston, upon whose days before, on the approach of General skill and courage great reliance was placed, and, every day rising in reputa- enemy," was the language of the proclation, “Stonewall” Jackson, at this very mation, “waging war in a manner violamoment engaged in that attack upon the tive of the usage of civilized nations, has forces of Fremont and Banks which car- invaded our country. With presumptuous ried the war in another quarter of the reliance on superior numbers, he has deState to the banks of the Potomac, and clared his purpose to reduce us to subcompelled the government to retain for mission. We struggle to preserve our the defence of Washington many thou- birthright of constitutional freedom. Our sand brave men for whose presence Mc- trust is in the justice of our cause, and Clellan was entreating in his march to the protection of our God. Recent disRichmond.
aster has spread gloom over the land, Darkness might, indeed, at this time and sorrow sits at the hearthstones of have been supposed to be gathering our countrymen ; but a people conscious about the Confederacy. Within little of rectitude and faithfully relying on more than a month, the fall of Fort Pu- their Father in heaven, may be cast laski, one of the proudest rebel defences, down, but cannot be dismayed. They had been succeeded by the capture of may mourn the loss of the martyrs whose New Orleans, with its vast capabilities lives have been sacrificed in their dein the future, an event of the utmost im- fence, but they receive this dispensation portance, hardly to have been so soon of Divine Providence with humble subanticipated by friend or foe; a victorious mission and reverent faith. And now fleet was descending the Mississippi, hav- that our hosts are again going forth to ing reduced several of its most obstinate battle, and loving hearts at home are strongholds; Yorktown had been aban- filled with anxious solicitude for their doned, Norfolk surrendered, and the safety, it is meet that the whole people Merrimac been destroyed, laying open should turn imploringly to their Almighty to the enemy the longest settled and most Father, and beseech His all-powerful valuable regions of the State. Yet, the protection." enemy, strong in their desperate purpose. When danger seemed most imminent, of dividing the nation, and asserting for the general assembly of Virginia, in sesthemselves an independent government, sion at Richmond, on the 14th of May, by did not despair, or if that passion entered a resolution expressed its desire that their souls, like the arch-fiend, gathered the capital of the State be defended to new courage from the unwelcome visit the last extremity, if such defence be in ant. When some of these clouds had accordance with the views of the Presifallen, and others were in the horizon, dent of the Confederate States; and that President Jefferson Davis, addressing a the President be assured that whatever body of troops on their way to Yorktown, destruction and loss of property of the declared that he would continue the war State or individuals shall thereby result, for twenty years rather than one inch of will be cheerfully submitted to." To Virginia soil should be surrendered. He this President Davis replied, “assuring had already appointed the 16th day of the Houses that it would be the effort of May-the very day, as it came round, his life to defend the soil of Virginia, and that the Union army was at length to cover her capital. He had never engathered at the head waters of York tertained, he said, the thought of withriver, apparently for its last final strug-drawing the army from Virginia, and gle for the possession of the capital—for abandoning the State ; that if, in the à fast day and solemn supplication, an course of events, the capital should falloccasion, which was doubtless intended, the necessity for which he did not see or more of resolution than humility. “An anticipatethat would be no reason for
withdrawing the army from Virginia. French cavalry tactics, he had studied at The war could still be successfully main- the Polytechnic School, and fought with tained on Virginia soil for twenty the French army, as a volunteer, in Alyears."
rica. His gallantry in the Mexican war, In the new organization of the ar- where he lost an arm, had gained him a my of the Potomac, on its entrance high reputation. Subsequently resigning upon active service in the Penin- his commission, and risiting Europe a sula, the corps commanders were Gen- second time, he was present as an aid to erals Stoneman, Heintzelman, Keyes, a French general, on the field of SolferFitz John Porter, and Franklin. Of ino. On the breaking out of the rebelthese, with the exception of the last, we lion he returned home, was appointed a have already presented brief biograph- brigadier-general of volunteers, served ical accounts. William Buell Franklin, a with spirit before Washington, and was native of Pennsylvania, graduated at now attached to the army corps of GenWest Point in 1839, served in the en- eral Heintzelman on the peninsula. gineer corps, in which he discharged In the grand movement of the army many and important duties, was honor- from White House, on the 19th of May, ably distinguished in Mexico, and like the left wing, formed of the corps of Genhis associates just named, had been ap- eral Keyes and Heintzelman led the way pointed brigadier-general of volunteers toward the Chickahominy at Bottom's on the opening of the war. Prominent bridge; the centre, General Sumner's among the other commanders was Briga-corps, followed the line of the railway, dier-General George Stoneman, a native and the right, embracing the corps of of the State of New York, a graduate of Franklin and Porter, pursued a course West Point of 1846, when he was com- to the north-west. General Stoneman, missioned in the 1st Dragoons. He had with his cavalry, was, as usual, in the adseen much active service on the western vance. He found the bridge crossing portion of the continent in California, the Chickahominy partly destroyed, and New Mexico and Texas, and had been the enemy not in force to make any in command of Fort Brown, in the last serious resistance to the passage of the mentioned State, when General Twiggs river. Leaving the bridge to be repaired was basely surrendering the public prop- by the engineer corps, he then reconerty. Captain Stoneman resisted this noitered the country above, on the left act of treason, and brought off his com- bank of the stream, preparatory to the mand to the north. He then served in advance of the right wing. On the 20th Virginia, was appointed brigadier-gen- the centre and left were at the Chickaeral of volunteers, and was placed in the hominy, in the vicinity of the railway army of the Potomac at the head of the bridge, and the next day the right encavalry service. In future movements camped at Coal Harbor, where General on the Peninsula, immediately after the McClellan established his headquarters, fall of Yorktown, we shall find him six miles to the north-west, and about taking the lead.
three miles from the river by the road to • Among the division commanders, one New Bridge. On the 25th of May the of the most noticeable for zeal and im- corps of General Keyes and Heintzelpetuosity, was General Philip Kearney, man had crossed the river while on the a native of New York, who, without en- right an important reconnoissance, followtering West Point, had been appointeded by the capture of the place, had been at the age of 22, in 1837, to a lieuten- pushed to Mechanicsville, a small village ancy in the 2d dragoons. Commissioned near the Chickahominy, about five miles to Europe to make observations on the west of Coal Harbor, and as many miles
aled by 190 Mechanicsiny, about miles
distant from Richmond, on the road to tance across between railway and river Hanover Court House. The Confederates being about three miles. To secure the had also been attacked at their camp at communication between the two wings, a New Bridge, where, on the 24th, a bril- large number of the troops skilled in liant raid was made across the river, by such labors, particularly the 11th Maine a portion of Colonel Woodbury's 4th regiment, were actively engaged in buildMichigan regiment, which, coming unex- ing bridges across the Chickahominy, pectedly upon the 5th Louisiana regi- which separated the two portions of the ment, inflicted a heavy loss upon them. army. The labors in this service were The corps of General Keyes on the left excessive, and pursued under peculiar held the advance beyond the Chicka- difficulties, from the uncertain nature of hominy, being encamped on both sides the stream, liable to sudden increase of the railway, in the vicinity of Seven from rains, and always embarrassing Pines and Fair Oaks, and the corps of from the swamps and quicksands in Heintzelman was in their rear, also along which the structure must be built. The the railway, in the neighborhood of Sav- weather was bad, the roads muddy in age's station. In the advance, in this proportion, and the water was, for the quarter, General Casey, of Rhode Island season, unusually high in the river. -a West Point graduate of the class of Everything, however, was pushed on 1826, distinguished as an infantry officer diligently, and the army waited only the in the Mexican war, and other duties of completion of the bridges for a perfect the service, and author of a system of coöoperation of the whole army to bring Infantry Tactics-held the front with his the enemy to a decisive engagement. division, about 4,000 men, nearly all! In view of this expected event, Genraw troops. His force was stationed, the eral McClellan, on the 25th, issued a last week in May, in the immediate pre- general order enjoining the troops beyond sence of the enemy, within six miles of the Chickahominy to be ready for battle Richmond, his pickets extending to within at a moment's notice, and making various five miles of that city. His headquarters provisions for efficiency in the field. “In were at Seven Pines, at the junction of the approaching battle, the general comthe Williamsburg road, running parallel manding trusts that the troops will prewith the railway, a short distance south serve the discipline which he has been so of it, and another known as the Nine Mile anxious to enforce, and which they have road, taking an oblique north-westerly so generally observed. He calls upon course to the railway, crossing it near all the officers and soldiers to obey Fair Oaks, and thence pursuing its way promptly and intelligently all orders to a road connecting New Bridge, on the they may receive ; let them bear in mind Chickahominy, with Richmond. The dis- that the army of the Potomac has never tance from Seven Pines to the capital by yet been checked, and let them preserve this cross road gave it its name. In front, in battle perfect coolness and confidence, and on the left, were close forests shel- the sure forerunners of success. They tering the enemy, to the right was the must keep well together, throw away no river, in the rear the extended White shots, but aim carefully and low, and Oak swamp. General Couch's division above all things, rely upon the bayonet. of Keyes' Corps was next behind on the Commanders of regiments are reminded railway. A line of pickets was extended of the great responsibility that rests upacross the narrow angle made by the on them : upon their coolness, judgment, railway and the river, the general lines and discretion the destinies of their regiof the left and right wings of the army, ments and success of the day will to the vicinity of New Bridge, the dis-depend."
Whilst these preparations were being ers. Colonel Gore, meanwhile, with the made, the enemy showing a disposition 22d Massachusetts, had taken up several to encroach on the right wing, and hundred feet of the Virginia Central threaten the communications with the railway in the vicinity. It was about York river, General Morell's division of this time that a body of the enemy came Fitz John Porter's corps was sent out at up by the railway from Richmond, and dawn of the 27th, on an expedition to cut were stationed at a point to take the off the enemy between Richmond and Union force in the rear, where they enHanover Court House, fifteen miles dis- countered General Martindale with Coltant, where it was uuderstood a consider-onel Robert's 2d Maine, and Colonel able rebel force of North Carolina troops Stryker's 44th New York regiments, was stationed, commanded by General with which, and Colonel Johnson's 25th Branch, who had fled from Newbern on New York regiment, which was sum the capture of that place by General moned from the previous battle field, a Burnside. It was also intended to break sharp engagement ensued. The Union up the communication by the Virginia troops in this encounter were again Central and Fredericksburg railroad. closely pressed, when the return of the Rain was falling heavily when the expe- regiments of General Butterfield, who dition started, but at ten o'clock in the were thrown vigorously upon the flank dition to tong ori hinin
n forenoon, when the troops were well ad- of the enemy, again changed the fortunes vanced on the road, they were marching of the day. The enemy, repulsed a under a burning sun. There was some second time, fled. The way being now skirmishing on the way, and about noon clear, a body of cavalry went forward to the advanced guard, composed of a troop the Fredericksburg railway, and destroyof cavalry, Colonel Johnson's 25th New ed the bridge over the South Anna, and York infantry, and a section of artillery, a large quantity of stores at Ashland. came up with a body of the enemy whom The Union losses in these engagements they pursued to a point at the intersec- were 53 killed, and 296 wounded and tion of two main roads, about three miles missing. The total Confederate loss, indistant from Hanover Court House. cluding a large number of prisoners Here, a stand being made by the enemy taken who were brought within the Union with artillery, they were pressed by Col. lines, was estimated at 1,500. Hanover onel Johnson, who being overpowered by Court House was occupied by the Union a body from the woods on his flank, lost troops that night. The next day they some prisoners. Reinforcements coming rejoined their companions on the Chickup, however, the action was continued, ahominy. the enemy, from their advantages of num- General McClellan, who had not lost ber and position, still expecting the vic- sight of General McDowell's forces statory, wben General Butterfield brought tioned at Fredericksburg, was on the up Colonel Lansing's 17th, supported by point, at last, of receiving aid from this Colonel Week's 12th New York, Colonel quarter by an overland march of the McLane's 830 Pennsylvania, supported corps, when the movement, for which by Colonel Stockton's 16th Michigan, on preparations had been made, was intertheir flank. The unexpected onset of rupted by the bold dash of “Stonewall" this force was speedily followed by the Jackson upon the separate command of flight of the enemy who, abandoning General Banks, and the rapid pursuit of their two field pieces, were, by order of that officer to the Potomac. It was the General Porter, who had now come upon intention of the Confederate General the ground, pursued to Hanover Court Johnston, that Jackson should divert reHouse, and many of them taken prison- linforcements from McClellan by threat