Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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It is clear that a pretty strong force is op-
erating with Jackson, for the purpose of do-
tting the forces here from you. I am
urging, as fast as possible, the new levies.

"Be assured, General, that there never
has been a moment when my desire has
been otherwise than to aid you with my
whole heart, mind, and strength, since the
hour we first met; and, whatever others
may say for their own purposes, you have
never had, and never can have, any one
more truly your friend, or more anxious to
support you, or more joyful than I shall be
at tiie success which I have no doubt will
•oon be achieved by your arms.''

Gen. McCall'B division arrived by
water during the two following
days;'* on the last of which, Qen. J.
E. B. Stuart, with 1,500 Eebel cavalry
and 4 guns, attacked and dispersed
two squadrons of the 6th TJ. S. caval-
ry, Capt. Eoyall, near Hanover Old
Church; thence proceeding to make
a rapid circuit of our grand army, via
Tunstall's Station, seizing and burn-
ing two schooners laden with forage,
and 14 wagons ; capturing and taking
off 165 prisoners, 260 mules and
horses; halting three hours to rest
at TalleysviUe, in the rear of our
army; resuming his march at mid-
night; crossing the Ghickahominy
near Long Bridge, by hastily impro-
vised bridges, next forenoon; and
reaching Eichmond unassailed next
morning. This was the first of the
notable cavalry raids of the war,



tempting to many imitations, some
of tliem brilliant in design and exe-
cution ; some of them damaging to
the adverse party ; others disastrous
to their executors ; but, on the whole,
involving a squandering of horse-
flesh and an amoimt of useless' devas-
tation which rendered them decidedly
unprofitable, and hardly reconcilable
with the legitimate ends of warfiEure.
Gen« McClellan, at midnight on
the 14th, telegraphed to the War
Department as follows :

^^ Headquabtbbs Akmt or the Potoici^o, \
" Oamp Linooln, June 14, 1862. )

" All quiet in every direction. The stam-
pede of last night has passed away. Wea-
ther now very favorable. I hope two days
more will ma^e the ground practicable. I
shall advance as soon as the bridges are
completed and the ground fit for futillery
to move. At the same time, I would be
glad to have whatever troops can be sent
to me. I can use several new regiments to
advantage.

"It ought to be distinctly understood
that McDowell and his troops are com-
pletely under my oontroL I received a
telegram from him requesting that MoOairi
, division might be placed so as to join him
immediately on his arrival.

" That reouest does not breathe the pro-
per spirit Whatever troops come to me
must be disposed of so as to do the most-
good. I do not feel that, in such circum-
stances as Uiose in which I am now placed,
Gren. McDowell should wish the general in-
terests to be sacrificed for the purpose of
increasing his command.

" If I cannot fully control all his troops, I
want none of them, but would prefer to
fight .the battle with what I have, and let
others be responsible for the results.

" The department lines should not be al-
lowed to interfere with me ; but Gen. McD.,
and all other troops sent to me, should be
placed completely at my disposal, to do
with them as I think best In no other
way can they be of assistance to me. I
therefore request that I may have entire
and full control. The stake at issue is
too great to allow personal considerations
to be entertained; you know that I nave
none.

"The indications are, from our balloon
reconnoissances and from all other sources,
that the enemy are intrenching, dally in-



," Juno 13-13.



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STOlirBWALL JACESOK JOINS LBB.



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etetmng in numbers, and determined to
fight desperately.''

On the 20th, he telegraphed to the
President:

"By to-morrow night; the defenave
works, covering onr position on this side of
the Ohickahominy, should be completed.
I am forced to this by my inferiority of
nnmbers, so that I may bring the greatest
possible nnmbers into action, and secure the
army against the consequences of nnfore-
aeen disaster."

At this time, his retums to the
Adjutant-General's oflEice give the
following as the strength of his army
on the Peninsnla : Present for duty,
115,102; special duty, sick, and in
arrest, 12,225 ; absent, 29,511— total,
156,838.

Stonewall Jackson, having done
us all the mischief he could in the
Valley, arrested McDowell's overland
march to join McClellan, and sent
40,000 or 50,000 of our men on all
manner of wild-goose chases, was
now on his way in fidl force to Rich-
mond ; hence, misleading reports of
his movements were artfully circu-
lated among our commanders. Oen.
McClellan telegraphed" to the "War
Department that he had information
from deserters that troops had left
Richmond to reenforce Jackson, and
that they were probably not less than
10,000 men. To this the President
responded, that he had similar infoiv
mation from Gen. King at Fredericks-
burg ; and added : " If this is true, it
is as good as a reenforcement to you."
McClellan on that day telegraphed
to the President :

" A general engagement may take place
at anj hoar. An advance by us involves a
battle more or less decisive. The enemv
exhibit at every point a readiness to meet
ns. They certainly have great numbers
and extensive works. If ten or fifteen



thousand men have left Richmond to reen-
force Jackson, it illustrates their strength
and confidence. After to-morrow, we shall
fight the Rebel army as soon as Providence
will permit We shall await only a favor-
able condition of the earth and sky, and the
completion of some necessary prelimina-
ries."

To-morrow and to-morrow passed,
and still our army did not advance ;
until, on the 24di, a young man of
suspicious character was brought in
by Gen. McClellan's scouts from the
direction of Hanover C!ourt House,
wh,o, after some prevarication, con-
fessed himself a deserter from Jack-
son's command, which he had left
near Gordonsville on the 21st, mov-
ing along the Yirginia Central Bail-
road to rrederickshall, with intent
to turn our right and attack our rear
on the 28th. To McClellan's dis-
patch announcing this capture, and
asking information of Jackson's posi-
tion and movements. Secretary Stan^
ton replied " as follows :

" We have no definite information as to
the nnmbers or position of Jackson^a force.
Gen. King yesterday reported a deserter's
statement, that Jackson^s force was, nine
days ago, 40,000 men. Some reports place
10,000 Rebels under Jackson at Gordons-
ville ; others that his force is at Port Be-
public, Harrisonburg, and Luray. Fremont
yesterday reported rumors that Western
Yirginia was threatened ; and Gen. Eellv,
that Ewell was advancing to New Creek,
where Fremont has his d€p6t8. The last
telegram from Fremont contradicts this
rumor. The last telegram from Banks says
the enemy^s pickets are strong in advance
at Luray. The people decline to give any
information of his whereabouts. Within
the last two days, the evidence is strong
that, for some purpose, the enemy is circu-
lating rumors of Jackson's advance in
various directions, with a view to conceal
the real point of attack. Neither McDowell,
who is at Manassas, nor Banks and Fre-
mont, who are at Middletown, appear to have
amy accurate knowledge on the subject.

^^ A letter transmitted to the department
yesterday, purporting to be dated Gordons-
ville, on the 14th in^t., stated that the ao-
tual attack was designed for Washington



* Juoe 18.



** June 26.



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152



THB AICBBIOi.17 CONFLICT.



and Baltimore, as loon as 70a attacked
Bichmond ; but that the report was to be
droolated that Jackson had gone to Bich-
mond, in order to mislead. This letter
looked very mnch like a blind, and induces
me to suspect that Jackson's real movement
now is toward Richmond. It came from
Alexandria, and is certainly designed, like
the numerous rumors put afloat, to mislead.
I think, therefore, that, while the warning
of the deserter to you may also be a blind,
that it could not sdely be disregarded. I
will transmit to you any further informa-
tion on this subject that may be receiyed
liere."

That day, having liifl bridges com-
pleted, Gen. McOellan ordered an
advance of his picket-line on the left,
preparatory to a general forward
movement; and, during the day,
Heintzelman's corps, with part of
Keyes's and Sumner's, were pnshed
forward,*' he reports, through a
swampy wood, though smartly re-
sisted, with a loss on our side of 51
killed, 401 wounded, and 64 miflsing :
total, 616. Eetuming from over-
looking this affair, Oten. McClellan
telegraphed to the War Department
as follows :

** Several contrabands, just in, give infor-
mation confirming the supposition that
Jackson^s advance is at or near Hanover
Oourt House, and that Beauregard arrived,
with strong rSenforcements, in Richmond
yesterday. I mcline to think that Jackson
will attack my right and rear. The Rebel
force is stated at 200,000, including Jackson
and Beauregard. I shall have to contend
against vastly superior odds, if these reports
be true. But this army will do all in the
power of men to hold their position and re-
pulse any attack. I regret my great inferi-
ority in numbers, but feel that I am in no
way responsible for it, as I have not failed
to represent repeatedly the necessity of r6-
enforoements ; that this was the decisive



point, and that all the available mett&s of
the Government should be concentrated
here. I will do all that a General can do
with the splendid army I have the honor
to command ; and, if it is destroyed by over-
whelming numbers, can at least die with it
and ^are its fate. But, if the result of the
action, which will probably occur to-mor-
row, or within a short time, is a disaster,
the responsibility cannot be thrown on my
shoulders; it must rest where it belongs.
Since I commenced this, I have received
additional intelligence, confirming the sup-
position in regard to Jackson^s movements
and Beauregard^s arrival. I shall probably
be attacked to-morrow, and now go to the
other side of the Ghickahominy to arrange
for the defense on that side. I feel that
there is no use in again asking for rden-
forcements.*'

The President responded as fol-
lows: —

"WASHmoTOW, June 26, 186S.
" Your three dispatches of yesterday in
relation to the affair, ending with the state-
ment that you completely succeeded in
making your point, are very gratifying.
The later one, suggesting the probability
of your being overwhelmed by 200,000 men,
and talking of to whom the responsibility
will belong, pains me very much. I give
you all I can, and act on the presumption
that you will do the best you can with what
you have; while you continue — ungene-
rously I think — to assume that I could give
you more if I would. I have omitted— I
shall omit — no opportimity to send you r6-
enforcements whenever I can.*'



Gen, Eobert E. Lee, having suc-
ceeded to the chief command of the
Eebel army, had, in counsel with the
master spirits of the BebeUion, at
length resolved on striking a decisive
blow. To this end, reenforcements
had been quietly called in from all
available quarters, swelling the Eebel
Army of Virginia, including Jack-



Gen. McClellan at nigLt telegraphed, over bis
own signature, to the War office in Washington,
that he had acoomplished his object, had dnTen
me back for more than a mile, had silenced my
batteries, and occupied our camps, ihere is not
one word of ^ruik «h ihjt tohoie statement. When
the fight oeased at dark, I occupied the very
line my pickets had been driven fVom in the
morning ; and which I continued to bold nntU
the total rout of the Federal army on the 29th.''



"But Brig.-Gen. A. R. Wright, of Huger's di-
vision, who opposed this movement, reports
that he had 3,000 men in all, resisting not less
than 8,000 or 10,000 on our side; and adds:

<( The object of the enemy was to drive us
back from our picket-line, occupy it himself,
and thereby enable him to advance his works
several hundred yards nearer our lines.
In this, he completely foiled; and, although



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FIGHT KBAB MB

Bon'8 corps, Bummoned from the Val-
ley, to not far from 70,000 men. In
order to mask this CKmcentration,
Whiting's division, consisting of
Hood's Texas brigade and his own,
had been s^it off from Bichmond to
Jackson ; to whom also the brigade
of Lawtonhad been ordered np from
the South. When all things were
ripe, Jackson moved, by order, rapid-
ly and secretly from the Valley to
Ashland, facing oxxr extreme right,
whence he was directed to advance**
80 as to flank onr right, holding Me-
chanicsviUe. Moving on at 8 next
morning," he was directed to connect
with Gton. Branch, immediately sonth
of the CSiickahominy, who was to
crosB that stream and advance on
Mechanicsville ; while Gen. A. P.
Hill, lower down, was to cross near
Meadow Bridge so soon as Branch's
movement was discovered, and move
directly npon Mechanicsville, where
en the Bebel batteries on the south-
ern blu& of the Ohickahominy were to
open ; Longstreef s division following
in support of Hill, while D. H. Hill's in
like manner supported Jackson; thus
<mly Hnger'sandMagruder's divisions
were left in front of our left and cen-
ter, immediately before Richmond.

Jackson v^as unable to reach Ash-
land quite so soon as had been anti-
cipated ; so that A. P. Hill did not
eiosB the stream to attack us till 8
p. M.*^ His advance had been dis-
covered three hours before; so that
our pickets were called in before it,
and the regiment and battery hold-
ing Mechanicsville feU back, flghtiog,
9n a ttnmg position across Beaver
Dam creek. Here Chn. McOall's
PenBsylvama Beserves, which had
leoentiy been sent down to reenforce



OHANIOSVILLK. 153

McClellan, and had never till now
been in action, were strongly posted
on advantageous ground, supported
by Morell's division and Sykes's
regulars, the whole forming Fitz-John
Porter's corps of about 37,000 mm.



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mOHAHIOBTXLIJL



Advancing rapidly and resolutely,
in ihe face of a destructive fire, which
they could not effectively return, the
leading brigades of A. P. Hill's, and
ultimately of D. H. Hill's and Long-
street's divisions, attacked our posi-
tion and attempted to turn our left,
but were repulsed with fearful car-
nage. Jackson being vainly expect-
ed to arrive and assail our right, it
was not turned ; and night fell on a
decided and animating success of our
mainly green soldiers, though the
fighting did not cease tiU aft^ dark,
and the Bebels renoained in force not
far from our front. Our total loss in



"JuiwM.



"June 26.

\



•* June 26.



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154



THB AHEBIOAN OONFLICT.



this affair liad been lees tlian 400;
while that of the Rebels must have
been many times lai^er ; and when,
near the close of the battle, fresh
troops came np to relieve the exult-
ing Seserves, they refused to give
place, but, replenishing their anmiu-
nition, lay down on their arms to
await the encounter of the morrow.

Before daylight,'* however, an or-
der from Gen. McClellan (who had
learned, meantime, that Jackson was
approaching) directed the evacuation
of their strong position, and a retreat
to Gaines's Mill — ^an order easy of
execution had it arrived three or four
hours earlier, but very difficult now,
as the Eebel attack was renewed a
few minutes afterward. The Rebels
were repulsed, however, though our
men were retiring at the time ;
Meade's, Griffin's, Reynolds's, and
Morell's commands moving steadily
off the field as if on parade; our dead
all buried, our wounded and arms
brought away, with the loss of no
caisson, hardly of a musket, by a lit-
tle after 7 a. m. ; leaving the Rebels
unaware for the moment that there
was no longer an enemy before them.
Before noon, each r^ment and bat-
tery had taken up the new position
assigned it, af Gaines's Mill, and
was ready to receive the now eagerly
advancing Rebels. Meantime, our
trains and siege-guns had, by order,
been sent off across the Ghickahomi-
ny during the night.

Gen. McClellan had been" with
Fitz-John Porter, behind the Me-
chanicsville defenses, at 10 p. h. — an
hour after the triumphant and san-
guinary repulse of iheir assailants.
Four hours later, he sent orders for
their prompt evacuation. This he



must have done under the correct
impression that they were about to
be overwhelmingly assailed in front
by the Hills and Longstreet, and in
flank by the yet fi'esh division of
Jackson. In other words, it was
now plain that the Rebel chieis had
resolved to precipitate the bulk of
their force on our right wing, crush-
ing it back on our center by the sheer
momentum of their columns.

This striking a great army on onQ
end, and rolling it up on itself in inex-
tricable confusion, carnage, and rout,
is no novelty in warfare. The Allied
Emperors tried it on Napoleon at
Austerlitz ; our strategists attempted
it on the Rebels at first Bull Bun.
It is a critical manoeuver; but likely
to succeed, provided your antagonist
passively awaits its consummation.
("Hunting the tiger, gentlemen,''
explained the returned East Indian
to his associates at the United Service
Club, "is capital sport — capital —
unless the tiger turns to hunt you;
when it becomes rather too exciting.'')

Gen. McClellan, as usual, believed
the Rebels were assailing or threaten-
ing him with twice as many men as
they had, supposing them to have
178,000 to 200,000 troops in his fit)nt;
when they never, from the banning
to the end of the war, had so mfmy
as 100,000 effectives concentrated in
a single army, or within a day's
march* Even had he been outnum-
bered, as he supposed, by a Rebel
force on either flank nearly or quitp
equal to his whole army, he should
have quietly and rapidly concen'
trated, and struck one of those assait
ants before it could be supported by
the other. Had he chosen thus to
rush upon Richmond, on the morning



* June 27.



*Jiiiie2e.



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BATTLE 07 GAINES'S MILL.



155



of the 36th, directing Porter to make
as imposing a demonstration and de-
tain tixe enemy as long as he could/
then to withdraw across the Ohickar
hominy with the least possible loss,
bum the bridges, and defend the pas-
sage till night«fall, he might have
gone right over the 25,000 Rebels
between him and Richmond, taken
that citj, and then tnmed in over-
whelming force on the 50,000 Rebels
in his rear, pressinjg Porter. But,
deceived and faint-hearted, he stood
perplexed and hesitating between
the real and overwhelming attack
on his right and the imposing but
faolloW succession of feints and alarms
on his left, letting two-thirds of Lee's
entire force crush one-third of his
own, while 60,000 good men and
true stood idle between the Chickar
hominy and Richmond, watching
and guarding against 25,000 Rebels.
Only Slocum's division of Sumner's
corps was seasonably sent to the aid
of Porter, raising his total force to
barely 35,000 men, who were to
resist the desperate efforts of 50,000
Rebels^ directed by Lee, and led on
to assault our position by Longstreet,
the Hills, Stonewall Jackson, and
EwelL

Though the Rebels had quickly
discerned and sharply pursued our
withdrawal from the MechanicsviUe
defenses, arriviog in front of our new
position soon after noon," it was
i T. n. before A. P. Hill, whb
had been awaiting Jackson's arrival,
advanced and opened the battle.
The Rebels were received with heroic
bravery by Sykes's r^ulars, who
confronted them, by whose fire they
were staggered and temporarily re-
pulsed. Meantime, Longstreet, who



had been ordered to make a feint on
our left, had perceived the necessity
of converting that feint into a deter-
miaed attack; but, before his dispo-
sitions had been completed, Jackson
arrived and formed his division on
Longstreet's left; while D. H. Hill,
on the extreme Rebel left, had forced
his way through a swamp and some
abatis, driving out our skirmishers;
and now Ewell came into action on
Jackson's right, and two of Jackson's
brigades were sent to the relief of A.
P. Hill, who was being worsted.
Lee's whole force being thus brought
into action, a general advance from
left to right was ordered and made,
under a terrific fii:e of cannon and
musketry from both sides.

Porter had a strong position, on
ground rising gradually from the
ravine of an inconsiderable stream,
screened in part by trees and under-
brush, with Morell's and Sykes's
divisions in front, and McCall's
forming a second line behind them ;
and his cavalry, under P. St. George
Cooke, in the valley of the Chicka-
hominy, watering for a Rebel ad-
vance in that quarter. The siege-
guns of Porter's corps, which had
been withdrawn across th^ Chicka-
hominy during the night, were
planted in battery on the right bank
of that stream, so as to' check the ad-
vance of the Rebel right, and prevent
their turning our left. Porter was
unaccountably in -fcrant of axes, where-
with to cover his front and right with
abatis ; his request for them to Gen.
Barnard not reaching McClellan till '
too late. When he neict called, they
were ftimished, but without helves /
and, while these were being supplied,
the opportunity for using axes was



«june 27.



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156



THB AMBBIOAK OOKFLIOT.



lost HiB first call on McCldlan for
reenforcementB likewise miscarried.
His next was made at 2 p. il ; when
Slocnm's division^of the 6th corps,
was ordered to his support, arriving
on the field at 3:30, after our position
had been assailed in force at every
point, and after McCaH's division had
been ordered up to support our sorely



pressed front So urgent and instant
was the pressure, that Slocum's divi-
sion had to be divided and sent by
brigades, and even regiments, to the
points where the need of aid seemed
greatest ; BaAlett's brigade going to
the help of Sykes on^ur right, while^^
a portion of Newton's was sent in
between Morell and Sykes.




«AnnnM kill.



HoreU'sDiT.-



SykM^sDlT.



HoCUTiDiT.



A Butterfleld^s
B Martindftle's
G 6rtfrin*8
D Q. a Wirren'i
E H. Cbapmftn's
F L T. Bnoliuuui^t
K Meade's
L Seyiftoar's
M Kejnoldft't
N C^rilpy.



Brlgada



Art R«aiirve. i ^ Robertson^ Battery.

Bartlett'8 brigade of Slocum's division. Frsnkltn*!
oorps in reserre; Taylor's and Newton's brigades belaf
distributed on weak points of the line.

First line was held as shown, I^obi hood to S p. <«
when the Reserves were moved np to sustain it Geo.
81ocam*s division srrived about U p. k. The whole
lino retired to tho high ground in the rear abool
7 p.m.



(Jen. Beynolds, with one brigade
of McCall's Pennsylvania Reserves,
having reached the front and repelled
the enemy immediately before him,
hearing the noise ot a terrific contest
on his left, moved immediately to the
point where his assistance seemed ne-
cessary. And thus the battle raged



for hours ; repeated charges on our
lines being repidsed ; but fresh brig-
ades advancing promptly to replace
those which had been hurled back,
until our wasted regiments, having
exhausted their ammunition, wero
obliged to retire and replenish it
At 5 p. M., Porter, though he had



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POETBB DBPEATBD AT aAINBS'S MILL.



15T



lost little gronnd, tel^raphed again
to McClellan that his poBition was
critical, when French's and Meagher^s
brigades of the 2d corps were ordered
to cross to his support. They moved
promptly and rapidly; bnt, before
they could reach the field, the
Bebels, rallying all their forces, just
at sunset, for a last desperate effort,
had stormed our intrenchments both
on the left and on the right, and
driven back their defenders with
mutual carnage, capturing several of
our guns.

Porter, seeing his infantry beaten,
now called into action all his reserved
and remaining artillery, and thus
bringing at once about 80 guns into
action, was covering the retreat of
his infantry and dealing fearful retri-
bution on their assailants, whose ad-
Tttttce was suddenly checked ; when
Gen. Cooke, without orders, under-
took to charge, with a battalion of
cavalry, the right flank of the Eebels
advancing on our left, and still
covered in good part by woods. This
ehai^ being met by a withering fire



Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 21 of 113)