Peninsula Campaign Map
The Seven Days Battle
American Civil War
March to July 1862
When Union General McClellan reached the peninsula in early April he found a force of ten to fifteen thousand Confederates under Major General John B. Magruder barring his path to Richmond. Magruder, a student of drama and master of deception, so dazzled McClellan that instead of brushing the Confederates aside he spent a month in a siege of Yorktown. But General Joseph Johnston CSA, who wanted to fight the decisive action closer to Richmond, decided to withdraw slowly up the peninsula. At Williamsburg, on May 5, McClellans advance elements made contact with the Confederate rear guard under General James Longstreet, who successfully delayed the Federal advance. McClellan again pursued in leisurely fashion, always believing that he was outnumbered and about to be attacked in overwhelming force by Johnston. By May 25 two corps of the Army of the Potomac had turned southwest toward Richmond and crossed the sluggish Chickahominy River. The remaining three corps were on the north side of the stream with the expectation of making contact with McDowell, who would come down from Fredericksburg. Men of the two corps south of the river could see the spires of the Confederate capital, but Johnston’s army was in front of them.
Drenching rains on May 30 raised the Chickahominy to flood stage and seriously divided McClellan’s army. Johnston decided to grasp this chance to defeat the Federals in detail. He struck on May 31 near Fair Oaks. His plans called for his whole force to concentrate against the isolated corps south of the river, but his staff and subordinate commanders were not up to the task of executing them. Assaulting columns became confused, and attacks were delivered piecemeal. The Federals, after some initial reverses, held their ground and bloodily repulsed the Confederates.
When Johnston suffered a severe wound at Fair Oaks, President Davis replaced him with General Lee. Lee for his part had no intention of defending Richmond passively. The city’s fortifications would enable him to protect Richmond with a relatively small force while he used the main body of his army offensively in an attempt to cut off and destroy the Army of the Potomac. He ordered Jackson back from the Shenandoah Valley with all possible speed.
The Union Invasion of Virginia March to July 1862 (part 1 of 3)
McClellan had planned to use his superior artillery to break through the Richmond defenses, but Lee struck the Union Army before it could resume the advance. Lees dispositions for the Battle of Mechanicsville on June 26 present a good illustration of the principles of mass and economy of force. On the north side of the Chickahominy, he concentrated 65,000 men to oppose Brig. Gen. Fitz-John Porters V Corps of 30,000. Only 25,000 were left before Richmond to contain the remainder of the Union Army. When Lee attacked, his timing and coordination were not yet refined. Jackson of all people seemed lethargic and moved slowly; and the V Corps defended stoutly during the day. McClellan thereupon withdrew the V Corps southeast to a stronger position at Gaines Mill. Porters men constructed light barricades and made ready. Lee massed 57,000 men and assaulted 34,000 Federals on June 27. The fighting was severe, but numbers told and the Federal line broke. Darkness fell before Lee could exploit his advantage, and McClellan took the opportunity to regroup Porters men with the main army south of the Chickahominy. continued below map
The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide
Virginia was host to nearly 1/3rd of all Civil War engagements. This guide covers them all like a mini-history of the war. This guide organizes battles chronologically. Each campaign has a detailed overview, followed by concise descriptions of the individual engagements
At this point McClellan yielded the initiative to Lee. With his line of communications to White House, his supply base on the York River, cut and with the James River open to the U.S. Navy, the Union commander decided to shift his base to Harrison’s Landing on the south side of the peninsula. His rear areas had been particularly shaky since Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart had ridden completely around the Union Army in a daring raid in early June. The intricate retreat to the James, which involved 90,000 men, the artillery train, 3,100 wagons, and 2,500 head of cattle, began on the night of June 27 and was accomplished by using two roads. Lee tried to hinder the movement but was held off by Federal rear guards at Savage Station on June 29 and at Frayser’s Farm (Glendale) on the last day of the month..
By the first day of July McClellan had concentrated the Army of the Potomac on a commanding plateau at Malvern Hill, northwest of Harrison’s Landing. The location was strong, with clear fields of fire to the front and the flanks secured by streams. Massed artillery could sweep all approaches, and gunboats on the river were ready to provide fire support. The Confederates would have to attack by passing through broken and wooded terrain, traversing swampy ground, and ascending the hill. At first Lee felt McClellan’s position was too strong to assault. Then, at 3:00 P.M. on July 1, when a shifting of Federal troops deceived him into thinking there was a general withdrawal, he changed his mind and attacked. Again staff work and control were poor. The assaults, all frontal, were delivered piecemeal by only part of the army against Union artillery, massed hub to hub, and supporting infantry. The Confederate formations were shattered, costing Lee some 5,500 men. On the following day the Army of the Potomac fell back to Harrison’s Landing and dug in. After reconnoitering McClellan’s position, Lee ordered his exhausted men back to the Richmond lines for rest and reorganization. His attacks, while costly, had saved Richmond for the Confederacy.
The Peninsula Campaign cost the Union Army 15,849 men killed, wounded, and missing. The Confederates, who had done most of the attacking, lost more: 20,614. Improvement in the training and discipline of both armies since the disorganized fight at Bull Run was notable. But just as significant was the fact that higher commanders had not yet thoroughly mastered their jobs. Except in McClellan’s defensive action at Malvern Hill, which was largely conducted by his corps commanders, neither side’s higher command had been able to bring an entire army into coordinated action.
Echoes of Thunder
A Guide to the Seven Days Battles
This is a valuable and welcome addition to this series of battlefield guides. This book will provide you with a guide on the field or it will supplement reading about the American Civil War battle of The Seven Days.
From Manassas to Appomattox: General James Longstreet
According to some, he was partially to blame for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg; according to others, if Lee had followed Longstreet's advice, they would have won that battle. He has been called stubborn and vain; and he has been lauded as one of the greatest tacticians of the Civil War
Joseph E. Johnston and the Defense of Richmond
The high-level conferences in Richmond to set strategy and the relationship of the Peninsula campaign to operations in the Shenandoah Valley and the western Confederacy. What emerges is a portrait of a general who was much more complex in thought and action than even his advocates have argued
This work was fascinating to read and was neither over dramatic or under written. The stories were lively and interesting and the additon of old photos and draqwings helped fill out the book.
To The Gates of Richmond
The Peninsula Campaign
For three months General McClellan battled his way toward Richmond, but then CSA General Lee took command of the Confederate forces. In seven days, Lee drove the cautious McClellan out, thereby changing the course of the war
McClellan's Own Story
Born in Philadelphia on December 3, 1826, George B. McClellan graduated from West Point in 1846 before serving in the Mexican War. At the start of the Civil War, McClellan was put in a position of leadership and after a successful campaign in Virginia he was given command of the Army of Potomac, one of the Union's strongest armies. He led the Peninsular campaign with almost 100,000 troops under his command. marching toward Richmond.
Robert E. Lee
This book not only offers concise detail but also gives terrific insight into the state of the Union and Confederacy during Lee's life. Lee was truly a one of kind gentleman and American, and had Virginia not been in the south or neutral, he ultimately would have led the Union forces.
Four Years With General Lee
Walter Taylor was staff officer to General Robert E. Lee. His book first appeared in 1877. For many years a standard authority on Confederate history, it is the source for dozens of incidents that have now become a part of every biography of Lee.
The Civil War Papers Of George B. Mcclellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865
General-in-chief of the entire Union army at one point, he led the Army of the Potomac through the disaster at Antietam Creek, was subsequently dismissed by Lincoln, and then ran against him in the 1864 presidential campaign. This collection of McClellan's candid letters about himself, his motivations, and his intentions
Civil War A Nation Divided
Rally the troops and organize a counterattack -- Your strategic decision and talent as a commander will decide if the Union is preserved or if Dixie wins its independence
Sid Meier's Civil War Collection
Take command of either Confederate or Union troops and command them to attack from the trees, rally around the general, or do any number of other realistic military actions. The AI reacts to your commands as if it was a real Civil War general, and offers infinite replayability. The random-scenario generator provides endless variations on the battles
History Channel Civil War
There are about a half-dozen different small arms types, but the Henry is the best for rapid repeating fire and least reloading. The shotgun they give you is useless: you must aim spot-on to affect an enemy, so why not just use the rifle? Grenades are useful at times.
Robert E. Lee: Civil War General
The game comes with two types of battles to choose from, 45 historical battles and more than 100 alternative ones. The alternative ones are usually smaller versions of the historical ones. Of great interest is the way the game handles campaigns. Not only does it string together varying numbers of individual scenarios but puts the emphasis on how well or poorly your army performs during battle
Sources: United States Military Academy
Library of Congress
National Park Service