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through their representatives, were | ed, and which, as we shall see, were in steadily advancing towards a practical due time disposed of. The second ses solution of certain difficult questior.s, sion of the Thirty-seventh Congress was which were earnestly and ably discuss- closed on the 17th of July, 1862.
THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES: RETREAT FROM THE PENINSULA.
McClellan's hopes and expectations — Obstacles in the way - Rebel activity under Lee - Stuart's cavalry raid
— Boldly planned and executed - Jackson's flank movement – McClellan daily expecting a battle — Ad vance movement - Oak Grove – Critical state of affairs — Repulse of rebels at Mechanicsville — Alternatives before McClellan — His choice, change of base, prudent, if not bold - Position of Porter and his men — Necessity of fighting the enemy — Attacked by the rebel army in large force — No reinforcements from south bank of the river— Porter nearly cut to pieces — Saved by opportune help and darkness — Rebel exultation - The Chickahominy crossed and bridges burned during the night—MoClellan's skill in masking his plans —- Crossing the White Oak Swamp by the different corps — Lee sets out in pursuit – Magruder repulsed at Savage Station — Jackson stopped by our batteries at White Oak Swamp - Battle at Glenda. or Turkey Bridge - Severe and bloody contest — Our troops withdrawn during the night —Lee determincs on a general engagement - McClellan's position at Malvern Hill — The rebels completely defeated in this battle -Our troops reach Harrison's Bar on the James River — Heavy losses – McClellan's generalshir – Southern views and feelings - McClellan's Fourth of July words of promise and encouragement.
In a previous chapter (see p. 167), my troops is now such that I can venwe have given an account of the battle ture much. I do not fear for odds of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks, which against me. The victory is complete, was fought on the 31st of May and 1st and all credit is due to the gallantry of June. It was marked by great loss of our officers and men.” of life on both sides, but yielded little It soon became evident, however, if any advantage, either to the rebels that these eager aspirations of McClel.
or to our army advancing to lan were doomed to disappointment.
the capture of Richmond. Mc. The roads and the ground generally Clellan seems to have meditated an im- were totally unfit for active movements; mediate movement upon the enemy. the water in the Chickahominy continu. Writing to the secretary of war, the day ed so high that he could not transport after the battle, he said, “I only wait the whole of his army across the river; for the river to fall, to cross with the bridges had to be built; encampments rest of the force, and make a general and entrenchments had to be formed in attack. Should I find them holding firm the swampy woods; and above all, proin a very strong position. I may wait bably, there was considerable uncer. for what troops I can bring up from tainty as to being able to maintain, in Fortress Monroe. But the morale of safety, the necessary connection with
J. E. B. STUART'S CAVALRY RAID.
his basis of supplies at the White of the position of McClellan with reHouse. Added to this, the midsummer gard to his supplies. sun,
with its intense heat, told severely The expedition was undertaken by upon the health of the troops, and in. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, with some 1,500 flamed the pestilential influences of cavalry, selected especially for this sercrowded camps and noxious marshes vice. Leaving Richmond on the 12th into active and virulent diseases; and of June, Stuart took the Charlottesville during the long weeks of inactivity in turnpike, bivouacked for the what was called the siege of Richmond, night at Ashland, and at the not only thousands sickened of fever dawn of day cautiously approached and and died, but the very name of the penetrated the Union lines. Near Chickahominy, with its deadly swamps, Hanover Court House a small force of became, to the country at large, asso- our cavalry was met with, and speedily ciated with suffering in its most dread- put to flight; and the rebels, having ed forms.
excited alarm and wonder by their apThe rebels, meanwhile, were streng. pearance, dashed forward and destroyed thening their forces in and about Rich- all that they could from Ashland to mond, under the command of General Tunstall's Station on the York River Robert E. Lee, who had succeeded Railroad. Stores of various kinds were Johnston, and whose name became some seized and burned, and some prisoners what famous in the further efforts and and horses were secured. A train of struggles of the rebellion. They also cars coming up at the station was fired entertained hopes and expectations of into, but it made its escape with trifling speedily assuming the offensive, and loss. Having sent a detachment to decrushing McClellan and his entire stroy whatever could be found at the army.* A bold and dashing expedi- landing on the Pamunkey, Stuart astion was set on foot, for the purpose of sembled his force at New Kent Court penetrating the Union lines and making House, and halted till midnight. Not a full and thorough reconnaissance of dariug to venture a return by way of the position and strength of our army. Hanover Court House, Stuart took a It was successfully carried out, and road by which he was not likely to be among other things it helped to demon. pursued, and making his way across strate the danger, just now alluded to, the Chickahominy, near Forge Bridge,
* In a dispatch from Secretary Stanton, June 11th, within five miles of our pickets, he suche used the following strong language, to encourage ceeded, on the 15th of June, in reachand cheer McClellan in the difficult position in which ing safely the rebel lines near White he was placed :-“Be assured, general, that there never has been a moment when my desire has been other Oak Swamp. About 165 prisoners wise than to aid you with my whole heart, mind and were taken, together with some 300 strength, since the hour we first met; and whatever others may say for their own purposes, you have never mules and horses, etc. Stuart had thus had; and never can have, any one more truly your passed entirely round and in the rear friend, or more anxious to support you, or more joyful of our army, having accomplished a than I shall be at the success which I have no doubt will soon 1:9 achieved by your arms”
cavalry raid which not only astonished
the army and people by its audacity, generally to be led into action. On the but also set the example for future ex- 18th of June, McClellan wrote to the ploits of a similar character.
president, “A general engagement may The condition of affairs was fast be take place at any hour. We await coming such that it was felt on all only a favorable condition of the earth hands that something must be done; and sky, and the completion of some Richmond must be captured, or if that necessary preliminaries.” A week later, were not possible, the Army of the he said, “ the action will occur to-morPotomac must be extricated from its row, or within a short time," etc. present dangerous embarrassment. The On the 25th of June, Heintzelman enemy were gaining in strength, and holding the advance before Fair Oaks, Lee determined to avail himself of the was ordered to push forward his pickservices of Jackson, who had obtained ets, and drive the enemy from the distinguished success in the Shenandoah woods in his front, and in this way to Valley. He resolved to do this, too, so relieve his men from an un. secretly and quietly that the first an- wholesome position in the nouncement of Jackson's withdrawal swampy ground, and to bring them to from the valley should be the blow an open, clear space beyond. The struck upon the Army of the Potomac. movement was preliminary to the gene. Accordingly, on the 17th of June, his ral action which McClellan had now reforce being now about 25,000 men, solved upon. Hooker's division bore Jackson began his march, and so skil- the brunt of this encounter, and found fully was it managed that no one of their advance was sharply contested in our generals knew of his approach till the woods. McClellan came upon the he was within striking distance of the field, about noon, and personally directright wing of the army. Lee intended, ed this movement at Oak Grove, which by this movement, to open the way for in the course of the afternoon was crossing the Chickahominy to join Jack- entirely successful. son's column, and then to sweep down Apprehending the possible approach on the north side of the river, toward of Jackson with his force, and warned the York, and lay hold of McClellan's of danger by the successful raid of communications with the White House. Stuart in his rear, McClellan had already
The commanding general, expecting been contemplating a change of base again the co-operation of McDowell, from his present position to the James was looking forward to a battle which River, and had, with a view of future might occur on any day. The bridges events, ordered a number of transports had now been built in sufficient num- with stores and supplies to the James bers to connect readily the two wings of River. Being assured of Jackson's arthe army; our lines had been pushed for- rival at or near Hanover Court House, ward, defensive works had been erected and divining Lee's plan and purpose in to secure safety in case of a repulse; and concentrating on the north bank of the there was an earnest wish in the army Chickahominy, he hastened at once to
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ALTERNATIVES FOR MCCLELLAN.
the cam, of Fitz John Porter, who was direct upon Richmond, or to transfer in command of the right wing of the the right wing to the south bank and army, and a part of whose corps held make a change of base to the James the strongly entrenched position of River. The first course just named Baver Dam Creek.
was too full of risk, and in case of re. During the afternoon of the 26th of pulse the entire army would be destroy: June, the rebels crossed in several ed. Some critics, like Mr. Swinton, are columns, in the vicinity of Mechanics- of opinion that the second of these ville and Meadow Bridge, and attacked alternatives was both bold and brilliant, McCall, who was in position at Beaver in fact too much so for McClellan,* and Dam Creek. Our troops were conceal. that it might have been tried with good ed by earth works, commanding the prospect of success. The last, the
Mechanicsville road, on which change of base, was judicious, and
the rebel divisions under Long. though attended with serious difficulty street were advancing; and when the and danger, was probably the safest enemy had approached within short under all the circumstances. The disrange, they opened a very destructive tance from Fair Oaks to the James River fire of artillery and musketry in the was about seventeen : miles, and there faces and on the flanks of the foe, driv- was only a single road by which bag. ing them back in great confusion. The gage and stores could be moved; but slaughter was terrible, the rebels having the activity and steadiness of our troops lost between three and four thousand, were such, that the purpose of the comwhile the Union loss was inconsiderable. manding general was nearly completed Another effort was made by the enemy before it was at all comprehended by in the morning, but without success; the rebels. The wagons and heavy Jackson, meanwhile, having passed guns were withdrawn during the night Beaver Dam Creek above, turned the of the 26th of June, and united with position, and, of course, rendered it un. the train which was to set out the next tenable for our troops.*
evening for the James River. At the It now became a question requiring same time Stoneman proceeded with a iminediate decision on the part of Mc- flying column to the White House, Clellan, what was to be done; wbether which depot, all the stores along the to cross with his entire army and fight railroad having been re-shipped or dethe rebels on the north bank of the stroyed, was evacuated. Stoneman Chickahominy, or to concentrate his having successfully accomplished his troops on the south bank and march work, fell back upon Yorktown. The rear guard of McCall's division, con. greatest firmness on the part of our men, sisting of Seymour's brigade, was at. and after several hours' desperate efforts tacked by the enemy, who, being sharp- he was compelled to retire in the greatly repulsed, did not attempt further to est disorder and with heavy loss. Long. molest the movement of our men. street now began an attack on the left
* It is a curious question why McDowell, who was "Army of the Potomac,” p. 147. Mr. Swinton also remaining inactive at Fredericksburg, did not make a quotes from the report of Magruder, who says: “I condemonstration along the Richmond road. Had he done sidered the situation of our army as extremely critical and 80, of which Lee was afraid, Jackson's flank march perilous. The larger part of it was on the opposite would have been entirely impracticable. The author. side of the Chickahominy, the bridges had been all ities at Washington, with their insane terror in regard destroyed, but one was rebuilt, and there were but to rebel assaults upon the city, will, if ever the history 25,000 men between his — McClellan's--army of 100,of the rebellion is fully wri ten, have much to answer for. 000 men and Richmond.”
Under the circumstances, with the of the Union position, and Jackson's rebels threatening various parts of the corps having come up, a general adcentre and left, it was felt to be impos- vance from right to left was made at sible for Porter to cross to the south six o'clock, Porter had called for rebank of the Chickahomiuy by daylight. inforcements, and had received in reJackson had turned the position of the sponse only Slocum's division, making right wing at Beaver Dam Creek, and his entire force about 30,000 men.* McClellan deemed it absolutely neces
The assault now made was fierce and sary to engage him with Porter's corps tremendous. Our right held its ground, and with whatever reinforcements could and repulsed the enemy with great be sent from the south bank. The enemy steadiness and bravery. Our left showwere so close upon Porter that there was ed equal valor, but being worn down no alternative. He must be met and by fighting nearly all day, and furiously repulsed; for, in any event, the aban. charged upon by Hood's Texan troops, donment of Porter's position at that it gave way; confusion and derangetime would have placed the right flank ment ensued, and great disorder from and rear of our army at the mercy of the commingled cavalry and infantry; the foe. It was a case of necessity to Jackson carried the height on the left fight the rebels where our men stood, by a rush, capturing 14 pieces of artil and to hold the position, at any cost, lery; and defeat, if not destruction, until night (this was the 27th of June), seemed to have fallen with crushing and in the meantime to perfect the ar- weight upon Porter and his men. rangements for the change of base to the Happily two brigades, sent across the James River.
river by Sumner, appeared just in time, The position now occupied by Por- and under the influence of their vigorter, between Coal Harbor and the ous and spirited help, the stragglers Chickahominy, was well chosen, and were stopped, and the troops finally his force was so arranged as to make an rallied and were reformed. The darkeffective resistence to the attacks of the ness fast coming on prevented Lee from enemy. About two P.m., on the 27th pushing his advantage. He did not yet
of June, A. P. Hill, with the ad-
* Swinton, speaking of the position of matters at the the attack. Jackson, who was to form ment and clatter,” kept all our commanders occupied, the rebel left, had not yet come up, and and they declared that, no troops could be spared
“ And thus it happened that' while on the north side of Longstreet awaited his arrival before the Chickahominy 30,000 Union troops were being asgoing into action. Hill's attack, though sailed by 70,000 Confederates
, 25,005 Confederates on
the south side held in check 60,000 Union troops."furious and persistent, was met with the “ Army of the Potomac,” p. 151.