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Casey's brigades were sent one-fourth of a mile beyond Savage's Station, within supporting distance. Kearney was on the same side, not far from Seven Pines, and Hooker about two miles from Bottom's Bridge. During that day and the following night there were heavy rains; the Chickahominy was rising to a flood; the bridges were in great peril; and the roads of this swampy region were made almost impassable.
The Confederates sallied out on the morning of the 31st. Their movements were impeded in consequence of the rains, which had begun after Johnston's plan of battle was made known in orders. D. H. Hill's division took the Williamsburg road. Longstreet, the ranking officer, followed, his division forming the second line. Huger was sent out by the Charles City road, to make a flanking movement while the attack was delivered in front. G. W. Smith was ordered to march his division out the Nine Mile road, on the Confederate left, to make a junction with Magruder, posted in that quarter.
Had these movements been promptly executed, there might have been a speedy end to McClellan's menace of Richmond. But the heavy rainfall, which threatened such disaster by raising the Chickahominy, had a compensating benefit in the obstruction of the enemy's progress. It was near 3 o'clock when Hill fell upon Casey and drove him from his intrenchments. Reinforced by Couch, Casey attempted to recover his ground, but in vain. Both the divisions of Keyes fell back to Seven Pines, where they were supported by Kearney. Here again the Confederates attacked with great fury, forcing the three divisions back along the Williamsburg road to the intrenchments at Savage's Station — all except two brigades that took refuge in the White Oak swamp. Huger's flanking movement had failed. Smith, on the Confederate left, unexpectedly encountered the corps of Sumner, which had promptly crossed the swollen Chickahominy — having been ready to march at the moment he received the order from McClellan — despite the perilous condition of the bridges on which it had to depend. It was a stubborn fight henceforward about Fair Oaks, the combatants still strongly confronting each other, after severe losses on each side, as night came on.
The battle was resumed next morning, June ist, and continued heavily through most of the day. The enemy was finally repulsed and pressed back to Casey's first position, five miles from Richmond. Had the remainder of McClellan's army advanced on the way thus opened,- or even, without such help, had the three corps followed up their advantage,- it is possible the Confederate capital might have been speedily captured. But effective pursuit was not allowed; the advance battalions were called in, and the inviting opportunity passed unrecognized. Already the grand army, which had come so far to attack, was acting on the defensive. One wing - whose corps commanders their chief had bluntly disparaged in a letter to the President directly after the battle of Williamsburg — had, without the presence of the commanding General on their side of the river, sustained a vigorous sally from almost the entire available force of the enemy, maintaining the figlit bravely through the second day, and driving the assailants back within their fortifications. For days and weeks thereafter the invading army was still to wait the enemy meanwhile swelling his ranks from every possible quarter and strengthening his works — until the other wing received the blow with more disastrous effect.
The losses in the two days' battle of Fair Oaks (or Seven Pines), according to the official records, were: Union — ,
killed, 790; wounded, 3,594. Confederate killed, 980; wounded, 4,749.
In the first day's engagement General Johnston was severely wounded and obliged to leave the field. On the ist of June he was succeeded by General Robert E. Lee.
Seven Days of Battle Near Richmond — McClellan Retires
to Harrison's Landing.
The sickly swamps of the Chickahominy, hard work on intrenchments and bridges, heavy rains and hot weather were not without effect on the sanitary condition of McClellan's army. He had, however, ninetyeight thousand men present for duty on the ist of June, and to this number was now added the entire command of General Wool, more than fourteen thousand men that veteran officer having been assigned to other duty. On the 6th, McCall's division was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac, and there was a continual dispatch of new regiments to that quarter. On the 7th the General telegraphed: “I shall be in perfect readiness to move forward and take Richmond the moment McCall reaches here and the ground will permit the passage of artillery.” But three days later roads and fields were “literally impassable for artillery,” the Chickahominy was “in a dreadful state,” and there was another rain storm on hand. His "readiness" on McCall's arrival, too, had been swept away. He asked for more men, and he suggested “the propriety of detaching largely from Halleck's army.” Stanton replied that Halleck was to send "a column to operate with
Mitchel against Chattanooga, and thence upon East Tennessee," and that Buell reported Kentucky and Tennessee to be “in a critical situation, demanding immediate attention.” “Fremont had a hard fight, day before yesterday, with Jackson's force at Union Church, eight miles from Harrisonburg. He claims the victory, but was badly handled. . I am urging as fast as possible the new levies.” McClellan announced, on the same day: “McCall's troops have commenced arriving."
The roads were bad, but not impassable for Confederate cavalry. Stuart sallied out from Richmond on the 13th; made a tour of reconnoissance quite around McClellan's army; and, crossing the Chickahominy below White Oak Swamp, arrived safe at his starting point on the 15th. McClellan reported: “A general engagement may take place any hour.
We shall await only a favorable condition of the earth and sky, and the completion of some necessary preliminaries." And on the next day: “There is not the slightest reason to suppose the enemy intends evacuating Richmond. He is daily increasing his defenses.
I would be glad to have permission to lay before your Excellency, by letter or telegraph, my views as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country. In the meantime, I would be pleased to learn the disposition, as to numbers and position, of the troops not under my command, in Virginia and elsewhere."
This was certainly an extraordinary request from the commander of an army in the field, on the very eve of an expected battle of great magnitude. The President in all kindness answered (Jure 21st): “If it would not divert too much of your time and attention from the