previous next

[106] would not be able to arrive in time to succor it, so that the defeat of the previous day might turn out to be only the prelude to a brilliant success. His lieutenants, however, Heintzelman especially, opposed this project, and found no difficulty in diverting his attention from it. It must be acknowledged that it would have been a desperate undertaking; for the condition of the army was such that, so far from justifying any rash movenent, it imposed upon its chief the duty of sacrificing the most tempting combinations to the dictates of prudence. The day before, while Porter was keeping the largest portion of Lee's army engaged at Gaines' Mill, it might have been possible to concentrate the rest of the Federal army, and thus penetrate into Richmond. But the propitious hour had passed. That portion of the army which had just fought at Gaines' Mill had suffered too severely to be able to resume hostilities on the following day. All that Lee would have had to do in order to oppose this bold movement would have been to recross the Chickahominy near the field of battle, and fall upon the flank of the Federals, if they had come out of their entrenchments. Moreover, as usual, the Confederate forces were exaggerated in the councils of McClellan. But let us ask, Did this plan, the failure of which would have involved the destruction of the whole army, offer any tangible and lasting advantages in the event of success? Once master of Richmond, McClellan would soon have been besieged in turn by the conquerors of Gaines' Mill; he would thereby have sacrificed his communications by way of the White House, without having been able to secure a new base of operations on the James, the navigation of which above City Point could easily have been closed by the enemy's batteries placed on the right bank.

In these circumstances, even the capture of the enemy's capital would only have aggravated, by retarding for a few days, the dangers which threatened the army of the Potomac.

The retreat was decided on; the first siege of Richmond was raised.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Gaines Mill (Virginia, United States) (3)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
McClellan (2)
R. E. Lee (2)
Fitzjohn Porter (1)
Heintzelman (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: