Clement Anselm Evans.

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strong batteries and intrenched lines of the Federal
center, and in fierce contention strove, for two hours, to
carry the strong Federal position. He forced Porter to
call for help, and at 3:30 Slocum added his 5,000 men
to the defense. Hill had endured this fierce contest
vfithout assistance. Of course he could not with his single
attacking line, against formidable obstacles, drive from

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From, oni^iiial in tiiepoaaesaion of the Sou^em Historical Society:


their intrenched and barricaded position three lines of
infantry, one above the other, on a steep slope, protected
by fallen timber, and having the ridge behind them occu-
pied by heavy guns that poured upon him shot and shell
over the heads of the Federal infantry. At 4, Lee
ordered Longstreet to make a demonstration against Por-
ter's left, toward the Chickahominy, on Turkey hill.
The crest of this hill, crowned with numerous Federal
batteries, was 60 feet higher than the plateau opposite,
on which Longstreet formed his line of battle. Numer-
ous and elaborate defenses protected the slope of Turkey
hill at this point, just as above ; at the same time, McClel-
lan's heavy siege guns, from his position south of the
Chickahominy, had an enfilade fire on Longstreet's right
as he advanced. These conditions led Longstreet to con-
centrate his entire division to strike the blow he had been
ordered to give, and it was 7 o'clock before he was ready
to move.

In the meantime, Jackson had not been idle. No leader
of fighting men better understood the necessity of joining
in a fight, when a fight was on, than he did; and when he
found himself in front of Old Cold Harbor and heard the
sound of firing on his right, he knew that the thing for
him to do was to help defeat the enemy and drive him
from his position, rather than be a looker-on and continue
moving to the eastward, as he might have done under
the general instructions of his orders. His divisions
stretched across several miles of country, eastward and
■westward, through forests and across swampy creeks with
steep and difficult banks, but he had so arranged them
that they could be promptly moved when the emergency
came for so doing. His chief of staff. Major Dabney, was
quite unwell, having been overcome by the intense heat
and the exertions of the past few days in the discharge
of his arduous duties. The rest of the staff were scat-
tered, under orders, and Jackson began giving instruc-
tions to Major Dabney to ride rapidly to the right and
send forward each division, as he reached its commander,
instructing each to bear to the left in moving forward,
thus bringing his line of battle into successive action in
echelon. Just as he was concluding his instructions,
another staff officer, whose duty really was not on the
field of battle, came up. Jackson at once directed Major
Dabney to remain with him, while he sent this officer to


deliver his orders. The major protested, knowing that
it was dangerous to intrust such important orders to one
not accustomed to such duty, but Jackson, aware of
Dabney's exhausted physical condition, persisted. The
result was, that this officer instructed the several division
commanders, not to move, but to be ready to move, and
so an hour or more of precious time was lost, during
which Jackson was impatiently waiting to hear the sound
of his guns attacking the enemy's flank and rear and
bringing relief to Hill. Major Dabney, sent to the near
rear for another purpose, was also impatiently listening
for this attack, and, not hearing it, he, without orders,
rode at full speed to the nearest division, and finding
what orders had been given it, promptly ordered it into
action, and so, in succession, gave the order to each divi-
sion, when the whole line promptly swept into action ; D. H.
Hill on the left, followed on the right by Ewell, Jackson's
old division, then Whiting. As the sound of the guns of
these advances rang out, a wild yell swept through the
lines of A. P. Hill and Longstreet, "Jackson's come."
Pressing forward, though somewhat in disorder from the
character of the country passed over, Jackson's men soon
enveloped Porter's right and center, relieved A. P.
Hill's exhausted men, and, with fixed bayonets, swept
over all obstructions, whether of nature or of man. Lee,
intently listening for the sound of battle, hearing Jack-
son's opening, promptly ordered his whole line to press

Magruder performed his part well in holding the Fed-
eral troops south of the Chickahominy, marching and
countermarching his infantry in deceptive movements
and keeping his artillery in constant action. Porter soon
saw that, unaided, he could not long resist the tide of
battle that was now rolling full along his front and clos-
ing in on his flanks. He called for reinforcements, which
McClellan ordered from Franklin and Sumner, across
the river. Franklin replied that for him to send was "not
prudent," and Sumner, more threatened by the brave
Magruder, replied, "hazardous;" but s,ooo men, the bri-
gades of French and Meagher, were sent to Porter's rear,
as the day was closing, and reached Turkey hill just in
time to receive the routed living remnant of Porter's
corps. The forests and the condition of the country
occupied by Lee's lines, prevented the use of much artil-


lery in this battle of Gaines' Mill, but braver, daring and
more heroic endeavor was never made by patriotic sol-
diers than on that day, all along the lines, especially
by Hill's North Carolinians and Virginians, Lawton's
Georgians, and memorably by Hood's Texans, who
stormed the heights of Turkey and McGehee's hills, sweep-
ing across fences and ditches, through fallen timber
and abatis, and over intrenchments which blazed with
sheeted fire from infantry and artillery, from the entire
Federal front, leaving well-nigh half of their comrades
dead or wounded on the way, and rolling back, in a sullen
tide of defeat, both the regulars and the volunteers of
Porter's corps, and becoming masters of the heights they
had so bravely stormed. As it ever did, Jackson's
"Stonewall brigade" pushed into the thickest of the
fight, across the path of Ewell, and bore its full share in
winning this glorious victory.

Porter's men were brave fighters and could not well
have been asked to do more than they did to hold their
position. Especially was this true of the Federal center
and left, which held on stubbornly after Jackson had
crushed their right. To the disposing of these Jackson
then addressed himself, sending Whiting with the 4,000
of Hood and Law, to move with trailed arms, at double-
quick, down the slope to the swamp and then rush up
the steep ascent to the Federal fortress. Hood's Texans
on the right, with Law's Mississippians and Alabamians
on the left, swept silently forward, losing a thousand
men as they advanced ; then, with wild yell, leaped over
obstruction after obstruction, cleared the breastworks,,
and followed in hot pursuit the retreating Federals that
fled before their fierce courage and withering fire. All
caught the notes of coming victory, and to its wild music
rushed forward and helped to make that victory complete.

The reinforcements that McClellan had brought across
the Chickahominy were just in time to oppose the onward
rush of the Confederates, and to form a line of defense
behind which the routed Federals could rally, enabling
Porter to form a new line with 35,000 men, just in front
of the Chickahominy, on the very verge of 'Turkey hill.
This Porter managed with soldierly skill and obstinately
held on until darkness enabled him to cross that stream,
destroy the bridges behind him, and join McClellan's main
body on the south side of that river. The loss of 7,000


men and 22 guns and the capture of two almost im-
pregnable fortress-like hills, crowned by embattled hosts,
attested the daring courage of Lee's men and the vigor-
ous defense of Porter's. Only the closing in of night pre-
vented the capture of the whole Federal force north of
the Chickahominy.

Lee had now successfully carried out the first part of
his plan, having driven McClellan from his menacing
position north of the Chickahominy and become master
of his line of communication with his base on the York.
He now proposed to follow up his victory and capture
the Federal army, but McClellan gave him but a partial
opportunity for accomplishing this result. Astute enough
to forecast what might happen when Lee, rein-
forced by Jackson, should fall upon his right, which he
had fondly hoped would have been doubled in strength
by the arrival of McDowell, he had provided for a change
of base by having supplies for his army sent up the
James, to Westover, accompanied by a fleet of gunboats
to convoy and safeguard them, and at the same time fur-
nish a defense in case his army should have to fall back
to that river.

Disheartened by the severe punishment he had received,
at the hands of Lee, at Gaines' mill and Cold Harbor,
McClellan at midnight of the 27th, after the remnant of
Porter's corps was safely across the Chickahominy and
had destroyed the bridges behind it, ordered five of his
corps to begin the retreat across White Oak swamp to
the banks of the James. This was the only way of escape
now left him from the toils of Lee. It is true that on
the morning of the 28th he had 105,000 men, more than
two-thirds of whom had not been engaged the day before,
and that between him and Richmond was a force, under
Magruder and Huger, only about one-fourth as large as
his own, while two-thirds of Lee's army were still north
of the unbridged and unfordable Chickahominy and
farther from Richmond than his own. Here was an
opportunity for a great captain, who "took no counsel of
his fears, " to capture the Confederate capital by a prompt
and vigorous assault, and accomplish the object of his
grand campaign. But McClellan was not such a leader
and Lee knew it, and had no apprehension that such an
attack would be made, although he expected and prepared
for a renewal of the combat before McClellan would give


up the formidable position that he still held between the
Chickahominy and the White Oak swamp. But McClel-
lan had made up his mind to escape from his sturdy antag-
onist, and there is no evidence that any of his subor-
dinates opposed this conclusion.

On the morning of the 28th of June, Porter's corps,
with a great array of heavy guns, stood on the south side
of the Chickahominy, facing Lee and defiantly ready to
oppose his advance. Four corps faced Richmond, extend-
ing from a fortified work on the Golding farm, on the
border of the Chickahominy swamp, southward to the
natural defense of the great White Oak swamp, a closed,
living gate of well-armed and well-supplied men, in
battle array, with well-protected flanks. Thus guarded
in flanks and rear, McClellan started his 5,000 wagons,
and great herd of Ijeef cattle, preceded by Keyes' corps,
to open the way along the single road that led southward
across the White Oak swamp toward his chosen retreat
on the James. The dense forests completely concealed
this movement from observation. Before noonday, Keyes
had crossed the White Oak bridge and was four miles
beyond it, near Charles City cross roads, guarding the
approaches from Richmond by the two great highways
south of the swamp. All day the impedimenta of the
Federal army were forced, with Northern energ}-, to the
rear along the hidden, muddy roads that led through the
forest wilderness. This unexpected movement was so
well-concealed that it was on for four-and-twenty hours
before Lee was informed of it, or could divine McClellan's
intentions. The morning after the battle he had hastened
Stuart, followed by Ewell, who was farthest on his left,
down the Chickahominy river road to Dispatch Station.
Stuart spared no time in seizing the railway, damaging
its track and attacking the Federal guard, which he scat-
tered from Dispatch Station. They saved him the trouble
of destroying the bridge across the Chickahominy as they
retreated toward McClellan's army. Stuart hastened
after these trains loaded with ammunition and supplies,
which plunged into the Chickahominy, while his dashing
troopers followed the railway to the White House, with
fire and sword, and captured or destroyed the enormous
supplies and the scattered encampments which had been
gathered along that line of communication to McClellan's
base of supplies.


The steadily coming messages from Stuart soon satisfied
X«ee that McClellan must be seeking another base, but
the question as to what one, he could not, as yet, decide.
Two ways were open. He could reach the peninsula by
the lower fords of the Chickahominy, as Grant did two
years later. If he did this, it was necessary for Lee to
remain north of the Chickahominy and pursue him
toward Williamsburg. McClellan's alternative was to
seek the James, which he was already doing, but unknown
to Lee. The bold front presented by Porter was a serious
obstacle in the way of pursuing McClellan's rear, so Ewell
was ordered to hold Bottom's bridge, across the Chicka-
hominy on the Williamsburg road, while Stuart watched
the roads farther down leading to the peninsula. It did
not take the hot June sun long to dry up the common
roads by which McClellan was retreating, and the clouds
of dust from these roads, late in the day of the 28th, told
the observant Stuart what was going on, and he quickly
apprised Lee that McClellan was in full retreat toward
the James.

On the morning of the 29th, at the dawn of day, Lee
took up the pursuit of his retreating foe. Longstreet
and A. P. Hill crossed the Chickahominy at the New
bridge, opposite to which they had bivouacked, and
marched southward with orders to take the Darbytown
road to the Long bridge until they should strike the
right flank of McClellan's line of retreat. Magruder pre-
ceded these down the Williamsburg road, through the
Seven Pines battlefield, and between the Chickahominy
and the White Oak swamps. Huger was sent along the
Charles City road on the south side of White Oak swamp,
while Holmes led his 6,000 down the River road to strike
the line of retreat to Malvern hill. Jackson was left to re-
build Grapevine bridge, to which a road led from Old Cold
Harbor, with orders to cross and follow McClellan's rear.

Lee did his best to strike McClellan's retreat with
some of these marching columns, in the afternoon of
Sunday, June 29th. The Federal army was stretched
along the road from Savage Station to Malvern hill.
Keyes, followed by the remnants of Porter's corps, led
the advance and guarded the approaches to the Quaker
road, along which the trains were moving to and across
Malvern hill. The fragments of McCall's and Slocum's
divisions had crossed the White Oak swamp and encamped


near Willis' church, near the knot of cross roads in the
vicinity of Glendale. Heintzelman had crossed White
Oak swamp and was going into liivouac just south of
that, at lo p. m. At about 4 p. m. Sumner's corps and
part of Franklin's were holding the rear against an on-
slaught by Magruder at Savage Station. At about half
past six, Heintzelman was crossing White Oak swamp at
Brackett's ford, ij^ miles above the swamp bridge, and
by 10 p. m. he was bivouacking south of the swamp in
front of Charles City cross roads, covering the Charles
City road from Richmond. Charles City cross roads, on
the watershed between White Oak swamp and Turkey
Island creek, was notable for the fact that at or near that
point the roads leading north to Bottom's bridge, north-
east to the Long bridges, south to Malvern hill, south-
west to New Market, and northwest to Richmond, all
leading highways as well as numerous farm roads, met in
intersection ; it was also about halfway between the James
and the Chickahominy, and in consequence of the coming
together of so many roads, it was the most vulnerable
point in McClellan's line of retreat. Knowing this, Lee
bent all his energies to there strike a blow on McClellan's
right flank.

McClellan also knew, from a personal inspection, the
danger that threatened him at that place, and he had pro-
vided against it by sending Heintzelman across White Oak
swamp at Brackett's ford, a mile and a half above the
swamp bridge, so that his line of southward march would
place him in position across the New Market and the
Charles City, roads leading toward Richmond. To strike
this point, Lee, all day, urged forward Huger by the
Charles City road, Longstreet and A. P. Hill by the
Darbytown road and the Long bridges road, and Holmes
by the River road, to either support Hill and Longstreet,
or to strike the head of the Federal retreat where the
River road and the Quaker road met on Malvern hill.
Success for Lee depended entirely upon the vigor and
speed of these movements, but Huger was held back by
the obstructions the Federals had thrown across the
Charles City road, while Longstreet, after making but
1 2 miles, went into camp near Darb3rtown, only about six
miles from the fatal point at the Charles City cross roads.

The 29th was consumed by Jackson in working hard to
bridge the Chickahominy so he could join in the pursuit.


Magruder put but part of his men into the battle at Sav-
age station, and so failed to drive away McClellan's rear
guard, that there stubbornly held the road ; while Holmes
failed to reach and head off McClellan at Malvern hill. So
the day passed without decisive results to Lee, and Mc-
Clellan's retreat was continued with but little molesta-

The morning of June 30th found McClellan's entire
army and heavy trains, including his hundred heavy siege
guns and numerous batteries of field artillery, safely
across the White.Oak swamp, and by 10 a. m. Richardson's
division, his rear guard on the main road, was destroying
the swamp bridge. He now had 60,000 men in a natu-
rally strong position, facing northward and westward,
covering the roads leading to and from Charles City
cross roads, with his flanks protected by swamps, and
with the same sort of well-nigh impenetrable defenses
covering nearly his entire front. The approaching road-
ways were all guarded by artillery, and his men had not
been slow to everywhere add fallen timber and abatis to
the defenses offered by the creeks and swamps. At the
southern end of the swamp bridge was Frayser's farm,
clear to the north and with forests to the south. There
was placed Franklin with 20,000 men and a park of artil-
lery, facing north and constituting the right wing of Mc-
Clellan's army, ready to contest the passage of White
Oak swamp. To the left, covering the roads from Rich-
mond and the important junction of roads at Charles City
cross roads, sweeping in an arc westward and southward,
were 40,000 men under Sumner and Heintzelman. The
position was, naturally, an exceedingly strong defensive
one, and the disposition of the Federal troops could not
well have been better made. They were now ready for
the opening of the contest which is known in history by
the names of White Oak Swamp, Frayser's Farm, Charles
City Cross-roads, Glendale or Willis' Church; Glendale
being the name of a plantation just south of Charles City
cross roads, and Willis' church a point a mile in the
same, direction from the same point on the Quaker road.

By II o'clock in the morning, the head of Jackson's
column appeared at the northern end of the destroyed.
White Oak swamp bridge. Franklin at once opened
on this with his heavy batteries. Colonel Crutchfield,
Jackson's chief of artillery, brought twenty-eight guns


promptly into position and soon drove back Franklin's ar-
tillery, when Jackson attempted to force the passage of the
swamp ; but Franklin successfully resisted this with his-
more numerous muskets aiding his artillery and with two
brigades that were sent to his assistance from Sedg-
wick's division, giving him 25,000 men to meet Jackson's
21,000. Jackson, seeing that the odds were too great
and that he could not get at his enemy at a single point,
desisted from making a further attack ; but he continued
to keep Franklin's position warm with his artillery.

It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon before Huger
opened his artillery on Slocum, on the Charles City,
road, only to find his antagonist ' thoroughly guarded
behind broad belts of fallen trees across swampy ground,
so he desisted from attack. Lee, in person, directed
Longstreet into battle about 4 p. m., with less than 20,000
men, along the New Market road toward Charles City
Court House, or the Glendale farm, against double his
numbers holding McClellan's left. Longstreet had
charge of the contest. His advance was through fallen
timber, tangled underbrush, and hummocky ground on
his left, while on his right the head swamp of the west-
ern branch of Turkey run was between him and the Fed-
eral left. Eager for the fray, Longstreet 's men rushed
forward, overcame all obstacles, and fell upon McCall's
left with such a blow that his men fled, in panic, backward
through Hooker's line of battle in their rear. The rush
against Kearny's left was not successful, for he not only
had Slocum's aid but two brigades from Franklin's left,
while Hooker assailed Longstreet's victorious flank.
A. P. Hill moved rapidly to Longstreet's assistance, but
the Confederates were only able to hold the ground they
had won from McCall, having captured that leader and
fourteen of his field guns.

While this Frayser's Farm-Glendale battle was raging.
Holmes, with his 6, 000 men and a six-gun battery on the
River road, crossed the western branch of Turkey Island
creek and was crossing Malvern ridge toward Turkey
Island bridge, when Warren, with 30 guns and 1,500 men,
assisted by the gunboats in the James, which had an enfi-
laded fire on Holmes' line, drove him back. At Holmes'
call, Magruder was turned from near Longstreet's battle-
field to Malvern hill, to take part in the conflict there
pending ; but that was over before he arrived.


The Federals had held their line of retreat for another
day, though with considerable loss, and when darkness
came the corps commanders, without waiting for orders
from the commanding general, took up their line of retreat
toward the position that McClellan, in person, had selected
on the James, passing through the strong force of infan-
try and the line of powerful artillery that had already
been placed across the Malvern ridge to guard the
way to the longed-for refuge. McClellan's night dispatch
of the 30th, to Secretary of War Stanton, reads: "An-
other day of desperate fighting. I fear I shall be forced
to abandon my material to save my men under cover of
the gunboats. You must send us very large reinforce-

July ist, the last day of the Seven Days' battles around
Richmond, found the Federal army in probably the
strongest position it had yet held, on Malvern ridge, a
tongue of high land projecting southeastward, almost to .
the James, between the two principal branches of Turkey
Island creek, which meet, near the southwestern end of
this ridge, about a mile from the mouth of this creek in
the James. This ridge was not only commanding in
elevation, but the larger portion of it, where occupied by
the Federal army, was cleared and open land, which could
be swept by artillery, while its slopes extended to swampy
grounds along the bordering creeks.

McClellan placed his main line at right angles to this
ridge and to the Quaker road that ran along its crest just

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 29 of 153)