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RETREAT OF THE CONFEDERATES.

382

[SECT. XI.

mer had to be withdrawn and another New York and a Maine regiment put in its stead. All the morning heavy firing was heard. It was that which Hooker was encountering. Hancock's troops lay in line of battle from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M., when they receded before a front attack of a North Carolina regiment, aided by a flank attack of the Twenty-fourth Virginia. There was no bayonet charge.

At ten o'clock at night McClellan sent a dispatch to Washington that Johnston was in front of him with a force very much greater than the national, and very strongly intrenched; that it was the intention of the enContinued retreat of emy to dispute every step to Richmond. the Confederates. On the ensuing morning, however, it was found that Williamsburg was evacuated, and the enemy gone.

From Williamsburg to Richmond the distance is about fifty miles. The national army resumed its march on the 8th of May, but in a manner so dilatory that it might almost be characterized as disastrous. Not less than eleven days were consumed in what ought to have been accomplished in three-a lingering, a fatal delay. It was not thus that Cæsar and Napoleon trod the path to victory.

conduct.

While thus the national army showed hesitation and inTheir admirable decision, its antagonist displayed good generalship. If the maintenance of a bold front by Magruder at Yorktown elicits our admiration for he stood his ground against prodigious odds-not with less praise can we speak of his timely evacuation and perfectly-conducted retreat. The manner in which the Confederate rear-guard turned upon its pursuers at Williamsburg, and gave them a bloody check, will ever exact the applause of military critics.

The movement of the national army up the Peninsula Surrender of Nor- led at once to the withdrawal of the Confederate force from Norfolk, the surrender

folk.

CHAP. LIV.]

SURRENDER OF NORFOLK.

383

of that place, the destruction of the iron-clad frigate Merrimack, and the opening of James River. An expedi tion under General Wool set out from Fortress Monroe (May 10th), and found that Norfolk was abandoned by the enemy. It was surrendered by its mayor. The Confederates had destroyed the navy yard as completely as Destruction of the they could, and on the morning of May 11th Merrimack. blew up the Merrimack. So much dissatisfaction was expressed in the Confederacy respecting this latter act that a court of inquiry was ordered. It was decided that her destruction had been unnecessary. These events left James River open to General McClellan, and upon its bank, had he pleased, he might have established his base of supply. He preferred, disastrously, as will be eventually seen, to have it on the York River.

Meantime Franklin's division had passed up York River from Yorktown to West Point. Communication was opened with him. The advance had reached White House on the 15th. At this place the railroad from West Point to Richmond crossed the Pamunkey River. Locomotives and cars were at once put on the track, it The new base of being intended to make this the line for furnishing the army supplies. On the 22d the army began to cross the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge. The next day the advance was within seven miles of Richmond.

the army.

General Fitz John Porter was now (May 24) ordered to move to Hanover Court-house to facilitate the junction with McDowell's corps, expected from Fredericksburg. He was attacked near that place by the Confederates, but defeated them, their loss being about 1000, his being nearly 400. He cap

tured and destroyed their camp. withheld, and not only did the two

But McDowell was armies not unite, but

Affair at Hanover
Court-house.

:

384

[SECT. XI.

orders came from Washington to burn the bridges that had been seized. The principal bridge burnt was that over the South Anna. On the 29th Porter returned to

his original camp.

The national army, advancing toward Richmond, found that the bridges over the Chickahominy had been destroyed by the Confederates in their retreat. The stream flows through a swampy and wooded country, liable to be overflowed when freshets occur. Keyes's corps crossed it about the 24th of May, having repaired Bottom's Bridge. Casey's division of this corps advanced as far as Fair Oaks Station; Couch's lay at Seven Pines; and Heintzelman's corps, following Keyes's over the river, took up a position in its rear. His left rested on Whiteoak Swamp. The strength of these two corps was about 30,000 men. Sumner's corps was on the other side of the Chickahominy.

Crossing of the
Chickahominy.

At this moment McClellan's army was in a most danDangerous position gerous position. One of its wings was on the right, the other on the left of the creek

of the army.

[blocks in formation]

THE CHICKAHOMINY.

SMITH

ROAD

NINE MILE

LONG STREET

MC CLELLAN'S
Hd.Qts.
NEW BRIDGE

NY

FAIR OAKS STATION

CAESEY

SEVEN

PINES

CHARLES CITY ROAD

FRANKLIN

[blocks in formation]

N

BATTLE OF FAIR OAKS AND SEVEN PINES.

RAIL ROAD
BRIDGE

BOTTOMS

BRIDGE

CHAP. LIV.]

385

-creek it could hardly be called, for it was about to be swollen to the dimensions of a river. The only available connection was at Bottom's Bridge. The position of the army was like the letter V, Bottom's Bridge being at the point. The left wing, in four divisions, lay in echelon along the York River Railroad. It answered to the left branch of the V. The right wing, consisting of five divisions, and the reserves, answered to the other branch. From the extremity of one wing to that of the other, by way of Bottom's Bridge, was a distance of more than twelve miles, though by an air-line they were not very far apart. Through the midst of the V flowed the Chickahominy. The outposts of the left wing were, as just stated, at Fair Oaks Station, on the York River Railroad, and at Seven Pines, on the Williamsburg Road. Under such circumstances, the Confederates could of course assail one of the two wings separately. As we are now to see, they accordingly attacked the left wing, the action being known as the battle of Fair Oaks.

POSITION OF THE NATIONAL ARMY.

A heavy rain, described as being like a tropical deluge, occurred round Richmond on the night of

The thunder-storm. May 30th, and, foreseeing that the Chickahominy would rise, and that Keyes's corps, which was on the Richmond side of the stream, would be isolated from the rest of McClellan's army, Johnston, who commanded the Confederates, determined to attempt to destroy it. He seems not to have known that Heintzelman had The Confederate also crossed. He therefore (May 31st) directed Longstreet and D. H. Hill to attack it in front upon the Williamsburg Road, Huger to gain its left flank by passing down the Charles City Road, and Gustavus Smith its right flank by the New Bridge and Nine-mile Roads. He expected to overwhelm the isolated corps-two fifths of the force of his adver II.-B B

attack.

386

[SECT. XI.

sary by throwing upon it the whole Confederate

army.

As the country was all under water with the rainsin some places a couple of feet deep-Ca sey's division, which was in the front, was altogether unprepared for an attack, except by such indications as the sound of the running of railroad cars all night from Richmond. Casey resisted the Confederate shock, which occurred at about 1 P.M., very resolutely. The day was dark and gloomy, and from an air-balloon it was seen that the entire Confederate army was ad vancing.

Casey was outnumbered and overwhelmed. He was driven back, after a three-hours' struggle, Defeat of Casey. more than a mile; he lost six guns, and his camp was taken. He was compelled to retire upon Couch.

Battle of Fair Oaks.

FAIR OAKS AND SEVEN PINES.

Pines.

Couch, who had been sending forward regiments to Battle of Seven the support of Casey, fiercely attempted to maintain himself at Seven Pines, Heintzelman coming up to his help. The battle had now been going on from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M., Longstreet not only pressing the line in front, but also on its right and left flanks.

McClellan, who was ill in bed at New Bridge, on the other side of the Chickahominy, ordered Sumner to send relief across the river to the hard-pressed troops. Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps crossed the swollen stream over the upper one of two tottering bridges that he had constructed about half way down the V. Tottering as it was, it proved to be the salvation of the national army. Sumner, listening as he went through the woods, guided his march by the roar of the battle.

The Confederates had found that they could not turn

Sumner's advance.

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