American Civil War Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days Battles

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Civil War Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days Battles

Civil War Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days Battles Around Richmond

The Peninsula  Campaign
ADAPTED FROM "CHAPTER IV THE EASTERN THEATER: THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN."

           The Peninsula Campaign, March–July 1862, was the unsuccessful attempt by Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond and end the American Civil War. The Seven Days Battles was a series of six major battles over the last seven days, June 25–July 1, 1862, of the Peninsula Campaign, near Richmond, Virginia. The campaign concluded when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee drove the invading Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. McClellan, away from Richmond and into a retreat down the Virginia Peninsula.
 
           The Peninsula Campaign, aka Peninsular Campaign, began in March 1862 when McClellan landed his army at Fort Monroe. Next, in early April, he moved his army northwest and up the Virginia Peninsula. Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder's defensive position on the Warwick Line caught McClellan by surprise, stymieing his plans for a quick advance. McClellan then ordered his army to prepare for a siege of Yorktown, but before the siege preparations were completed, the Confederates, now under the direct command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, began a withdrawal toward Richmond.
 
           The first heavy fighting of the campaign occurred in the Battle of Williamsburg (May 5), in which the Union troops managed some tactical victories, but the Confederates continued their withdrawal. An amphibious flanking movement to Eltham's Landing (May 7) was ineffective in cutting off the Confederate retreat. In the Battle of Drewry's Bluff (May 15), an attempt by the United States Navy to reach Richmond by way of the James River was repulsed. As McClellan's army reached the outskirts of Richmond, a minor battle occurred at Hanover Court House (May 27), but it was followed by a surprise attack by Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks on May 31–June 1. The battle was inconclusive, with heavy casualties, but it had lasting effects on the campaign. Johnston was wounded and replaced on June 1 by the more aggressive Robert E. Lee. While Lee spent almost a month extending the defensive lines and organizing his Army of Northern Virginia, McClellan was idle and positioned to his front, waiting for dry weather and roads before initiating phase two, known as the Seven Days Battles. Lee, who had developed a reputation for being cautious early in the war, knew that he was confronted by a much larger Union force. Lee, however, planned an offensive campaign, indicating the aggressive nature that he would display for the remainder of the war. McClellan was cautious, timid, and convinced that he was greatly outnumbered by the forces under the command of the newly appointed Confederate general. As McClellan began withdrawing toward Harrison's Landing, Lee turned and moved his army north for the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Maryland Campaign.

Civil War Peninsula Campaign Map
Civil War Peninsula Campaign Map .jpg
Civil War Peninsula Campaign Battlefield Map

Civil War Peninsula Campaign & Seven Days Battles
Peninsula Campaign Seven Days Battles Map.gif
Civil War Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days Battles Map

           The Peninsula Campaign [March–July 1862] consisted of the following battles during the Civil War: Hampton Roads (aka Monitor vs. Virginia, or Battle of the Ironclads), Yorktown, Williamsburg (aka Fort Magruder), Eltham's Landing (aka Barhamsville, West Point), Drewry's Bluff (aka Fort Darling, Fort Drewry), Hanover Court House (aka Slash Church), and Seven Pines (aka Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Station). The following battles were part of the Seven Days Battles, or Seven Days Battles Around Richmond, and completed or concluded the Peninsula Campaign: Oak Grove (aka French’s Field, King’s School House), Beaver Dam Creek (aka Mechanicsville, Ellerson’s Mill), Gaines' Mill (aka First Cold Harbor), Garnetts & Goldings Farm, Savage's Station, Glendale (aka Nelson’s Farm, Frayser’s Farm, Charles City Crossroads, White Oak Swamp, New Market Road, Riddell's Shop), and Malvern Hill (aka Poindexter’s Farm).

           The second phase of the Peninsula Campaign took a negative turn for the Union when Lee launched fierce counterattacks just east of Richmond during the Seven Days Battles (June 25–July 1, 1862). Although they are formally considered part of the Peninsula Campaign, the final battles of June 25 to July 1, with Lee in command and on the offensive against McClellan, are popularly known as the Seven Days Battles.

Civil War Forts, Fortresses, and Fortifications
Civil War Forts Fortifications Fortresses.jpg
(1862 American Civil War Peninsula Campaign)

           Following the Federal fiasco at First Manassas, Major General George B. McClellan replaced McDowell as commander of the Federal forces. He whipped the Federal Army of the Potomac into fine fighting trim, but was slow to move the army southward. After repeated urging by the Lincoln government, McClellan finally decided to move against Richmond via the Yorktown Peninsula in March, 1862. However, it would be May before the troops actually saw any action.
           From the Southern perspective, the defense of the Yorktown Peninsula was a major problem. Indeed, the overall Virginia theater had a dismal outlook, with some 70,000 Confederates facing at least 200,000 Union troops.
           The defense of the peninsula was handed to Major General John
Bankhead Magruder, who, despite inadequate resources, set to work with enthusiasm. He had a long defensive line constructed with Yorktown serving as its left flank. A secondary line was built some ten miles back from the first, just in front of Williamsburg. General Robert E. Lee, serving in an advisory capacity to President Davis at that time, was afraid these lines might be outflanked, and on his advice, a third line was constructed about 10 miles in front of Richmond, with flanks anchored on the Chickahominy and James Rivers.
           Magruder used his meager resources to their maximum effect, and by bluffing with the forces he had at hand, gave McClellan cause for hesitation in attacking. However, McClellan was having problems with his own government as well. On April 4, he learned that Fort Monroe, with a 12,000 man Federal garrison, had been taken from his command authority. Also, McDowell's 38,000 man corps would not be joining him on the Peninsula, but would be kept near Washington for its defense. Finally, he also learned that a stop had been put to additional Federal recruiting efforts.           
           Based on these distressing new developments, McClellan decided a siege was the solution. By early May he had set up 15 ten-gun batteries of 13" siege mortars. General Joe Johnston, now in command of Confederate field forces, did not want to face a bombardment by this heavy artillery, and ordered evacuation of Yorktown on May 3, leaving behind some 56 heavy siege guns of his own with ammunition, which McClellan added to his already plentiful supply. On May 5, the Confederate rear guard engaged the Federal advance elements in the battle of Williamsburg, and Johnston successfully pulled back even closer to Richmond.
           Lee learned on May 16 that McDowell and some 40,000 Federal troops would be moving south toward the Confederate capital. This was a disaster in the making for the Confederacy. With McClellan poised to the east, opposed only by Johnston's forces; Johnston could not move to intercept McDowell without risking the capture of Richmond by McClellan. On the other hand, if Johnston did not move, then McDowell would take the city. The solution to this problem lay in the character of President Abraham Lincoln. He was always incredibly concerned about any threat to his capital, and whenever he perceived such a threat Lincoln invariably overreacted. Thus Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was ordered to make an aggressive show in the Shenandoah Valley that would cause a perceived threat to Washington, D.C.

Civil War Peninsula Campaign Route Map
Civil War Peninsula Campaign Map.jpg
(Courtesy pbs.org)

Union Gen. McClellan and Confederate Gen. Johnston
Peninsula Campaign.jpg
Commanding General for Peninsula Campaign

           This sort of independent command made Jackson very happy. After engaging a Federal force at Front Royal on May 23, he then pushed General Nathanial Banks from his supply depot at Winchester on May 25. Besides netting some 3,000 prisoners, 9,000 small arms and tons of supplies, the operation had the desired effect of causing Lincoln to order McDowell to halt his advance on Richmond and to try and intercept Jackson. Actually, Lincoln may have reacted a little too well; since he saw a chance to trap Jackson and so ordered Fremont's command from the west to take Harrisonburg and close the south end of the Shenandoah Valley.
           Jackson however, did not "rattle" easily. He realized that his present location put him in a dangerous position. He was determined to make good his escape and take all the captured Federal booty with him. Although it was a close race, Jackson broke through the closing jaws of the Federal trap that resulted in a fight at Cross Keys on June 8 and a larger battle at Port Republic on June 9. With only 17,000 men, Jackson had neutralized the threat to Richmond of some 60,000 Federal troops.
           Johnston could see that Jackson was performing splendidly. Now all he had to do was defeat the 100,000 or so Federal troops camped outside Richmond. Against this force, Johnston could bring some 70,000 Southern troops. The rain-swollen Chickahominy River offered a possible opportunity. McClellan, against his better judgment, had been ordered to split his own army across this river. Johnston saw that a rapid attack on the Federal wing on the south side of the river would give the Confederates a local numerical superiority and a good chance for success since Federal reinforcements could be brought in very slowly, at best.
           The plan Johnston formulated was a good one, and relatively simple to execute. The divisions of Longstreet, Hill and Huger would advance east along parallel roads to attack Keyes in front of Seven Pines. However, the rain and mud caused everything that could go wrong to do just that. The march was disorganized and delayed. Men were drowned in crossing White Oak Swamp. At the end of the day, the Confederates could only claim the capture of 10 artillery pieces and 6,000 rifles. They had inflicted 5,000 casualties on the Federals, but had suffered 6,000 themselves. It could hardly be called an overwhelming victory. Moreover, Johnston was badly wounded and had to be relieved of command. The man that took his place was none other than Robert E. Lee. Lee had an uncanny ability to "get into his opponent's head", and in the case of McClellan he saw that he would use his engineering expertise and superior fire-power to move slowly forward from one entrenched position to the next until he finally took Richmond. However, before Lee could cope with this, he needed time to improve his own defenses. Fortunately for the Confederacy, the next ten days were continuous rain and McClellan's heavy artillery train was immobilized. The Confederates neutralized any attempt to bring them up by rail by their own 32-pounder artillery piece mounted on a railroad car -- the first railroad gun in history. Shovels soon replaced muskets in the troops' hands and the earth was seen flying in the construction of new fortifications.
           Lee pulled reinforcements from every quarter until he could muster an effective force of about 85,000 men. The new plan was to leave some 30,000 south of the Chickahominy in the newly-constructed entrenchments to hold McClellan's 75,000 on that side of the river and use the remaining 55,000 Southern troops to crush the 30,000 Federals on the north bank. If Lee were successful in defeating and destroying a large portion of this force, he would then capture McClellan's supply base and force him out into the open. During June 12-15, J.E.B. Stuart's Southern cavalry rode completely around the Federal army, spreading confusion and confirming the Federal dispositions. Jackson was returning from his Shenandoah Valley campaign and was due to arrive on June 25. To allow for possible delays, Lee planned the Confederate attack for June 26.

Virginia Civil War Battlefields of 1862
Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign.jpg
Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign

Civil War Seven Days Battles Map
Civil War Seven Days Battles Map.jpg
(Courtesy pbs.org)

           McClellan, for his part, was now convinced that he faced a massive army of some 200,000 Confederate troops and was badly outnumbered. If he really believed this was the situation, his subsequent actions during the confusing series of battles known as the Seven Days, become somewhat more understandable. To McClellan it seemed only logical that if Lee was attacking with 55,000 on the north bank of the Chickahominy, it must be a diversionary attack and the real blow would come in the south. The only prudent thing therefore, would be to fall back on the James River and Harrison's Landing.
           The Confederates, after some minor fighting on June 25, moved north out of Richmond on June 26. Mechanicsville was taken easily, but an attempt to move east across Beaver Dam Creek was stopped by Federal forces in strong defensive positions. Jackson was supposed to have arrived and turned the flank of the position, but he did not show up that day.
           The morning of June 27, the Beaver Dam Creek position was carried but only because the Federals had fallen back to another prepared position on Turkey Hill behind the Boatswain's Swamp Creek. Fitz-John Porter's command of 35,000 Federal troops was protected by a triple line of entrenchments with artillery support and marshy ground to their front. When Jackson's troops finally arrived that evening, the position was carried but with heavy Confederate casualties.
           On Saturday, June 28, Lee spent much of the day trying to ascertain exactly where McClellan was retreating to. When Lee realized that McClellan was obviously falling back on the James River, he had to revise his earlier plans and decided to try and catch the Federals on either side of White Oak Swamp. The following day, Magruder was ordered to link up with Jackson and attack the retreating Federals. The Confederates were badly handled in a clash at Savage Station, primarily because Jackson again failed to show up on time. However, McClellan was forced to abandon much of his supplies, and an ammunition train sent forward to the Chickahominy railway bridge exploded with impressive results.
           Monday, the sixth of the Seven Days, saw a remarkable lack of cooperation among the elements of the Confederate pursuit. Huger decided to cut an alternate road through the thick forest when he found his designated road blocked by felled trees. Holmes command ran into a naval bombardment. Jackson, who had difficulty in crossing the White Oak Swamp Creek, decided to lie down and take a nap at about 3:00 p.m.! As a result, only Longstreet's and A.P. Hill's troops were really involved in any fighting that resulted in another loss of some 3,300 Confederates at Glendale.

Seven Days Battles Map
Seven Days Battles Map.jpg
Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign Battlefields

Union Gen. McClellan and Confederate Gen. Lee
Seven Days Battles.jpg
Commanding Generals for Seven Days Battles

           On July 1, the last of the Seven Days, Lee discovered that McClellan was protecting the last leg of his retreat by taking position on Malvern Hill. This defensive position was held by Porter and Keyes with two divisions each, more than one hundred artillery pieces, and a further four divisions in reserve. It looked formidable and it was. Lee first attempted to bring his artillery to bear on the position, but it soon became apparent that he was out-gunned. Lee looked for, and failed to find, a satisfactory alternative approach, but confusion in orders resulted in Huger, Magruder, and Hill launching a series of uncoordinated Confederate assaults. These resulted in nothing but another 5,500 Southern casualties. Jackson again failed to arrive in time to assist in the battle.

           The series of hammer blows Lee had delivered during the Seven Days had achieved its objective of relieving Richmond from McClellan's forces. However, this had been accomplished at a very high cost. The Confederates lost 20,614 casualties compared to Federal losses of 15,849.
 
           The Seven Days Battles, which concluded the Peninsula Campaign, was the bloody sequence of battles around Richmond, Virginia, that began on June 25, 1862, and lasted for a week. Determined to hurl the Union forces back from the Confederate capital, Richmond, Lee attacked McClellan again and again - at Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, Savage's Station, Frayser's Farm, and Malvern Hill. McClellan won four out of the five battles, but proved as fearful in victory as he was in defeat, backing and retreating steadily away until he reached Harrison's Landing on the James. The Peninsula Campaign, begun with such bright hope, had ended in defeat.

Peninsula Campaign with Summary Timeline of Principal Events

March17, 1862 Embarkation of the Army of the Potomac commenced at Alexandria, Va.
March 26, 1862 Confederate Department of Henrico, under command of Brig. Gen. John H. Winder, extended to embrace Petersburg and vicinity.
March 27, 1862 General Joseph E. Johnston, C. S. Army, ordered to re-enforce the Army of the Peninsula.
March 31, 1862 Blenker's division ordered to Mountain (Frémont's) Department.
April 1-2, 1862 Headquarters Army of the Potomac transferred to vicinity of Fort Monroe.
April 4, 1862 The First Army Corps (McDowell's) detached from Army of the Potomac and merged into Department of the Rappahannock. The Fifth Army Corps (Banks') merged into the Department of the Shenandoah.
  Skirmish at Howard's Mill, near Cockletown.
April 5, 1862 - May 4, 1862 Siege of Yorktown.
April 11, 1862 Confederate naval operations in Hampton Roads.
April 12, 1862 Command of General Joseph E. Johnston, C. S. Army, extended over the Departments of Norfolk and the Peninsula.
April 22, 1862 Franklin's division arrives at Yorktown.
May 4, 1862 Skirmishes near Williamsburg.
May 5, 1862 Battle of Williamsburg.
May 6, 1862 Williamsburg occupied by the Union forces.
May 7, 1862 Engagement at West Point, Barhamsville, or Eltham's Landing.
May 7 -8, 1862 Reconnaissance to Mulberry Point, James River.
May 8, 1862 Naval demonstration upon Sewell's Point.
May 9, 1862 Norfolk evacuated by the Confederate forces.
  Skirmish at Slatersville.
May 10, 1862 Norfolk and Portsmouth occupied by the Union forces.
May 13, 1862 Skirmish at Baltimore Cross-Roads, near New Kent Court-House.
May 15, 1862 Engagement at Fort Darling, James River.
May 17, 1862 Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell ordered to move upon Richmond in co-operation with Major-General McClellan.
  Expedition up the Pamunkey River.
May 18, 1862 Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter, U.S. Army, assumes command of Fifth Army Corps (reorganized).
  Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin, U.S. Army, assumes command of Sixth Army Corps.
May 18 - 19, 1862 Reconnaissance toward Old Church.
May 19, 1862 Skirmish at City Point, James River.
  Skirmish at Gaines' Mill.
May 20 -23, 1862 Operations about Bottom's Bridge, Chickahominy River.
May 21, 1862 Advance across Bottom's Bridge.
May 22, 1862 Reconnaissance to New Castle and Hanovertown Ferries.
May 23, 1862 Reconnaissance from Bottom's Bridge toward Richmond.
  Reconnaissance from Bottom's Bridge to the Turkey Island Creek Bridge.
  Skirmish at Ellison's Mill, near Mechanicsville.
  Skirmish at Hogan's, near New Bridge.
May 24, 1862 McDowell's orders to move upon Richmond suspended. Skirmish at New Bridge. Skirmish at Seven Pines. Skirmish at Mechanicsville.
  Reconnaissance toward Hanover Court-House.
May 25 -26, 1862 Expedition from Bottom's Bridge to James River.
May 26, 1862 Reconnaissance toward Hanover Court-House. 27, 1862.
  Skirmish at Slash Church.
  Skirmish at White Oaks.
May 27 -29,1862 Engagement at Hanover Court-House (27th) and operations (28th-29th) in that vicinity.
May 28, 1862 Virginia Central Railroad Bridge, on South Anna River, destroyed by Union forces.
  Destruction of Confederate supplies at Ashland.
May 29, 1862 Skirmish near Seven Pines.
  Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad Bridge, on South Anna River, destroyed.
May 30, 1862 Skirmish near Fair Oaks.
  Skirmish near Zuni.
May 31 - June 1, 1862 Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines.
June 1, 1862 General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, assumes command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
  The Department of Virginia extended and embraced in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's command, Maj. Gen. John E. Wool, U.S. Army, being assigned to the Middle Department, and Maj. Gen. John A. Dix, U.S. Army, to command at Fort Monroe.
June 1 - 2, 1862 Reconnaissance beyond Seven Pines.
June 2, 1862 Expedition to Wormley's Ferry, Pamunkey River.
June 3 -7, 1862 Reconnaissance to the James River to communicate with the Union fleet.
June 5, 1862 Skirmish at New Bridge.
June 7, 1862 Reconnaissance on east bank of the Chickahominy.
June 8, 1862 Skirmish near Fair Oaks.
  Major-General McDowell ordered, under conditions stated, to operate in the direction of Richmond.
  Reconnaissance on the New Market Road.
June 11, 1862 Re-enforcements sent from Army of Northern Virginia to the Valley District.
June 12 - 13, 1862 McCall's division re-enforces the Army of the Potomac.
June 13 - 15, 1862 Stuart's raid, including skirmishes at Hawes' Shop, Old Church, and Garlick's Landing.
June 15, 1862 Reconnaissance to vicinity of New Market.
  Skirmish near Seven Pines.
  Parley between Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb, C. S. Army, and Col. Thomas M. Key, U.S. Army.
June 17, 1862 Jackson's command moves from vicinity of Staunton and Weyer's Cave for the Peninsula.
June 18, 1862 Skirmish near Fair Oaks.
  Skirmish on Nine Mile Road, near Richmond.
June 19, 1862 Skirmish on the Charles City Road, near Richmond.
June 20, 1862 Skirmish near New Bridge.
  Affair at Gill's Bluff, James River.
June 21, 1862 The Confederate Department of North Carolina extended to the south bank of James River.
  Skirmish near Fair Oaks Station.
June 22 - 23, 1862 Reconnaissance to the left of White Oak Swamp.
June 23, 1862 Operations about New Kent Court-House.
June 24, 1862 Skirmish near Mechanicsville.
June 25 - July 1, 1862 "The Seven Days Battles."
June 27, 1862 Jackson re-enforces Army of Northern Virginia.
June 28, 1862 Expedition from Fort Monroe to open communication with Army of the Potomac.
July 2, 1862 Skirmish near New Kent Court-House. Skirmish at Malvern Hill. Affair near Haxall's Landing.
July 3, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing, on Charles City Road.
July 3 - 4, 1862 Skirmishes near Herring Creek, or Harrison's Landing.
July 4, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing.
  Skirmish at Westover.
July 5 - 6, 1862 Operations against Union shipping, James River.
July 7 - 9, 1862 Reconnaissance from Yorktown.
July 9, 1862 Reconnaissance on the Long Bridge Road.
July 10, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing toward White Oak Swamp and skirmish.
July 11, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing beyond Charles City Court-House, Va.
July 16, 1862 Reconnaissance from Westover, on the Richmond Road.
July 22, 1862 Maj. Gen. John A. Dix assumes command of the Seventh Army Corps, Department of Virginia.
  Maj. Gen. A. E. Burnside assumes command of the Ninth Army Corps.
  Affair near Westover.
July 22 - 30, 1862 Scout in King William, King and Queen, and Gloucester Counties.
July 23, 1862 Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck assumes command of the Armies of the United States.
July 29, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing to Saint Mary's Church.
July 30, 1862 McClellan ordered to remove his sick, etc.
  Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing to Jones' Ford, Chickahominy River.
July 31 - August 1, 1862 Attack on Union camps and shipping between Shirley and Harrison's Landing.
August 2 - 8, 1862 Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing and reoccupation of Malvern Hill by the Union forces.
August 3, 1862 Reconnaissance on south side of James River and skirmish at Sycamore Church.
  McClellan ordered to withdraw his forces to Aquia Creek.
August 4 - 5, 1862 Reconnaissance from Coggins Point beyond Sycamore Church.
August 5, 1862 Skirmish at White Oak Swamp Bridge.
  Engagement at Malvern Hill.
August 6, 1862 Skirmish at Malvern Hill.
August 13, 1862 Preliminary orders issued for the movement of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Peninsula.
August 14 - 15, 1862 The Third and Fifth Army Corps move from Harrison's Landing for Aquia Creek
August 14 - 19, 1862 Operations of the cavalry covering the rear of the Army of the Potomac from Harrison's Landing to Williamsburg.
August 17, 1862 Reconnaissance toward Forge Bridge.
August 20, 1862 The Fifth Army Corps embarked at Newport News.
August 21, 1862 The Third Army Corps sail from Yorktown.
August 23, 1862 The Sixth Army Corps embarked at Fort Monroe.
August 26, 1862 The Second Army Corps left Fort Monroe.

(Sources and related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula and the Seven Days (Military Campaigns of the Civil War), by Gary W. Gallagher. Description: The Richmond campaign of April-July 1862 ranks as one of the most important military operations of the first years of the American Civil War. Key political, diplomatic, social, and military issues were at stake as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan faced off on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers. The climactic clash came on June 26-July 1 in what became known as the Seven Days battles, when Lee, newly appointed as commander of the Confederate forces, aggressively attacked the Union army. Casualties for the entire campaign exceeded 50,000, more than 35,000 of whom fell during the Seven Days. Continued below…

This book offers nine essays in which well-known Civil War historians explore questions regarding high command, strategy and tactics, the effects of the fighting upon politics and society both North and South, and the ways in which emancipation figured in the campaign. The authors have consulted previously untapped manuscript sources and reinterpreted more familiar evidence, sometimes focusing closely on the fighting around Richmond and sometimes looking more broadly at the background and consequences of the campaign. About the Author: Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He has published widely on the Civil War, including six previous titles in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, and he is also a contributing Civil War historian for the History Channel.

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Recommended Reading: To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign, by Stephen Sears. Description: To the Gates of Richmond charts the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, General George McClellan"s grand scheme to march up the Virginia Peninsula and take the Confederate capital. For three months McClellan battled his way toward Richmond, but then Robert E. Lee took command of the Confederate forces. In seven days, Lee drove the cautious McClellan out, thereby changing the course of the war. Intelligent and well researched, To the Gates of Richmond vividly recounts one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Continued below...

Publishers Weekly: Sears complements his 1988 biography of George McClellan with this definitive analysis of the general's principal campaign. McClellan's grand plan was to land an army at Yorktown, move up the Virginia peninsula toward Richmond, and fight a decisive battle somewhere near the Confederate capital, thereby ending the Civil War while it was still a rebellion instead of a revolution. The strategy failed in part because of McClellan's persistent exaggerations of Confederate strength, but also because under his command the Federals fought piecemeal. The Confederates were only marginally more successful at concentrating their forces, but Sears credits their leaders, especially Lee, as better able to learn from experience. Confederate victory on the Peninsula meant the Civil War would continue. The campaign's heavy casualties indicated the kind of war it would be.

 

Recommended Reading: Seven Days Before Richmond: McClellan's Peninsula Campaign Of 1862 And Its Aftermath (2009) (Hardcover) (728 pages). Description: This exhaustive volume, Seven Days Before Richmond, combines meticulous research with a unique perspective and examines the 1862 Peninsula Campaign of Union General George McClellan and the profound effects it had on the lives of McClellan and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as its lasting impact on the war itself. Continued below…

Rudolph Schroeder’s twenty-five year military career and combat experience bring added depth to his analysis of the Peninsula Campaign, offering new insight and revelation to the subject of Civil War battle history. Schroeder analyzes this crucial campaign from its genesis to its lasting consequences on both sides. Featuring a detailed bibliography and a glossary of terms, this work contains the most complete Order of Battle of the Peninsula Campaign ever compiled, and it also includes the identification of commanders down to the regiment level. In addition, this groundbreaking volume includes several highly-detailed maps that trace the Peninsula Campaign and recreate this pivotal moment in the Civil War. Impeccably detailed and masterfully told, Seven Days Before Richmond is an essential addition to Civil War scholarship. Schroeder artfully enables us to glimpse the innermost thoughts and motivations of the combatants and makes history truly come alive.

 

Recommended Reading: The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: A Military Analysis (Hardcover). Description: The largest offensive of the Civil War, involving army, navy, and marine forces, the Peninsula Campaign has inspired many history books. No previous work, however, analyzes Union general George B. McClellan's massive assault toward Richmond in the context of current and enduring military doctrine. The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: A Military Analysis is an effort to fill this void. Background history is provided for continuity, but the heart of this book is in military analysis and the astonishing extent to which the personality traits of generals will often overwhelm even the best efforts of their armies. Continued below…

The Peninsula Campaign lends itself to such a study. In the book, lessons for those studying the art of war are many. On the waters, the first ironclads forever changed naval warfare (Monitor v. Merrimack). At the strategic level, McClellan's inability to grasp Lincoln's grand objective becomes evident. At the operational level, Robert E. Lee's difficulty in synchronizing his attacks deepens the mystique of how he achieved so much with so little. At the tactical level, the Confederate use of terrain to trade space for time allows for a classic study in tactics. Moreover, the campaign is full of lessons about the personal dimension of war. McClellan's overcaution, Lee's audacity, and Jackson's personal exhaustion all provide valuable insights for today’s commanders and for Civil War enthusiasts still debating this tremendous struggle. Historic photos and detailed battle maps make this study an invaluable resource for those touring all the many battlegrounds from Young's Mill and Yorktown through Fair Oaks to the final throes of the Seven Days Battles.

 

Recommended Reading: Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capital. Review: When conquering Union soldiers entered Richmond, Virginia, in the first days of April, 1865, they found a city afire, reduced to desperation, but still defiant. Virginia historian Nelson Lankford reconstructs the final hours of the Confederacy's heart in this vivid narrative, which draws on contemporary letters, diaries, and official reports that share both immediacy and a sense of awe at the terrible destruction. Continued below…

Just why the capital burned has long been a subject of speculation; by Lankford's account, much of the damage was due to the defenders' last-minute efforts to destroy war materiel, setting fires that soon spread. Lankford attends to other legends as well, including a reported call on Confederate general George Pickett's home by none other than Abraham Lincoln, while offering verifiable vignettes of such moments as Robert E. Lee's return to the capital and the celebrations of newly liberated slaves and Union prisoners. Lankford's narrative offers a view much different from what he calls "the warm sepia glow cast over our great national trauma by popular books and documentary films." It is a fine effort, and one that students of the Civil War should welcome.

 

Recommended Reading: Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles. Description: The Seven Days Battles were fought southeast of the Confederate capital of Richmond in the summer of 1862, and it was the first campaign in the Civil War in which Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee and his fellow officers, including "Stonewall" Jackson, James Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and D. H. Hill, pushed George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac from the gates of Richmond to the James River, where the Union forces reached safety. Along the way, Lee lost several opportunities to harm McClellan. The Seven Days have been the subject of numerous historical treatments, but none more detailed and engaging than Brian K. Burton's retelling of the campaign that lifted Southern spirits, began Lee's ascent to fame, and almost prompted European recognition of the Confederacy. Continued below…

Reviews:

"A full and measured account marked by a clear narrative and an interesting strategy of alternating the testimony of generals with their grand plans and the foot soldiers who had to move, shoot, and communicate in the smoky underbrush." -- The Virginia Magazine

"A thoroughly researched and well-written volume that will surely be the starting point for those interested in this particular campaign." -- Journal of American History

"A welcome addition to scholarship that should be the standard work on its subject for some time to come." -- Journal of Military History

"A well-written, thoroughly researched study of the Seven Days.... Provides thorough and reasonable analyses of the commanders on both sides." -- Georgia Historical Quarterly

Sources: Epic Battles Of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (InfoConcepts, Inc) by Curtis M. Jingle, Michael R. Brasher, and Warren Von Worley; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT); pbs.org.

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