The American Civil War, day by day - Page 42 - Politics | PoFo

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June 25, Wednesday

To cover McClellan’s planned advance a mile or so closer to Richmond, he attempts to advance the position of Major General Samuel P Heintzelman’s III Corps west from Seven Pines along the Williamsburg Road. Shortly after 8 am, Major General Joseph Hooker’s division, supported by an artillery bombardment, starts forward through swampy, wooded terrain. Hooker’s men make some progress against Major General Benjamin Huger’s Confederate division, but after three hours of fighting General Heintzelman inexplicably calls them back. McClellan orders a renewal of the attack. By late in the day, the Union picket line has gained perhaps half a mile—at the cost of at least 51 killed, 401 wounded, and 64 missing for 516 for the Federals, compared to 40 killed, 263 wounded, and 13 missing for 316 for the Confederates. There is also skirmishing near Ashland, Virginia.

Robert E. Lee has witnessed some of the fighting this afternoon, and he is worried. McClellan’s little push forward, coming on the eve of Lee’s planned offensive, suggests that the Federal commander might know something is afoot. Lee is taking an enormous gamble in massing his forces north of the Chickahominy. South of the river, he is leaving fewer than 25,000 men under General John B. Magruder to defend the entire four-mile-wide front east of Richmond. Magruder, outnumbered by nearly 3 to 1, has been ordered to stage a boisterous show of force to intimidate McClellan. Magruder is to simulate preparations for an attack by firing shells and marching his troops to and fro—by raising dust and making noise. Much rides on the success of the demonstration; if McClellan mounts a full-scale attack against him, the Federals might easily smash through. If Lee loses his gamble, he might well lose Richmond.

This night McClellan does in fact know that something is afoot. Over the past few days he has received reports that Stonewall Jackson is marching down to fall upon his right wing from the rear. The ever cautious McClellan grows even more so. He postpones the scheduled attack on Old Tavern and orders Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter to send out a small force of cavalry and infantry to find Jackson and slow him down.

In other sectors there is a skirmish at Yellville, Arkansas; another at Mungo Flats, western Virginia; and an affair near La Fayette Station, Tennessee.

The second time Flag Officer Farragut arrives at Vicksburg, Mississippi, he is better prepared than his first visit on May 18. He has more than twice as many troops aboard his transports—3,200 in all—and accompanying the oceangoing vessels up the Mississippi is a fleet of mortar schooners, which can easily lob their projectiles onto the heights. For the next two days those mortars will lay alongside the tree-lined bank and shell the Vicksburg batteries.

President Lincoln leaves West Point in the morning after his conference with General Scott and reaches Washington in early evening.

At Pekin, Illinois, a group known as the Union League is organized. A patriotic and political group, it will have considerable influence in postwar years. Its wartime purpose is to bolster Northern morale and faith.
June 26, Thursday

Early this morning, Lee stands on a bluff looking north across the Chickahominy toward Mechanicsville and waits for his offensive to begin. As the morning wears on with no sign of an attack against Magruder, Lee’s fears about that front subside. It is clear that Magruder’s demonstration is intimidating McClellan’s superior forces. But Lee has a new worry—his own attack isn’t commencing. Three Confederate divisions have been on the south bank of the Chickahominy in position to attack since early morning. But the start of the attack depends upon Stonewall Jackson’s three small divisions, which were supposed to attack the Federal right flank early this morning. A message sent by Jackson at 9 am indicates that his vaunted foot cavalry is running six hours behind schedule.

Up at Meadow Bridge, A.P. Hill is even more impatient than Lee. Under the plan of attack, once he hears the sound of Jackson’s guns he is supposed to advance through Mechanicsville and attack the Federal force dug in beyond Beaver Dam Creek. D.H. Hill and Longstreet are then to advance through Mechanicsville and join the assault. At 36, Ambrose Powell Hill is the youngest of Lee’s major generals, commander of the newest division and eager to prove his mettle. By 3 pm, six hours after Jackson had sent his message, Hill assumes that Jackson must surely now be approaching from the north. So without notifying Lee, who is less than two miles downstream, Hill takes his division across the river, swings right, and begins the offensive on his own. He drives back the Federal pickets, routs a regiment-sized outpost in Mechanicsville, and deploys five brigades across the open plain beyond the town. Toward 5 pm, Hill launches Brigadier General James J. Archer’s brigade in the first of a series of piecemeal assaults on Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter’s main defense line, entrenched on high ground behind Beaver Dam Creek. Though Hill knows that the Federal front here is practically impregnable, he expects Jackson at any moment to outflank it. He even extends his left to make contact with Jackson so that together they can force the Federals to fall back.

At long last, shortly after 5 pm, Jackson and his vanguard arrive at a place called Hundley’s Corner, less than three miles from Hill’s northernmost brigade. Jackson’s march from the north has been extraordinarily slow. His columns have covered only 13 miles in more than 14 hours on the road—just seven miles since 9 am. Certainly Jackson’s men are tired; in the past 40 days the majority have fought five battles in the Valley and marched more than 400 miles. Their supplies are running behind, leaving them hungry and dispirited. To make matters worse, Union cavalry have delayed the march by burning bridges, blocking the road with fallen trees, and harassing the troops from front and flank. Jackson himself might be laboring under some uncertainty. He doesn’t know the boggy terrain north of Richmond, and his maps are inaccurate. He might not fully understand Lee’s orders, and might be confused by Lee’s failure to detail a staff officer to guide him into position. The delay is explicable, but nothing can account for what happens when Jackson finally arrives at Hundley’s Corner. He can hear the sounds of battle from the southwest, and all he has to do to turn the enemy flank is push forward a mile or two. Instead, without so much as sending a message to Lee, he puts his men into bivouac and beds down for the night. So astonishing is this performance, that one Confederate officer will later write that on this day Jackson “was not really Jackson. He was under a spell.” The general is undoubtedly as exhausted as his men. During the past four days he has slept only 10 hours—and his associates know him as a man who needs his sleep.

For whatever reason, Jackson goes to bed early this evening while a near massacre is being enacted within earshot. The Federal position at Beaver Dam Creek is solid and unassailable. The defenders are entrenched on a slope that rises from the east bank of the creek. Atop the crest are six batteries—36 guns in all—that command the long open plain over which the Confederates are advancing from the west. Robert E. Lee, who has crossed over the Chickahominy at about 5 pm after seeing the smoke of battle, is little more than an anxious spectator at the hopeless assault. At one point he tries to order Hill to break off the attack, but the message goes awry. Lee is moving his other two divisions across the river and, toward sunset, sends D.H. Hill’s lead brigade to aid A.P. Hill’s embattled troops. Four regiments come into action against the strongest Federal position of all, near Ellerson’s Mill on the banks of Beaver Dam Creek. The result is, as might have been foreseen, a bloody and disastrous repulse. One regiment, the 44th Georgia, loses 335 out of 514 men sent into action.

At about 9 pm, darkness ends the fighting in the Battle of Mechanicsville. Lee, in his first major encounter, has failed miserably. He has applied less than one fourth of the available force; he has fallen far short of his first-day’s objective—a four-mile advance to New Bridge to establish a link with Magruder on the south bank of the Chickahominy; he has lost 1,484 men killed and wounded. The Federals have suffered only 361 casualties, scarcely more than the 44th Georgia Regiment alone. General McClellan, who arrived at Porter’s headquarters during the battle, is ecstatic. “Victory of today complete and against great odds,” he wires Washington this night. “I almost begin to think we are invincible.” He cables his wife, “We have again whipped the Secesh. Stonewall Jackson is the victim this time.” For all his bravado, McClellan knows his right flank will be vulnerable when Jackson rouses himself at dawn. During the night, he orders Porter to withdraw eastward to a second line of defense. McClellan’s base at White House on the Pamunkey is severely threatened by the Confederate move, so he orders his supplies sent to the James River, where a new base will be set up at Harrison’s Landing.

Other fighting in Virginia this day includes skirmishes at Hundley’s Corner, Hanover Court House, and Atlee’s Station. Also in Virginia there is fighting at Point of Rocks on the Appomattox River.

On the Mississippi the mortar boats bombard the Confederate gun positions at Vicksburg from the south, preparing the way for Farragut’s fleet to pass to the north and hook up with the gunboats above Vicksburg.

In Missouri there is a skirmish at Cherry Grove in Schuyler County.

A primary command change is announced in Washington. Major General John Pope is formally assigned command of the newly created Army of Virginia, which includes the old Mountain Department, the Department of the Rappahannock, and the Department of the Shenandoah. The main task of the new command is to protect Washington and, more importantly, to consolidate all land forces in Virginia, not including the Army of the Potomac, so that they can move overland to aid McClellan and take the pressure off his army near Richmond. At the same time Lincoln continues to tell McClellan that he is sending the general all the men he can. The constant complaints of McClellan pain the President.
June 27, Friday

Come dawn, only a Federal rearguard remains at Beaver Creek Dam to slow General Lee’s advance; the rest of Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter’s corps is marching four miles east to another sluggish little stream, called Boatswain’s Creek which affords an even more formidable defensive position. Marsh and fringes of pine trees border its steep banks. On the east side, the ground rises to form a crescent-shaped plateau. Porter deploys his entire V Corps—three divisions—on this high ground. Nearly 80 pieces of artillery are deployed along the crest of the ridge. Porter’s men hastily dig rifle pits and construct crude breastworks with felled trees and pillaged fence rails. Then around noon, they settle back to wait.

When General Lee discovers the Federal withdrawal early in the morning, he sends his four commands eastward in three roughly parallel columns with the aim of hitting Porter’s front and flank. To the north, Jackson and D.H. Hill will head for Old Cold Harbor, hoping again to get behind Porter’s right flank. Longstreet will drive along the north bank of the Chickahominy in support of A.P. Hill, who, in the center, will pursue Porter’s rear guard.

A.P. Hill’s lead brigade encounters the Federal rear guard around noon near a five-story gristmill called Gaines’s Mill—the name that will be applied to this day’s battle. After a sharp skirmish, the Federals fall back. A.P. Hill pushes on for a little less than a mile before reaching the crossroads at New Cold Harbor. There he finds two narrow roads that both, he soon discovers as he sends his skirmishers forward, lead for about 600 yards through open fields and fringes of pine trees down a slope to Boatswain’s Creek—and right into Porter’s new defense line. The resemblance to the previous day’s situation at Beaver Creek Dam is uncanny: Again the Confederates are occupying generally open ground exposed to the fire of an enemy entrenched on the slope of a ravine. Today, however, Lee, who is with A.P. Hill, knows that Longstreet will be coming up soon on his right, and that D.H. Hill and Jackson are expected momentarily at Old Cold Harbor, just a mile to the left.

At 2:30 pm, under the covering fire of his artillery, A.P. Hill starts sending his six brigades forward against the center of the Federal line. The lead units are exhausted from yesterday’s assault at Beaver Dam Creek and from the skirmish at Gaines’s Mill, to the point that some of the men had fallen asleep in a pine thicket with artillery shells falling around them. But when the order to attack comes they surge toward the fire-spitting Federal cannon on the plateau, the field seeming to erupt into “one living sheet of flame” across an uneven advance three-quarters of a mile wide. All semblance of coordination between the brigades vanishes as the men struggle blindly through the swamp and tangle of brushwood on the edge of Boatswain’s Creek, their view of the flanking units blocked by timber and billowing smoke. The Confederates actually succeed in closing with the waiting Federals and savage seesawing hand-to-hand combat breaks out even as more Confederate troops push forward. A little after 4 pm, A.P. Hill concludes that his “brave men have done all that any soldiers could do.” They have been fighting for more than an hour and a half without reinforcement. He orders his brigade commanders to break off contact where possible and rest their men until help arrives.

Longstreet has come up on Hill’s right, but Lee wants to delay his attack until Jackson gets into position on the far left. However, Jackson is late again. In the morning he took the wrong road and didn’t arrive at Old Cold Harbor until after 2 pm, with three divisions and a large brigade trailing somewhere behind. D.H. Hill’s division, under Jackson’s temporary command this day, has preceded him to Old Cold Harbor. Neither Jackson nor D.H. Hill are in communication with Lee, and it is about 4:30 pm before Jackson finally commits Hill’s division on the far left of the Confederate offensive. Hill then advances against his old West Point roommate, George Sykes. He drives straight south and crosses the swampy headwaters of Boatswain’s Creek. Several of his regiments fight their way through the tangled underbrush south of the swamp onto cleared ground, an open plain 400 yards wide separating them from the Federal line. The plain is being peppered by three batteries of Regular US artillery, and Hill orders his men to cross the clearing and seize the guns. The Confederates charge forward and momentarily capture the guns before being pushed back in fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Meanwhile, in the Confederate center, A.P. Hill’s battered division has finally received some help. One of Stonewall Jackson’s trailing divisions, three brigades of hardened Valley veterans under Major General Richard Ewell, arrive on the field at about 4:30 pm and are sent by Lee to support Hill’s left. They cross a small swampy stream and a ravine to close within 50 yards of the Federal line before being forced to go to ground in combat so deafening that one soldier says afterward that the only way he could tell when he’d fired his musket was by the kick of the breech against his shoulder. The battle now extends all the way to the Confederate far right, where Longstreet’s men are locked in combat with Morell’s Federal division. Originally ordered by Lee to make a “diversion,” Longstreet on his own initiative has “determined to turn the feint into an attack” and sent four brigades charging forward. As in the case of Ewell’s assault, the Federal line holds firm. It is now past 5 pm, and Robert E. Lee is running out of time. He still has not been able to coordinate all his troops for a full-scale assault up and down the line. Presently, the principle reason for this failure, General Stonewall Jackson, comes riding down the road from Old Cold Harbor. Lee doesn’t bother to ask what Jackson has been doing all this time. He simply says, “Ah, General. I am very glad to see you. I had hoped to be with you before.” Having delivered this gentle rebuke, Lee explains over the heavy rattle of musketry in the background that he is preparing an all-out assault and wants to get the rest of Jackson’s forces into line.

While Jackson’s men are getting into line, Fitz-John Porter waits apprehensively at his headquarters atop the plateau. At about 6 pm he notes a sudden ominous silence—a sign of Lee’s preparations across the way. Porter has done a masterful job. His line is still unbroken, but it has been sorely tried. Ammunition is running low, and many of the Federals have been firing so long that their musket barrels are fouled. Worse, Porter has committed all his reserve forces and his lines are now desperately thin. Shortly before 5 pm, Porter had dispatched a messenger to McClellan’s headquarters asking for more reinforcements. Although McClellan has more than 60,000 man at his disposal, he relinquishes only two brigades—Magruder is putting up such a big show that McClellan’s corps commanders report they need every available man south of the Chickahominy to meet an expected attack. At 6:30 Porter notes that the silence along his battlefront has ended. Darkness is still at least two hours away, and the din of musketry has not only resumed but rises to a crescendo as heavy as any heard on the War’s battlefields. At last, after more than five hours of battle, Lee has all his troops in line. Never in the War have the Confederates concentrated so many men on a single battlefront—56,000 man against Porter’s 35,000.

The general assault begins at about 7 pm, though not all units advance simultaneously. Among the last to march into action is Whiting’s division, with brigades under Colonel Evander M. Law and Brigadier General John Bell Hood. Hood orders his men to hold their fire as they advance. He dismounts and personally leads his troops on over a slight crest where survivors of A.P. Hill’s assault are still holding out, and down the long slope toward Boatswain’s Creek into a hail of shells and musketry. On the near bank of a ravine, about 150 yards from the Federal line, Hood pauses to dress his lines. Here he gives the order to fix bayonets and charge at the double quick. Hood’s men surge across the swampy creek and up the slope, still without firing. They push onto the crest, just 10 yards from the New Jersey Brigade’s line in smoke so thick that it is impossible to see twenty yards. And here, for the first time, they open fire. At point-blank range a wall of lead slams into the Union soldiers, and the New Jersey Brigade shatters.

This is the breakthrough Lee has wanted. The Federal line begins to crumble. Porter’s left falls back, at first stubbornly and then in a state approaching panic. In the confusion on the plateau where Hood has broken through, the greater part of two Federal regiments are cut off and captured. As the Confederates pursue the broken Federal ranks, they run head on into artillery that has been massed behind Porter’s left. Wheel to wheel the Federal batteries blaze away with double charges of canister, but there is no stopping the Confederates this time. As the battery commanders struggle to get their cannon limbered up and off the field a squadron of Union cavalry charge through them and into the oncoming Confederates in a desperate attempt to save the guns, but at 40 yards’ range a Confederate volley sends horses and riders sprawling and the few troopers that reach the Federal line are killed. Six of seven officers and 150 of 250 enlisted men are killed or wounded, and the exultant Confederates following the demoralized survivors capture 14 of 18 guns.

A complete rout of Porter’s troops might have ensued, but for the exhaustion of the Confederate attackers, the rapid descent of darkness, and the arrival from the south of the two promised Union brigades. As the beaten Federals retreat across the Chickahominy this night, the tired and overwrought McClellan expresses his bitter disappointment in an extraordinary fashion. In a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, he reports the day’s events, then levels a stinging charge: “The Government has not sustained this army. If you do not now the game is lost.” He concludes: “If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.” When this wire arrives in Washington, it so shocks the military supervisor of telegraphs that he censors the most offensive passages before handing the message to Stanton and on to President Lincoln on the morrow. Lincoln, however, in replying to what he has seen of the message, states, “Save your Army at all events.... If you have had a drawn battle, or a repulse, it is the price for the enemy not being in Washington.” The Secretary of War soon learns of the telegram’s complete contents, however. Not only has McClellan further alienated President Lincoln, but he has infuriated the powerful and vindictive Stanton. While McClellan is trying to fix the blame on his own government, Robert E. Lee sends a message to his President thanking God for the Confederate victory.

Lee’s first victory is costly. In the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, Porter had, out of perhaps 36,000 for duty, 894 killed, 3,107 wounded, and a huge 2,836 missing or captured—a total of 6,837 casualties. However, out of the Confederate effectives of 57,000, casualties numbered around 8,750, among them many brigade and regimental commanders. But Lee has, at least, silenced his critics. Never again will anyone call him “Granny Lee” or suggest that he displays any “tenderness of blood.”

Late in the night, General McClellan calls a council of war. At 11 pm, when his five corps commanders have gathered before a big bonfire in front of his headquarters tent, the general informs them that the Army of the Potomac will abandon its entrenchments before Richmond and move south to a new position on the north bank of the James River. The announcement astounds McClellan’s officers. True, they are well aware that their chief has been shifting supplies southward for some time. The commanders recognize as well that a complete transfer of supplies is now crucial. Once Fitz-John Porter’s corps withdraws across the Chickahominy this night, there will be nothing to stop the Confederates from sweeping east along the north bank and severing the railroad supply line from White House Landing. That much makes sense, but what stuns many of those present is the announcement that the entire army will also move south to the James, there to seek sanctuary under the protection of a flotilla of Federal gunboats and to await hoped-for reinforcements from Washington.

McClellan is careful to label this movement of men and matériel a “change of base.” But that is merely a euphemism for retreat, a point not lost on the men in the ranks. When Generals Philip Kearny and Joseph Hooker, division commanders in Heintzelman’s II Corps, get wind of the decision this night, they rush to headquarters to protest. The fiery one-armed Kearny rebukes McClellan in such intemperate terms that one of his subordinates will express astonishment that he is not sacked on the spot. Instead of retreating, Kearny and Hooker want to attack Richmond. At this very moment, Federal pickets are less than four miles from the Confederate capital. With the arrival of Porter’s corps, the entire army will be concentrated for the first time south of the Chickahominy. The army can shift its supply base to the James, Kearny and Hooker argue, and still operate against Richmond from its present entrenchments.

But McClellan is rattled. Magruder’s noisy demonstrations south of the Chickahominy has only confirmed in McClellan’s mind erroneous intelligence estimates that Lee has at least 200,000 troops. The Federal commander believes that Lee’s attacks north of the Chickahominy this day are only jabs preparatory to a knockout blow that will come south of the river. McClellan has to save his army, for he is convinced that only his army can save the Union. McClellan can much more easily take his army to safety whence it has come—back down the Peninsula toward Yorktown. But there would be no way to avoid calling that a retreat. Moreover, establishing a base on the James, a score or so miles from the Confederate capital, leaves open the possibility of resuming the offensive against Richmond from the south.

At Vicksburg a mortar bombardment from the south continues and Federal troops begin the active phase of their canal digging on the Louisiana side, across from the threatened fortress.

Lost in the news of the day is a skirmish at Stewart’s Plantation, Arkansas. Down in Louisiana there are three days of Federal reconnaissance to the Amite River, with skirmishing.

One person not happy with the performance of Union General Ormsby Mitchel in central and eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama is his immediate superior, General Don Carlos Buell. Contrary to General Halleck’s optimistic prediction on June 12th, Buell’s march on Decatur has bogged down and he complains of the need to slow down to repair the railroad, especially the bridge that Mitchel ordered destroyed. The destroyed bridge prevents Buell from easily supplying his 31,000 troops on the march, but that is not the only impediment. Confederate guerrillas have wrecked rails and damaged rolling stock. Ordinarily the Tennessee River would serve as an avenue of supply, but hot, dry weather has so depleted the waterway and its tributaries that boats can’t reach Buell’s troops. But when Buell reaches Athens, Alabama, just north of Decatur, he thinks his worst problems will soon be over. He has ordered that a five-day supply of rations for his men be shipped to Athens from the Federal base at Nashville.

In northern Virginia John Pope assumes command of his new Union Army of Virginia. An impressive figure of a man—tall and burly, with a long beard—Pope is credited with fine work in the Federal victories at New Madrid and Island No. 10 along the Mississippi. He has been summoned east because he conspicuously possesses a quality McClellan seems to lack—zest for battle. His new army is to consist chiefly of the three corps strung out to the north and west of Richmond. Irvin McDowell’s corps has one division just across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg and another near Manassas Junction. The corps of Major Generals Nathaniel Banks and John Fremont are in the Shenandoah Valley between Winchester and Middletown. There is an unexpected consequence to Pope’s appointment. Fremont is so angered at the thought of serving under an officer who is junior to him that on June 17 he offered to resign his commission, and today President Lincoln accepts it. It is the end of the military trail for the controversial explorer, soldier, and politician. Fremont’s corps is given to Major General Franz Sigel, an exiled German revolutionary.

For the Confederacy, General Bragg assumes permanent command of the Department of the West. Bragg’s touchstone is discipline. During the fighting at Shiloh he had repeatedly ordered costly, unavailing charges; after the battle he blamed the Confederate defeat on “want of discipline and a want of officers. Universal suffrage, furloughs and whisky have ruined us.” At Corinth, when a Tennessee regiment found its one-year term of enlistment extended by the Confederate conscription act, the men agreed to continue in service but insisted on a brief leave to visit their homes. Bragg held the soldiers in their place by deploying a battery of artillery and threatening to open fire.

Not surprisingly, then, Bragg’s first order of business since replacing General Beauregard at Tupelo back on the 17th has been to whip his army into shape—literally. To be sure, the need for improvement is urgent. Bragg knows he can do little against the superior Federal forces to the north until his army—“the mob we have miscalled soldiers,” as he has condescendingly put it—is better trained, in good health, and of sound morale. But his rigorous discipline and training are imposed with a brutality that appalls his soldiers. In one example, a man who has been was absent without leave for ten days is forced to kneel, his head is shaved bald, he is whipped with a rawhide cord, and he is branded with the letter D on both hips. But for all its cruelty, such treatment has had the desired effect; another soldier will write that “there has been a marvelous change for the better in the condition, discipline and drill of the troops.” Bragg himself is pleased, and will write to his wife that the army has shown a marked improvement, “so that we are now in a high state of efficiency, health, and tone. We shall be on the move very soon.”

But first, of course, Bragg will have to decide where to go. Like Beauregard before him, he is under general instructions from the War Department to strike northward, to Nashville. But decisive action has never been easy for Bragg, and his deliberations on how to accomplish this objective will be made more complicated by Major General Edmund Kirby Smith over at Chattanooga.
June 28, Saturday

Early in the morning, General McClellan’s army in front of Richmond begins withdrawing to the James. According to McClellan’s plan, two of his five corps will move on ahead to the north bank of the James to establish a defensive position on Malvern Hill. The three remaining corps will stay behind to slow the Confederate pursuit; then they will follow the retreat. Though this great movement is taking place only a mile or two from Confederate pickets, it is carried out with such stealth that neither Lee nor his commanders realize what is happening. North of the Chickahominy, General Lee awakes to find the Yankees gone. Fully expecting McClellan to defend his supply line and his base at White House Landing, Lee assumes the Federals have retreated eastward along Chickahominy’s north bank. But when Lee sends General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry and a division of infantry to seize the Richmond & York River Railroad, scarcely a Federal can be found. In fact, the Federals have destroyed their own railroad bridge over the Chickahominy. When Stuart races on to White House Landing, he finds the two-square-mile supply depot there, including lines of rail cars and five locomotives, already set afire by the Federals before they embarked on river transports.

By late afternoon, Lee is receiving reports of suspicious activity south of the Chickahominy. Loud explosions are heard as the Federal soldiers destroy ammunition stores they can’t take with them; telltale clouds of dust swirl skyward from the forces retreating along the Williamsburg Road. These signs, together with Stuart’s report, suggest to Lee that McClellan is pulling out. Elated that the threat to Richmond has evaporated, Lee now wants to catch and destroy McClellan’s army. But which way is the enemy retreating—east down the Peninsula, or south to the James?

At Vicksburg, Mississippi, after two days of Union Flag Officer Farragut’s mortar schooners shelling the protecting batteries on the heights, Farragut leaves behind the slow-moving schooners and attempts to run the enemy batteries with his gunboats. The procession of eleven ships, moving slowly up the river in two columns, starts in darkness at 2 am, and as the vessels draw alongside the city they open fire. To everyone’s amazement, the broadside guns of the flagship Hartford, firing at maximum elevation, actually drop some shells onto the shore batteries emplaced almost 200 feet above the river. But the other ships’ guns merely succeed in firing “a perfect hailstorm against the slopes where no guns are.” Meanwhile, the Vicksburg batteries (one of them commanded by President Lincoln’s brother-in-law, David Todd) pour a rain of fire on the warships as they run by. Many of the Federal shells accidentally fall amid the homes of Vicksburg. This is the first heavy bombardment the residents have endured, and its effect on the townspeople is numbing. During this bombardment, Mrs. Alice Gamble becomes the first of Vicksburg’s civilian war casualties; she is struck by a shell fragment while trying to reach shelter.

Farragut’s ships, meanwhile, blaze by Vicksburg’s batteries. Only three of the 11 vessels have to turn back, and none suffer serious damage. However, one of the mortar boats, the Clifton, is put out of action when a shot bursts her boiler. Seven crewmembers are scalded to death, and a sailor who jumps overboard drowns. In all, the Federals lose 15 dead and 30 wounded. Farragut has achieved his objective, but the victory is hollow. He concedes that his run by Vicksburg has really served no purpose. The Confederate defenses have been barely damaged; the powerful enemy batteries still command the river. Farragut writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles: “I am satisfied that it is not possible for us to take Vicksburg without an army force of twelve or fifteen thousand men.”

The Federal troops on board Farragut’s ships, 3,200 men led by Brigadier General Thomas Williams, are put ashore on the Louisiana bank. On the Mississippi side there are now 10,000 Confederate soldiers, and an assault on such a force is impossible. Instead, Williams will decide to try an experiment. Vicksburg is situated on a hairpin bend of the Mississippi. If a canal can be dug across the bend, the river might rush in and bypass Vicksburg entirely; in that case, of course, Union shipping can do the same. It seems worth a try, so Williams puts his men to work with shovels.

In the first months of the War, fiery Kansas Senator James H. Lane organized a brigade of Kansas Jayhawkers that slashed across the Missouri border, killing and burning indiscriminately. Lane’s reckless forays have turned whole counties against the Union and stimulated the growth of bushwacker and guerrilla bands that have harassed Federal troops. Lane is an antislavery zealot and a veteran of the prewar fire-and-brimstone border fighting. Since the beginning of the War, Lane has wanted to lead a Federal force, composed partly of loyal Kansas Amerinds, through the Indian Territory to Texas. The victory of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in early March has given Lane his opportunity. By this early summer, after a winter of suffering in squalid refugee camps, the Amerinds who have fled to Kansas have become an intolerable burden to the state and are clamoring to return to their homes. Brigadier General James Blunt, a militant abolitionist doctor in prewar Kansas, has been ordered to escort them back and secure the Indian Territory for them by crushing Stand Watie’s Cherokees, who have been making a nuisance of themselves raiding southern Kansas and southwestern Missouri. Blunt is authorized to enlist several home guard Amerind regiments in Kansas. Washington was originally opposed to the idea. “The nature of our present troubles forbids the use of savages,” the War Department had ruled. But now, because of the shortage of available White troops and the fierce desire of the refugee Amerinds to help free their homelands, approval has been granted. Blunt stays at Fort Leavenworth to organize his supply system, but today the expedition leaves Baxter Springs, Kansas, under Colonel William Weer. The 6,000-man force includes infantry, cavalry, and artillery units from Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana; a regiment of Creek and Seminole warriors who fled north the previous winter; and another of Cherokees, Delawares, Caddos, Osages, and Kickapoos.

Aware of Blunt’s plans, the Confederate Cherokees have angrily demanded help from Major General Thomas C. Hindman, an autocratic man who has been sent west to replace Van Dorn. Hindman, who is busy rebuilding Confederate strength in Arkansas, orders Brigadier General Albert Pike to move north. Pike has been brooding unhappily in the Indian Territory since his return there after the defeat at Pea Ridge, furious with Major General Earl Van Dorn—not only had Van Dorn commandeered arms and equipment earmarked for the Amerinds, but he abandoned the Territory as well, breaking the Confederacy’s vow to protect the tribes there. Worse still, Van Dorn hadn’t defended Pike and his Amerinds when Union General Samuel Curtis (truthfully) accused them of having scalped some of the Federal soldiers at Pea Ridge. Stung by this ill treatment, Pike has adopted his own strategy for the Indian Territory. Convinced that he cannot defend the exposed northern part of the region even with the help of some Texas cavalry units, he has withdrawn toward the Red River, halted in Choctaw country and built Fort McCulloch. He has ordered the Creek and Seminole to defend their own lands and dispatched Drew’s and Stand Watie’s regiments to the Cherokee country to scout for enemy incursion, where their raiding helped provoke the Federal expedition against them. Now receiving Hindman’s orders to move north and guard the Kansas border, Pike refuses, adhering to his own strategy. In exasperation, Hindman ultimately sends a single battalion of Missourians led by Colonel J.J. Clarkson to aid the Cherokees.

Sparta, Tennessee, sees a skirmish this day, as does Blackland, Mississippi. In Charleston Harbor, Federals pulls off James Island and momentarily give up the attempt to get at Charleston and its harbor forts from the low-lying islands.
WarmPotato wrote:Was expecting someone to predict a civil war, was pleasantly surprised instead

There have been threads on that, just not in this section. So enjoy! Though you may have a lot of catching up to do. :eek:
June 29, Sunday

Early in the morning, General Lee gets an answer to which direction the Federals are retreating. A reconnaissance confirms that McClellan has abandoned his westernmost fortifications near Fair Oaks. And Ewell’s troops, guarding Bottom’s Bridge four miles to the east, report no enemy activity. Since McClellan would most likely take this route if he were retreating down the Peninsula, the Federals are surely heading south. Lee hastily maps a strategy. His entire command is to take part in the pursuit.

Since Lee doesn’t expect A.P. Hill and Longstreet to intercept the retreating Federal column until tomorrow, the pressure this Sunday is squarely on Magruder. As he moves east with 11,000 men into the abandoned Federal entrenchments at Fair Oaks, the excitable Magruder is especially agitated. For four strenuous days, as his outnumbered troops mounted their demonstration, he’s scarcely slept. He also suffers from indigestion and suspects that the medicine his surgeon has given him this morning is making it worse. Reaching a point about three miles east of Fair Oaks, Magruder finds much more to worry about. Here, drawn up in battle lines around the railroad depot called Savage’s Station, are 40 guns and nearly half of McClellan’s army: the II Corps, III Corps, and VI Corps. Outnumbered nearly 3 to 1, Magruder pulls back and waits for help. His men are in position almost due south of the Grapevine Bridge, where General Jackson is supposed to cross with 18,000 reinforcements. But Jackson is late again, for the third time in the past four days. While Magruder waits, the Federals stage a spectacular display of fireworks in the area east of Savage’s Station, setting aflame piles of supplies up to two stories tall. Shells and exploding barrels of whiskey rend the air.

At about 5 pm, Magruder brings up a siege gun mounted on an armored flatcar. This novel device has been recently worked out at Lee’s behest to counter the expected threat of McClellan’s big siege guns. A locomotive pushes this rolling ironclad into range, and for the first time in the history of warfare, railroad artillery opens fire. But the debut is inauspicious—the gun’s effect on the massed Federals is minimal, and Magruder sees no choice but to attack with his infantry just south of the railroad tracks. The Confederate assault makes little headway. As usual, the Federal artillery fire is accurate and deadly. Jackson never does show up; he sends word that he has “other important duty to perform”—presumably rebuilding the Grapevine Bridge, a task that takes all day while Jackson overlooks a practicable ford not far away. Magruder, rattled, commits less than half his force to the battle and brings up only one battery of artillery to supplement the railborne gun.

On the Federal side, matters are also confused. No one is formally in command. Without designating a field leader, McClellan has left Savage’s Station early in the morning to supervise the transfer of men and equipment south across White Oak Swamp. General Heintzelman decides during the day that his III Corps isn’t needed at Savage’s Station and marches his men off on the line of retreat without bothering to clear the move with anyone. Nonetheless, the Federal lines hold fast. When the fighting ends at dark, old General Sumner, the senior officer present, is so elated at the repulse of the Rebels that he doesn’t want to leave and has to be tactfully reminded of McClellan’s orders: “Hold your ground until dark, then join the retreat.” Grudgingly, Sumner forms his men and, at about 10 pm, marches them south past the Union hospitals clustered near the station. About 2,500 sick and wounded soldiers lie there in houses, barns, and tents. Under McClellan’s orders, anyone unable to walk has to be left behind, along with enough surgeons, attendants, and medical supplies to care for them. The empty ambulances drive south.

Farther south skirmishing occurs on the James River Road near Willis’ Church, and other fighting at Peach Orchard or Allen’s Farm near Fair Oaks.

On another front there is an affair at Moorefield, western Virginia. In the Shenandoah Valley there is a Federal reconnaissance from Front Royal to Luray.
June 30, Monday

Yesterday’s efforts of the Union rear guard at Savage’s Station on the Peninsula has been just what General McClellan wanted. By 10 am, all the Federal forces are safely across White Oak Swamp. But the Army of the Potomac is not yet out of danger. It stretches over the muddy terrain like an enormous snake, uncoiling for a distance of nearly 10 miles, its tail at White Oak Swamp and its head resting on the heights at Malvern Hill overlooking the James River. McClellan knows he has to protect the line of retreat for one more day to enable his supply trains to reach the sanctuary offered by the Federal gunboats on the James River. The IV and V Corps have reached Malvern Hill, leaving McClellan seven divisions along the route of retreat. He posts two divisions at White Oak Swamp. The other five divisions are deployed three miles south of the swamp on either side of the crossroads called Glendale. Glendale, halfway between White Oak Swamp and Malvern Hill, is vulnerable to an attack by road from the west. It is also a dangerous bottleneck for the Federals. Here, near a farm owned by the Frayser family, the two routes of retreat from White Oak Swamp funnels into a single route, the Willis Church Road, which leads to the James.

General Lee’s army is also in motion. Lee’s strategy is sound, but it will require better coordination among his subordinates than Lee has been able to achieve this far. It is a good sign for Lee that Jackson seems to have shaken off the lethargy that has gripped him in recent days. The hero of the Valley Campaign crosses the Chickahominy before dawn on the rebuilt Grapevine Bridge and meets with Lee at Savage’s Station. Robert Stiles, a young artillery officer who witnesses the meeting, sees Jackson vigorously trace a battle diagram in the dirt with the heel of his boot. Then Jackson stamps his foot and, in an apparent reference to McClellan, says, “We’ve got him.” Still, Jackson’s progress south to White Oak Swamp is slow this morning. He takes the time to round up about a thousand Federal stragglers who emerge from the thickets along the way. It is nearly noon when Jackson reaches the ruins of the White Oak Bridge, which the Federals burned less than two hours before. In the distance, about half a mile across the swamp, he can catch a glimpse of the Union rear guard: the last of the wagons, several batteries of artillery, and ranks of infantry sprawled on a hill resting.

Now Jackson sets to work like the “Stonewall” of old. He deploys 28 guns in a tree-shielded clearing to the right of the road. Shortly after 2 pm, these guns level a fierce cannonade at the opposite hill. Then, with the skirmishers of D.H. Hill’s division and a regiment of cavalry, Jackson fords the swampy creek for a personal reconnaissance. The Federal rear guard consists of two divisions and four batteries of artillery. These guns open fire, forcing Jackson to hightail it back across the creek, followed by his cavalry. Hill’s skirmishers, however, hold on. Jackson’s situation is a difficult one; the Federal fire is so hot that it repeatedly drives away the soldiers he sends forward to rebuild the bridge. Yet the general brings no energy to bear on finding an alternative route for his troops. After his initial burst of vigor in the morning, Jackson lapses back into the strange lethargy that has afflicted him since his arrival on the Peninsula four days before. At around 3 pm, while the opposing artillery booms back and forth, Jackson lies down under a tree and goes to sleep. He awakes an hour later and finds time to write a letter to his wife, but pays little attention to the problem at hand. He makes no attempt to scout for fords and disregards promising information. A cavalry officer reports finding a cow-crossing suitable for fording 400 yards upstream; one of his brigadiers even comes to him with the news that he has constructed a crude pole bridge a mile downstream and beyond the Federal right flank. Jackson ignores both these reports. He simply sits there on a pine log as if attacking the Union rear guard is a project utterly beyond his capability. This curious lassitude is a mystery to all, and will remain so.

Jackson isn’t the only Confederate general who gets bogged down this afternoon. A couple of miles to the southwest, another of Lee’s columns—9,000 men under Benjamin Huger—is also stymied. Huger’s division is one of the two Confederate columns aimed at the Glendale crossroads, where McClellan’s cumbersome wagon trains are funneling south onto the Willis Church Road. Huger is slanting southeast on the Charles City Road while, less than two miles to his right, the larger column of Longstreet and A.P. Hill—with Magruder scheduled to follow in reserve—is proceeding down a parallel route. When Huger comes into position in front of Glendale, the sound of his artillery is to be the signal for both columns to attack. Before noon, when Huger’s lead brigade is only two miles northwest of Glendale, it runs into an obstruction of felled trees left there by the Federals. When the lead brigade’s commander sees the trees blocking the road, he makes a snap decision that, rather than moving the logs out of the way—they doubtless form an imposing tangle—he orders his men to hack a new pathway through the thick woods that border the road. Up ahead the Federal soldiers immediately see what the Confederates are up to and redouble their own efforts with the ax. Huger apparently sees nothing strange about this bizarre battle of the axes, and by 2 pm his soldiers have managed to win the race, carving a mile-long path and emerging onto the road beyond the obstructions. But when he rides forward Huger sees a new obstacle: Deployed across the road on a rise about a mile short of Glendale is Slocum’s division. Huger moves a battery of artillery into position and, at 2:30 pm, opens fire. Federal guns bark back. Huger’s men take a few casualties, then withdraw to the cover of the woods. Though Huge outnumbers the Federals facing him by 3 to 2, he makes no attempt to attack with his infantry. Like Jackson up at White Oak Swamp, Huger is through for the day.

Not far to the south, Robert E. Lee, now with the column of Longstreet and A.P. Hill, is also only a little more than a mile from the Glendale crossroads. With 18,000 men, Lee is approaching Glendale from the southwest. He is ready to attack the troops defending the crossroads as soon as he hears Huger’s guns signal the beginning of the assault. When Huger’s brief cannonade is heard at 2:30 pm, Longstreet orders his own batteries to fire in acknowledgement. The Confederate exchange triggers action from Federal batteries on Long Bridge Road. Longstreet and Lee are then to the rear, where they have been joined by President Davis. The three are engaged in conversation when a shell bursts nearby, killing two or three horses and wounding one or two men. The party speedily retires to safer quarters. Longstreet sends forward a brigade to silence the Federal batteries, and a brisk skirmish begins on the Confederate right. Lee, however, decides to delay a general assault, having heard nothing from Huger or anything more from his guns.

Meanwhile, a fourth column of troops is converging on McClellan’s line of retreat about three miles farther to the south, 6,000 troops under Major General Theophilus H. Holmes, who has brought his men across the James River. Lee isn’t counting on Holmes for any hard fighting. His troops are too green, and Holmes himself is considered something of a has-been. Still, Lee hopes that Holmes can get within artillery range of the head of McClellan’s column and do some damage. Such an opportunity arises at about 4 pm when Holmes receives word that the Federal wagon trains are streaming up Malvern Hill on the Willis Church Road, less than three miles east of his position, and he quickly starts forward. As Holmes’ infantry hurry forward on the dirt road, their shuffling feet raise clouds of dust clearly visible to the Federals on Malvern Hill, the V Corps and part of the army’s Artillery Reserve. A few minutes later, when Holmes has his half-dozen guns in position about 800 yards from the train of wagons on Malvern Hill, case shot and shell from no fewer than 30 Federal guns and salvos of 100-pound shells from several Federal gunboats anchored on the James River half a mile to the south pour down. A signal officer atop a brick farmhouse on Malvern Hill directs the fire of the gunboats. Some of Holmes’s raw troops panic, and Holmes pulls back his infantry and decimated artillery.

Lee’s four-pronged assault has now been reduced to the single column under Longstreet and A.P. Hill on Long Bridge Road. This critical day is slipping away and so, Lee fears, are McClellan’s wagon trains. He doesn’t know it, but the wagons Holmes tried to attack were, in fact, the tail end of the Federal supply train. There now remain on the line of retreat seven divisions of Federal infantry—the two at White Oak Swamp and the five guarding the Glendale crossroads.

At about 5 pm, in the desperate hope that Huger on his left and Jackson up at the swamp will here the commotion and join in, Lee at last orders the general assault on Long Bridge Road. Longstreet moves first, the battle lines splashing across swampy ground and moving uphill toward Frayser’s Farm and the crossroads. The Union flanks are solidly anchored, but the brunt of the Confederate attack slams into the center held by an understrength division that has been tested at Mechanicsville and Gaines’s Mill with only a few hours of sleep in the past three days. A regiment breaks and runs up the hill toward their artillery, the Confederates in hot pursuit, taking the guns in vicious hand-to-hand fighting. Now two of A.P. Hill’s regiments are sent charging at the Federal center to exploit Longstreet’s breakthrough. The central division collapses under Hill’s charge and its commanding general, George McCall, is captured. But in the meantime, the other Federal generals have shown remarkable cooperation, despite McClellan’s failure to appoint a field commander. Fresh troops from II Corps are flung into action, one division marching south from White Oak Swamp when it becomes clear that Jackson isn’t going to press his attack. Hooker holds firmly on the left, and Kearny is able to halt Hill’s breakthrough then mount a counterattack that plugs the gap in the Federal line, driving back the Confederates in savage fighting. For a time it seems that Kearny will regain all of the lost ground, but A.P. Hill turns the tide with an inspiring display of bravery, seizing the flag of one of Longstreet’s regiments and leads them forward to repulse the counterattack.

As night falls, the battle sputters out in bloody stalemate, the ground around Frayser’s Farm and the crossroads covered with the dead and dying. In the battle that will be known as Glendale, or Frayser’s Farm, Lee has gained a bit of shell-torn woods and a few Federal guns, but lost more than 3,300 men. The Federals have suffered 2,853 casualties, including 1,130 captured or missing. Lee has also lost what he fears will be his last opportunity to cut off McClellan’s retreat. The Federal wagons are safe at the James River, and the Federal infantry will be able to march south during the night to join the supply train at Malvern Hill. Lee goes to bed this night still not knowing why his strategy has failed, not understanding how 50,000 of his troops could have been within hearing distance of the battle on Long Bridge Road and have failed to attack.

Far to the west, Confederate Lieutenant Brown has set to work with a will to fulfill his orders to finish the armored ram CSS Arkansas, moving the boat from Greenwood, Mississippi downstream to Yazoo City (a more convenient location for the construction), retrieving the railroad iron from the sunken scow that had been carrying it and floating it down on a barge to bolt to a wooden frame atop the Arkansas’ hull; to power his drills Brown uses a the hoisting engine of a steamboat tied up nearby. Carriages are constructed for the 10 smoothbores and rifled guns; the engines are assembled and installed. Scarcely five weeks after he started work, Lieutenant Brown has a wonderful homemade war machine—somewhat temperamental, particularly in the engine room, but swift, well protected and much more heavily armed than most rams. Brown quickly recruits a crew—some of them artillerists and some from a Missouri infantry regiment.

Other action is comparatively insignificant. There is minor fighting at Henderson, Kentucky; and Rising Sun and Powell River, Tennessee.
July 1, Tuesday

Early in the morning, General Jackson’s troops cross White Oak Swamp unopposed and join General Lee at Glendale. Lee tells his generals the pursuit will continue this day, south on the Willis Church Road with Jackson’s force in the vanguard. Lee once again keeps bottled up whatever frustrations he feels at Jackson’s curious inactivity during the previous afternoon. But Longstreet notices that his chief looks “unwell and much fatigued.” And a little later, when a newly arrived brigadier expresses his concern that McClellan might escape the pursuit, Lee lets his feelings show: “Yes, he will get away because I cannot have my orders carried out.” As he rides south on the Willis Church Road, Lee nonetheless hopes for one more chance to strike at McClellan. He suspects that his adversary will make a last stand at Malvern Hill, three miles south of Glendale. The hill is actually a large plateau, about a mile and a half long, three quarters of a mile wide, and more than 100 feet high at the crest. It is separated from the James on the south by a strip of swampy ground and flanked east and west by creeks and ravines. It is an ideal position to defend, as at least one Confederate general recognizes. “If General McClellan is there in force,” insists D.H. Hill before Longstreet and Lee, “we had better let him alone.” But Longstreet blows off D.H. Hill’s concerns, and though Lee doesn’t comment he apparently shares Longstreet’s belief that the Federals are demoralized and ripe for a licking.

McClellan’s army is in fact on Malvern Hill—and in great force. Except for the wagon trains, which already have crossed the plateau and turned downriver toward Harrison’s Landing, most of the Army of the Potomac is atop the hill, waiting for Lee. The Federal battle lines are arrayed in a rough semicircle on the northern rim, with the strongest concentration of men and guns guarding the most likely avenue of attack on the left front. Here, at the base of the hill, Willis Church Road emerges from thick woods and swamp and climbs a gradual slope through cultivated fields. Atop this slope, McClellan has three divisions of infantry and numerous batteries of artillery. Farther to the rear, around the century-old Malvern House, stands the bulk of the army’s Artillery Reserve, nearly 100 guns practically wheel to wheel, including 14 mammoth siege cannon laboriously hauled up the hill during the night. In all there are nearly 250 guns on the hill.

At midmorning on this hot, cloudless day, Jackson’s column approaches Malvern Hill to take up positions on the lower slopes. Immediately, the Federal artillery opens up, forcing Jackson’s men to take cover in the woods on either side of the road. The Federal gunboat flotilla, standing by on the James just south of Malvern Hill, adds to the awesome Federal firepower. In the woods just west of the road, D.H. Hill sits calmly at a camp table on the exposed side of a big tree. When an officer urges him at least to put the tree between him and the Federal guns, Hill replies, “Don’t worry about me; look after the men. I am not going to be killed until my time comes.” Just then a shell explodes nearby, lifting Hill from his chair and hurling him to the ground. Hill shakes the dirt from his uniform and resumes his seat—this time behind the tree. By noon, Lee has most of his men moving into place in the woods and forming a mile-long crescent at the base of the plateau, with Ewell’s and Jackson’s divisions in reserve on the left, and A.P. Hill’s and Longstreet’s divisions in reserve on the right. In the previous battles, Lee has been plagued by the failure of subordinates to execute his careful plans. Now, however, Lee has no complex strategy, just the desperate wish to get in a final blow.

Presently, Longstreet returns from a reconnaissance to the right with an idea. West of the Willis Church Road, he has discovered a knoll that roughly matches the height of the crest where the Federal artillery is massed on the enemy left front, 1,200 yards away. He suggests that if 40 to 60 Confederate guns are placed on this knoll and perhaps 100 pieces deploy in a field half a mile east of the road, the Confederate artillery can effectively enfilade the Federal guns. Lee gives the go-ahead. About 1:30 pm, he issues orders to all of his commanders: “Batteries have been established to rake the enemy’s line. If it is broken, as is probable, Armistead, who can witness the effect of the fire, has been ordered to charge with a yell. Do the same.” This is a strange order to emanate from a tactician who prizes precision in his directives—the batteries referred to have not yet been established, nor has Lee determined how they might be brought into position. Brigadier General William Pendleton, his chief of artillery, has his artillery reserve of 90 guns somewhere in the rear on the troop-clogged road leading to Malvern Hill. With the exception of D.H. Hill, who has sent his guns back to Seven Pines for refitting, the division commanders try to bring up their own batteries but are frustrated by swamp and woods, and by accurate Federal shellfire. All during that afternoon, the Confederates manage to get into position scarcely more than 20 guns—Longstreet’s scheme calls for at least 140. Those pieces that do go into action are no match for the Federal artillery. As the Confederate batteries come forward one by one, they are knocked out or forced to withdraw. Still, outgunned and outmanned though they are, the Confederate artily does manage to instill fear—and inflict casualties—among the Federal infantrymen waiting on Malvern Hill with no way to respond.

At about 3 pm, Lee realizes that he will not be able to get enough guns into place to carry out Longstreet’s plan. Without formally revoking his earlier order, he abandons his idea of an infantry assault up the front slope. He rides over to the far left, hoping that he can find a place there to flank Malvern Hill and force the Federals to abandon their position. His search proves futile, but shortly after he returns from the reconnaissance, about 4 pm, opportunity seems to present itself and Lee pounces. Hope comes in the form of two messages that arrive almost simultaneously. One message is from W.H.C. Whiting on the left. Whiting has seen a movement of Federal troops on the hill and misinterpreted it. General Sumner was merely shifting the lines of his II Corps, but Whiting believed that the Federals might be withdrawing from Malvern Hill. The other message is from Magruder on the right, that a formidable advance has been achieved by Armistead who, under Lee’s now-abandoned order, was to have signaled the general assault by charging with his brigade. What had actually happened was that about an hour before Armistead’s men had become irked when Federal skirmishers in a field at the bottom of a steep bluff on the northwest corner of Malvern Hill had started firing at them. Without waiting for orders from Armistead, the Confederates had charged, driving back the skirmishers. But Federal artillery began punishing Armistead’s troops, and they took refuge in a ravine at the near edge of the field, where they were joined by their commander. Magruder arrived in the woods behind Armistead’s advance position at about this time. Not only is he hours late thanks to taking the wrong road to Malvern Hill, but Magruder is ill and exhausted from marching and countermarching the previous day to the point that many think he is drunk. Someone handed Magruder the obsolete order for a general assault, he saw Armistead’s brigade at the edge of the wheat field, and immediately notifies Lee that Armistead has advanced.

Magruder’s message, combined with Whiting’s information that the Federals appear to be pulling out, is too much for Lee to resist. Determined not to let McClellan get away this time, Lee sends verbal orders to Magruder telling him to advance immediately. Magruder was reproached by Lee on Sunday for lack of vigor in pursuing the Federals at Savage’s Station; this time he will obey orders to the letter, even though neither his infantry nor his artillery are yet in position to attack. At 4:45 pm he orders the assault, sending forward the troops readily at hand—two of Huger’s brigades. Their line of attack will carry them for nearly half a mile through wheat and meadow toward the bluff atop which Federal guns are clustered around the old Crew farmhouse. As the two brigades pass to the right of the ravine where Lewis Armistead’s troops are still hugging the ground, the men jump up shouting their welcome and join the attack. The Confederates are now long lines of gray moving through the golden wheat into a storm of shot and shell.

The cheers of the charging Confederates drift back toward the center of the line near Willis Church Road, where D.H. Hill is lounging in the saddle smoking a cigar. Recalling the terms of Lee’s old assault order—“Armistead ... has been ordered to charge with a yell. Do the same.”—and believing this order to still be in effect, Hill hurries his five brigades to the attack sometime after 5 pm. From the edge of the woods where Hill launches his assault, it is about 800 yards to the Federal line. Unlike the terrain on the Confederate right, where the steep bluff provides Huger’s men a modicum of protection from artillery fire in the hollows and ravines under its brow, the gradual incline before Hill’s men offers no hope of cover. Moving on a half-mile-wide front on either side of the road, Hill’s troops march directly into the mouths of the Federal cannon. As the grayclads surge forward, the Federal gunners switch from shot and shell to case and canister for a lethal shotgun effect. Federals watch in horror as the onrushing waves of Confederates seem to explode before their eyes, knapsacks, hats, rifles, and fragments of bodies flying through the air. When the broken ranks of Confederates come within musket range, the blueclad infantry take over. It is now 6 pm. In the center, D.H. Hill’s brigades are breaking and falling back. On the right the remnants of Huger’s three brigades huddle beneath the brow of the bluff, 75 yards from the Federal guns. To their right, Huger’s last brigade storms the bluff from due west of the Crew farmhouse and fights within 20 yards of the enemy before retreating in the face of canister and musketry. Meanwhile, Magruder has finally begun bringing his own brigades into action, but they come in piecemeal and in confusion. The daylight is fading into a dusk hastened by the great pall of sulfurous smoke that has belched from the Federal cannon. Still, despite their losses, Magruder’s fresh brigades come on. Groping forward through the haze, they stumble across carpets of the dead and dying. More than half of the casualties littering meadow and wheat field are victims of the Federal artillery—“an unprecedented thing in warfare,” D.H. Hill will note.

Though the Federals hold the upper hand, they have all they can handle from Magruder’s men. Fitz-John Porter is worried that the Confederates might yet break through as they had, decisively, at Boatswain’s Creek. He posts several batteries in positions where they can sweep the field with double canister, ordering them to stop any advance, even “at the risk of firing upon friends.” Then he calls for reinforcements, and personally leads one of the two brigades sent in a countercharge. Suddenly, a large Confederate force looms out of the smoke and gloom only 50 yards away, firing volleys on the advancing Federals. Porter’s brigade stands its ground and returns fire, and Porter finds himself between the two lines. His horse is struck and he is thrown to the ground, but manages to return safely to his lines.

Meanwhile, McClellan has put in a brief appearance on Malvern Hill to buck up the troops—one of his few battlefield appearances thus far in the Seven Days. Although his generals have been fighting without any overall field commander, the issue has never really been in doubt. The Federals have nearly seven divisions of infantry in reserve. These reserves, while taking an occasional casualty from the sporadic Confederate artillery fire—and some from their own gunboats—have had time enough to chase down stray pigs for supper and to simply sit and marvel at the incredible courage of their enemy. Many Federals are convinced, one soldier will write, that the Rebels “had been rendered insensible to fear by whisky drugged with gunpowder.”

The valor of the Confederates is extraordinary, but futile. Jackson is moving up his own troops to reinforce D.H. Hill, but too late. Whiting remains idle on the Confederate left, and Lee hasn’t called up Longstreet and A.P. Hill from reserve on the right or Holmes from the River Road. There will be no eleventh-hour rallying of Lee’s line, no majestic general assault as at Gaines’s Mill. Toward 9 pm darkness comes and the sound of musketry dies away. Federal cannon boom for another hour or so, the burning fuses of their shells describing fiery arcs through the inky dark. Then these guns, too, fall silent, to be replaced by the pathetic cry of Confederates who have fallen on the slopes of Malvern Hill. The Army of the Potomac gathers up its own wounded—its losses are 397 killed, 2,092 wounded, and 725 missing—and follows the path of its supply wagons to Harrison’s Landing, ancestral home of the Harrison family.

The Seven Day’s Battles are over and, for now at least, Richmond is safe. President Davis will issue an official proclamation of thanksgiving. Yet southern gratitude for Lee’s achievement will be tempered by grief at the enormous cost. Overall, Lee has lost 20,614 men, nearly one fourth of those in his command when the Seven Days began. Of the casualties, all but 875—those missing or captured—lie dead or wounded. The losses among Confederate officers is staggering. Ten brigade commanders and 66 regimental commanders have been killed or wounded. The Federal toll is considerably less—15,649 in all, including the unusually large number of 6,053 missing and presumed captured. McClellan has saved most of his army, through a movement he will term “unparalleled in the annals of war.” Not that that stops him from wiring to Washington: “I need 50,000 more men, and with them I will retrieve our fortunes.” No words of McClellan’s can disguise the fact that he has been driven to retreat, yet the Federal army is still on the Peninsula, and not too far from Richmond at that. Lee himself is less than satisfied. In his official report, the Southern commander will note the failures of his subordinates and say: “Under ordinary circumstances, the Federal Army should have been destroyed.”

In Mississippi Federal Colonel Philip H. Sheridan defeats Confederate troops in an action near Booneville, south of Corinth in the northeastern portion of the state. Skirmishes occur at Fort Furnace at Powell’s Big Fort Valley, Virginia; Cherry Grove in Schuyler County, Missouri; and at Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Farragut’s fleet from New Orleans, now north of Vicksburg, joins Flag Officer Charles Davis’ western flotilla on the Mississippi.

President Lincoln approves two significant acts of the Federal Congress. The Federal Income Tax is revised with 3 percent on income between $600 and $10,000 and 5 percent above $10,000. This measure becomes operative where the 1861 measure did not. Another measure approves a Union Pacific-Central Pacific railroad across the west. Government aid is provided and rights secured for postal, military, and other purposes. The President announces to the Northern governors that he is calling for 300,000 more men “to bring this unnecessary and injurious civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.”
The daylight is fading into a dusk hastened by the great pall of sulfurous smoke that has belched from the Federal cannon. Still, despite their losses, Magruder’s fresh brigades come on. Groping forward through the haze, they stumble across carpets of the dead and dying. More than half of the casualties littering meadow and wheat field are victims of the Federal artillery—“an unprecedented thing in warfare,” D.H. Hill will note.

A foretaste of what was to come on the battlefields of Europe in the Great War half a century later. If only Europe's generals had been paying attention....
@Potemkin Very true, though in that case the machine gun was the real killer rather than artillery.
Doug64 wrote:@Potemkin Very true, though in that case the machine gun was the real killer rather than artillery.

The real killer was the industrialisation of warfare. This made defence decisively stronger than offence for more than half a century (at least until the advent of mobile armoured vehicles). The generals at the start of the Great War bet on offence, when defence trumped offence almost every time. In WWII, of course, they made the opposite mistake - they bet on defence when offence trumped defence almost every time. Generals always fight the last war, not the current one. Lol.
@Potemkin In WWII things weren’t as lopsided toward offense as is commonly thought. The Germans’ vaunted blitzkrieg worked as well as it did because their early opponents were hopelessly outmatched (the Poles) or already demoralized (the French) or both (the Russians early on). If the Germans had tried that against someone like Patton, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere as well as it did from 1939 to 1941. Come to think of it, they kinda did with the Battle of the Bulge.

All of which isn’t to say your main point isn’t spot on, armies tend to train and equip for the last war.
July 2, Wednesday

Heavy rain falls on the Peninsula of Virginia as McClellan pulls his army away from Malvern Hill and continues his retreat to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. Lee’s army is in no condition for a real follow-up, but there is action between Confederate cavalry and Federal infantrymen. Charges and countercharges on both sides begin at once over the management of the campaign.

Other fighting is at Huntsville, Alabama; and there is a reconnaissance up Powell’s Big Fort Valley, Virginia.

The Confederates create the Military District of Mississippi under command of Major General Earl Van Dorn.

President Lincoln receives news from Virginia and also signs several acts, including one banning polygamy in the territories. Another law calls for a loyalty oath by every elected or appointed government officer. Most importantly, President Lincoln signs the Morrill Act, introduced in the Senate by Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, which provides for the states to receive thirty thousand acres of land for each senator and representative as an endowment for proposed agricultural and mechanical schools. The measure makes possible land grant agricultural colleges in every state.
July 3, Thursday

The news of the retreat of the Union army from before Richmond spreads. In the North, the disappointment and chagrin is vehemently expressed. McClellan and his army are the subject of agitated controversy.

Colonel Weer’s Federals, entering the Indian Territory, make short work of their outnumbered opponents. The 6th Kansas attacks Cherokee Stand Watie’s command, seizes his supplies, and sends his mixed bloods fleeing toward the Arkansas River. This same morning, at Locust Grove, the 9th Kansas and the 1st Indian Home Guard Regiment, composed principally of Opothleyahola’s Creek warriors, thrash Clarkson’s Missourians. The Confederate survivors flee to Tahlequah, the Cherokee capital, spreading panic. Never very firm in their allegiance to the Confederacy, most of Drew’s Pin Cherokees defect to the Union side. Weer uses some of them to fill out his 2nd Indian Home Guard Regiment. With the rest he forms a third Amerind regiment. Weer sends a small force to Tahlequah to arrest John Ross, the 71-year-old principle Cherokee chief. Then, not knowing what to do next, he lies in camp on the Grand River, drinking heavily for almost two weeks.

There is bombardment at Vicksburg; there are skirmishes near Russellville, Alabama; near Herring Creek close to Harrison’s Landing, Virginia; and a reconnaissance from Harrison’s Landing by Federals.

General McClellan again wires Washington, raising his request for reinforcements from 50,000 men to 100,000. He begs the President to “be fully impressed by the magnitude of the crisis in which we are placed.”

Major General Sterling Price assumes command of the Army of the West.
General McClellan again wires Washington, raising his request for reinforcements from 50,000 men to 100,000. He begs the President to “be fully impressed by the magnitude of the crisis in which we are placed.”

How much more of McClellan's nonsense is Lincoln going to take? :eh:
Potemkin wrote:How much more of McClellan's nonsense is Lincoln going to take? :eh:

Right now, I think Lincoln hopes he can shift troops over to General Pope's Army of Virginia, essentially leave McClellan a general without a major command--to relieve him of his command without doing it officially.
July 4, Friday

Independence Day is greeted by the North with even more than usual enthusiasm notwithstanding the discouraging news from Virginia. Speeches, proclamations, and general orders rule the day.

But the fighting also continues with a Federal reconnaissance from Harrison’s Landing, Virginia; a skirmish at Westover, Virginia; an affair at Port Royal Ferry, South Carolina; and a Confederate attack on US vessels near Velasco, Texas.

In New Mexico Territory, the first detachment of the California Column under Brigadier General James H. Carleton (promoted from colonel during the march) arrives at the Rio Grande above Mesilla and raises the United States flag, though the rest of the force is far behind and more won’t arrive for another month. By this time Brigadier General Sibley and many of his remaining men are in flight back to San Antonio. Only a rear guard of 600 Texans is left at Fort Fillmore, and on July 8 they, too, will withdraw before the approaching Californians. With their departure the last semblance of a Confederate presence in New Mexico vanishes. The 700-mile journey across West Texas desert, from waterhole to waterhole, is the ultimate ordeal for the remnants of Sibley’s army. In the burning heat of midsummer, men abandon their last possessions, even their weapons, to keep moving. New of the soldiers’ plight travels ahead of them, and as they near San Antonio, friends and relatives rush to meet them with wagon trains of provisions. Men will straggle in all summer, but of the approximately 3,500 Texans who rode west with Sibley last year, 1,500 will never return.

At Athens, Alabama, just north of Decatur, Union General Buell’s staff has completely botched the complicated staff work required to execute the orders he gave to stock a five-day supply of rations for his 31,000-man army. The army has been placed on half rations, and Buell complains that his operations have been completely crippled. Another commander might simply have taken what he needed from the countryside. But Buell believes in traditional warfare, which isolates civilians from harm as much as possible. Treating the locals mildly might win their favor, he thinks, and he forbids looting the countryside even in reprisal for bushwhacking.

Over this issue, Buell will heap wrath on the shoulders of his subordinate, General Mitchel, for the harsh behavior of his forces before Buell joins them at Huntsville after the supply debacle at Athens. Mitchel has made a feeble attempt to deal with the discipline problem. He has complained to the Secretary of War that “the most terrible outrages—robberies, rapes, arsons and plunderings—are being committed by lawless brigands and vagabonds connected with the army.” Mitchel has even received the authority to sentence offenders to death, but he has never used it. On Buell’s arrival he learns that such incidents aren’t isolated, that indeed, “not only straggling individuals, but a whole brigade, under the open authority of its commander, could engage in these acts.” He is referring to the sacking of Athens in early April by Colonel Basil Turchin. The commander of the 19th Illinois had turned the town over to the regiment, declaring, “I shut mine eyes for one hour.” In that time the vengeful troops had stripped the residents of watches, jewelry, and silver, and raped a number of slave girls. Now Buell has Turchin court-martialed and dismissed from the service. But he will win few friends among superiors or subordinates, even President Lincoln—after hearing a plea from Turchin’s wife he will not only reinstate Turchin, but promote him to brigadier general.

On the Confederate side, Major General Edmund Kirby Smith at Chattanooga, tasked with holding the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad with only six small brigades, has had his own problems. First there was the threat of Brigadier General George W. Morgan advancing into the Cumberland Gap with 9,000 troops. Then there was Brigadier General James S. Negley, whose 6,000-man force approached Chattanooga from the northwest early last month and actually shelled the city as if in preparation for an assault. Now Buell is advancing, however slowly. Smith has been firing off a spate of alarming messages describing the danger posed to Chattanooga by Buell’s advance and his own inability to withstand an attack—on June 24th to the War Department demanding at least 2,000 men with an officer of ability assigned to command, on June 25th to the Governor of Georgia, on June 26th to General Lee, on the 27th to General Bragg. He has had some success, President Davis himself responding on the 25th that Brigadier General Henry Heth is on his way with 6,000 reinforcements and encouraging Bragg to cooperate with Smith if possible; General Bragg reluctantly sends a division of 3,000 men under Major General John P. McCown. And still Smith’s alarms have continued. “Large reinforcements speedily forwarded can alone save Chattanooga,” he hectors the War Department on June 28th. On July 2nd, the day after Henry Heth arrives with his troops, Smith reports darkly that the enemy is ready to cross the Tennessee River: “Their attack may be daily looked for.”

But Smith’s military dispositions have never reflected the concern he has repeatedly expressed. While fretting about the danger to Chattanooga, he has kept 9,000 of his best troops under his most capable commander, Brigadier General Carter L. Stevenson, posted north of Knoxville; there they face Brigadier General George W. Morgan’s 10,000 Federals in the Cumberland Gap. Indeed, only 9,000 Confederates, most of them raw recruits, remain in Chattanooga to oppose Buell’s 31,000-man Army of the Ohio. Moreover, Smith has placed General McCown in command, despite Bragg’s warning that McCown lacks “capacity and nerve for a separate, responsible command.” This is likely because Smith is unhappy with his current assignment. He served with General Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley, and at Bull Run his last-minute arrival on the field with his troops helped turn the tide for the Confederates and earned him instant fame. When the young hero married, his wife was dubbed “The Bride of the Confederacy.” After the accolades in the first year of the War, the aggressive, 38-year-old Smith resents his assignment to a small western department with little scope for action. But he has conceived of an invasion of Kentucky as a way to relieve his boredom and bring himself glory. He believes there are thousands of Confederate sympathizers there, chafing under the Federal yoke and ready to take up arms to help him occupy the state. However, he cannot move north while he is chained to Chattanooga. To free himself for the invasion, Smith will have to persuade others to assume the responsibility of protecting the city.

Nor does Smith just wait for further responses to his hectoring, today he sends a cavalry brigade under Colonel John Hunt Morgan on a preliminary raid. While Morgan savors the dash and glamor of raiding, he is neither reckless nor flamboyant; but he does attract flamboyant subordinates, including a British soldier of fortune named George St. Leger Grenfell; an expert telegrapher, wiretap artist, and comedian named George (Lightning) Ellsworth; and Morgan’s second-in-command and brother-in-law, Basil W. Duke. Today they and the 900 men of the brigade trot out of Knoxville bent on harassing the vital Federal supply line between Nashville and Louisville, Kentucky.

Confederate gunboat Teaser is captured by Federals as it attempts to go down the James and launch an observation balloon made of old silk frocks.

At Vicksburg the bombardment continues, as Federals puzzle over how best to reduce the fortress on the Mississippi bluffs.
July 5, Saturday

Jefferson Davis agrees with Lee that Confederate armies are not numerous enough and are so “battle thinned” that an attack on McClellan on the James would be impossible at this time.

There is skirmishing at Battle Creek, Tennessee; on the Hatchie River, Mississippi; and an affair at Walden’s Ridge, Tennessee. Confederates carry out minor operations against Federal shipping on the James this day and July 6. A Federal expedition operates from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, July 5-8, to flush out Confederate guerrillas.
July 6, Sunday

Two days after Colonel Morgan leaves Knoxville, another of General Kirby Smith’s cavalry brigades leaves Chattanooga—1,000 troopers under Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest’s mission is the same as Morgan’s, to disrupt the tenuous Federal supply line extending from Louisville to Buell’s army. His chief target is Murfreesboro, an important depot on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. A former planter and slaver trader, Forrest is quick with his fists and a tenacious leader who loathes giving ground no matter how desperate the circumstances. That did not, however, prevent him from leading his troops in a daring escape from Fort Donelson when his superiors chose to surrender to General Grant. At Shiloh he was seriously wounded, the last casualty of that bloody engagement. But despite his achievements and popularity among most of his troops, the unlettered Mississippian is scorned by many West Pointers for his nonprofessional background and socially unacceptable to the aristocratic Southerners who make up a good part of the Confederate cavalry officer corps. Despite this, though, he is about to be promoted to brigadier general.

From North Carolina, Federal Major General A.E. Burnside sails with reinforcements for the Army of the Potomac on the James.

Skirmishes are fought at Bayou Cache, Arkansas, and Salem, Missouri. There is a Federal scout from Waynesville to the Big Piney, Missouri; and another Federal expedition toward Blackwater and Chapel Hill, Missouri.
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