Clement Anselm Evans.

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lan's attack by drawing to the Valley the 40,000 men
under McDowell that the Federal commanding general
expected to place on his right before proceeding, by one
grand movement, as he confidently expected, to seize the
Confederate capital. It was important that this force
that had been withdrawn should be kept away, and this
could best be done by again exciting the fears of the
Federal authorities for the safety of Washington. To
accomplish this, large reinforcements were hurried, by
rail, to the Valley, most of them to Staunton, but Lawton's
six Georgia regiments joined Jackson at his encampment
near Weyer's cave. Federal prisoners, on their way from
the Valley to Richmond, met these reinforcements in
passing. These, promptly paroled, carried the news to
Washington. The cavalry in Jackson's front, by various
devices, spread the intelligence that Jackson, with 50,000
men or more, would soon again march down the Valley to
fall on the Federal army there collected. Intelligent
escaped "contrabands" reported the arrival of large
numbers of troops at Staunton. All these tactics, allow-
able in time of war, had their effect, not only in persuad-
ing Fremont to retreat until he reached Banks at Middle-
town, but caused the latter to telegraph to the Federal
authorities at Washington, on the 12th, "Jackson is heav-
ily reinforced and is advancing," and on the xgth, "No
doubt another immediate movement down the Valley is
intended, with a force of 30,000 or more." On the 2 2d
he was still on the lookout for Jackson and Ewell, and on
the 28th, when Jackson had joined Lee and was actually
fighting McClellan before Richmond, Banks still believed
"Jackson meditates an attack in the valley. " McDowell
had been ordered on the 8th of June to collect his forces
and resume his march, by way of Fredericksburg, to join
McClellan, but the victories of Cross Keys and Port
Republic, and the fears of Banks and Fremont as to what
Jackson might again do, delayed him in the Valley, and


when he did move, it was toward Manassas, and not Rich-
mond, and Ricketts' division did not leave Front Royal
for Manassas until the 17th of June, when Shields fol-
lowed him into Piedmont Virginia.

The object of his delay in the Valley being accom-
plished, Jackson left it on the night of the 17th of June,
ordering his cavalry to continue its demonstrations down
the Valley; and by rail and march, the "ride-and-tie"
way, as it was called, he reached the vicinity of Richmond
on the 26th day of June, and was in line of battle and
ready to fall on McClellan's rear and participate in the
bloody engagement of Gaines' Mill on the 27th, and
become a potent factor in winning the victory of that
great day of the Seven Days of battle around Richmond.

Swinton, the Federal historian of the army of the
Potomac, in writing of Jackson's Valley campaign, says:

In this exciting month's campaign, Jackson made great captures of
stores and prisoners; but this was not its chief result; without gain-
ing a single tactical victory he had yet achieved a great strategic
victory, for by skillfully maneuvering 15,000 men he succeeded in
neutralizing a force of 60,000. It is perhaps not too much to say
that he saved Richmond; for when McClellan, in expectation that
McDowell might still be allowed to come and join him, threw for-
ward his right wing under Porter to Hanover Court House on the 26th
of May, the echoes of his cannon bore to those in Richmond who
knew the situation of the two Union armies, the knell of the capital
of the Confederacy.



THE advance of McClellan's army, moved from
Washington by transports, reached Fort Monroe
the latter part of March, and on the 2d of April,
McClellan in person ordered an advance up the
Peninsula of 58,000 men and 100 guns. General Magru-
der, of the Confederate army, with 11,000 men, opposed
his progress nearly at its beginning, from Fortress Mon-
roe to between the mouths of the Warwick and Poquosin
rivers, where the divide between these opposite flowing
estuaries is narrow; then on a line extending from the
James to the York, 13 miles in length, behind War-
wick river on the southwest and covering Yorktown on the
northeast, which had been admirably fortified throughout
its length. Gloucester point, opposite Yorktown, was
embraced in these defenses, thus guarding the entrance
to the York. Marching his army by two nearly parallel
roads, McClellan appeared before this line of defense on
the 5 th of April, and his left at once made a vigorous
attack on the right of Magruder's center, which was
promptly repulsed. On the 6th and 7th, after a personal
reconnoissance, the Federal commander prepared for a
Tegular siege of the Confederate works ; distributing his
near 100,000 men along their front, with his numerous
batteries in favorable positions. Magruder, with his
little army of 11,000, bravely maintained his ground for
ten days, keeping back his engineering antagonist and
vigilantly watching his regular approaches. By main-
taining this bold front he gave Johnston time to bring his
forces from the Rappahannock and concentrate them
on the Peninsula, and thus effectually bar the way of
McClellan's host to Richmond.

The famous Confederate ram Virginia still threaten-
ingly stood guard at the mouth of the Elizabeth, and held
back the Federal naval forces from moving up the James
when McClellan began his movement from Fort Monroe ;



at the same time the Confederate fortifications at York-
town and Gloucester point barred the entrance to the

On the 1 6th of April, McClellan again made a vigorous
attack near the center of Magruder's line, which he
broke, but this was repulsed with severe loss by the
Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana troops of Cobb's
and Anderson's brigades. A second attempt satisfied Mc-
Clellan that he could not carry the Confederate line by
assault, so he proceeded to besiege it by regular
approaches, especially the lines in front of Yorktown.
General Johnston took command on the Peninsula the
17th of April, having concentrated there about 50,000
men to oppose McClellan's 100,000 or more with heavy
siege trains. Looking over the situation, Johnston
thought it advisable to retreat, but the authorities at
Richmond directed him to hold his position as long as he
could. On the 3d of May, when satisfied that McClellan
was about ready to make his grand assault, and recalling
what had happened to Comwallis on the same historic
field, Johnston secretly evacuated Yorktown, leaving his
heavy guns behind, and fell back to a line in front of
Williamsburg, Virginia's ancient capital, which had also
been partially fortified, having gained a month of pre-
cious time, which had been of great value in making prep-
arations for the defense of Richmond.

McClellan, on the morning of the 4th of May, finding
his enemy gone, moved a large force in pursuit by the
two roads leading, the one from his right and the other
from his left, toward Williamsburg. Two brigades of
cavalry and two divisions of infantry with artillery moved
on the road leading from Yorktown, and three divisions
of infantry by the direct road, up the Peninsula, Gen.
J. E. B. Stuart, with his cavalry, covered Johnston's
retreat, aided by the muddy roads, which had been dread-
fully cut up by the moving of the Confederate army and
its trains. The Confederates reached the Williamsburg
earthworks by noon. The evacuation of Yorktown not
only opened the York to the Federal navy for co-operat-
ing with McClellan, but it also necessitated the evacua-
tion of Norfolk, which Johnston ordered General Huger
to make, on the 9th of May.

Knowing the advantages that the opening of the rivers
to his naval power had given his foe, and that he could


quickly transport portions of his army to the vicinity of
Richmond and to his rear, either by the York or by the
James, Johnston continued his retreat, holding back Mc-
Clellan's pursuit by a cavalry engagement in the after-
noon on the Yorktown road, backed up by three brigades
of infantry, which forced back the Federal column. Sum-
ner, McClellan's second in command of the Federal army,
late in the day attempted to move forward by renewing
the combat, but the dense forests, characteristic of that
region, and the approach of night prevented his making
progress. Magruder's division, followed by that of
McLaws, continued the retreat during the night, as
Johnston knew he had a race to make with the gunboats
and transports that he divined McClellan was already
sending up the York to head off his way to Richmond.
Longstreet, who was left in command of the rear, placed
the brigades of Pryor and R. H. Anderson, with light
artillery, in the works in front of Williamsburg, which
McLaws had evacuated.

Heavy rain and deep and deepening mud in all the
roads characterized the sth of May. Sumner, who had
spent the night in the forest in front of Longstreet's
center, in which was a rather formidable earthwork
called Fort Magruder, delayed an attack that he might
ration his men and reconnoiter on his right; but the
impetuous Hooker ordered an attack as soon as he
reached the front of the Confederate right, about 8
o'clock in the morning, pushing boldly forward a battery
of eleven guns. He twice drove in the Confederate skir-
mishers by reinforcing his attack. Longstreet, watching
the increasing force in his front, reinforced Anderson
with the brigades of Wilcox, A. P. Hill and Pickett, and
assuming the aggressive, moved against Hooker's flank,
which with a stubborn fight was driven back, so that by
1 1 o'clock he was anxiously calling for help and looking
for a diversion in his favor on the Federal right. Sumner
ordered Kearny to Hooker's assistance, but he was still
miles in the rear, floundering through the rain and mud.
Longstreet's attack was successful and resulted in driving
away the Federals and the capturing of nine pieces of
artillery, but Kearny's arrival on the field with other bat-
teries about 3 p. m., saved Hooker from utter defeat
and enabled him to press back the Confederate line
which Longstreet had reinforced with two brigades


that he had called back from the retreat. This enabled
him to hold his position near Fort Magruder until night-
fall, keeping Hooker at bay.

While Hooker was thus engaged, Sumner had been
Teconnoitering the Confederate left, and between lo and
1 1 of the morning he ordered Hancock to make an attack
in that direction, thinking he could thus relieve Hooker
and flank Longstreet out of his position. Hancock's
advance occupied some abandoned Confederate redoubts
on the Confederate left about midday, and then awaited
the arrival of reinforcements, in the meantime cautiously
advancing and occupying the second redoubt, which
brought him within range of the Confederate left. At
about this time Longstreet, seeing that his trains could
not make good their retreat before night, recalled D. H.
Hill's division, which was in the rear of Johnston's
retreat, and about the middle of the afternoon he put that
in position on his left, facing Hancock, except two regi-
ments, with which he reinforced the columns of assault
on his right, under Anderson. In front of the cleared
space which Hancock occupied was a dense forest, which
screened his line from view. His artillery, firing from
the redoubt he occupied, was damaging Anderson's left.
This and other things induced D. H. Hill to seek and
obtain from Longstreet permission to attack Hancock,
and attempt to drive him from the field. About 5
o'clock he advanced with his two North Carolina regi-
ments and two Virginia regiments of Early's brigade,
himself taking charge of the right and Early of the left.
The movement was badly made, the line having been
broken into fragments in advancing through the dense
forest. Hancock repulsed this bold attack with much
slaughter, but did not follow in pursuit, and Hill
reformed on Anderson's left. Late in the day McClel-
lan himself came up and ordered reinforcements for
Hancock and a renewal of his attack, but it was too late
for that to be done. A cold and rainy night followed the
stormy day, and both armies were only too willing to
cease from strife and find what rest they could in their
wet and muddy bivouacs. Longstreet's loss was 1,560
from a probable force of 12,000 engaged, and McClellan's
2,283 from an attacking force of 15,000.

The profitable results of this Williamsburg battle were
on Longstreet's side. He had held all his positions for


an entire day, during which the divisions of Magruder
and G. W. Smith and all of Johnston's army train had
continued, unmolested, the retreat toward Richmond.
That was what Johnston contended for, and the bat-
tle of Williamsburg enabled him to gain. By his order
D. H. Hill and Longstreet abandoned Williamsburg in
the early morning of the 6th and encamped at the Burnt
Ordinary, 12 miles from Williamsburg, early in the
morning of the 7th, and on that day the Confederate
army was concentrated in the vicinity of Barhamsville,
some 8 miles southwest of the head of the York.
The Federal army rested at Williamsburg, satisfied that
it was not prudent to follow a foe whose rear guard had
handled them so roughly the day before.

As soon as Yorktown was evacuated, McClellan
ordered Franklin's division to be promptly moved, by
water, to the head of the York and disembarked at Elt-
ham's landing, on the south side of that river, in the
immediate vicinity of Johnston's line of retreat, which he
hoped to intercept. Franklin arrived by 3 p. m. of the
6th, and before day of the 7th had disembarked his divi-
sion, which was followed in rapid succession by those of
Porter, Sedgwick and Richardson. The accompanying
gunboats covered Franklin's landing, and the broad arms
of the York protected his flanks. He promptly occupied
a belt of forest in his front, not far from the road lead-
ing from Barhamsville to New Kent Court House, along
which a portion of Johnston's army was retreating.
Anticipating what happened, Johnston, on the morning
of the 7 th, ordered G. W. Smith to protect this road by
advancing troops to drive back Franklin's movement.
Placing the brigades of Whiting and Hampton in line of
battle. Whiting advanced through the forest, drove in
Franklin's skirmishers, and followed them through the
woods, forcing them back, though reinforced with two
regiments, to the edge of the forest nearest the river.
S. R. Anderson's Tennessee brigade was added to the
attacking column, and by midday Franklin was driven
under cover of his gunboats. These and the accompany-
ing transports Whiting attempted to shell from the edge
of the bluff in his front, but the range of his guns was
not sufficient to do much damage, nor was his artillery
any match for the heavy fire of the gunboats ; therefore,
as he could accomplish nothing more, he withdrew to his

Va 18


original position near Barhamsville, after a loss of 48
men as against 194 for Franklin.

No further attempt was made to delay Johnston's
retreat, which his right continued to the vicinity of the
Long bridges of the Chickahominy, and his left to the
crossing of that stream by the York River railroad, near
Dispatch Station, where he took position, on May 9th,
on the north side of the Chickahominy, facing to the
northeast, covering all the roads to Richmond by which
McClellan could approach, and where he remained undis-
turbed until the isth, resting and recruiting his army
in a position to be supplied by railway trains and
diificult to be turned by water. Longstreet held
the right, located near the Long bridges, and Magruder
the left, near Dispatch Station.

Huger evacuated Norfolk May 9th, after destroying
the navy yard, and fell back toward Petersburg. The
now famous ram Virginia was blown up by her gallant
crew on the nth and her men hurried to Drewry's bluff
on the James, to take charge of the guns at the fortifica-
tions which General Lee, in the meantime, had prudently
constructed at that point. The Virginia out of the way,
the Federal gunboats ascended the James and attacked
Drewry's bluff, eight miles below Richmond, on the
15 th. The channel of the James had been filled with
sunken ships and other obstructions, and the gunboats
met with a most spirited resistance from the guns in the
works on the bluff, which repulsed their attack and com-
pelled them to fall back down the river. This naval
attack in his rear induced Johnston to retreat across the
Chickahominy on the 15th, and place his army in front
of the defensive works, three miles to the east of Rich-
mond, which had been thrown up in 1861 for the defense
of that city.

On the 8th of May, McClellan ordered Stoneman's cav-
alry forward from Williamsburg to open the way for the
advance of Franklin. On the loth his army was well
concentrated near Barhamsville ; thence, feeling his way
cautiously, four of his corps reached the vicinity of
Cumberland, on the Pamunkey, and New Kent Court
House on the isth. On the i6th his advance took
possession of the White House, near which the York
River railroad crosses the Pamunkey ; thence, advancing
along the York River railroad, he reached the north


bank of the Chickahominy at Dispatch Station, unop-
posed in his progress, on the 19th.

Johnston, ever wary and on the alert, watching the
slow but certain advance of his powerful antagonist, pre-
pared to meet his coming assault on Richmond by gath-
ering to that city the troops that had been left at Fred-
ericksburg, Gordonsville and elsewhere. He instructed
Jackson to do what he could to retain in the Valley the
Federal forces he was already contending with, but to be
prepared to come to Richmond with Ewell on short
notice. Apprised of the formidable movement of Mc-
Dowell from Fredericksburg with 40,000 men, he decided
to attack McClellan before this large addition could be
made to his forces. Johnston's new line of defense
extended from Drewry's bluff on the James to opposite
Mechanicsville on the Chickahominy, in a nearly north
and south direction, but trending to the northwest from
where it crossed the York River railroad, thus presenting
a convex front from that point to opposite Mechanicsville,
a few miles north of Richmond.

McClellan reached the Chickahominy on the 19th, and
on the 20th moved two corps, about two-fifths of his
army, across that swamp-bordered river at Bottom's
bridge, the crossing of the Williamsburg and Richmond
turnpike, which he followed to Seven Pines, within &
miles of Richmond, a point a short distance south from
Fair Oaks station of the York River railroad. A general
deployment followed, with his left resting on White Oak
swamp and his right on the Chickahominy, presenting a
convex front to Johnston on the south side of the Chick-
ahominy, and covering all the approaches to McClellan 's
rear from the west and southwest. This line was at
once protected by earth and timber works, abatis and
fallen timber. By a skillful movement McClellan, at the
same time, extended his right wing along the bluffy north
side of the Chickahominy, and on the 24th of May took
possession of Mechanicsville, placing there the strong
and ably commanded corps of Fitz John Porter, thus
covering the great highway leading from Richmond
northeastward to the Pamunkey by way of Old Church.
On the same day the Confederates had a lively engage-
ment with McClellan's advance at Seven Pines.

Having firmly established himself to the east and
northeast of Richmond in a well-selected position for


advancing on that city, McClellan anxiously awaited the
arrival of McDowell, that his right might be extended
with the 40,000 men that were already on the march
from Fredericksburg to Richmond. To open the way
for this approach, he ordered Fitz John Porter, on the
26th, to move a strong force northward, along the direct
road from Mechanicsville to Hanover Court House, run-
ning nearly parallel with the Virginia Central railroad,
to destroy that road and also the railroad leading to
Fredericksburg, and drive away any Confederate forces
in that direction. Porter dispatched three infantry
brigades, two cavalry regiments and four batteries on
this expedition ; at the same time he dispatched Warren,
with a strong force of all arms, eastward by the Old
Church road, to destroy the bridges across the Pamun-
key, and then follow up toward Hanover Court House
and support the right of the column sent in that direc-

Branch's Confederate brigade, consisting of one cavalry
and six infantry regiments and a battery, had been
moved from Gordonsville to Ashland, on the Richmond
& Fredericksburg railroad, to protect the two railways
leading northward from Richmond. He was encamped
between these roads, near Slash church, not far from
Peake Station of the Virginia Central railroad. The
Federal cavalry, moving by roads more to the eastward,
sent its scouts to the vicinity of Hanover Court House on
the 26th, thus informing Porter as to the condition of
affairs in that vicinity. On the 27th, Branch, ignorant of
the movements of Porter, had sent a portion of his force
to repair the Virginia Central railroad near Peake. Por-
ter's column, which had left Mechanicsville at 4 in the
morning with fourteen regiments of infantry, fell upon
Branch's force near Peake and quickly routed it, and
when Branch reinforced that with the rest of his com-
mand, they also, after a spirited resistance, had to give
way before overwhelming numbers, and he fell back to
Ashland, after the loss of one gun and some 700 prison-
ers. His loss in action was 265, and the Federal loss 285,
numbers showing that this Hanover Court House engage-
ment, as it is called, but Peake Station or Slash Church as
it should be called, was hotly contested by Branch with
his comparatively small force. Warren also appeared
upon the field near the close of the action with his four


regiments and six guns, and by participating gave the
odds very largely to Porter.

On this same 27th of May, Johnston, having informa-
tion of McDowell's advance from Fredericksburg, deter-
mined to strike a blow at McClellan before that large
reinforcement should reach him. He at once began the
concentration of his army toward his left, with the inten-
tion of throwing the larger portion of it upon McClel-
lan 's right by a flank movement across the Chickahominy
above Mechanicsville. At nightfall of that day his
troops were on the march for their assigned positions,
but just before dark, Johnston, who had called his divi-
sion commanders together for final instructions, informed
these officers of Jackson's great victory at Winchester,
and that McDowell was already marching north and
away from Richmond. A discussion followed, in which
these various commanders expressed differing and
diverging views, the upshot of which was that the move-
ment was abandoned and the troops were ordered back,
most of them to their old positions, and no attack was

On the 29th and 30th, D. H. Hill made a reconnois-
sance, in front of his division on the Williamsburg road,
along the Federal front. The information thus gained led
Johnston to plan, on the evening of the 30th, for another
aggressive movement; D. H. Hill's division, on the Wil-
liamsburg road, was to advance, supported by Long-
street's. Huger's division, which had just arrived from
Norfolk, was to move on Hill's right, extending the line
south to the White Oak swamp; G. W. Smith's division,
under Whiting, was to move \>y the New Bridge road
and take position on Hill's left. Provision was also
made for protecting the left of this movement against
attack from the north of the Chickahominy. A deluge
of rain fell on the night of the 30th, which swelled the
Chickahominy so that it swept away most of the bridges
that McClellan was constructing across that stream ; that
also helped to further convert the already rain-soaked
country between the Chickahominy and White Oak
swamp, the larger portion of which was covered with
flat, tangled forest, into one great swamp. For a direct
attack, Johnston's plan was a good one, but it failed in
the execution, because his subordinates did not strictly
follow his orders in moving to the field of action and each

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 27 of 153)