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Book I:—Richmond.


Chapter 1:

Williamsburg.

WE concluded the former volume with the narrative of the first year of the war, having brought down our review of the campaigns which were being prosecuted in the East and West to within a few days of the anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Those campaigns were but the prelude to the far more extensive operations and sanguinary conflicts which we are about to relate.

We shall begin by speaking of the army of the Potomac, of which we have described the slow formation during the autumn and winter of 1861, and of its first movements in the spring of 1862. Whilst the armies of the West have already overrun several States and fought great battles, the former has not yet had an opportunity to seek revenge from the conquerors of Bull Run. In the last chapters of the preceding volume the reader has seen the difficulties of every kind which embarrassed its movements, prevented it from taking the field at an earlier day, and jeopardized the success of the plan of operations so happily conceived by its chief. Nevertheless, after the unlooked — for evacuation of Manassas by the Confederates, after the combats which kept in the valley of Virginia troops that would have been more useful elsewhere, after Mr. Lincoln's interference in reducing his force to strengthen the [2] garrison of Washington, that army finally embarked at Alexandria, in the last days of March, for the great expedition which was to transfer the seat of war to the vicinity of the enemy's capital; and General McClellan, when he landed upon the peninsula of Virginia, notwithstanding all these drawbacks, had still a fine army under his command—a numerous army, however imprudently reduced, composed of ardent, vigorous, brave, and intelligent men, although without experience. Recruited among all classes of society, the ranks of this army contained many men of military ability, as yet unknown to the world, and even to themselves, some of whom were about to be sacrificed before they could have a chance of asserting their full worth, whilst others were to be called to direct its long and painful labors. Consequently, despite the mistakes of the government, this army could hope to run a brilliant career upon the ground, classic in the history of the United States, where it was at last to encounter the élite of the slavery troops. It was, in fact, in the peninsula where the soldiers of Washington and Rochambeau completed the glorious work of American emancipation. It was around Yorktown, already made celebrated by the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis, that the army of the Potomac was about to fight its first battles; and if it may be permitted to an obscure member of that army to indulge here in a personal reflection, it was the remembrance of the victory achieved by France and America conjointly upon this very soil which caused a throb in the heart of the exiles so generously received under the shadow of the flag of the young republic.

Notwithstanding the historical associations which cluster around it, this locality was but little known; and in view of its peculiar configuration, we deem a detailed description necessary to a proper understanding of the operations we are about to relate. Fortress Monroe, situated at the extremity of the peninsula, lies one hundred and fifteen kilometres from Richmond, in a direct line. The route which the army of the Potomac had to follow was all laid down; it stretched out, bounded on the south by the James River—which is a river (fleuve) at Richmond, and a vast estuary at Newport News—and at the north, first by an arm of the sea called York River, and then by the Pamunky, its principal tributary. The region lying between these water-courses may be [3] divided into two parts: The first, by far the more important, forms a real peninsula between the salt tide-waters which ascend York River as far as West Point, and the James beyond City Point. This flat country, which is both sandy and marshy, intersected by countless bays, extremely wooded, poor, and thinly peopled, forms the peninsula of Virginia. The second, extending, between the Pamunky and the James proper, to a distance far above Richmond, very undulating, covered with magnificent forests, a little better cultivated than the former, and enlivened here and there by the residences of a few wealthy planters, is divided longitudinally by the Chickahominy, a river rendered famous in the annals of American colonization by the romantic adventures of the traveller John Smith and the Indian maid Pocahontas. This water-course, of little importance from its ordinary volume of water, flows through wooded swamps, where impenetrable thickets alternate with groves of tall white oak, a tree admirably adapted for naval construction, the feet of which are buried in the ooze, while the trunks, as straight as the mast of a ship, rise to extraordinary heights. After a rain-storm, the Chickahominy not only overflows its wooded banks, but, spreading over the adjacent plains, forms a sheet of water which at times is a kilometre in width. This, therefore, was a formidable obstacle in the way of military operations. The river runs parallel with the Pamunky, and cutting off a corner of the peninsula, empties into the estuary of the James at an equal distance from City Point and Newport News. The James on one side, the York River and the Pamunky on the other, form two magnificent lines of communication. The former is navigable as far as Richmond, but the Virginia debarred the Federals from using it. The latter may be ascended as far as White House, a plantation which had formerly belonged to Washington, and was now the property of General Lee. But at the entrance of York River, the two banks of this arm of the sea draw closer, forming a strait commanded by the guns of Yorktown, and batteries erected opposite, at Gloucester Point. Hence the importance which has always attached to the little place of Yorktown, around which some slight undulations covered with rich turf still indicate the trace of the parallel thrown up by the French and American [4] soldiers in 1781. The peninsula itself upon which Yorktown stands is narrowed by a swampy stream, Warwick Creek, which, taking its rise at less than two kilometres from the old bastions of this town, empties into the James perpendicularly to its course. It was here that nature had marked out for the Confederates their true line of defence. Having control of James River, thanks to the Virginia, and of York River, owing to the batteries of Gloucester Point, they could not be turned by the Federal navy. The two rivers supplied them with provisions, instead of furnishing the means of attack to their adversaries, and so long as they preserved the line of Warwick Creek, Yorktown could not be invested. All these points, therefore, supported each other mutually. Thirty-two kilometres separated Yorktown from Fort Monroe. Sixteen kilometres farther, another contraction of the peninsula occurs, even narrower than that caused by Warwick Creek, formed by two streams called College Creek and Queen's Creek; one running toward the James, the other toward York River. Near this place stands the oldest university in America, William and Mary College, founded during the reign of William the Third, the spacious buildings of which, of red and gray brick, together with the court-yards and pavilions, remind one of the English edifices of the eighteenth century, and have an air of antiquity seldom met with in the New World. Around the university is grouped the pretty little town of Williamsburg, the houses of which are surrounded by gardens and shaded by beautiful trees. It was for a time the capital of the colony, when Virginia was richer and had a larger population than at the present day.

Between Fort Monroe and Richmond there is but a single line of railway, which, starting from the latter city, crosses the upper Chickahominy, then the Pamunky at White House, and terminates at West Point, where the latter river and the Mattapony both empty into the salt waters of York River.

Such was the new ground upon which the army of the Potomac was about to fight. The transportation of this army was a difficult task, and was accomplished in a remarkable manner. The first vessels were chartered on the 27th of February; on the 17th of March the first soldier was embarked; and on the 6th [5] of April, all the troops which had not been withdrawn from General McClellan's command were landed upon the peninsula. During this short period of time, four hundred ships, steamers, and sailing vessels, had been collected and taken to Alexandria, and had transported a distance of eighty leagues, 109,419 men, 14,502 animals, 44 batteries, with all the immense materiel which generally follows such an army, leaving nothing behind them except nine stranded lighters and eight drowned mules.

McClellan had not waited for the end of this operation to take the field. Out of the one hundred thousand men, or thereabouts, he was to have under his command,1he found on the day of his arrival fifty-eight thousand, accompanied with one hundred cannon, in a condition to march. The remainder had either not landed or were without the necessary transportation to take part in a forward movement. Many teams were yet wanting for the numerous wagons, without which troops could not venture among the marshy roads which they were to encounter.

The army was put in motion on the 4th of April, and arrived before Yorktown and Warwick Creek the next day without having seen the enemy. The latter had hastily abandoned the few works erected at Big Bethel, in the firm belief that the Federals, who had control of the sea as far as Yorktown, could easily turn all those defences. This first march was not accomplished without some difficulty. The roads were in a deplorable condition. The maps were bad, which was even worse than not having any. They had relied upon those which the officers stationed at Fortress Monroe had taken all winter to prepare, and the several columns, thus misled by false information, could hardly preserve their order of march. Deceived by these incorrect charts as to the direction of [6] Warwick Creek, General McClellan was led to believe that Yorktown could be easily invested. On the 5th, when his right wing appeared before that place, his left encountered the unforeseen obstacle which imparted so much strength to the position of the Confederates. The latter, under General Magruder, had long been preparing for the defence of the peninsula. The fortifications erected by Lord Cornwallis around Yorktown in 1781, within which he had defended himself with a tenacity worthy of the English army, were still in existence. These works were not revetted with masonry, but their profile was considerable. They had been put in order, enlarged, and completed. They were mounted with fifty-six guns, some of very heavy calibre. Batteries had been erected, some along the water's edge and others on the hillocks commanding the river, all of which crossed their fire with that of a large redoubt occupying the sandy promontory of Gloucester Point.

The bastioned fortifications of Yorktown completely enclosed that small town. The line of Warwick Creek which Magruder had selected at the last moment was not so well fortified by art as by nature. The source of this brook lies at twenty-four hundred metres from the bastions of Yorktown, the space between these two points (for the most part open country) being commanded by a lunette, a few breastworks, and an unfinished redoubt. The course of Warwick Creek is bordered throughout by dense forests, through which wind tortuous roads difficult to find, laid out on a spongy and broken soil. The upper part of this stream is slow and muddy, about twenty metres in breadth, with marshy banks, and commanded on both sides by slight undulations in the ground. It was intersected by five dams, two of which were formerly used to collect the water for milling purposes, the three others having been constructed by Magruder. They produced, by retaining the waters, an artificial inundation, which is the best of all defences. In the rear of each of these dams, the only accessible points to an assailant, rose a small redan. The lower part of the Warwick, subject to the influence of the tide, was surrounded by a triple enclosure of hardened mud, impenetrable canebrakes, and swampy forests, which forbade approach even to the boldest hunter. This line presented all those peculiarities which render offensive war so difficult in America; [7] but Magruder was not in a condition to dispute its possession for any length of time with the powerful army which had at length encountered his pickets on the 5th of April. The division with which he had been charged to protect the peninsula since the preceding autumn numbered only eleven thousand men. The military authorities of the Confederacy had not guessed or known in advance, as it was pretended at the time, the change of base of the army of the Potomac, or they were singularly careless and improvident, for after McClellan had embarked the greatest portion of his troops at Alexandria, Johnston with all his forces was still waiting for him on the Rapidan. Disturbed by the same fears which had beset Mr. Lincoln, the cabinet of Mr. Davis dared no more than he to uncover their capital; so that on the arrival of McClellan before Yorktown with his fifty-eight thousand men, not a single soldier had as yet been sent to reinforce Magruder. These facts, which have been officially proved since the close of the war, afford the most conclusive evidence in favor of the plan which the commander-in-chief of the army of the Potomac had undertaken to carry out. If the line of defence selected by Magruder was naturally strong, it was too much extended, since the Confederate general had only eleven thousand soldiers to occupy about twenty kilometres. He had placed six thousand men at Gloucester Point and at Yorktown, and in a small work situated on the James, so that he had only five thousand left to defend the whole course of Warwick Creek. Consequently, the Richmond authorities, being fully convinced that he would not be able to maintain himself in that position, sent him a formal order to evacuate Yorktown and to abandon the entire peninsula. But Magruder's obstinacy was proverbial among his old comrades. He refused to obey, and prepared to resist the enemy by placing his troops near the dams and among the few clearings adjacent to the stream, so as to deceive the Federals regarding his real strength. The latter, being received by a well-sustained fire on their appearance, imagined themselves confronted by the skirmishers of an army concealed by the forest; and General Keyes, commanding a column of more than twenty-five thousand men which had thus unexpectedly encountered Warwick Creek, did not consider himself strong enough to force a passage. General [8] McClellan, equally deceived by appearances, thought he had again found behind those mysterious forests the Confederate army which had evacuated Manassas one month before, and did not dare to thrust his sword through the slight curtain which his able adversary had spread before his vision. A vigorous attack upon either of the dams, defended by insignificant works, would have had every chance of success. The enemy could have been kept in suspense by several feints; there were men enough to attempt three or four principal attacks at once; it was easy, in short, to harass him in such a manner that his line of defence would inevitably have been pierced at the expiration of twenty-four hours. In that case Magruder would have paid dear for his audacious resolution, the defenders of Warwick Creek would have been scattered, and Yorktown invested on every side. This place could have been masked until a vigorous bombardment should have compelled it to surrender, and by pressing Magruder close, the whole peninsula would have fallen into the possession of the Federals in a few days. This is what General McClellan would not have failed to do if he had known the situation of his adversaries as their published reports have revealed it since. But at that critical moment no information was received either from spies or from other sources to convey to him the faintest idea of their weakness. The line of defence they had adopted rendered it impossible for him to feel his way before assaulting them seriously. He could not compel them to show themselves except by crossing the narrow dams which intersected Warwick Creek. To attempt this operation he had deemed it proper to wait for the arrival of McDowell's three divisions, which were to turn the enemy's line by the left flank of York River. But on the very evening he reconnoitred the positions of his adversaries he was apprised of the deplorable decision by which the President withdrew from him this entire army corps. An independent command, comprising Fort Monroe and the very country in which the army of the Potomac was then operating, had been created a short time before in favor of General Wool. Finally, the naval force which had been relied upon to assist in the attack on the batteries of Yorktown declared that the necessity of keeping a watch over the Virginia did not permit the detachment of a sufficient number of vessels for that service. This [9] was, indeed, a succession of disappointments, and at a time when it was too late to draw back. It may be urged that this should have been considered as an additional reason for hastening operations, as the chance of obtaining an important success was well worth the risk that might be incurred. The army needed a daring stroke (coup d'audace). Its morale would have suffered less from a sanguinary check than from the fruitless fatigues of a prolonged siege; such a success, in short, would have secured to General McClellan the efficient co-operation of his government. But he would not compromise the young army entrusted to his care in an enterprise which he considered too hazardous. Thinking that the national cause could endure delays and slow movements, but not such another disaster as that of Bull Run, he preferred to rely upon the superiority of his artillery in order to dislodge the enemy from his lines.

The Confederates, always under arms, exhausted by continnous service, did not understand what could delay an attack the issue of which they had such good cause to dread. In the mean time, behind the trees which limited their view, on the southern bank of the Warwick, the whole Federal army was at work, erecting batteries and constructing long solid corduroy causeways through the marshy forests, to make a practicable passage for cannon. But the time which was thus spent was entirely to the advantage of the Confederates. In fact, Magruder's disobedience had been at once acquiesced in. Johnston, leaving the large Federal garrison of Washington to prepare for imaginary combats, quitted the borders of the Rapidan, sending a portion of his forces into the peninsula, while he concentrated himself with the remainder around Richmond.

Some regiments, assembled in haste, had already been forwarded to Yorktown, and Magruder had begun to receive his first reinforcements two days after the arrival of the Federals before that place. When, therefore, after eleven days of reconnaissances and preparatory labors, McClellan determined at last to attack him, his forces were doubled, and his line of defence completed. The numerical disproportion between the two parties, however, was nearly as great as before; for the one hundred thousand men embarked at Alexandria were at last assembled on the narrow extremity [10] of the peninsula, and the President had just informed General McClellan that one of the divisions of McDowell's corps was restored to him; this was Franklin's division, which had been earnestly asked for, and granted as a kind of compromise between the various campaign plans which had been urged upon the acceptance of Mr. Lincoln.

On the 16th of April General McClellan decided to attack the one of the three dams constructed by the enemy which was the lowest on Warwick Creek. Situated at a distance of about one thousand metres above Lee's Mills, it formed the centre and, according to the avowal of the Confederates, the weakest point of their line. A general cannonade was opened, from Yorktown to Lee's Mills, so as not to draw the enemy's attention exclusively to the point where it was intended to begin by silencing his artillery. But instead of making the assault immediately after, the cannonade was prolonged for six hours, and thus Magruder was given ample time to prepare for defence wherever he might be menaced. At last, towards four o'clock, four companies of the Third Vermont, supported by the fire of twenty-two cannon which had already dismounted two of the three guns in the enemy's work, bravely rushed to the assault of that work. The Federals, crossing Warwick Creek with great boldness below the dam, took possession of the breastworks which commanded it, after an engagement in which they put to flight two regiments of the enemy, the Fifteenth North Carolina and the Sixteenth Georgia. The most difficult part of the task was accomplished, a foothold having been obtained on the other side of the creek; all that remained to be done was to take advantage of the surprise of the enemy to push regiment after regiment as rapidly as possible across the ford, to pass beyond the breastworks, to take possession of the redoubt, and thus to pierce the enemy's line; but the generals of various grades who had organized this demonstration had failed to agree beforehand as to the importance it was to assume, and much precious time was lost.

For an hour the foremost assailants exhausted themselves without receiving any other reinforcement than five or six hundred men of the Fourth and Sixth Vermont. The enemy took advantage of this delay to mass all his available forces upon the point menaced: that [11] is to say, more than two divisions. The small body of Federal troops could not attack the redoubt, where the Confederates were increasing in number at every instant, but they made a stubborn defence in the breastworks they had conquered. Being finally overwhelmed by numbers, they were obliged to retire, and recross the river after losing more than two hundred in killed and wounded.

Although the Confederates were in a much better condition to repulse that attack on the 16th of April than they would have been on the 6th or the 7th, still, if the Federals had followed up the success of the Third Vermont, they would probably have pierced the line of Warwick Creek, and compelled Magruder to fight, without any point of support, the forty thousand men they could have massed on that strip of land.

This unfortunate affair produced a sad impression on the mind of the soldiers who had seen their comrades sacrificed without any orders being given to go to their assistance. It was moreover the signal for new delays. On the following day, General McClellan decided to resort to the sure but slow means of a regular siege. The surroundings of Yorktown alone afforded means of approach well adapted for this kind of attack; and on the 17th of April, the first parallel was opened at the head of a ravine situated about two thousand metres from one of the bastions. The inventive and laborious genius of the Americans had there an opportunity to signalize itself. The whole army set to work to cut roads, to construct bridges, to prepare places d'armes, to establish wharves, to dig trenches, and to erect batteries. Nothing was to be seen except manufactures of gabions and fascines. The siege equipage was landed, by dint of patience and exertion; cannon weighing as much as 10,000 kilogrammes, and thirteen-inch mortars, were placed in position. These immense labors, superintended in detail by the general-in-chief, who gave himself up entirely to his old specialty as an engineer officer, were prosecuted with the greatest activity. The woods and some undulations in the ground concealed them from the Confederates, whose shells, thrown at random, generally passed above the workmen, shattering the tall trees of the forest in their career.2 Nevertheless, in spite of all their diligence, the time was passing away, precious [12] time for military operations, for the winter rains were over, and the great summer heat had not yet set in. The army was impatiently waiting for the moment when all the guns which had been placed in position with so much trouble should finally break the silence, and, crushing the enemy with their fire, compel him to a precipitate retreat. The commanders contemplated the new works which were being thrown up as if by magic along the whole Confederate line, by great gangs of negroes and soldiers; they thought of the assault which would probably follow the bombardment, and were measuring with some uneasiness the vast space of ground swept by the fire of the adversary, which their young soldiers would have to pass over.

The decisive moment was drawing near, and both sides seemed to be preparing for it with equal ardor. Indeed, the combat of Lee's Mills had fully vindicated Magruder in the councils of the President of the Confederacy, and notwithstanding the advice of Lee, his chief of staff, and of Johnston himself, who were in favor of waiting for the enemy in front of Richmond, Mr. Davis had sent the last-mentioned general into the Peninsula with all his army, where he was to hold out at least until all the valuable materiel accumulated in Norfolk could be placed in safety.

On the other hand, Franklin's division had rejoined McClellan on the 22d of April. It had at first been intended for the investment of Gloucester Point, but instead of attempting a sudden assault in that direction, McClellan had preferred to leave it for a few days on board the transports which had brought it over, in order that it might take advantage of the effect of the bombardment to ascend York River at the first signal. Everything was to be ready for the 5th of May; but the day before, at dawn, the Confederate army had disappeared: it had evacuated Yorktown during the night. This movement had been determined upon since the 30th of April, at a council of war held in Yorktown by Jefferson Davis, Lee, Johnston, and Magruder. The evacuation of Norfolk, which followed as a result, was to be effected at the same time. [13]

To ascertain the range of some one-hundred and two hundred pounders which had just been placed in position, a few projectiles had been thrown into Yorktown. The sight of the damage they had caused was a wholesome warning to the Confederate chiefs, who, knowing themselves to be on the eve of a bombardment, had no desire to wait for its effects. When this decision had been adopted, Johnston emptied his magazines, moved away his materiel and wagons, and established at the halting-places designated in his line of retreat such provisions as his army would need every evening after a rapid march. In order to conceal his movements, he had sacrificed his heavy artillery, which had kept up a continuous fire upon the besiegers to the last moment, the intensity of which had even been doubled on the evening of the 3d of May so as to deceive them more thoroughly. Seventy-one guns of various calibres were the only trophies abandoned to the Federals. The only thing which detracted from the merit of this able retreat was the commission of certain barbarous acts which the usages of war do not justify. Bombshells and infernal machines were placed in the huts and storehouses, so that they would explode under the feet of the first persons who might be drawn thither by curiosity. A few unfortunate individuals having been killed in this manner, General McClellan very properly employed the Confederate prisoners in ridding Yorktown of these dangerous snares.

When the Federal artillerists beheld the first rays of the sun lighting up the abandoned entrenchments, they felt for a moment stupefied. So much labor should at least have ended in a fight, and they had not even the satisfaction of trying those new guns from which they had expected such powerful effects. It was a serious disappointment to all. They were compensated, however, by the immediate prospect of a forward march and a campaign which promised to be thenceforth full of activity.

In evacuating Yorktown the Confederates abandoned York River to the Federals. The latter, therefore, had control of one of the flanks of the peninsula, and were able, by means of a landing, to demolish all the defences by which the enemy might have attempted to stop them between Yorktown and West Point. The army of the Potomac could not allow Johnston to escape a [14] second time, as he had already done at Manassas. It was important to overtake him at all hazards, in order if possible to turn his retreat into a rout, or at least not to allow him leisure to interpose a new barrier against the Federal army on its march upon the Confederate capital. The peninsula is so narrow that in many places the roads, which pass through it longitudinally, are merged into a single road—a road where wagons can only proceed in single file, and where, as it is impossible for more than four men to march abreast, the troops are obliged to break by the flank. To make an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men, accompanied by immense materiel, follow this single road, was a simple impossibility; the head would have reached West Point before the rear had left Yorktown; it became necessary to take advantage of the opening of York River to transport a part of the army by water. Franklin's division was already embarked, and the numerous transports which performed the victualling service for the army took three others on board, to land them near the mouth of the Pamunky in York River, so as to menace seriously the line of retreat of the Confederate army. The land route was reserved by McClellan for the remainder of the army. The advance-guard consisted of Stoneman's division, comprising a little over four regiments of cavalry, two of which were regulars, and four batteries of regular horse artillery. Hooker's division followed on the direct road from Yorktown to Williamsburg, while Smith, crossing Warwick Creek at Lee's Mills, struck into a cross-road to the left leading to within sixteen hundred metres of Williamsburg, where it again joined the main road. Kearny's division held itself in readiness to follow Hooker, and those of Couch and Casey to march in rear of Smith.

Meanwhile, the retreat of the Confederate army, which had been carefully planned, was conducted with the greatest order. A large quantity of the materiel had been transported to West Point by water, whence it could be forwarded to Richmond by rail, and a considerable portion of the army was one or two days march in advance of the rear-guard. The task of covering this retreat had been entrusted to Longstreet's corps, whose chief had already given token of those remarkable qualities which made him the best of Lee's lieutenants. The Hampton legion closed up [15] the march; this name was given to a brigade of cavalry, accompanied by a few pieces of artillery, which had been raised in South Carolina by the general whose name it bore. The small space of ground on which Williamsburg is built was designed by nature to have an important bearing on the retreat of the Confederates. It was a narrow gate, easily kept closed, through which the whole army had to file in a single column, and which it was necessary to guard against the seizure of the enemy until the last man had passed.

Defensive works of considerable strength had been constructed there. The two streams, College Creek and Queen's Creek, which, as they wind through the dense woods, form numerous ponds in their course, take their rise at a distance of one kilometre from each other. The swamps by which they are surrounded soon render them impassable even for infantry. The space intervening between these two water-courses was for the most part occupied by a cultivated clearing. The woods had been cut down, and the skirt of the forest, being thus extended farther to the south-east by this abatis, described a concave arc of a circle enveloping this small open plateau at the south from one stream to the other. It was here that the two roads from Lee's Mills, on the south, and from Yorktown, on the east, met. A large work closed at the gorge, called Fort Magruder, rose at a distance of three or four hundred metres in the rear of this intersection; it commanded both roads and the entire isthmus. To the north-east and to the south-west the Confederates had constructed, on the west bank of the two streams where the forest had been cut down, a chain of small redoubts, which defended the few passages practicable for infantry. These passages consisted of three dams, two on Queen's Creek and one on College Creek, so narrow that a few men lying in ambush would have barred their approaches to a whole column.

Longstreet, after evacuating Yorktown during the night of the 3d-4th of May, proceeded rapidly toward Williamsburg, situated two thousand seven hundred metres beyond Fort Magruder, on the road to Richmond, for he intended to make there his first halt on the journey. The Federals allowed him to gain a precious advance during the first hours of that difficult retreat, for they [16] were not early risers in the Union armies. The disappointment was so great at the sudden departure of the Confederates that at first it could not be believed; and when the evidence was conclusive, everything had to be organized for an advance, which had not been contemplated. The troops had eaten nothing; the rations had not been distributed; many regiments had sent their wagons to a distance of several leagues to obtain them. In short, the cavalry division only took up its line of march between ten and eleven o'clock, Hooker at one o'clock, Smith a little later, and the other three divisions only at the close of the day. With a little more celerity the Confederate detachments which fell back upon Williamsburg from Lee's Mills would have been intercepted by the Federal cavalry before they could have reached that town.

In spite of all his activity, Stoneman was unable to repair the delay, which could not be imputed to him. Stimulated by certain indications which revealed to him the recent passage of the enemy, such as bivouac fires still burning, he hurried the march of his division; but the Confederate troops who followed the Lee's Mills road had too much the start. They were overtaken only by a small detachment led by the Due de Chartres, which was not strong enough to check the enemy's column; the Federal cavalry, however, had the good fortune to pick up a few prisoners on its flanks. Whatever might have been Stoneman's diligence in other respects, he could not have seriously embarrassed Longstreet's march; for unforeseen accidents supervened to delay still further the infantry destined to sustain him, and thus deprived him of the last chance of overtaking the enemy in time. There was an entire ignorance of the country at the Federal headquarters, the ground already occupied, of which the engineers had made some rough sketches, being the only section known; consequently, mistakes were unavoidable. Having reached the forks of one of the numerous roads which pursue their winding course from clearing to clearing, Smith's division, which kept to the left, took a wrong direction, and struck again into the principal road between Yorktown and Williamsburg. It thus passed in front of Hooker's division, to which this road had been assigned, stopped its heads of column, and threw confusion into the march of the troops who were huddled [17] together with their artillery and baggage on a single road. From this moment it became impossible to compel the enemy to fight in front of the pass he had fortified; for while the Federal columns were advancing very slowly along the crowded road on the right, on the left the advance guard, consisting of Emory's brigade of cavalry, having no infantry to support it, was forced to watch the enemy at a distance. The latter, plunging finally into the forest which connected Queen's and College Creeks, reached Fort Magruder and the chain of adjoining works. The artillery of the Hampton Legion, together with a few regiments of infantry which formed the rear-guard, finding this formidable line of defences very convenient, hastened to occupy it in order to hold the Federals in check, who were pressing them very close; and when the latter appeared on the edge of the forest, they were received by a tremendous fire. In the mean time, the Sixth cavalry, having discovered a fordable crossing of Queen's Creek, vigorously charged upon the Confederates, drove them from their advanced positions, and captured their first redoubt; but the latter, having taken refuge in the second, soon obliged the assailants to fall back. The sight of the numerous works .occupied by the enemy was a real discovery to the Federals; they had no more idea of their existence than they had of Warwick Creek a month before. The Confederates, on their part, fearing, no doubt, to be taken in flank by the landing of troops on York River, had not thought at first of availing themselves of these works; they had made no preparations for defending them, and it was only when Hampton was closely pressed that, finding them in his path on the evening of the 4th, he occupied a portion of them in order to retard the march of the Federals. As will be seen presently, the Confederate generals whose duty it was to cover the retreat were themselves very little acquainted with the position and importance of some of these entrenchments.

Stoneman had lost about forty men by the fire of the redoubts, and one of his guns remained immovable in the swamp. He had retired on this side of the forest to wait for the infantry, which was slow in coming up; General Sumner, whose rank gave him the command, had stopped this infantry within five kilometres of Fort Magruder, not being then aware that the enemy was [18] so near him. When the din of battle struck the ear of that old and valiant soldier, he immediately pushed forward Smith's division; but it was already getting dark, and before these troops could be deployed for battle the increasing darkness compelled them to postpone the fight till the next day. Sumner himself having insisted, despite the obscurity of the night, upon reconnoitering the enemy's positions in person, fell among their pickets, was fired upon at short range, became lost in a swamp, from which he was unable to extricate himself, and passed the entire night at the foot of a tree between the two hostile lines. In the mean while, Hooker, finding the road he followed obstructed by Smith, took the one to the left, which had originally been assigned to the latter. His intention was to turn the enemy's works and enter Williamsburg the same evening. But after marching a considerable distance in the night, he was obliged, like the rest, to halt his columns to avoid going astray.

The dawn of the next day, the 5th of May, was sad and gloomy. Torrents of rain had during the whole night deluged the bivouacs of the young Federal soldiers, most of whom were without rations and covering. The wet roads, had become frightful mud-holes. On the left the division of Hooker, on the right that of Smith, with Stoneman's cavalry, were in the presence of the enemy; but these troops had waited in vain during the entire night for orders from Sumner, their common chief, of whose misadventures they had no knowledge; the three divisions of Kearny, Couch, and Casey, designed to support them, could only communicate with them through an almost impassable road from twelve to fifteen kilometres in length; finally, the remainder of the troops were slowly embarking at Yorktown under the direction of the general-in-chief. Such was the situation of the army of the Potomac on the morning of the 5th of May.

The Confederates had all the advantage of position on their side. Longstreet had been made aware of the error he had committed in not occupying and strengthening the lines of defence around Williamsburg by the engagement of his rear-guard on the evening of the 4th. During the night he countermanded the march of his whole corps and brought it back into these lines; this time he was determined to dispute their possession with the [19] Federals with the utmost vigor, and to keep the latter in check sufficiently long to place the rest of the army out of reach of their attacks.

Only a portion of his troops had arrived and taken position inside of the works, when, toward seven o'clock in the morning, Hooker, emerging out of the Lee's Mills road, attacked his right. Longstreet's artillery, posted inside of Fort Magruder and in the adjacent redoubts, crossed its fire with that of the Confederate infantry over the narrow open space which the assailants had to cross. The latter, being actually afraid to manoeuvre under such a fire, had deployed their batteries before crossing the forest. But the thickness of the undergrowth having broken their ranks, they no longer possessed that compactness which is required for a vigorous charge; and instead of pushing forward, they halted on the edge of the wood. Unable to overcome this obstacle, they ambushed themselves in the abatis, from whence they opened fire upon the enemy. The three batteries of the division came to their assistance and boldly took position at the point most exposed, which was at the outlet of the road; but the enemy's missiles were soon concentrated upon them, overthrowing gunners and horses before they were able to fire a single shot. The Federals were not discouraged on this account; willing hands came forward to serve the guns; they even succeeded in gaining an advantage over the Confederate cannon and in silencing the fire of Fort Magruder. At this juncture the Confederates seemed to be wavering; but Hooker's soldiers, who had been more under fire than they, had suffered too seriously to take advantage of this momentary hesitation. The remainder of Longstreet's corps reached the scene of action and assumed the offensive in its turn. In order to preserve his position, Hooker was obliged to engage his very last man. A desperate struggle took place in the abatis; the two hostile lines wavered in front of each other; the Federals were driven back several times, but their lost ground was as often recovered. It was now one o'clock. Hooker had been sustaining the fight alone since morning; no reinforcement had reached him, no order, no message; while along the rest of the line the utmost silence prevailed. To the left he had sent Emory with his cavalry and three regiments of infantry to try to attack the Confederate line by [20] crossing the dam which intersects College Creek; but Emory, afraid of going astray, proceeded with the utmost caution, and wasted the whole day without reaching the enemy. On the right of Hooker, Smith's division was drawn up across the Yorktown road, in the rear of the wood, very narrow at this place, which intercepts the view of Fort Magruder; but although this division was only separated by fourteen or fifteen hundred metres from that which is engaged, there was no connecting link between them; the wood which stretches between the two roads they had followed remained unoccupied, and even unexplored.

Smith had not yet fired a single shot. The three corps commanders of the army of the Potomac, whom chance had brought together, had established their headquarters alongside of his division; they held a conference; and as is almost invariably the case under similar circumstances, they secured no concert of action to the Federal army. There was but one movement ordered to be made in the course of the morning. Having been informed of the existence of one of the dams which obstruct the passage of Queen's Creek, they sent to seize it one of Smith's brigades, commanded by General Hancock, a young officer but little known at the time. There yet remained Smith's two other brigades, his artillery and that of the cavalry division, about six or seven thousand men, with thirty pieces of cannon. Notwithstanding the constantly increasing din of battle in which Hooker was engaged on the left, despite the urgent messages of the latter, Sumner refused to bring his troops under fire, and confined himself to hastening the arrival of those already on the march. Doubtless he had then but a very small force at his disposal to cover the outlet of the Yorktown road—an outlet which it was essential to defend at all hazards; for the least symptom of a retreat would have thrown the long column which crowded upon that road into indescribable confusion. But the surest way of maintaining his ground would have been to engage the fight along the whole line, thereby dividing the forces of the enemy, instead of allowing his adversary to concentrate his troops, to crush one of his wings, as he was actually doing. Indeed, the repeated efforts of the Confederates succeeded at last in shaking the confidence of Hooker's soldiers, who felt themselves unsupported; they lost the abatis [21] where they had held out so long, and, while still fighting, slowly fall back across the woods which they had occupied in the morning. Two batteries, the horses of which have all been killed, are left upon the ground. In falling back Hooker uncovers the left flank of the troops who had remained under arms on the Yorktown road while he was fighting. The woods by which they are surrounded shut out the enemy from view, but the balls whistling among the trees and dealing destruction in their ranks announce his approach. Consequently, a certain amount of disquietude is manifested among those young soldiers who are preparing for battle under the blows of an adversary yet invisible.

The situation was becoming serious; but the critical moment was selected by fortune for a sudden change. Stimulated less by Sumner's pressing orders than by the sound of cannon which called him to the field, Kearny comes at last to Hooker's assistance. Pushing his division along the road, which is encumbered with wagons, he has turned to the left, like the latter, and after making his men, fatigued by a long march, throw off their knapsacks, he deploys them with as much precision as if on a drill-ground. Of a character difficult to manage, of a quick temper, of a sharp and satirical turn of mind, this admirable soldier became a different man as soon as he found himself in the presence of the enemy. His calmness, his piercing glance, his clear voice, his orders, always precise, inspired the confidence of all those who served under him. Deploying two brigades in line of battle, and holding the third in reserve, he allows Hooker's soldiers to pass between the intervals of his battalions, and takes up the battle in the wood in their place. He arrives in time to rescue one of the two batteries abandoned a moment before, which the enemy was about to seize. The latter, after a stubborn resistance, is driven back as far as the abatis; but he maintains himself a long time on that difficult ground, being supported by the fire from his own works. A final effort on the part of the entire division wrests at last a portion of the abatis from the Confederates, at the very time that the darkness of the evening is beginning to spread over the long-contested battle-field.

On the right the Federals have at last decided to take part in [22] the battle. Toward four o'clock, just as Kearny was coming to Hooker's assistance, the head of the long column which followed the Yorktown turnpike emerges into the clearing where Smith's troops are drawn up. Peck's brigade, which is the first to make its appearance, enters the wood and vigorously attacks the left of the forces opposed to Hooker and Kearny, thus making a valuable diversion in favor of the latter. The first to reach the scene of conflict at this opportune moment are the Lafayette Guards; encouraged by their commander, Colonel de Trobriand, and sustained by their French animation, they have overcome all the obstacles in the road. They penetrate into the wood, reeking with a damp smoke, where the balls whistle through the thick foliage of the forests, and gaily rush forward in search of that baptism of fire the honor of which is reserved to all, but for which many among them will have to pay with their lives. In the mean while, on the extreme right, Hancock with his brigade had crossed Queen's Creek in the morning, and finding a small redoubt unoccupied on the other bank had planted himself in it. This redoubt was a link in the chain of works of which Fort Magruder was the centre. Finding no enemy before him, Hancock fearlessly advanced with his three or four thousand men; a second and a third redoubt, likewise deserted, are passed, when he arrives at last in sight of the left flank of Fort Magruder and the whole Confederate army. If he had been at the head of a division, he might have fallen suddenly upon the enemy, and probably obtained a decided success. But his force was not strong enough to attempt such a bold stroke, being so far from the reach of any reinforcements. The utmost that he could do was to hold the position of which he had so unexpectedly taken possession, and to wait for the arrival of a sufficient force to avail himself of the advantages which it offered. But the reinforcements he asked for were refused, as they had been to Hooker, the only replies to his urgent appeals being repeated orders for him to fall back. Feeling how important it was to hold a position which took all the enemy's defences in the rear, and which would probably cost waves of blood to reconquer, he contented himself by merely evacuating the foremost redoubt, and determined to defend the others at all risk. Fortunately for the Federals, if their general staff was deficient, [23] that of their adversaries was even more so, and the connection which such a corps ought to preserve between all sections of an army was entirely wanting in the Confederate ranks. In consequence of this defect of organization, Longstreet was not apprised of Hancock's movement, nor of the menacing position which the latter had taken upon his flank. It is certainly strange that the Confederates should have allowed those four Federal battalions to remain in peaceful possession during a whole day of a redoubt by which their entire line of defence could be turned; but is it not more singular that none of them even thought of occupying the works they had constructed with their own hands in anticipation of such a struggle?

It is already four o'clock; Hooker has been driven back into the woods, and the approaches to Fort Magruder are entirely free; it is at this juncture that Longstreet turns his attention, for the first time, toward his left, and perceiving Hancock, thinks of dislodging him. He sends against him Early's brigade, the commander of which was destined, like his young adversary, to play an important part during the remainder of the war. Seeing the Federals fall back upon the farthest redoubt, Early's soldiers imagine that they are already in flight and rush upon them; but being received at point-blank range by a well-directed fire, they are driven back in disorder. The Federals, urged on by the valiant Hancock, pursue them sword in hand. It is now five o'clock—the moment when Kearny comes into line at the other extremity of the battle-field.

General McClellan at last arrived among the combatants. While a salvo of musketry and the hurrahs of Hancock's brigade announced to him this brilliant passage-at-arms from a distance, the Federal troops, massed in various places along the road, who had felt most keenly the absence of all direction during the battle, received their chief with acclamations. The Confederates, on their side, satisfied in having held their ground around Fort Magruder, did not attempt another attack against Hancock. Night came on while the various Federal corps recently arrived were taking their position, and the left was forming a connection with the right; the continuation of the battle was therefore adjourned to the next day. [24]

Recognizing at first glance the importance of the position so fortunately maintained by Hancock, McClellan saw at once that all the Confederate defenses were turned, and that the troops assembled around him would suffice to make them fall. Besides, the obstruction of the road over which he had just passed had convinced him that the two divisions whose embarkation he had suspended at the moment of his departure, to forward them to the scene of action, would not arrive in time if the battle was renewed. He therefore ordered them back to the transports which were to convey them to West Point. He was not, however, without some uneasiness regarding the issue of the next day's fight; for with such young soldiers a panic was always to be feared; and having desired to take the offensive, he thought the enemy might try to forestall him by an early morning attack. But Johnston, who had only halted for the purpose of covering his retreat, and who was aware of his great numerical inferiority to the Federals, saw that a longer stay in front of Williamsburg with Hancock on his flank might compromise the very existence of the troops who had been in action the day before. During the night he ordered Longstreet to evacuate all the positions he had so vigorously defended, and hastily resumed his march in the direction of Richmond with all his troops. This was a wise decision; for at Williamsburg he could have made but a short resistance, the Federals having it always in their power to land troops higher up York River and menace his line of retreat. Besides, it never had been his intention to prolong the struggle in the peninsula. It was only through necessity, and in order to resist the persistent attacks of Hooker, that he had been finally induced to impart the proportions of a pitched battle to a simple affair of the rear-guard. This battle was a first ordeal to most of the troops engaged on both sides; it showed how much the spirit of the two armies had been improved since the beginning of the war. Early's brigade, which, while charging Hancock's troops, cried out to them ironically, ‘Bull Run,’ learnt to its own cost that it had committed an anachronism. Differing widely from the encounter of which the Manassas plateau had been the scene the preceding year, this bloody and undecided battle, continued during an entire day on a narrow space of ground, marks, in fact, the real commencement of [25] the long struggle between the two large armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia, which, after unheard — of sacrifices on both sides, terminated in the annihilation of the latter at the end of three years.

The town of Williamsburg was full of Confederate wounded. The spacious halls of the college, which had been converted into a hospital, presented a painful sight to the uninitiated. But the most cruel sufferings were reserved for those soldiers of both parties who had fallen in the midst of the abatis. Hidden under the branches of the felled trees, they escaped for a long time the most active search, and on the third day after the battle some were taken out who had yet a spark of life. During the evening of that same day the dry wood was set on fire by accident; the conflagration spread rapidly, and stifling the agonizing cries of those who were perhaps still waiting for the succor of their friends, swept away the last traces of the victims of the struggle.

The Confederates had three thousand men disabled, and left six hundred unhurt prisoners in the hands of the Federals. The latter lost two thousand and seventy-three men in killed and wounded, and six hundred and twenty-three prisoners. Two-thirds of these losses fell to the share of Hooker's division, at the evening roll-call of which one thousand five hundred and seventy-five combatants were missing, one thousand two hundred and forty of whom had fallen by the fire of the enemy. These telling figures show that it had borne the whole brunt of that day's fight.

The Federals had lost six guns, but they picked up six others, which the enemy abandoned in the suburbs of Williamsburg. Everything bore evidence that the retreat of the Confederates had at first been precipitate and disorderly. The road was strewn for miles with cannon, wagons, and equipments. In these trophies the army of the Potomac beheld the most substantial proof of its success; and on entering the forts and the town of Williamsburg the day after the important battle, it had no need to inquire whether the enemy intended to dispute any further the possession of those places. Consequently, although that battle had, in reality, been undecided, its effect upon the morale of the two armies was entirely to the advantage of the Federals. Unfortunately [26] for the army of the Potomac, it was unable to turn it immediately to account. The difficulty in obtaining supplies kept it for several days around Williamsburg. The only road from Yorktown, softened by the rain, obstructed by cavalry, by the reserve park, by a part of the artillery of the divisions which had been embarked, and by baggage of every kind which follows an army, did not suffice for the passage of the wagons containing the necessary rations for sixty thousand men who were assembled in Williamsburg on the 6th and 7th.

It was found necessary to establish a temporary victualling base near that town. In one day the wooded banks of Queen's Creek are cleared and rude wharves built, where transports come to deposit their cargoes of salt pork, biscuit, rice, and forage, which the army-wagons, lightened by several days' consumption, proceed to distribute among the various regiments. In exchange, the vessels receive a sad but precious cargo, consisting of all the wounded able to bear transportation, who, after a first dressing of their wounds, are forwarded to the large Northern cities, where they will meet with the care, comfort, and pure air which will solace their sufferings.

We left four divisions at Yorktown the day after the evacuation of that place, ready to embark in order to reach the extremity of the long estuary of York River. If conducted with speed, this operation might be productive of brilliant results. It assured a new base of supplies in advance of the army, thus enabling it to march by longer stages; by taking Williamsburg in the rear, it rendered all resistance on the part of the Confederates useless; for if they had lingered there, it would have placed them in a most perilous position. In fact, while Johnston, with a portion of his army, was checking the progress of the Federals in the lines of defence at Williamsburg, the remainder was disposed en echelon on the Richmond road; the four divisions thrown on the flank of this road could either occupy it before the Confederates, or surprise them on the march, throw their columns into confusion by harassing them, or at least deprive them of all the advantage of the start which had cost them so dear by fighting the battle of Williamsburg.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the presence of the generalchief, [27] this opportunity was lost in consequence of delays not yet accounted for. Two days after the evacuation of Yorktown, on the evening of the battle of Williamsburg, these forces had not yet embarked, and Franklin's division, which had never left the transports, was waiting in vain for the signal of departure. The orders and counter-orders of which we have just spoken caused fresh delays on the evening of the 5th of May; and leaving the rest of the troops behind, this division started alone during the night. It reached the mouth of the Pamunky River on the 6th, at a place called Eltham, not far from the little village of Bartramsville. Newton's brigade, together with some artillery, was landed before sunset on the right bank of the river, and the process of disembarkation was suspended until the following day.

On the morning of the 7th this operation had just been ended when Franklin's division was fiercely attacked by the Confederates. The whole of Johnston's army had started early on the 6th, just as Longstreet was leaving Williamsburg, and his heads of column had to bivouac that evening in the vicinity of Bartramsville. On learning that the Federals were landing troops in the neighborhood, the Confederate general sent Whiting's division to surprise them in the midst of that delicate operation, to prevent them from menacing his flank, and to try to drive them into the water. Franklin had landed in a vast field surrounded by woods on three sides. The pickets occupying these woods were suddenly attacked by Whiting and driven back, the combat extending to the very verge of the forest. The Federals, shut up within a narrow space of ground, and exposed to the fire of an enemy not yet visible, had some cause to dread a renewal of the Ball's Bluff disaster. But a battery that had been landed on the day previous, and the artillery of the gunboats which accompanied Franklin's expedition, opened their fire upon the skirts of the woods, where the enemy was beginning to show himself, and soon threw his ranks into confusion. In the mean time, a brigade of Sedgwick's division having been landed, the Federals resumed the offensive, and easily repulsed their adversary. They did not venture, however, to follow in pursuit. They had one hundred and ninety-four men disabled.

Hastily falling back upon Richmond after this action, the Confederates [28] completely escaped all further attacks of the army of the Potomac. The Federal cavalry, despite its utmost endeavors, was hardly able to keep within sight of their rear-guard, so greatly is the character of that country opposed to offensive warfare when large masses of men have to be moved. Three days after the battle of Williamsburg the first columns of the Federal infantry left that town, and on the 10th of May the whole army was receiving its supplies from the depot established near Eltham. A new phase of the campaign was about to begin. Notwithstanding many miscalculations and delays, General Mc-Clellan had succeeded in removing the seat of war from the vicinity of Washington to that of Richmond. He had left the peninsula for a richer and more open country, where he could have plenty of elbow-room, and nothing but a battle delivered in open field could prevent him from appearing before the works which had been erected during the winter around the Confederate capital.

Being free in his movements, how was he going to manoeuvre to attack it? For a few days his route lay entirely along the Pamunky, which for him was a prolongation of the York River line, through which he had up to that time received his supplies. The ships which the enemy had sunk on the bar were soon raised, and the whole fleet of transports entered that river, the slow and muddy waters of which pursue their winding course between banks of prodigious fertility. On their passage the silence of a still virgin nature was temporarily succeeded by a show of life, or, more properly speaking, of buoyant activity; at night all these vessels, like so many fantastic apparitions, threw a glare of light across the foliage of the tall trees whose feet were bathed by the waters. In this way the army reached the neighborhood of Cumberland, then that of the White House, where the Pamunky becomes difficult of navigation, and a small railway line leading from West Point to Richmond crosses from the left to the right side of the river. In order to continue the campaign, McClellan had only to follow this road by repairing it, so as to make it useful in victualling the army; he could thus march upon the enemy's capital while still preserving his base of operations on the Pamunky. But just as he was preparing to make this movement [29] an unlooked — for opportunity offered for adopting another plan, which, although apparently more hazardous, promised, nevertheless, to be surer and more decisive.

As we have said before, the Confederates had only deferred the evacuation of Yorktown in order to secure that of Norfolk. General Huger, who occupied that place with his division, had succeeded, like Magruder, in deceiving his adversaries in regard to his numerical weakness, and the Federal authorities had not dared to send Burnside's corps, then stationed at Roanoke Island, in North Carolina, against him. There is no doubt but that these troops would only have had to make a simple demonstration, without even going entirely through so difficult a country, to precipitate the evacuation of Norfolk, and thus deprive the Confederates of all the materiel which they had not yet been able to transfer to Richmond. As soon as Huger was informed of Johnston's retreat, he sent away all his troops, remaining almost alone in Norfolk, ready to destroy the docks, the workshops, the hulks and all that was left of the arsenal, as soon as the evacuation should be completed. This operation could have been speedily accomplished by water, thanks to the protection of the Virginia, which kept a watch at the entrance of the port. Her presence alone defended the Confederate transports ascending the James against the whole Union fleet.

By the 8th of May, Huger had completed his final preparations for the work of destruction. Some fugitives immediately carried the news to Fortress Monroe. As we have already stated, old General Wool, who was in command of that place, was no longer under the orders of General McClellan, and the first use he had made of his independence had been to retain upon the glacis of the fortress the whole division which had occupied the extremity of the peninsula during the winter. When he saw the two hostile armies penetrate into Virginia after the battle of Williamsburg, he was desirous to give employment to these troops, but was afraid, at the same time, lest they should again be placed under the orders of McClellan, so that, instead of leading them into action by the side of their comrades in arms, he conceived the idea of making them gather cheap laurels among the ruins of the Norfolk arsenal. The occasion was the more [30] favorable as the President, accompanied by the Secretary of War, had arrived at Fort Monroe on that very day; they had set out on hearing of the capture of Yorktown, and were coming to congratulate the army of the Potomac upon that success. Being apprised by the columns of smoke which rose in the horizon that the propitious moment had arrived, Wool proposed to the President to undertake an expedition against Norfolk. Max Weber's brigade was speedily embarked, and, to protect his descent, Commodore Goldsborough's fleet was ordered to escort it. But the Confederate batteries, not having yet been abandoned, fired a few shots in reply, while the Virginia, which, since the wounding of the brave Buchanan, had been commanded by Commodore Tatnall, showed her formidable shell (carapace), and the expedition was countermanded. Two days more were consumed in waiting. Finally, on the morning of the 10th, Weber disembarked east of Sewall's Point. This time the enemy's artillery was silent. There was found an entrenched camp mounting a few guns, but absolutely deserted; General Wool reached the city of Norfolk, which had been given up to its peaceful inhabitants the day previous, and hastened to place a military governor there. The President, who had made his entrance into the newly-conquered city with Wool, announced this cheaply-bought success to the American people in a special bulletin, while he forgot the words of encouragement so justly due to the soldiers who had just fought important battles.

Meantime, the evacuation of Norfolk was followed by an event destined to influence military operations to a considerable extent, of which the President was yet ignorant, and the merits of which General Wool could not appropriate to himself. The Virginia was no longer in existence. That formidable vessel had been abandoned and destroyed by her crew. On the 9th of May she was the last to come out of that port of Norfolk, whence, during two months, she had held the whole Federal fleet in check. Was she to make a desperate attempt to steam into Hampton Roads, and thence either to gain the open sea or run the risk of being surrounded by the debris of that fleet and perish? Or was it not better to reascend the James River, so as to keep the Federal navy away from Richmond? Tatnall adopted the latter course. [31]

In order to get over the sand-banks of the river more easily, he lightened the ship, in pursuance of his pilot's advice, by landing the guns, ammunition and all the war materiel he had on board. But when on the 11th, this operation completed, he wished to go up the James, the same pilots declared that, in consequence of a westerly wind, the tide was not sufficiently high to enable the Virginia to get over the banks. The vessel was disarmed; her hull, rising higher than the water-line and the iron covering, was no longer proof against Goldsborough's cannon-balls. The latter might arrive at any moment. Tatnall was perplexed; and without attempting to remedy the error of the previous day, he set fire to his ship. The James River was open. The Federal gunboats hastened to steam into it, and ascending the stream with speed appeared on the 15th within less than twelve kilometres of Richmond.

There was great excitement in the Confederate capital. The excessive confidence inspired by the success of the Virginia two months before caused her loss to be severely felt. There were cries of treason. People expected every moment to see the broadside of the little Monitor bear upon the edifice where the delegates of all the Southern States were in session. The rich were preparing for flight and the poor for plunder. Courage and determination were displayed side by side with the most abject fears. The cannon spoke out at last, and the whole day was spent in listening to its solemn voice from a distance. It ceased to speak; evening came, and the gunboats did not make their appearance. Richmond was saved. The Federal flotilla had encountered a large battery known as Fort Darling, perched upon the summit of a steep acclivity called Drury's Bluff. A stockade rendered it impossible to pass this battery rapidly, which was manned with cannon of heavy calibre, while an angle in the river prevented the vessels from perceiving it afar off. On the 15th of May the Monitor, accompanied by the Galena, a lightly-sheathed gunboat of which we have already spoken, and two wooden vessels, made an unsuccessful attack upon Fort Darling. The Monitor could not give sufficient elevation to her guns to reach the heights occupied by the enemy, and the two wooden vessels had not the requisite strength to sustain the conflict. The Galena, [32] commanded by the intrepid Rogers, persisted in her efforts for a considerable length of time; but she finally withdrew, after having experienced severe losses and without having done any damage to her adversaries. The advantage of elevated positions in defending a river, which had already been demonstrated at Fort Donelson, in this instance received a new and striking confirmation.

Thus the James River, which had been closed until then by the presence of the Virginia, as York River had been by the cannon of Yorktown, was opened by the destruction of that ship, just as York River had been by the evacuation of the Confederate fortress. But it was only open as far as Drury's Bluff; in order to overcome this last obstacle interposed between Richmond and the Federal gunboats, the support of the land-forces was necessary.

On the 19th of May, Commodore Goldsborough had a conference with General McClellan regarding the means to be employed for removing that obstacle. The headquarters were at Tunstall's station, on the railway from West Point and Richmond. The whole army was placed en echelon within reach of this road, between the Pamunky and the Chickahominy. The latter river had been struck at Bottom's Bridge, over which the old mail route from Williamsburg to Richmond passes. The enemy had not disputed its passage. Only a few cavalry pickets had been seen. He was evidently reserving his entire force for the defence of the immediate approaches to his capital. General McClellan, as we have stated above, might have continued to follow the railway line, and preserved his depots at White House on the Pamunky, which would have led him to force the passage of the Chickahominy above Bottom's Bridge and attempt an attack upon Richmond on the north side; but he could also now go to re-establish his base of operations on James River, which the Virginia had hitherto prevented him from doing. By crossing the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge, and at some of the fords situated lower down, between that bridge and the extreme point reached by the tide, he was sure of encountering no resistance. The army, by carrying in their wagons a sufficient quantity of provisions, could have reached the borders of the James in two or three days, where its transports would have preceded it. This flank march, effected [33] at a sufficient distance from the enemy and covered by a few demonstrations along the Upper Chickahominy, offered him great advantages without involving any risk. It enabled him to advance afterward as far as Richmond, by following the course of a navigable river, open at all times, instead of obtaining his supplies by railway, exposed to the attacks of the enemy; it avoided the formidable obstacles which the Chickahominy interposed on the north side, and by assaulting the city on the south side it threatened to separate it from the rest of the Confederacy.

But to adopt this plan McClellan should have been able to count upon an enlightened concurrence on the part of the government at Washington. Indeed, he could only have executed it by withdrawing the imaginary protection which his army was supposed to afford to the capital of the United States from a distance. Instead of recognizing the fact that the best way of defending the capital was to keep all the enemy's forces occupied elsewhere, the Federal authorities fancied that the safety of Washington depended on the position of the army of the Potomac before Richmond. Impressed with this idea, they offered McClellan important reinforcements, provided he would place himself to the north of the enemy's capital. The day before Goldsborough proposed to him to invest Richmond on the south, he had received a despatch from Mr. Lincoln informing him that McDowell's corps, reinforced and numbering nearly forty thousand men, was at last about to leave the banks of the Rappahannock to co-operate with him against Richmond. This corps, with a view to avoid enormous expenses, as well as for the purpose of covering Washington, instead of embarking, was to march directly southward, so as to form the right of the army of the Potomac. It was placed under the orders of McClellan, although an absurd restriction revealed the old mistrusts and fears, as we know, and did not permit the general-in-chief to separate it from the direct road from Richmond to Washington. In thus imposing upon McClellan the necessity of operating by way of the north, the President did not appreciate the advantages of a march along the line of the James, which Grant's last campaign so clearly demonstrated four years later. If McClellan could have foreseen how deceptive were the promises of reinforcement made to him at the time, he would undoubtedly [34] have declined the uncertain support of McDowell, to carry out the plan of campaign which offered the best chances of success with the troops which were absolutely at his disposal. But the formal assurances he was receiving did not permit him to pursue such a course, and he subordinated his movements to those which the President directed in person. The project of marching upon the James was abandoned, and the army, penetrating into a country bristling with obstacles, commenced a series of operations which only brought forth doubtful and dearly bought successes. Resting its left on Bottom's Bridge, which it already occupied, and deploying its right, it took a position higher up along the north side of the Chickahominy, to join hands with McDowell, whose arrival was long waited for in vain, but who never made his appearance.

This army had passed through the first ordeals of the war. It had worked in the presence of the enemy; it had fought; it had marched; it had shown itself laborious, patient, intelligent. In battle the soldiers had displayed great personal bravery and tenacity. It was owing to these qualities that the mismanagement of those in command at Williamsburg had not been productive of the fatal results that might have been apprehended. The regiments which had suffered most in battle, if temporarily disorganized, had promptly recovered their equanimity. On the march they had been less successful. It is true that the roads were few, narrow and in a bad condition; but this difficulty did not quite justify the extreme slowness of their movements and the confusion into which their columns were more than once thrown. The American soldier had yet much to learn in this respect; the history of the war will show that he became in the course of time, if not the equal of the best foot-soldiers in Europe, at least a sufficiently good marcher to undergo, when necessary, one of those long marches upon which the success of a battle frequently depends.

But before following the army of the Potomac any further, we must relate the events that were taking place in other parts of Virginia at the same time, and which were destined to exercise so great and so fatal an influence on its subsequent operations.


[35]

Chapter 2:

Fair Oaks.

THE departure of General McClellan had left a clear field for the strategic experiments of Mr. Lincoln and his military advisers. They had at once proceeded to alter all the arrangements that had been made by the commander of the army of the Potomac for the safety of Washington. Instead of confining themselves to such points as were of importance for the defence of the capital, and considering the rest as the enemy's country, given up to the guerillas of both parties, they sought to extend the Federal rule over the whole region comprised between the Rappahannock and the Potomac, and to make a political conquest of them before having achieved the victories which alone could secure it. With this object in view, the numerous troops they had kept back under the pretext of protecting Washington were scattered over so extended a line that they possessed no power of resistance. McDowell's corps had been sent as far as the Rappahannock. Shields' division, detached from Banks' corps, had come to replace under McDowell's command that of Franklin, which had been sent to Yorktown. It had left the valley of Virginia in the second week of May to join its new corps commander, who already occupied Fredericksburg with the three divisions of Ord, McCall and King, and who was watching an enemy reduced in reality to a thin line of mounted scouts. Geary, with a few regiments, equivalent to a small division, occupied Manassas. Banks, instead of remaining on the defensive, after having successfully repulsed Jackson at Winchester, had followed his adversary step by step into the great valley watered by the Shenandoah; and the President, encouraged by this easy success, had urged him to push on to Harrisonburg, one hundred and ten kilometres from Winchester, without troubling himself [36] about the dangers which such an advanced position involved. Once there, he had suddenly withdrawn from him, as we have just stated, Shields' division, thereby reducing the number of his forces to six or seven thousand men. More to the west, Fremont with the army of the Mountain, so called, occupied West Virginia, which the Confederates had entirely abandoned since the end of January. One of his brigades, commanded by Crook, was posted on the banks of Greenbrier River, while the remainder of his troops were encamped at Moorefield, and Franklin in some of the numerous valleys which stretch between the ridges of the Alleghanies. The President, after taking away Blenker's division from the army of the Potomac, in order to place it at Manassas, had sent it to Fremont, thus increasing the number of his forces to six brigades, amounting to thirteen or fourteen thousand men. These armies, being so scattered as to be unable to give each other mutual support, were all independent of one another; McDowell, Geary, Banks and Fremont received their orders direct from Washington. The Secretary who directed the movements of these armies in the name of the President from the recesses of his office, was thus preparing an inevitable defeat for them. Jackson was not the man to neglect such an opportunity.

Yorktown had just been evacuated. All the Confederate forces which were in Virginia were assembling around Richmond to swell Johnston's army. It would have been easy for the several Federal armies to make a corresponding movement. McDowell could by a few days' march have joined McClellan on the borders of the Chickahominy. Fremont occupied the two slopes of the Alleghanies; the Confederates, who had contested their possession with so much fury the preceding autumn, had abandoned to him the sources of the Potomac and the Greenbrier; he could by pushing his outposts into the valley of the Shenandoah have connected with Banks, and, combined, they would have menaced Staunton near the important passes which open into the valley of James River.

The Richmond authorities felt that it was necessary to prevent this concentration of troops at any price, and that the surest way was to rouse the fears of the government at Washington by a [37] bold stroke. Nothing further would have been required but to wait with confidence for the errors which those alarms would be sure to make the Federals commit. Jackson, who had never ceased to urge an invasion of the North, and had obeyed the order directing him to evacuate the valley of Virginia with great reluctance, was entrusted with this task. The Richmond government, shrewder than its adversary in the distribution of its forces, gave him at once the means he needed. General Edward Johnson, who had defended Camp Alleghany during the winter, joined him with one brigade, while Ewell brought him a fine division from Gordonsville. Jackson had thus twenty thousand men under his orders; he started at once. Leaving Staunton, where he had organized his army, he sent Ewell to watch and detain Banks, while, with the remainder of his forces, he went to attack Fremont in person, in order to prevent the junction of his two adversaries.

The commander of the Mountain army was at Franklin, and had detached Milroy's brigade to occupy the last ridges bordering on the Virginia valley on the west, known by the name of Shenandoah Mountains and Bull Pasture Mountains. Milroy had taken his position in the village of McDowell, situated at the foot of the western slope of the last line of heights. On the 7th of May, Jackson drove in his outposts, which had penetrated into the valley of Virginia, and was crossing the Shenandoah Mountains with nearly ten thousand men. By a forced march he reached the second chain, Bull Pasture Mountains, on the 8th, and his heads of column, rapidly ascending those acclivities, took possession of them before the Federals were strong enough to defend them. Once master of these heights, he had the village of McDowell at his feet, where Milroy had allowed himself to be taken completely by surprise. The latter, discovering too late the error he had committed, made a vigorous effort to recapture a point called Sutlington's Hill, which was the key to this position. He failed in the attempt. He was soon joined by General Schenck's brigade, which had been sent to his assistance by Fremont as soon as he was informed of Jackson's appearance, and which had arrived after a march of fifty-five kilometres in twenty-three hours. Schenck, who assumed the command, had only three thousand five hundred men to defend, [38] against eight or nine thousand assailants, a place commanded on every side, and from which he could only extricate himself by passing through a narrow defile. To remain in such a place was to be captured. To leave it in the daytime was to run the risk of being routed. He determined to hold out until evening, and by means of well-directed attacks concealed his weakness from Jackson, who does not appear to have shown on this occasion his habitual coup d'oeil; or it might be that his soldiers were too much fatigued to attempt a serious attack. At nightfall Schenck fell back in good order with his small force upon Franklin. The engagement at McDowell had cost him two hundred and forty-six men, while Jackson lost four hundred and sixty-one; among the wounded were General Johnson and three colonels.

Jackson, after taking possession of Franklin, which Fremont had evacuated to wait for him in the rear of the town, did not go in search of his adversaries in this new position. He contented himself with the important result he had just obtained; for in fact, if the army of the Mountain had suffered but little, it had received such a repulse that it was no longer able to join hands with Banks. It was against the latter that Jackson was now about to turn; and for this purpose he resumed his march rapidly through the valley of Virginia in the direction of Staunton. There he found Ewell, but no longer Banks, who, on being informed of the fight at McDowell, had fallen back from Harrisonburg as far as Strasburg, eighty kilometres lower down the valley.

Before following the two adversaries thither, we must describe the configuration of this singular valley, which has been so often ravaged by the fluctuating fortunes of the war. It extends two hundred kilometres in a straight line from the sources of the Shenandoah, a little below Staunton, to the confluence of this river and the Potomac at Harper's Ferry. Its breadth, between the two chains of hills which enclose it, is everywhere from forty to fifty kilometres. Terminated at the north by the Potomac, which intersects it perpendicularly, it may be said that it is similarly terminated at the south by the James, as this river flows a few kilometres from the sources of the Shenandoah, from which it is separated [39] by only a slight undulation in the ground. A series of small parallel ridges follows the line of this valley in the direction of its length. The highest form a group called the Massanuten Mountains, extending from Harrisonburg to Strasburg. East of these mountains flows the South Fork, the principal branch of the Shenandoah, which runs past Staunton, descends into a narrow valley not far from Luray, where it drains the waters of the other branch, called North Fork, at Front Royal. This last stream waters the western slope of the same mountains, and, after flowing through a larger valley than that of South Fork as far as Strasburg, turns abruptly to the right. A little below Staunton it assumes already the proportions of a deep unfordable river, which is crossed by three bridges. The first, up stream, is that of Port Republic, over which passes the road leading from Harrisonburg to Richmond through Brown's Gap; the second is at Conrad's Store, on the road from Harrisonburg to Gordonsville through Swift Run Gap. The third is the White House bridge, constructed for a cross road, which, branching off from the main valley road at New Market, ascends the Massanuten Mountains, and runs in the direction of the important defile in the Blue Ridge called Thornton's Gap, by way of Luray. The principal road follows the larger valley of North Fork from Harrisonburg to Strasburg, through Woodstock, and thence down to Winchester direct. Below Strasburg and Front Royal the undulations in the ground disappear almost entirely, and the Shenandoah, hugging the base of the Blue Ridge, leaves to its left the magnificent plain watered by the small stream of the Opequan, in which lie the towns of Winchester, Martinsburg and Charlestown. There are but two small lines of railroad to be found in the valley. One connects Harper's Ferry with Winchester; the other is the one used by Johnston on the 21st of July, 1861, to take his troops to the battle-field of Bull Run. By following this unfinished track from east to west, starting from Manassas Junction, we find that it crosses the Blue Ridge at Manassas Gap, above Front Royal, descends into the valley, crosses the Shenandoah road, and, ascending the North Fork through Strasburg as far as Woodstock, terminates abruptly at Mount Jackson. It was to have been continued as far as Staunton. [40]

This description will enable the reader to understand the importance of the villages of Strasburg and Front Royal, which close up the two outlets of the valley, communicating with Winchester on one side and with Washington on the other, by way of Manassas Gap and the railway. But these were not positions the defence of which could be entrusted to a small force; for Strasburg was approachable on every side, and Front Royal was at too great distance from the encampments of Manassas Junction to be within reach of help, being at the same time commanded by heights which were easy of access. Without taking into consideration the peculiarities of this position, a single regiment, the First Maryland, had been stationed at Front Royal for some time for the purpose of holding the partisans of the enemy in check, and Banks occupied Strasburg with the five thousand men composing his small army corps.

On the 20th of May, Jackson left New Market at the head of an army of twenty thousand men. Instead of bearing down directly upon Strasburg by the main road and the broad valley of North Fork, which Banks was carefully watching, he crossed the Massanuten Mountains and re-entered the narrow valley of South Fork, where he was protected both by that river and the mountains. He thus left Luray behind, while his advance-guard encamped unnoticed, on the 22d, only sixteen kilometres from Front Royal. On the 23d the small Federal garrison, consisting of about nine hundred men, with two pieces of artillery, was taken completely by surprise. By a strange coincidence the regiment placed at the head of Jackson's column bore the same name as the one he was about to attack, the First Maryland. This unfortunate State of Maryland, convulsed by conflicting passions, inflamed by its neighbors of the North on one side and by those of the South on the other, supplied combatants to both armies. The encounter of these two namesake regiments—sad consequence of the civil war! —was fearful and sanguinary in the extreme, for a mutual recognition took place at first sight. The people of the South regarded Northern soldiers as legitimate enemies; but Marylanders, belonging to a slave State, when found fighting under the Federal flag, were nothing but traitors in their eyes. The Federals of Maryland, on the contrary, regarded their fellow-citizens who had [41] enlisted in the Southern army as twofold rebels: first, against the Union, next, against their own State, which had never officially separated from the government at Washington.

The situation of the small band of Union troops had been desperate from the beginning of the fight. Overwhelmed by numbers, it tried to escape from the enemy by placing the two branches of the Shenandoah between them; but it had not time to destroy the bridges. Pursued through the open country, the Federals dispersed in groups, which were successively surrounded, with the exception of fifteen fugitives only. The remainder were either killed, wounded or captured; but the defence of this handful of men had been highly creditable, and their chief, Colonel Kenly, fully atoned by his courage for his want of vigilance in allowing himself to be surprised. He was only captured after being seriously wounded.

The fickle fortune of war decreed that on the same day a body of troops detached from Jackson's army should experience nearly as bloody a check in the mountains of West Virginia. On leaving these mountains, Edward Johnson had entrusted to General Heth the task of watching with three regiments the brigade of Colonel Crook, which occupied the beautiful valley of the Greenbrier, with its station at Lewisburg. Carried away by his zeal, Heth crossed the river to attack his adversary in that position. He was repulsed after a bloody struggle, in which he had more than one hundred men disabled, and left four hundred prisoners in the hands of the Federals. The remainder of his brigade, reduced by nearly one-half, was indebted for its safety solely to the Greenbrier River, the bridges of which it succeeded in destroying in its rear. But this advantage was of no benefit whatever to the Federals; for Crook was not sufficiently strong to venture among the difficult mountain passes which separated him from Jackson's base of operations, and which it would have been necessary to traverse in order to menace the latter.

Meanwhile, Jackson had not lost a moment's time, after the combat of Front Royal, in following up his success; the very evening after the battle found him already on the left bank of the Shenandoah, above the point of confluence of the two branches. He thus menaced the line of retreat of Banks, who [42] was at Strasburg in a state of dangerous security. In fact, less distant from Winchester than Banks, he could occupy that place before him, cut him off from the northern route, and thus compel him to take to the mountain after abandoning his supply-train, his artillery and probably a portion of his troops. The news of the disaster at Front Royal reached Strasburg during the night of the 24th. Banks saw the danger, and as early as two o'clock in the morning his army was on the march in order to outstrip the enemy on the road to Winchester. The train of wagons was placed in front, for it was upon the rear of the column that the attack of Jackson was expected. The cavalry, which was to form the rear-guard, remained at Strasburg until the following day.

Jackson also resumed his march on the morning of the 24th, but the repose he was compelled to allow his worn-out soldiers that night was to make him lose the valuable prize he was so near seizing. The two roads converging upon Winchester from Strasburg and Front Royal form two sides of an equilateral triangle. Banks took the first, Ewell the second; Jackson, with his cavalry and the remainder of his infantry, separated from the latter, and followed cross-roads which enabled him to strike the flank of the enemy's column. Only a few mounted Confederates arrived in time to meet the head of the long train of wagons which led the march of the Federal army. Their appearance threw the train into inexpressible confusion, but they were easily dispersed, and order once more restored, the wagons continued their march, accompanied by the main body of the army, which had been compelled by this panic to pass from the rear to the head of the column. When the whole Confederate cavalry, led by the fiery Ashby and closely followed by Jackson, finally struck the road, it was only able to seize a few of the wagons in the rear of Banks' train. Ashby's soldiers, inured to plunder as much as to fighting by their partisan life, allowed themselves to be detained by this meagre booty, instead of following their chief, who was urging them to the pursuit of the enemy. The instant when a panic, easily engendered, would have been fatal to Banks slipped rapidly by, and Jackson tried in vain to seize once more the lost opportunity by intercepting the Federal cavalry, which [43] formed the rear-guard; the latter fell back toward Strasburg and precipitated itself among the mountain roads; it was thus enabled to overtake Banks' army on the banks of the Potomac.

Evening came on before Jackson had been able to come into serious contact with his adversary, and the latter, favored by the darkness, reached Winchester in the middle of the night. The Confederates had not yet made their appearance; from this moment his retreat was assured. But the rest which the Federals had found at last, after so painful a march, was not destined to be of long duration. At daybreak the firing of musketry made them aware that Jackson had arrived and was attacking the surrounding heights, which command Winchester from south-east to south-west. While he was driving off without trouble the Federal sharpshooters, General Ewell, following the road to the right from Front Royal, had reached the eastern approaches of Winchester, and was only waiting for the signal of his commander's cannon to engage the battle on that side. Banks' position had again become most critical. In danger of being surrounded with his five thousand men by eighteen or twenty thousand of the enemy, he could not follow the shortest line of retreat, that of Harper's Ferry, which would have exposed his flank to Ewell's attacks. Besides, it was not an easy matter to evacuate a town situated in an entirely open plain in the presence of so numerous an enemy. Without intending to maintain himself there for any length of time, the most important thing for him to do was to retard as long as possible the threatening progress of his foe. The Federal soldiers went into the fight with a great deal of spirit for men who should have been exhausted or discouraged by such a retreat. Banks' small army, deploying outside of Winchester, rushed to the assault of the principal height, situated to the south-west, while his left made head against Ewell's division on the east side. For a moment the hill was swept by the fire of Colonel Gordon's sharpshooters, and the Confederate guns were silenced. But when the Federals attempted to occupy the ground, they were taken in flank and driven back. The same success attended them at first on the left, where they put one of Ewell's regiments to flight. But there also, overwhelmed by numbers, their whole line gave way, and they rushed pell-mell [44] into the streets of Winchester. To increase the confusion, the inhabitants fired upon them from all the windows, and it seemed as if nothing could save them from a complete disaster. Fortunately for them, Jackson, despite all his ardor, did not push his soldiers forward with sufficient alacrity to take advantage of this disorder; he believed the Federals to be much more numerous than they really were. His infantry was completely exhausted, while his cavalry had again failed him at the moment when it might have rendered him essential service. He had alienated the two generals who were in command of that arm. One of these, General Stuart, refused to obey him; the other, Ashby, hurt by the reproaches he had received from him the previous day concerning the plunder of the Federal wagons by his soldiers, held back at this moment. The Confederates came to a halt eight kilometres from Winchester, and the Federals, being no longer pursued except by small squads of cavalry, retired without difficulty to the banks of the Potomac, which they reached at Williamsport on the evening of the 25th of May. They had marched eighty-five kilometres in less than forty-eight hours, leaving only fifty-five wagons behind them out of five hundred, and saving all their cannon. The loss in supplies was considerable; that in men on the 24th and 25th amounted to thirty-eight killed, one hundred and fifty-five wounded, and seven hundred and eleven prisoners. But if the losses were trifling, the moral effect of this reverse was great. In forcing Banks to recross the Potomac, Jackson had forced him back into the positions toward which he should have retired on the day on which his army was reduced by the departure of Shields. But if his whole corps had been annihilated, the excitement at Washington could not have been greater. The Confederate general, therefore, had dealt a telling blow; and if he made fewer prisoners than he had a right to expect from his successful manoeuvres, he had nevertheless attained the principal object of his diversion. Confusion was at its height in Mr. Lincoln's cabinet, and the army of the Potomac was deprived of all the reinforcements it had been promised.

Meantime, Jackson, in spite of his desire to invade the Northern States and the ardor which seized him as soon as he drew near to Maryland, was preparing to slip away from his adversaries [45] by a speedy retreat before the latter had time to concentrate a superior force and crush him in the hazardous position he had just taken. In fact, Mr. Lincoln, while fervently addressing an eloquent appeal to the Northern States for the protection of the capital, which he thought in danger, had at the same time conceived the idea of ‘catching Jackson in a trap,’ to use his own words, by shutting him up in the valley of Virginia. He personally directed by telegraph the movements of every division which was to co-operate in carrying out this chimerical project. His plan was to make three independent corps converge upon a point situated in the enemy's country, from which they were all three far more remote than the adversary whom it was intended to forestall.

Fremont was ordered to march from west to east, from Moorefield, where his quarters now were, to Strasburg; Banks to follow close upon the tracks of Jackson; Shields, who had only joined McDowell at Fredericksburg two days before, to retrace his steps from east to west, to join hands with Fremont at Front Royal, and thus cut off Jackson's retreat. In vain did McDowell protest against this order, the fatal consequences of which he foresaw; in vain did he allege that his soldiers would reach the valley too late to overtake Jackson, and that the surest way to protect Washington against the dangers which seemed to menace the latter city was to press the enemy in front of Richmond. The fatal order was adhered to, and all the campaign plans agreed upon a few days before were upset.

Mr. Lincoln had visited McDowell at Fredericksburg on the 24th of May, when it was decided that this general should march upon Richmond. He was to start with his army corps, more than forty thousand strong, with one hundred pieces of artillery; and it may be asserted without exaggeration that his junction with McClellan would have proved the decisive blow of the campaign. The fate of Richmond trembled in the balance; Jackson's column, thrown at a lucky moment into the plateau, saved the Confederate capital. On the 25th, Shields' division, instead of moving forward, turned its back upon the real objective of the campaign, and regaining the valley road started on one of those fruitless expeditions which American soldiers call in trapper language [46] a ‘wild-goose chase.’ The next day McDowell was ordered to send a second division, and finally to march himself with a third, upon Front Royal. He obeyed with great reluctance; for notwithstanding his unpleasant relations with McClellan, he had too much good sense and patriotism not to see and to deplore the irreparable mistake he was being forced to commit.

Jackson, concealing his preparations for a retreat, appeared determined to follow up his successes in the north without troubling himself about what might take place in his rear. His cavalry had followed Banks as far as Williamsport, where the latter had hastened to cross the Potomac. He at once turned against Harper's Ferry, and on the 28th appeared in front of that position. He could have had no serious intention of occupying it; for in order to do so, it would have been necessary for him to have control of the other bank of the Potomac; he simply wished to dislodge the Federals from it, and on the morning of the 29th he took possession of the heights commanding that position south of the Shenandoah. By this bold movement he confirmed all the alarms and anxieties into which his opponents had been thrown by his late successes in menacing Maryland and Washington; he magnified the number of his forces in their imagination, thus relieving Richmond, and securing for his soldiers the repose they needed before undertaking a retrograde movement, which was becoming unavoidable; for on the 29th, while he was preparing to attack Harper's Ferry, he learned that the Federal armies were at last moving from every direction to cut off his retreat, and he set about at once the duty of excelling them in speed.

It was high time. His army had been reduced by marching and battles to fifteen thousand men.3 The Washington authorities, being totally ignorant of the difficulties of the campaign, had fixed upon the 30th as the day when the trap which they had set for catching the imprudent Jackson was to be sprung. As we stated before, the Confederate general was to be intercepted by the simultaneous arrival of Fremont at Strasburg and of Shields at Front Royal. If their calculations had been correct, Jackson's [47] small army was lost indeed. It only evacuated Winchester on the 31st, carrying off, in the midst of the inhabitants who were filled with consternation at this sudden departure, the valuable spoils of the Federal storehouses, which formed a train of nearly twenty kilometres in length. Despite the presumptuous incapacity of those who directed the operations against Jackson from Washington, this general might yet have found himself in great jeopardy. Shields, punctual to the rendezvous, had reached Front Royal on the 30th, with a brigade, before which the small Confederate garrison had retired. But the plan of the Federals was too complicated to succeed. It was Fremont who caused its failure by allowing Jackson to reach Strasburg before him by a forced march; finding himself thus placed between his two opponents, he prevented them from acting in concert and paralyzed all their movements. While McDowell was uniting two of his reduced divisions at Front Royal, Fremont, encamped on the neighboring heights of Strasburg, waited, without stirring, for Jackson to attack him, instead of coming down to bar his passage, or at least to dispute it. The Confederate chief found it easy to occupy his attention by means of a few demonstrations, and thus gave his long column time to escape. At last, on the 1st of June, he was rejoined by the whole of his rear-guard, and quietly resumed his march toward Harrisonburg by the turnpike. His adversaries had been so entirely separated that neither of them felt strong enough to attack him singly; and while each party was waiting for the support of the other, they suffered their prey to escape them. As soon as they became aware of the fact they tried to redeem their error by a vigorous pursuit. They might yet possibly intercept Jackson farther on, and, at all events, turn his retreat into a positive rout. Fremont, who was ascending the valley of the North Fork, was sufficiently near him to retard his march, while Shields' vanguard, by following the parallel valley, had some chance of reaching the right bank of the South Fork in advance of him, and of burning the bridges of that deep river before they could be occupied by the Confederates. If the whole of Shields' division should arrive in time, it could even cross the river in its turn, so as to attack the Confederates in flank, and finally form a junction with Fremont. But Jackson was too [48] active to be thus caught by an enemy whose designs he had already so many times frustrated. He took possession of the bridge at White House, and did not hesitate to destroy it in order to render the junction of Shields and Fremont impossible. Whilst one of his detachments was performing this operation, the remainder of his army continued its march up the valley of the South Fork; and although his progress was delayed by the heavy wagon-train he carried as a substantial token of his victory, he reached Harrisonburg on the 5th of June. He had not, however, yet entirely escaped from the Federals, who were pressing him on both flanks, and who, without having been able to effect a junction, still menaced his line of retreat. Fremont's vanguard, consisting of Bayard's cavalry brigade and some infantry under Colonel Cluseret, had harassed him with great boldness since leaving Strasburg. These two officers made up by their activity for the want of alacrity on the part of their chief. The next day Jackson learnt that they had succeeded in outflanking him with their right, and that, preceding him in the direction of Staunton, they had cut down the bridges along the road leading to this town. With a view of retarding their pursuit, he was obliged to engage all his cavalry in front of Harrisonburg. These brave troops dismounted and covered Jackson's retreat by an energetic resistance; but they lost in the action their commander, Turner Ashby, one of the best officers in the Confederate army. The Federals, on their side, left in the hands of the enemy Colonel Percy Wyndham, an Englishman, who had entered the volunteer service at the beginning of the war. Jackson, in the mean time, struck into a cross-road on the left for the purpose of gaining Port Republic, crossed the Shenandoah at that point to reach Brown's Gap, in the Blue Ridge, where he well knew his adversaries could no longer follow him. But at Port Republic his flank was exposed to the attacks of Shields, whose heads of column had already reached Conrad's Store, while Fremont, having resumed his march, was pressing him in the rear.

Jackson's situation was again full of peril. Leaving Ewell to keep Fremont in check, he reached the neighborhood of Port Republic with the remainder of his forces on the 7th of June. But before he had time to cross the river and occupy the town, [49] Shields' first brigade, commanded by General Carroll, comprising about one thousand men and a battery, appeared on the opposite side, repulsed his skirmishers, entered the town and took possession of the bridge. This bridge had played an important part in the campaign plans forwarded direct from Washington to the Union generals. They had been alternately directed to destroy and to save it. Colonel Carroll, having been ordered to preserve it, held it for nearly twenty minutes; adhering strictly to the letter of his instructions, he suffered the opportunity to escape which presented itself for preventing the Confederates from crossing the Shenandoah; and when the enemy's cannon, whose fire had been quickly concentrated upon him, compelled him to abandon the bridge, he did not even attempt to destroy it. The result of his blind obedience was to leave Jackson in possession of a sure means of retreat at the moment when he was on the point of being thrown upon an impassable river. Once master of Port Republic, the Confederate general had nothing more to fear, and his only object in holding his adversaries in check was to intimate to them that all pursuit was at an end. He determined, however, to take advantage of their separation to deal them successively a last blow.

On the 8th, Ewell, with five thousand men, was waiting for Fremont at Cross Keys, a point of junction of several roads in the neighborhood. The six Federal brigades were prompt in attacking him. But Fremont, being under the impression that he had the whole of Jackson's army before him, allowed himself to be held back a long time by the resistance which the Confederates offered in a difficult country, where clearings alternate with woods. At last, after a brisk musketry engagement, which cost him many men without securing him any marked advantage, he had just ordered a general attack, when, seeing a German brigade borne back by the enemy, he suddenly abandoned his project and gave the signal for retreat. The battle of Cross Keys cost the Federals from six to seven hundred men, while the Confederates lost three hundred. The latter, by holding the enemy in check during an entire day, had accomplished the object they had in view.

In the mean time, Jackson, crossing the bridge which had been [50] so wonderfully preserved, was emerging from Port Republic with the remainder of his army, and, taking advantage of his vast numerical superiority, was driving Carroll's brigade before him, which was the only one left of McDowell's army at that important point. But during the afternoon Tyler's brigade effected a junction with Carroll's; and although they had only three thousand men under their orders, they prepared to make a stand against Jackson if he should attack them. They had not long to wait for him; Jackson, encouraged by his success and the hesitation of his opponents, had conceived a bold plan. He proposed to crush the inferior forces he had found before him at Port Republic, recross the Shenandoah immediately after, and march with his whole army to meet Fremont, in order to give him battle in his turn, and finally to resume the Brown's Gap route, leaving nothing but vanquished foes behind him. To this effect he had brought back Ewell to Port Republic, leaving only Patton's small brigade, numbering scarcely eight hundred men, in front of Fremont. He had ordered Patton to deploy all his men as skirmishers in case of need, to retard the advance of the enemy as long as possible, promising to join him with his army at ten o'clock in the morning. Then he marched directly against Tyler.

The latter, posted three or four kilometres from Port Republic, rested his right upon the Shenandoah and his left upon a hill with uncovered slopes. The summit of this hill, crowned by a wood, was the key to the entire position. Jackson, leading his old brigade in person, made a vigorous attack upon the Federal right; but his soldiers were repulsed, and fled in disorder, abandoning a battery, one of whose guns fell into the hands of the Federals. He had more than twelve thousand men under his command, while only three thousand were arrayed against him; it was easy, therefore, for him to repair this check. But deceived by the valor of his opponents, and believing them to be stronger than himself, he abandoned the project he had conceived of marching against Fremont. He recalled Patton's brigade in great haste; and setting fire to the Shenandoah bridge immediately after, he placed the river between himself and Fremont. Meanwhile, the combat, which was raging along the right wing of the Federals, had obliged the latter to weaken their positions on the left. [51] Jackson pushed one of his brigades to the assault of these positions, and after a desperate struggle the Confederates took possession of them, together with three pieces of artillery which were found in them. Being turned on this side, Tyler was obliged to fight in retreat, and fell back in good order toward the hamlet of Conrad's Store, occupied by the remainder of Shields' division. His soldiers, who had been recruited among the pioneers of the West, and especially in the State of Ohio, had fought with great determination; they had inflicted a loss of six hundred men upon an enemy three or four times their number.

The battle of Port Republic ended the pursuit of Jackson. Fremont had witnessed its termination from the other side of the Shenandoah without being able to cross the river in time to participate in it. He withdrew, and Jackson, being master of the battle-field, gave some rest to his troops before entering on a new campaign. This time his course lay in the direction of Richmond; turning his back upon the theatre of his early successes, his opportune arrival enabled Lee to take advantage of the mistakes which his bold manoeuvres in the valley of Virginia had caused the military authorities at Washington to commit.

In the mean time, his adversaries were dispersing. Fremont returned to his Mountain department and Banks to Strasburg, while McDowell with difficulty united his divisions at Fredericksburg, exhausted and discouraged by so many fruitless marches and countermarches; although they had seen the enemy but once, they sustained more losses than if they had fought a pitched battle.

Returning to the peninsula of Virginia, we find the army of the Potomac still without the reinforcements it had so long been expecting, and left to its own resources. We left General McClellan on the 19th of May master of the Chickahominy pass at Bottom's Bridge. Free to seek a new base of operations on James River, or to continue resting on York River, he had just chosen the latter alternative, notwithstanding its dangers, in the vain hope of being able to keep in communication with McDowell's corps. Before resuming his march he had introduced some changes in the composition of his army corps; for the experience acquired at the battle of Williamsburg had shaken whatever confidence [52] he might have reposed in the capacity of the three commanders who had been forced upon him by the President at the opening of the campaign. The army corps had been reduced to five in number, each with two divisions, and an effective force of from fifteen to nineteen thousand men. This subdivision rendered them more manageable, while the command of the new corps fell, by right of seniority, upon Generals Franklin and Fitzjohn Porter, two officers for whom he entertained a particular regard.

The ground on which he was about to operate may be described in few words. It presents but a single obstacle, the Chickahominy—a serious one, it is true. This river, after passing within seven or eight kilometres of Richmond, turns off, continuing to flow in a south-easterly direction, so that Bottom's Bridge lies about eighteen or twenty kilometres from that city. Taking its rise to the north-east of the capital of Virginia, it winds through a valley regularly enclosed on both sides averaging eight or nine hundred metres in breadth. Following its downward course, we find Meadow Bridge first, over which passes a wagon-road and the Gordonsville railway; lower down, the bridge of Mechanicsville, commanded on the left bank by the hamlet of that name, is situated at the point where this river runs nearest to Richmond. Here the surrounding hills on each side are destitute of trees, and presently, on the road between Richmond and Cold Harbor, we come to New Bridge, which connects the hamlet of Old Tavern with the Gaines' Mill heights. One kilometre below this bridge the forest again enfolds the banks of the Chickahominy, and does not leave it for ten kilometres lower down, at the bridge of the West Point railway, which is situated one kilometre above Bottom's Bridge. The only tributaries of the Chickahominy are, on the left bank, a small stream called Beaver-dam Creek, between Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill, and on the right bank a vast wooded swamp, known as White Oak Swamp, the waters of which empty into the river a few kilometres below Bottom's Bridge, This swamp, which has its origin in the immediate vicinity of Richmond, is absolutely impassable, except at two or three points, where it becomes narrow, affording passage to a few crossroads.

The Confederate army was encamped around Richmond, where [53] it was receiving reinforcements forwarded in haste from every section of the country. Huger arrived with twelve thousand men from Norfolk; Branch, whose defeat at Newberne by Burnside we have noticed, brought nine thousand from North Carolina, and others were yet to follow. The reconnaissances of the Federal army had revealed the fact that the abandonment of Bottom's Bridge was the last step in Johnston's retreat. The latter was preparing for the defence of Meadow Bridge and New Bridge. The nature of the ground was perfectly adapted for this purpose, and the Federal general was the less likely to think of carrying this pass by main force because he could turn it by the lower course of the river, of which he had control. Everything, therefore, urged him to push his attacks by following the right bank between Bottom's Bridge and Richmond. On the 24th of May his left wing, composed of the corps of Keyes and Heintzelman, was firmly posted on the other side of the Chickahominy, and placed en echelon along the road between Richmond and Williamsburg, from Bottom's Bridge to the clearing of Seven Pines, eleven kilometres from Richmond. The rest of the army remained on the left bank of the river. The centre, consisting of Sumner's corps, was encamped in the neighborhood of the railroad-bridge; the two corps commanded by Porter and Franklin, forming the right wing, were posted in the vicinity of Gaines' Mill and Mechanicsville. The army had occupied these positions without any difficulty, having only met some weak detachments of the enemy at Seven Pines and Mechanicsville, which were easily repulsed. But it found itself thus divided into two parts by the Chickahominy, without any other communication between its right and left wings than the railway-bridge at Despatch and Bottom's Bridge; these two passages were far remote from the extreme points of Seven Pines and Mechanicsville, which were the most exposed to an attack from the enemy. It would undoubtedly have been infinitely better, under every aspect of the case, to have transferred the entire army to the right banks of the Chickahominy; but McClellan had been obliged to occupy both sides of the river and to push his right wing to the vicinity of its source, as much for the purpose of keeping up communication with Mc-Dowell's vanguard, whose arrival he was still constantly promised, [54] as to cover his depots at the White House, and the railroad through which he obtained his supplies. The faulty disposition of his army was therefore forced upon him by circumstances from the moment he had abandoned the idea of seeking a new base of operations on the James. We shall see presently how, in consequence of unforeseen accidents and too long delays, he remained in this dangerous position for more than a month.

It was on the 24th of May that McDowell had received an order from the President's own mouth to march upon Richmond. The next day being Sunday, his departure was fixed for the 26th. He had a march of seventy-two kilometres before him between Fredericksburg and Richmond, through a difficult country, as Grant was to find out two years later, but in which, owing to the position occupied by McClellan before Richmond, the Confederates could not have offered any serious resistance to the Federals. This region has two railroads. One, running north and south, leads from Aquia Creek to Richmond, through Fredericksburg and Bowling Green, and crosses to the south of the latter town the two branches of the Pamunky, called the North Anna and the South Anna, near Jericho Bridge and Ashland. The other railroad, from Gordonsville, intersects the first between these two branches, and passing the second near Hanover Court-house crosses the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge to enter Richmond more to east than the Aquia Creek road.

The Confederates had placed Anderson at Bowling Green with twelve or fifteen thousand men for the purpose of holding Mc-Dowell in check, and Branch's division between the Chickahominy and Hanover Court-house, that it might be within reach of Richmond or Bowling Green, as circumstances should require. On announcing McDowell's departure, Mr. Lincoln requested General McClellan to make a movement on his right to cut the communications between Bowling Green and Richmond, and to seize the two railroad bridges on the South Anna, in order that he might the more easily assist the troops who were on their way from Fredericksburg. This order was promptly executed, and on the 25th, Stoneman's cavalry was at work destroying the Gordonsville railroad between Hanover Court-house and the Chickahominy. But on this very day the mirage which had attracted [55] McClellan to the north side of Richmond was vanishing entirely away. McDowell had received fresh instructions; Shields was on his way to Front Royal; great excitement prevailed in Washington, and Mr. Lincoln telegraphed to the commander of the army of the Potomac that if he could not attack Richmond with the forces at his disposal, he had better give up the job and come to defend the capital.4 The next day the President urged him to send out the proposed expedition on his right, but with a very different object from that which had at first been contemplated, and to destroy the bridges on the South Anna, which two days before he was desirous to preserve at any price. Jackson had thus succeeded beyond his expectations; for it was for the purpose of cutting off the pretended reinforcements which, according to the Washington authorities, were to be forwarded to him from Richmond, that the Federals sought to destroy with their own hands the road which would have enabled them to concentrate their forces in front of the enemy's capital.

Tired out by such constant vacillations, McClellan prepared to execute this fatal order without offering any comments; but he determined to take advantage of the opportunity thus offered to exercise his right wing by striking an unexpected blow at Branch's division, which might threaten his depot while he was engaged in a great battle before Richmond. On the morning of the 27th, Porter, with Morell's division, Warren's brigade and three regiments of cavalry, two of which were regulars, little less than ten thousand men in all, left Mechanicsville and Cold Harbor and proceeded toward Hanover Court-house. After a fatiguing march of twenty-two kilometres, his vanguard, consisting of the cavalry and two regiments of infantry, encountered Branch, who, on being apprised of this threatening movement, had taken position at the intersection of the Hanover and Ashland roads. The Confederates thus covered the two railroadbridges on the South Anna; but they were vigorously attacked, and Butterfield's brigade, arriving in time, put them completely to flight. Branch lost in this first engagement one cannon and a large number of prisoners. Continuing his route, Porter, after [56] having joined Warren's brigade, sent the latter to destroy the bridge of the Gordonsville railroad, while that of Martindale proceeded to cut the other railroad line at Ashland. Warren had picked up whole companies of the enemy, which, deprived of all direction, surrendered without a struggle. After a slight skirmish, Martindale had also accomplished his task, and was on his way back to rejoin his chief at Hanover, when he suddenly fell in with the remainder of Branch's troops debouching by the same road which the Federals had followed in the morning. The Confederate chief, having, in fact, been surprised and forced into the preceding combat before he had time to collect all his forces, had been turned by the Federal detachment, which had passed on his right, and had thus been driven upon the banks of the Pamunky, near Hanover. In order to extricate himself from this difficult position, he described a large arc around the Federals, which would have brought him back to the Richmond and Ashland turnpike, when, just as he was about reaching the road, not far from the scene of the first fight, his heads of column fell in with Martindale's small brigade. The latter fought the superior forces of the enemy with great spirit, until Porter, informed by the noise of cannon, came back from Hanover with the remainder of his division, and attacking the Confederates both in front on the road, and by the flank through the woods, drove them in disorder toward the south.

The double combat of Hanover Court-house had cost the Federals fifty-three men killed and three hundred and forty-four wounded or taken prisoners. It was a brilliant and complete success. The enemy had left more than seven hundred prisoners and one gun in Porter's hands. Branch's division, dispersed among the woods, was entirely disorganized. The morale of the Federals was restored by so fortunate a result. But in Washington the tidings of this success afforded no compensation for the alarms caused by Jackson, which filled the minds of all men. Mr. Lincoln replied to McClellan's despatches with complaints that the order for the destruction of all the bridges on the South Anna had not yet been executed. On the following day the general-in-chief was able to inform him that his instructions had been scrupulously carried out, and on the 29th Porter's troops, [57] quitting the scene of their glorious but fruitless victory, returned to take position at Gaines' Mill. Everything indicated that the banks of the Chickahominy were soon to be ensanguined by a desperate struggle.

The Confederates were in fact collecting all their disposable forces for the protection of Richmond. The civil government as well as the personnel of the administration, who in that capital, as at Washington, fancied that all the interest of the war was centred in the defence of their bureaus, had passed from the utter discouragement caused by the loss of the Virginia to the most absolute confidence. On the 28th and 29th of May, considerable reinforcements came to join Johnston's army, Anderson's division among the rest; this officer, on seeing McDowell rushing in pursuit of Jackson, instead of following in his tracks, had quickly brought back his troops from Bowling Green to Richmond.

The position of the army of the Potomac seemed, on the other hand, to invite an attack. Its left, thrown over the unfriendly bank of the Chickahominy, and inactive for the last seven days, occupied a position which was at once menacing to the Confederates and dangerous to itself. Its front extended between the Chickahominy and White Oak Swamp. This latter water-course is composed of a succession of swamps running in a parallel direction with the former for a considerable distance, but the unequal width of which at certain points reduces the space comprised between them to four or five kilometres; at the elevation of Bottom's Bridge, the swamps give place to a stream which, inclining to the left, carries their muddy waters into the Chickahominy, a few kilometres below. The Williamsburg road and the West Point railway, after crossing the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge and at Dispatch, follow a parallel course in a direct line to Richmond. The bridge at Dispatch could not be thoroughly repaired before the 30th of May; all the troops posted on the right bank of the Chickahominy obtained their supplies, therefore, by the turnpike; and to facilitate the distribution of rations most of these troops were encamped in the successive clearings through which this road passes. On the left, dense woods, traversed only by narrow paths, stretch out as far as the impenetrable thickets which cover the stagnant waters of White Oak Swamp with eternal [58] verdure. The road forks within ten kilometres of Richmond, at a place called Seven Pines. One branch continues in the original direction, and approaches the capital by following the course of the James. The other, turning to the right, intersects the railroad at Fair Oaks station, emerging afterward into a large clearing, in the midst of which, at Old Tavern, it again connects with the Richmond road to New Bridge and Cold Harbor. This is the Nine Mile road. The railway, forming an almost straight line, runs along the summit of a slight undulation which separates the waters of White Oak Swamp from those of the Chickahominy. After rising upon the right bank of this water-course by passing through a deep cut, it crosses the woods without meeting with any work of importance to mark its course. There are three stations along the section of the line then occupied by the Federals—Dispatch, in the vicinity of the bridge; Fair Oaks, the nearest to Richmond; and between the two, Savage Station, situated in a large clearing at the intersection of several roads. These forest roads are very numerous; they form so many connecting links between isolated plantations, farms or country-houses, each standing in the centre of a cleared space surrounded by woods on every side; most of them are perpendicular to the Williamsburg turnpike, and run as far as the Chickahominy; but among these dense copses they constitute an inextricable labyrinth for those who are not familiar with the locality in all its details.

In order to approach Richmond, General McClellan was desirous of gaining ground gradually on the right bank of the Chickahominy, and after each step taken on that side to connect his two wings by throwing new bridges over this dangerous river. Sumner's corps, which occupied the left bank as far as the neighborhood of Gaines' Mill, had already constructed two bridges in conformity with this plan, one at three thousand five hundred metres, the other at six kilometres, above the railroad-bridge. In executing this work he had been able to cross to the opposite bank without meeting the enemy, and had completed it in a few days, thanks to the skill and ingenuity of his soldiers. The river, by a multitude of sinuous turnings, formed a swamp three or four hundred metres wide, lying in the shadow of gigantic trees, whose trunks rose to a height of fifty metres above the [59] waters, while the roots were buried in a muddy bottom impracticable for men and horses. It was found necessary to open a passage across this forest, and to lay the flooring of the bridge, formed of unhewn pieces of timber bound together by cords or bind-weed, sometimes on piles sunk into the bed of the river, sometimes on the stumps of the trees, which were cut down to a proper height. No survey had been made of the country beyond the shores of the river. Higher up still, in the neighborhood of New Bridge, two trestle-bridges had been constructed and almost entirely placed in position. It only remained to lay the flooring. But the open space in which they stood exposed them to the fire of the enemy, which had soon interrupted the work, and it could only be completed by the aid of an aggressive movement on the right bank.

The Federal left wing was composed of four divisions, each from six to eight thousand men strong. Casey, who commanded the newest regiments in the whole army, had very imprudently been placed at the most exposed point of the whole line, and occupied a clearing about one kilometre in advance of Seven Pines, where he had erected two small redoubts mounting a few fieldpieces. His pickets had been pushed only one thousand metres beyond that point. Couch, with his division, was at Seven Pines, near Fair Oaks station, situated sixteen hundred metres to the north, and along that portion of the Nine Mile road which connects these two points. At a distance of two kilometres from Seven Pines, where the Williamsburg road emerges from a large clearing to enter a wood, there was a line of breastworks and small redoubts occupied by Kearny's division. The fourth, Hooker's, had been sent a considerable distance south to watch the passes of White Oak Swamp.

The army of the Potomac was thus unfortunately scattered; its divisions, posted in front of Seven Pines, at White Oak Swamp and Mechanicsville, could not afford each other mutual support, and they formed a vast semicircle of nearly forty kilometres in extent. General McClellan estimated that it would have taken two days march for Franklin's division to reach Casey's encampments. The Confederates, on the contrary, occupying the chord of the arc, could as easily move to the front of [60] one as of the other; and after having menaced the extreme right of the Federals at Meadow Bridge, they had only eleven or twelve kilometres to march to reach Fair Oaks and fall upon their extreme left. Johnston was not the man to leave his adversary in so perilous a situation without turning it to account. His army, assembled around Richmond, consisted of four large divisions, each comprising five or six brigades, under Generals Longstreet, G. Smith, D. H. Hill and Huger; it numbered about sixty thousand effective soldiers.

On the 30th he gave the necessary instructions for battle on the morrow. Huger, following a road called the Charles City road, was to pass to the right of White Oak Swamp, and then cross this marsh, so as to attack Keyes' positions in flank, on the Williamsburg road, whilst Hill, debouching by this road, was to charge them in front. Longstreet, following in Hill's rear, was to sustain his attack. Smith's orders were to proceed to Old Tavern, in order to cover the left wing of the army in case the Federals should attempt to cross the Chickahominy near New Bridge; otherwise, to come and take part in the battle by entering into line to the left of Fair Oaks station.

During the evening a tropical storm burst upon the two armies, and in the midst of profound darkness poured torrents of rain upon the ground on which they were to measure their strength. On the morning of the 31st this clayey soil was half submerged; the passage of a single vehicle was sufficient to turn the roads into inextricable mud-holes; the smallest streams were swelling as one looked at them, while the Chickahominy, assuming a reddish tint, was beginning to overflow its banks and to spread over the plains adjoining, which were already very muddy. Far from allowing the obstacles which the condition of the ground was about to interpose to turn him from his purpose, Johnston only saw in it an additional motive for giving battle, being convinced that the mud and the overflow would be more fatal to the Federals, scattered along a line too extended, than to the army which was compactly gathered around him.

At break of day that army took up its line of march in the presence of the whole population of Richmond, which had come out of the city to encourage those to whom its defence was entrusted. It [61] would have been difficult to find a single inhabitant of the Confederate capital who had not a relative or a friend in the ranks of the army. Curious persons and newspaper correspondents followed it as far as the battle-field. The three divisions of Hill, Longstreet and Smith, after some strenuous efforts, arrived in position toward eight o'clock; they had been obliged, however, to leave their artillery behind—a bold resolve, which the Federals were not wise enough to imitate. But Huger's troops, which had started at the same time as the former, did not make their appearance in the positions which had been assigned to them. It is probable that the latter general may have found the fords at White Oak Swamp utterly impassable. Be that as it may, he did not reach the field of battle during the whole of that day, nor did he even notify his chief of the cause of his delay; his absence, so fatal to the success of the Confederates, was made the subject of bitter reproaches on the part of those whose plans had thus been frustrated. Finally, about noon, Longstreet, who had been waiting for him up to that moment, gave Hill the order to attack. Without sending any skirmishers ahead, that they might take the enemy more completely by surprise, the Confederates advanced, some in line across the woods, others in deep columns along the road, sweeping before them Casey's pickets, together with a regiment which had been sent to reinforce them. The foremost works of the Federals, which were as yet unfinished, being simply abatis or breastworks, whose profiles could afford no protection to soldiers, were occupied by Naglee's brigade. The latter made a vigorous resistance, while the division artillery, under Colonel Bailey, an old regular officer, caused great havoc in the ranks of the assailants. Meanwhile, the combat extended along the line. Hill had deployed all his troops and brought them into action; his left had reached Fair Oaks, where Couch was making a stand with a portion of his division. Casey's two other brigades had hastened to the assistance of Naglee, and, despite heavy losses, they held out against the Confederates, whose numbers were constantly increasing. Longstreet's division now entered into line and was supporting Hill's soldiers, who were becoming exhausted. Attacking the Federal position by the right, some of his regiments penetrated into the woods which separate White Oak Swamp from the [62] clearing defended by Casey. The Federal works were attacked in the rear, and their defenders decimated by enfilading fire. These young soldiers, who had hitherto been sustained by the excitement which springs from danger and the very exhaustion of a fierce struggle, no longer possessed the requisite coolness to resist this unexpected attack. They were driven back in disorder upon Seven Pines. Besides, the number alone of their adversaries would have been sufficient to crush them. Some few, however, persisted in defending the redoubts, but soon disappeared among the ranks of Hill's troops, who, having returned to the charge, hemmed them in on every side. Bailey was killed by the side of the guns he had just spiked, and seven pieces fell into the hands of the assailants. It was three o'clock. Precisely at this moment Peck's brigade of Couch's division was arriving from Seven Pines, led by Keyes, who had been informed somewhat late of the serious character of the fight The Lafayette Guards, which formed part of this brigade, having deployed into line among the debris of Casey's division, allowed the fugitives to pass without moving, then rallying around them this floating mass, among whom the bonds of discipline had disappeared, but not personal courage, they made a vigorous aggressive movement. Despite their efforts, they could recapture neither the redoubts nor the lost cannon; but the enemy was checked, the remainder of Casey's artillery saved, and the Federals had time to rally. Regiments after regiments from Couch's division were sent to sustain the fight; for if the Federals were losing ground, they now contested it foot to foot. On the right Couch commanded at Fair Oaks in person, where, with the rest of his division, he held in check the left wing of Longstreet, whose main efforts were still concentrated upon the position of Seven Pines.

The struggle lasted four hours, and yet, strange to say, only two divisions had taken part in it on either side. Keyes' corps alone, numbering about twelve thousand effective men, had been engaged on the Federal side, and while Longstreet and Hill's columns were being decimated by the enemy's artillery, Huger, on their right, was still lost in the White Oak Swamp; Smith, on their left, continued inactive around Old Tavern. In short, the [63] two generals-in-chief were both unconscious of the battle in which their respective soldiers were engaged. McClellan, who was sick at his headquarters near Gaines' Mill, had heard nothing from Heintzelman, to whom the command of the entire left was entrusted. The telegraph which connected the various sections of the army was silent. Heintzelman himself, although posted at Savage Station, only a few kilometres from Seven Pines, had only heard of the enemy's attack several hours after the first musket-shot was fired. Johnston's ignorance was still more unaccountable, inasmuch as he was the assailant. Leisurely posted at Old Tavern, he was still waiting for the booming of cannon on the Williamsburg road to put Smith in motion. But the storm of rain and wind which followed the gale of the previous day carried the sound in a different direction, and the general-in-chief, who had ordered the attack to be made in the morning, remained until four o'clock listening in expectation of this signal, without sending a solitary aide-de-camp to ascertain what was passing on his right. He was, however, separated by less than four kilometres in a direct line from the Williamsburg road, and a man on horseback, leaving Old Tavern, would have had no more than ten kilometres to ride, without leaving the main road, to reach Longstreet in the midst of the soldiers whom he was bringing without delay into the thickest of the fight. Although taken by surprise, the Federals had not lost quite so much time. The booming of cannon, which Johnston did not hear, had reached McClellan's tent. The high wind made it impossible for the balloon, which had been brought there at great expense, to make an ascension to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy; it had met the fate of all complicated machines, which, although useful at times, should never be relied on in war. An order, however, was immediately sent to Sumner to hold himself in readiness to march. The latter, also hearing the cannon, was not satisfied with simply obeying the letter of his instructions; but putting his two divisions in motion without delay, he placed each of them near one of the bridges he had constructed, ready to cross the river at the first signal. On his side Heintzelman, on learning the state of affairs about two o'clock, at once recalled Hooker from White Oak Swamp, despatched Kearny to the support of Keyes, and notified McClellan, who [64] immediately ordered Sumner to cross the Chickahominy and take part in the battle.

At half-past 3 o'clock Kearny, who, from the moment that he heard the sound of cannon, knew no obstacles, arrived at Seven Pines with two of his brigades, Berry's and Jamison's, and his timely presence retrieved for a moment the fortunes of the day. But at the same time Johnston was also roused from his inactivity. He sent at last an aide-de-camp to ascertain the movements of Longstreet; and learning from him that a fierce battle was raging on his right, he determined to bring Smith's corps into line. A portion of this corps, under Hood, marched directly upon Fair Oaks by way of Nine Mile road to support Longstreet's attack. The remainder, under the personal lead of the general-in-chief, bore to the left, and reached the large clearings extending from Fair Oaks to the Chickahominy; by this movement Johnston hoped to strike the right flank and rear of the Federals who were defending Seven Pines. It was four o'clock. Hood arrived at Fair Oaks with his fresh troops, and swept everything before him. He cut the Federal line in two. Couch, with a few regiments, was driven back north of the railroad, while the remainder of his division, already scattered and mixed up with the debris of Casey's, was no longer able to defend Seven Pines, and was forced back on the Williamsburg road, while Kearny's brigades, which had resolutely defended their positions on the extreme left, finding themselves separated from the rest of the army, were obliged to make a large detour across the woods to rejoin their comrades.

It was a critical moment. The Federals, who had struggled vigorously against the ever-increasing numbers of their adversaries—for they were only eighteen or nineteen thousand against more than thirty thousand—were in a condition in which the least mischance might lead to an irreparable disaster. Brigades, regiments, and even companies, were mixed up. The relative commands no longer existed. In their efforts to restore order among the troops the officers gathered around them, by their words and their example, men from the regiments, and marshalled them in haste and almost at random behind the breastworks erected a few days before near the camp occupied by Kearny, two kilometres [65] in the rear of Seven Pines. One moment more, and Smith, falling upon the extreme right of this weak line, would give the signal for a new attack, which would probably consummate the destruction of all the Federals south of the Chickahominy.

It was six o'clock in the evening, and the Confederates had more than two hours of daylight before them to complete their victory; but all of a sudden a brisk fire of musketry broke out in the wood to the right of the railroad. The hollow sound of howitzers loaded with grape was soon mingled with it. Smith had encountered a foe entirely unexpected. It was Sumner, who arrived in time to check his progress and resume on this side the game which had been lost on the Williamsburg road. The warrior's instinct, which prompted him to push his divisions forward and mass them in the vicinity of the bridges when ordered to keep under arms, had enabled him to gain an hour, and that hour secured the safety of the army. The new order directing him to cross the Chickahominy to participate in the battle reached him about two o'clock. At that moment the river was already rising as far as the eye could see, seeming to conspire with the enemy to prevent him from going to the assistance of his comrades. The lower bridge had been carried away; the other was entirely submerged, while the unhewn timbers which constituted its flooring, being only held together by ropes, floated about amid the waters, whose impetuous current tossed them in their foam. Sumner himself, despite his inflexible will, was beginning to think that not a single company would ever be able to reach the other side of the river. Nevertheless, he pushed the head of column of Sedgwick's division over this bridge. The first soldiers who crossed found it difficult to keep steady on the moving platform, which was shaking under their feet. But the weight of those who followed soon restored its stability; it soon settled on the piles from which it had been wrenched. The whole of Sedgwick's division crossed it, the officers on horseback; the artillery followed, but most of the guns sunk in the mud in the marshy plains which extend beyond the bridge. Kirby's regular battery alone succeeded in getting safely over. Richardson, who, after having tried in vain to restore the lower bridge, had been compelled to cross at this same point, followed in rear of Sedgwick, but his troops only [66] reached the opposite shore at nightfall. Sumner had not waited for his arrival to move forward with his first division. He had just overtaken Couch, who had been driven back on the right of Fair Oaks with a portion of his troops, and had barely time to deploy to receive the shock of Smith's corps, which was about to debouch in the large clearing. Kirby's battery enfiladed an open space leading to Nine Mile road; Sumner placed one brigade and a half on the right, fronting Old Tavern; on the left the remainder of Sedgwick's division was disposed en potence parallel to the railroad, which the enemy had just occupied. Even before these dispositions were fully carried out, the battle was furiously engaged. Smith was in haste to make up for lost time, and believed himself sure of success; Whiting, who commanded three brigades of this corps, debouched on the salient angle formed by the Federal line; but being received by a terrible fire from Kirby's guns, he halted on the skirt of the wood. After a brisk fire of musketry, the Confederates made a new attempt to carry this battery, which occupied the key of the position, and had interrupted their turning movement. Johnston, rushing in person into the thickest of the fight, hurled Pettigrew's brigade against it. It advanced fearlessly up to the cannon's mouth; but the Federal gunners, anxious to avenge the memory of Bull Run, where this same Johnston had captured their pieces, coolly waited for the assault of the Confederate brigade, which they decimated at short range. It was driven back in disorder, leaving in the Federal hands its wounded commander, Pettigrew, and the ground strewed with dead bodies. Availing himself of this chance, Sumner assumed the offensive with his left, and drove the enemy back in the direction of Fair Oaks. Smith brought his reserve brigades into action in vain; he could barely hold the ground he occupied, and his forward movement was definitively checked. The Confederate army was, moreover, paralyzed at this moment by the loss of its commander-in-chief; Johnston had just been severely wounded and carried into Richmond. It was seven o'clock in the evening. Along the whole line the battle had degenerated into a musketry fire, which was continued pretty well into the night, but each party remained on the defensive. The check of Smith had, in fact, crippled the success of Longstreet on the Williamsburg road. The latter, [67] arriving in front of the small works where the Federal forces were massed, was afraid of attempting to carry them by assault with worn-out troops whose ranks were fearfully thinned. His opponent, reinforced by a few fresh regiments, made a bold stand while the fugitives were rapidly coming back into line. Longstreet was waiting for assistance, either from Huger on his right or from Smith on his left, before making the attack, and thus allowed the last hours of daylight to pass away.

A dark and rainy night came on at last to put an end to the slaughter, but not to the sufferings, the fatigues and the anxieties, of the two armies. The losses had been equally heavy on both sides. During the whole of that night long wagon-trains of wounded men, carrying into Richmond the unfortunate victims of a fratricidal war, told the inhabitants of the capital how dearly bought was the success which had been prematurely announced to them. All the vehicles in the city, omnibuses and carts, were despatched to the field of battle to find the wounded and the dying, whom they brought back in the midst of a dense and silent crowd. As for the dead, there was no time as yet to think of them. On the side of the Federals the ambulances, camps and railway-stations were not less encumbered.

On both sides the generals were filled with anxiety. Smith had assumed the command, but in succeeding Johnston he could not replace that experienced chieftain. The Federals had undoubtedly sustained a severe check; but if their left wing had been defeated, it was not destroyed, as was hoped in Richmond. The attack had been wanting in unison; the absence of Huger, together with the prolonged inaction of Smith, had thrown all the burden of the battle upon one-half of the army. Finally, the encounter with Sumner had not only roughly interrupted the success of the operation, but had revealed the existence of communications which the Confederates had not suspected. It gave them to understand that, notwithstanding the rise in the Chickahominy, they might on the following day have to measure themselves with the whole Federal army. Consequently, they determined upon a retreat.

On the side of the Federals the anxiety was not less. They had always wished during this aggressive campaign for an opportunity [68] to fight a defensive battle, thinking that this kind of fighting was better adapted to the character of their soldiers; they had been attacked, and, so far from coming off victorious, their left wing had been so crushed that Sumner's success afforded no compensation for the reverse. The Chickahominy was constantly rising, and it was easy to foresee that on the following morning all the new communications established by Sumner between the two wings of the army would be interrupted by the freshet. It was known that the enemy had not brought all his forces into action. There were more than sixty thousand men around Richmond and within reach of Fair Oaks. General McClellan thought there were eighty thousand. The Federal troops who were about to find themselves almost isolated on the right bank of the Chickahominy did not amount to forty-five thousand men, while one-third of them at least, disorganized by the great struggle of the 31st of May, would have found it difficult to come into line the day following.

This numerical inferiority should not have existed; and if the Confederates had cause to complain that some of their generals had compromised the success of their operations by not appearing on the field of battle or by arriving too late, the Federals had an equal right to say that the inaction of half their army had prevented them from turning the battle of Fair Oaks into a great victory. Sumner's success was sufficient proof of this. At the time when the latter was ordered to cross the Chickahominy, General McClellan felt how important it would be to support him by a movement of his whole right wing. From his headquarters at Gaines' Mill he could see the smoke, which rose above the treetops, tracing the undulations of the line of battle and marking the steady progress of the enemy. He had two army corps in hand; before him the Chickahominy, which, although swollen, was still passable; two bridges already in an advanced state of construction could be completed in a few hours; on the opposite hill, commanding the approaches to the river, no work had been erected by the enemy; only one or two regiments were seen moving about with suspicious ostentation along the most conspicuous points of the plateau. By leaving one division to guard the large park of artillery and the depots, McClellan could have crossed [69] the river with three others in the vicinity of New Bridge, and fallen upon the flank of the Confederates; such an attack would have made them pay dear for their first success. He had already made every preparation for this movement, when, the two corps commanders having represented to him that the condition of the valley would not admit the passage of their artillery unless causeways were constructed for that purpose, he consented to defer the movement until the next day. This was a great misfortune, for he thus lost an opportunity unexampled in the whole course of the campaign. Nevertheless, while abandoning the idea of crossing the Chickahominy at New Bridge, he could bring back his right wing to the rear, in order to cross the river over the same bridge as Sumner. This bridge was situated only about four miles and a half from the encampments of the right wing; and if the troops had been put in motion at the time Sumner received the order to cross, they would have arrived in time to follow him over the bridge, which withstood the flood until noon the next day. In this case, five fresh divisions, instead of two, could have resumed the offensive in the morning. But General McClellan, knowing that a single defeat might involve the loss of his whole army, isolated as it was in the enemy's country, and ruin the Federal cause for ever, was not willing to weaken his right wing. Fearing lest the enemy might debouch by way of Meadow Bridge and cross the Chickahominy, he did not dare to entrust to a thin line of troops the guard of his communications and the immense park of artillery, which the condition of the roads prevented from being removed; and he left nearly fifty thousand men inactive on the plateau of Cold Harbor. We cannot blame his prudence, but it may be asserted that if he had known what was passing among the Confederate bivouacs, and at the camp-fires around which the generals in command of the enemy's troops were trying to find shelter from the penetrating dampness of that night, he would have acted very differently. Indeed, their new commander-in-chief had no idea of throwing himself on both banks of the Chickahominy, in the position which had so nearly proved fatal to the Federals. He did not believe it possible to complete the manoeuvre which had been interrupted by Sumner against their left wing. It must be acknowledged, however, that the chances were [70] greatly in his favor. Huger had made his appearance after the battle, and Generals Holmes and Ripley had just arrived in Richmond from North Carolina with eight thousand men. This timely reinforcement would perhaps permit them to resume the attack with greater hope of success, as the rise in the river rendered the position of the Federals more difficult. But in the absence of Johnston, who had alone conceived the plan of battle, prudence prevailed, and Smith would have given the signal for retreat that very night, if he had not been obliged to give his soldiers a few hours' rest, and his officers time to rally and reorganize their troops. Consequently, when day dawned upon the two armies no sound disturbed at first the silence which reigned over the battlefield; and it was the Federals who renewed the conflict on the morning of the 1st of June. During the evening Hooker had again struck into the Williamsburg road, while Richardson had joined Sedgwick near Fair Oaks. These two divisions, advancing to the front line, attacked the Confederates, who were already in full retreat. Notwithstanding this reinforcement, the troops composing the left wing of the Federals were not in a condition to push into a woody and unknown region, in pursuit of an enemy whose prowess they had just experienced. A movement of this kind could not have been seriously undertaken unless Franklin and Porter, prompted by the same instincts which had inspired old Sumner the day before, should join them on the field of battle. It is true that General McClellan had strongly recommended to his two lieutenants that they should cross the Chickahominy in front of their encampments; but the river had increased in volume since the preceding day; the bridges, which the artillery would have found it difficult to cross on the 31st of May, had become impassable on the 1st of June; and these generals, availing themselves of the latitude which McClellan usually allowed them in the interpretation of his orders, made no movement with their troops. They thus suffered victory to escape them, and their vacillations saved the Confederate army from imminent disaster. Indeed, it has been asserted by eye-witnesses that its retreat was not made without disorder, and that if the Federals had pressed with a sufficient force, even without artillery, the three brigades of Huger's corps, which, under Pickett, Pryor and Mahone, [71] were defending every inch of ground, they might probably have been able to enter Richmond with then.

The combat of the 1st of June, in which but a few thousand men were engaged on either side, had notwithstanding the proportions of a great battle. On the left it was marked by a brilliant charge of Sickles' brigade along the railway track; on the right by a sharp encounter between an Irish brigade in the Federal service, commanded by General Meagher, and Pickett's troops. Before noon the Federal outposts took possession without a blow of the works whose capture had cost so dear to the Confederate army, and suffered it to disappear among the dense woods without molestation. This brilliant army, which had gone out the day before almost in triumph for the purpose of delivering Richmond from the grasp of the invader, returned to its cantonments on that same evening, with only four flags, ten cannon and twelve hundred prisoners, more as an evidence of its valor than as a token of success.

The undecided battle, which had drenched the vicinity of Fair Oaks with blood during two entire days, was attended with a loss of nearly four thousand five hundred men to the Confederates, and five thousand seven hundred and twenty-seven on the part of the Federals. The heaviest losses on both sides were sustained around Seven Pines; those of Longstreet and Hill amounted to more than three thousand, and those of Keyes to three thousand one hundred and twenty men.5 After such a struggle the two armies, composed of soldiers but little inured as yet to the hardships of war, were equally in need of rest.6

A very remarkable work just published by General Johnston explains how McClellan is mistaken in attributing a loss of two [72] thousand five hundred men more than they really sustained, to his opponents. In this work Johnston severely blames the generals who succeeded him in command for not having followed up on the 1st of June their success of May 31st. He complains, moreover, of not having been informed beforehand of the approach of Holmes and Ripley, whose arrival he would have waited for before giving battle, if he had known of their being so near. As General Johnston's official report, addressed to the Confederate government, contains none of these reproaches, now embodied in a book which has appeared since the close of the war, we may infer that President Davis is chiefly responsible, in the estimation of General Johnston, for the mistakes he refers to in his later publication.


[73]

Chapter 3:

Gaines' Mill.

THE alarms occasioned by Jackson's success did not prevent the battle of Fair Oaks from producing a great sensation in the North. The army of the Potomac was essentially national in its character, and there was not a village in the free States that had not furnished to it some young men; consequently, a greater interest was everywhere manifested in its labors than in the pretended dangers of the Federal capital. The government, still cherishing a secret jealousy against General McClellan, seldom communicated to the public the tidings it received from him, but after such a battle it was no longer possible to keep silent; accordingly, a despatch from the commander-in-chief was for the first time published. The latter, unfortunately deceived by Heintzelman's report, threw undue blame upon Casey's division. This despatch was corrected in Washington, but in such a manner as to aggravate the painful effect of the error it contained. The unmerited censure was allowed to stand, while the eulogies which McClellan bestowed upon Sumner were suppressed. The general-in-chief soon set forth the truth, and it became known that the army had been saved by the stubborn resistance of Naglee and Bailey, the ardor which Kearny had infused into Jamison's and Berry's brigades, and, finally, by the indomitable energy of old Sumner.

Mr. Lincoln learned at last that he could no longer delay sending the reinforcements which the army of the Potomac needed in order to continue the task, which threatened to be difficult. The garrison of Fort Monroe and a few other regiments, eight or nine thousand men in all, were assigned to General McClellan, who distributed them among the different brigades of the army. He was again promised the co-operation of McDowell as soon as the [74] latter could gather together the detachments he had sent forward in pursuit of Jackson. This promise, no less vain than that of the preceding year, was to exercise on the operations of the Federals against Richmond even a more baneful influence than the first breach of promise. Still afraid of exposing the capital, the President refused to send more than one division of McDowell's corps by water. In notifying McClellan that the other three divisions would proceed from Fredericksburg to rejoin him by land, he again requested him to be ready to communicate with them on the South Anna, and thus caused him to miss the opportunity to repair his delays and the mistakes he had been led to commit. He could, in fact, have taken advantage of the confusion into which the Confederates had been thrown by the battle of Fair Oaks, to seek the new base of operations on the James River, the advantage of which we have pointed out elsewhere. This movement, to which, three weeks later, it was necessary to resort for the purpose of saving the army, would have given very different results if it had been executed then with an offensive aim.

The enforced rest which followed the battle of Fair Oaks was prolonged by the bad weather for two distressing weeks. The Chickahominy, the overflow of which exceeded anything ever witnessed by the oldest inhabitants, carried away all the bridges, and for several days the six divisions, encamped on the right side of the river, only obtained their supplies by the railroad and the viaduct, whose frail scaffolding trembled above the flood. The ground, which consists of alternate layers of reddish clay and quicksand, was nothing more than a vast swamp, and the guns which had been ranged in battery near the camps gradually sunk into the earth, from which they could not be extricated. Every morning a scorching sun, shining upon this damp soil, and decomposing the dead bodies of men and horses, which the rain had again brought to the surface, filled the hot air with poisonous exhalations. Every evening thick clouds gathered, the lightning flashed, the heat became suffocating, and all night long rain fell in abundance, which still further increased the inundation.

The inactivity to which the two armies were thus condemned, however, did not partake of the qualities of refreshing rest. The Federals, as we have stated, would probably have achieved an [75] important success on the 1st of June, if they had put in motion the troops encamped at Gaines' Mill, on the evening of the 31st, or during the night, so as to find themselves on the right banks of the Chickahominy at daybreak, with all the disposable portion of their army. This opportunity had been allowed to pass; but they were yet in time to change their base of operations, and mass all their forces between the Chickahominy and the James. General McClellan having given up this project in order to remain within reach of Fredericksburg, nothing was left for him to do but to carry out the plan which had been temporarily interrupted by the battle of Fair Oaks. This plan consisted in gaining ground gradually by capturing, one day a wood, another day a clearing, and thus advancing step by step until, by a succession of battles more or less fierce, Richmond should be so closely hemmed in that the enemy's army would either abandon it, or renew, under less favorable circumstances, the dangerous experiment of Fair Oaks. But even a slow operation of this kind required fine weather. It was necessary before joining battle to have facilities—in fact, to be able to move and victual the troops with ease; it was necessary before joining battle to conquer the treacherous waters of the Chickahominy, and to connect both banks by bridges numerous and always passable; it was necessary, finally, to be able to take to the battle-field that powerful artillery, without which the generals of the army of the Potomac were unwilling to lead their soldiers to the attack. These two weeks, therefore, were employed on the part of the Federals in repairing the roads which connected their several camps, in constructing new ones, in extricating from the mud the large supply-trains, which scarcely sufficed for the distribution of daily rations, in strengthening the bridges and increasing their number, and finally in covering the whole battle-field of the 31st of May with vast works.

About the middle of June the ground was once more practicable, and the Chickahominy, having again become a modest stream, did not appear inclined to renew its fatal freaks of violence. The army of the Potomac was at length firmly established, provided with excellent communications, and surrounded by strong entrenchments, which enabled it to concentrate without danger a [76] large portion of its forces at any given point along its front. But these results had been dearly bought. The soldiers, obliged to work in the mud in an unhealthy climate, had suffered severely. The camps, too long seated on a marshy soil, had become the foci of swamp fevers and typhoid fevers. To the painful monotony of throwing up earthworks were added continual watches and picket duty, which deprived the men of that rest which is necessary to health, without offering them in exchange the stimulants of an active campaign. In short, fatigue and disgust multiplied the number of deserters into the interior, whose crime was encouraged by a vicious system of recruiting, and especially by the bait of bounties, which they hoped to receive by re-enlisting in new regiments. Consequently, notwithstanding the reinforcements which had come from Fortress Monroe, and the arrival of McCall's division, detached from McDowell's corps and landed on the 11th and 12th at White House, the effective force of the army was reduced to little more than one hundred thousand men for duty. Its official morning reports acknowledged thirty thousand absentees, nine-tenths of whom were on the sick-list, or quartered in the hospitals, or sent to their respective homes on leave as convalescents.7 The Confederates, on their side, had also made good use of the respite which circumstances had granted them. They had naturally opposed a line of entrenchments to those of the Federals. As McClellan's task was to capture Richmond, and not to defend the swamps of the Chickahominy, these delays all accrued to the benefit of his adversaries; and the more he fortified his position, the more the difficulties of the task he had to accomplish increased. The Confederate army was also receiving reinforcements; and, thanks to the plans which the Southern generals had caused the Richmond government to adopt, the [77] moment was approaching when it would be in a condition to venture upon a decisive struggle, with better chances than at Fair Oaks. General Lee had assumed the command made vacant by Johnston's wound. His first efforts in the war had not been more brilliant than those of Grant, his future opponent, and he was personally but little known to the troops he was about to lead into battle. But his companions in the Mexican expedition had not forgotten the eminent services he had then rendered, notwithstanding his inferior rank. Since the outbreak of the civil war, the Confederate authorities had had occasion to appreciate his wisdom and clearness of judgment in matters connected with military affairs. His fellow-citizens of Virginia respected him as the representative of one of the first families of the most aristocratic of the American colonies. He was looked upon by all as a true type of the soldier and man of honor. The regrets even he had experienced in forsaking the Federal flag no longer injured him in the eyes of the public, for the moment of the first ebullitions had passed. Once upon the scene, he will no more leave it, and he will always play, if not the first, at least one of the first, parts. We shall always find him a patient, persevering and prudent calculator, yet ready to risk much at the opportune moment; handling a large army with great dexterity in the midst of the thickest forests; understanding men, selecting them carefully, and securing their attachment by his equity; worshiped by his soldiers, obtaining from them what no other chief could have thought of asking them; respected and obeyed by all his lieutenants; humane, of a conciliatory disposition, one whose only fault as a general was an excess of deference to the opinion of his subordinates, which at times caused him to lose a little of that firmness which is so indispensable in the midst of a battle. Such was the new adversary of General McClellan.

Since he had assumed command he had reorganized his army and gathered new combatants from every part of the Confederacy. The conscription law, which was in force, had filled up his cadres, mixing young soldiers with those whom the war had already trained. The scattering system, which had prevailed at first, was abandoned; the garrisons along the coast were reduced to their minimum or entirely suppressed, and most of the troops composing [78] them were sent on to Richmond. A few regiments had been brought from the West, where the operations had lost something of their importance since Beauregard had retired into the interior, leaving Corinth in the hands of Halleck.

But it was the co-operation of Jackson that Lee was expecting, in order to change the course of the campaign, and execute the offensive movement for which he was preparing. He counted upon his arrival, just as McClellan relied upon that of McDowell. He was not, however, destined to be the victim of the same deceptions which the commander of the army of the Potomac had to experience. Jackson's return to Richmond was the brilliant conclusion of the operations which the latter had so successfully conducted in the valley of Virginia. After having carried trouble into the councils of the enemy, after having thrown the latter on the wrong scent, and drawn a portion of the forces destined for the reduction of Richmond into the mountains, he had to effect his escape and double in his tracks, in order to go to the rescue of those who were making a stand against the large Federal army. No precaution was neglected to secure the success of this plan. Jackson, who had at first thought of invading Pennsylvania, eagerly accepted the new part assigned to him by Lee, the importance of which he understood.

The battle of Port Republic had terminated the campaign in the valley of Virginia on the 9th of June, and arrested the pursuit of the Federals. Jackson gave some rest to his troops at Weyer's Cave, not far from the field of battle, and made ostensible preparations to undertake a new offensive movement on the same ground. On the 11th, Whiting's division, nearly ten thousand strong, was detached from Smith's old corps, which had fought at Fair Oaks, and being placed on board a train of cars, which had been made ready with affected secrecy, proceeded from Richmond by the right bank of the James to the Lynchburg and Burkesville junction, so celebrated since. At a short distance from Richmond some apparently unaccountable reason caused the cars to be detained for several hours in front of Belle Isle prison, where were shut up a large number of Federal soldiers about to be exchanged in a few days. The passers-by expressed much indignation at the carelessness of the railroad employ's in allowing the Federals to [79] take note of the powerful reinforcements which were being sent to Jackson, thus revealing to the enemy such important movements of troops. This was precisely what General Lee desired. On the 15th, Whiting left Lynchburg for Charlottesville, reaching Staunton on the 18th, where he landed his materiel, and seemed to be preparing to proceed down the valley to fall upon Fremont conjointly with Jackson; but on the 20th he speedily got on board the same cars which had brought him over, and returned to Charlottesville, where Jackson was awaiting him with the army that had fought at Cross Keys and Port Republic. By the movements of his cavalry, by his own words, and by means of letters written with the intention that they should fall into the hands of the Federals, he had confirmed all the fears which the movements of Whiting's division had excited in Washington. General McClellan had, in fact, notified the President on the 18th of the departure of these troops, and the intelligence received from Fredericksburg fully corroborated this information. On receipt of this news, General Fremont hastily fell back upon Strasburg, while McDowell, who had at last witnessed the return of Shields' division to his encampments, and who had already sent that of McCall to join McClellan by water, was waiting in vain for the order to set off on the three or four days march which separated him from the army of the Potomac. The desire to form a new army, which was to achieve easy successes under the personal direction of the Secretary of War, had decided the government to detain this general on the Rappahannock. The safety of Washington, which Jackson could not seriously menace, had only been, it must be acknowledged, a false pretext for conferring the command of an army, which absorbed all the reinforcements promised to McClellan, upon General Pope, an officer as brave as he was inexperienced, who had become the favorite of the hour. Mc-Dowell's corps was designed to swell its numbers uselessly, at the moment when every interest called it to the borders of the Chickahominy.

Meanwhile, a bold reconnaissance had revealed to General Lee the weak points of his adversary. On the morning of the 13th a brigade of cavalry, about one thousand two hundred strong, and accompanied by a few pieces of artillery, left Richmond [80] under command of General Stuart. Its destination was a profound secret. Following the road to Louisa Court-house, as if on his way to reinforce Jackson, Stuart encamped in the evening at the railway-bridge of Aquia Creek, on the South Anna. Before daylight on the 14th, he turned suddenly to the right in the direction of Hanover Court-house, where two squadrons of the Fifth regular cavalry were performing picket duty. The first squadron, surprised by the appearance of the Confederates, was quickly dispersed. The second, taking advantage of the narrowness of the road, which compelled the enemy's troopers to march by fours, charged them vigorously without concern as to their numerical superiority. Being closely packed within this narrow defile, the two detachments were mingled, and fought with sabres. The Federal commander, Captain Royall, killed the commander of the first squadron of the enemy with his own hand, and was himself mortally wounded a moment after.8 The weight of the Confederate column soon swept before it the handful of regulars who had attempted to check its progress. The Fifth regiment of cavalry, which before the war was numbered the Second, had long been commanded by General Lee, and his nephew Colonel Lee, who led one of the Virginia regiments under Stuart, had also served in it. He thus found himself called upon, as a sad result of the civil war, to draw his sword against officers who had been his comrades the preceding year—perhaps even against some of the soldiers whom he had commanded in the garrisons of the far West. Far from feeling any secret remorse in their presence, and carried away by the passion which inspired him for the cause of the South, he solicited of his chief the privilege of measuring swords with his late companions in arms. But there were no longer any enemies to fight; the two squadrons which alone had guarded the flank of the Federal army on that side were dispersed; and proceeding down the Pamunky, Stuart led his brigade as far as Old Church, at an unbroken trot. The task assigned to him by his chief was accomplished; he had turned the right wing of the Federals, he had made a survey, before reaching Old Church, of the course of a [81] swampy stream called the Tolopotamoi, a tributary of the Pamunky, which could easily have been covered with defensive works, and thus marked out the route which Jackson was to follow a few days after with his army.

The Confederate column was about sixteen miles from Hanover Court-house. It seemed natural that it should retrace its steps and go back to Richmond; but Stuart, who possessed all the instincts of a light cavalry general, determined to carry out a plan much more hazardous in appearance, but less dangerous in reality—to make the complete circuit of the Federal army, so as to enter Richmond on the south, which he had left by the north. By this movement he expected to throw the rear of his enemy into great confusion, so that amid the contradictory rumors which such a bold march would spread he would have a good chance to baffle the pursuit of his adversaries. None of the officers to whom he communicated his plan dared to approve of it; but he knew that all would obey him with courage and intelligence. After giving his brigade a moment of rest, and making careful inquiries regarding the Hanover Court-house road, which he pretended to wish to follow, Stuart ordered the bugles to sound ‘boots and saddles,’ silently placed himself at the head of his column, and directed his horse toward New Kent Court-house. The soldiers followed with astonishment, but without hesitation, a chief who inspired them with a blind confidence. Yet every step they took seemed to interpose an additional barrier against all chances of return. On the right lay the whole army of the Potomac; on the left the immense depot of White House; in front of them the railway and the turnpike, along which the enemy's troops were incessantly passing to and fro. The small band drew closer together, for there was danger on every side; this danger, however, was considerably lessened through the connivance of all the inhabitants. At each house Stuart received the minutest information regarding the Federal corps to be avoided, and the magazines which might be destroyed. Two boats on the Pamunky were burned, but Stuart dared not go as far as the White House, notwithstanding the temptation which so rich a prize offered him. He struck the railroad at Tunstall's station; and after putting a small Federal outpost to flight, he went into ambuscade in order to capture the first train [82] which might happen to pass by. An instant after, a train of cars loaded with sick and wounded, bound for the White House, arrived at full speed, but instead of stopping to water as usual, continued right on, while the pieces of timber placed across the track for the purpose of throwing off the cars were scattered right and left by the locomotive. The surprised Confederates merely fired a volley into the train, which wounded many of the sick and frightened the passengers, some of whom jumped out of the cars; the danger, however, was of short duration, and the train, disappearing among the woods, spread the alarm along the whole line. Stuart, thus disappointed, had not even time to destroy the railway track, for he learned that McCall's division, on its way to join McClellan, was encamped in the neighborhood, that it was under arms and would soon make its appearance. He drew off, still pursuing his onward course, after having burned a few cars loaded with provisions and several camps, and after feeding his soldiers at the expense of the frightened sutlers whom he had stopped on the road. But night had come, and the fires kindled by his hand, flashing above the forest, were so many signals which drew the Federals upon his tracks. Fortunately for Stuart, his soldiers were well acquainted with the faintest path in the country through which they were passing; they were at home. Consequently, they reached the hamlet of Talleysville without difficulty, where the column was allowed a few hours' rest and time to rally. Then, turning to the right, it proceeded rapidly toward the Chickahominy.

At daybreak the Confederate cavalry reached the borders of this river, considerably below Bottom's Bridge, at a place called Forge, or Jones' Bridge. But the ford on which they had depended was not passable; the bridge had been destroyed, and the Federal cavalry, which, under Averill, had been sent by McClellan to intercept these passes, was only a few miles distant from the place. Two hours more of delay, and Stuart would have lost his only chance of retreat; it was a critical moment. Efforts were made to repair the old bridge, and every man set to work to cut down trees for that purpose. A foot-bridge was soon constructed, which the men crossed on foot, swimming their horses alongside. Once on the other side of the river, the Confederates proceeded to enlarge the dimensions of the flying bridge, and, by dint of labor, [83] succeeded in getting their artillery over this fragile structure. Stuart had thus baffled all pursuit, and resumed his march on the Richmond road, having lost but one man killed and one caisson stuck in the mud, during this adventurous expedition.

The whole Federal cavalry had been started in pursuit of Stuart. As soon as he was known to be at Tunstall, McClellan had divined his purpose, and, as we have said before, despatched Averill with one brigade to intercept him at Jones' Bridge. But his orders, tardily transmitted, only reached the rest of his cavalry two hours after the passage of the Confederates. The latter arrived in Richmond that very evening. They had, in point of fact, committed but few depredations, but had caused a great commotion, shaken the confidence of the North in McClellan, and made the first experiment in those great cavalry expeditions which subsequently played so novel and so important a part during the war.

During the ten days which followed this alarm the Federals always fancied themselves on the eve of making a general attack upon the enemy; but each day, after having determined upon it, and made preparations for it, they would meet with some new and unforeseen difficulty, which caused them to defer its execution. Lee, knowing how important it was to gain time, so as to allow Jackson to join him, neglected nothing which could make him appear much stronger in the eyes of his adversary than he really was. By multiplying his pickets, by disputing every inch of ground and constantly provoking skirmishes, sometimes at one point, sometimes at another, he finally succeeded in his design. The Federal spies, the fugitive negroes and deserters, all aided him, through their exaggeration, in deceiving McClellan. On the 26th of June the latter believed that the arrival of Jackson would swell Lee's forces to one hundred and sixty thousand men, and that the fortifications around Richmond were bristling with two hundred guns of heavy calibre. The army he was about to face, the strength of which Lee had been constantly increasing during the last three weeks, did not, however, number more than one hundred thousand men, while the fortifications surrounding the Confederate capital were in reality slight breastworks, mounting only a few guns. The Confederates were undoubtedly working [84] to increase their strength; but this work was chiefly carried on in those localities where they knew the Federals to be watching them with their spyglasses, and anxiously following their slightest movements. The opportunity for attacking Lee, while he was weakened by the absence of Whiting, thus passed by, and by degrees people became familiarized with the idea that siege operations might be advantageously substituted for a pitched battle. Many officers in the army of the Potomac imagined that by turning up large quantities of earth, and burning a great deal of powder, they would be able to escape that ordeal of terrible suspense when skill and prudence are equally powerless to decide the fate of the battle, and when torrents of blood must be shed to wrest victory from the hands of the enemy. This kind of tactics had just been applied in the West, where it had resulted in the evacuation of Corinth by the Confederates, and the general question now was whether, when the final charge was made, they should step upon the top of a parapet defended with the energy of despair or upon the ruins of a deserted city. Consequently, while wishing for a more decided success, the latter alternative was but too readily acquiesced in; and the desire to spare the army a fearful sacrifice of life having made, such an alternative appear probable, everybody felt disposed to wait patiently for this issue.

A movement, however, took place on the 25th of June which, although of no great importance, interrupted at last this long inaction. In order to make himself master of the approaches to the plateau of Old Tavern, McClellan, still manoeuvring as if conducting the operation of a siege, became desirous of extending his left wing. To this effect, he despatched Hooker's division on the road from Williamsburg to Richmond, beyond the positions occupied by Casey on the morning of the 31st of May. Hooker had just dislodged the Confederates from a small wood called Oak Grove, lying across the road, after a desperate engagement, when an order, wrongly construed, rendered it necessary for him to fall back. This error, however, was soon detected and rectified. McClellan, hastening to the scene of action, personally assumed the direction of the battle, pushing forward the divisions of Kearny and Couch, with a portion of those of Casey and Richardson. Hooker, being thus sustained, re-entered Oak Grove [85] and planted himself firmly in it; he extended his lines as far as the extreme edge of this wood, whence he commanded an immense open space, in which were seen some small works, with a few abandoned tents. This battle, known by the name of Oak Grove, cost the Federals fifty-one killed, four hundred and one wounded and sixty-four prisoners.

They were not more than about four miles from Richmond, and yet the enemy, hitherto so stubborn, had exhibited too great a want of persistency in the defence of the wood not to have been the result of calculation. The fact is that the movement of the army of the Potomac lost all its importance in view of the great operations which were in preparation, and which it could no longer prevent. When McClellan decided at last to feel the enemy with his left, a terrible storm was gathering on his right.

On that very day, the 25th of June, a single horseman, without companions and without followers, had ridden through the deserted streets of Richmond at an early hour in the morning, had dismounted at Lee's headquarters, and had shortly after quickly resumed his journey in the direction of the north. Some passersby asserted that they had recognized the famous Jackson in this mysterious personage, but no credence was given to their statement, for everybody knew that he was fighting on the borders of the Shenandoah, and that he was not the man to abandon his soldiers before the enemy. It was he, nevertheless, but he had left his army, whose every movement was wrapt in profound secrecy, at a few leagues only from that place, and, after having received his chief's instructions, was returning to meet his heads of column, then within a short distance of Ashland. A short conference had sufficed the two generals to determine all their plans, and they were going to join in striking a heavy blow against the right wing of the Federals. This wing was in fact the most exposed, since McClellan had massed the best part of his troops between Richmond and the Chickahominy. To cover the long line of railway which supplied his army as far as White House, he had been obliged to leave the three divisions of Morell, Sykes and Mc-Call, which formed his right wing under Porter, north of the Chickahominy. They faced south, ranged parallel with the river. McCall occupied the extreme right at Mechanicsville and Beaverdam [86] Creek; Sykes and Morell were posted on the neighboring heights of Gaines' Mill, resting their left on the swamps of the Chickahominy just where it begins to become wooded. With the exception of some small breastworks and a few abatis on the left bank of the Beaver-dam, no works had been erected to protect these positions. General McClellan had always intended to abandon them as soon as the time had arrived for transferring his base of operations to the James River. He had never given up the idea of this change of base, so often projected and always postponed; he had even begun making preparations for it within the last few days, by sending a certain number of vessels loaded with provisions into the waters of the James. Such, therefore, being his intention, he had deemed it useless to cover his right wing with defensive works like those extending along the rest of his front; he soon had cause bitterly to regret this.

Two principal passages, each composed of two bridges thrown alongside of each other across the Chickahominy, connected the right wing with the rest of the army. The lower passage was formed by the bridge on which Sumner had crossed on the day of the battle of Fair Oaks, and by another constructed under the direction of Colonel Alexander, whose name it bore. They gave access to the extremity of the vast clearing, named after Doctor Trent, on the right side of the river, where the headquarters were. The other passage, situated two thousand five hundred metres higher up, and composed of the Duane and Woodbury bridges, named after two engineer officers, connected the positions occupied by Porter's left with Golding's clearing, which stretches beyond the former on the same side of the Chickahominy.

The Federal line extended from Golding to the border of White Oak Swamp, forming the arc of a circle, of which Bottom's Bridge was the centre. It was covered throughout by considerable works; redoubts placed at intervals were connected by breastworks built of wood and earth, and by vast abatis; and numerous clearings, which afforded a considerable field of fire to the artillery along the whole front, prevented the enemy from approaching under cover. Franklin's corps occupied the position adjoining the Golding clearing. Sumner, on his left, in front of the Courtenay farm, rested on Fair Oaks. Heintzelman's line, [87] thrown across the Williamsburg turnpike, extended from the railway to White Oak swamp. Keyes, who had been held in reserve since the battle of Fair Oaks, occupied the vicinity of Bottom's Bridge and the road which crosses the swamp near its entrance.

The Confederate army had opposed to these works a line of entrenchments which, although of no great importance, would enable it on the day of battle to reduce the defenders of Richmond to a simple cordon of sharpshooters. Being reinforced by a large number of soldiers drawn from the South, and, it is said, even from the armies of the West, it had been arranged into five divisions. Longstreet and A. P. Hill commanded two of them. Huger, despite his conduct of the 31st of May, as he possessed great influence at Richmond, had preserved his own. Magruder, who had distinguished himself by his energy at Yorktown, had command of another, and the fifth had been given to D. H. Hill. This army numbered nearly sixty thousand men; Jackson had brought it about thirty thousand. Huger and Magruder were opposed, the first to Heintzelman, the second to Sumner. To the left of Magruder, A. P. Hill, whose right was in front of Golding, extended along the river opposite Porter's positions, and one of his brigades, under Branch, detached on the upper Chickahominy, held a bridge situated above Meadow Bridge. Longstreet and D. H. Hill, placed in reserve, were encamped near Richmond, on the Williamsburg and New Bridge roads.

On the evening of the 25th, Jackson's heads of column arrived at Ashland. But notwithstanding the secrecy which attended his march, General McClellan was already informed of it. On the morning of the 24th he had learnt, through a deserter, that Jackson had left Gordonsville, and would probably attack him on the 28th. He could not believe, however, that the latter would thus be able to escape the three Federal armies which were exclusively engaged in pursuing him. But the next day, even while the battle of Oak Grove was being fought, he received positive information of Jackson's approach, the advanced cavalry of the latter having appeared at Hanover Court-house. There was no further room for doubt. The sixty or seventy thousand men assembled at Washington and in the valley of Virginia had neither been able to detain Jackson's army nor to follow it. They had not [88] even perceived its departure; and while McDowell, Banks and Fremont remained motionless, all the Confederate forces were massing in order to crush the army of the Potomac. In a few more hours the cannon would announce the commencement of the great struggle. As Mr. Lincoln candidly wrote to McClellan a few days after, even if they had had a million of men to send him they would have arrived too late. The commander of the army of the Potomac had no alternative but to fight with the resources at his command. He set himself immediately to work. Those only who have felt the weight of a heavy responsibility, who have long predicted the dangers incurred through the mistakes of others, and who, after having pointed them out in vain, find themselves suddenly obliged to face them, can form a conception of what was then passing in the mind of the Federal commander. But far from faltering, this ordeal suggested to him the finest inspiration of his entire career—to abandon his communications with York River, in order to establish a new base of operations on the James immediately after the battle which was now pending. Such was the bold and masterly plan conceived by McClellan, in response to the movement of his opponent, which he had divined even before it had commenced. Jackson's presence at Hanover Court-house had convinced him that Lee designed to fall upon his right wing, and oblige him to hastily evacuate the works which menaced Richmond, in order to save his communications with York River. This movement of retreat on his right was such as would most naturally suggest itself to the mind of the commander-in-chief of the army of the Potomac in the position he occupied; but it was also precisely the movement which his adversary expected him to make, and it thus afforded excellent chances of success to the Confederates, who must have made every preparation for turning, during this flank march, his retreat into an irreparable rout. In relinquishing the idea of covering the York River road, he deceived all the calculations of the enemy. The more the latter extended his lines on the right, the easier it became for McClellan to establish, by his left, new communications with the James. This done, he could concentrate the whole of his army on the right bank of the Chickahominy, and, if forced by circumstances, proceed in the direction of the [89] James by crossing White Oak Swamp, or, if a favorable opportunity offered, even take advantage of Lee's eccentric movement to march direct upon Richmond, and enter that city before him. Once established on the James, he was free to reascend this river in order to attack the Confederate capital, or to cross it to undertake a new campaign on the south side with greater chances of success. He could thus thrust after parrying; and if overwhelmed by numbers, he would at least have frustrated the combinations upon which his opponent seemed to rely for crushing him. It was necessary above all to secure to the army the means for subsisting and fighting, during the time it would be deprived of communications with its stores. The wagons of the several corps were loaded with eight days rations and a large quantity of ammunition. A drove of two thousand five hundred head of cattle was collected together and parked under the shade of the beautiful foliage which gives the borders of the Chickahominy the appearance of an English garden. At the same time, the wounded, the sick, the lame and all the non-combatants (bouches inutiles) were sent to White House. The vast stores which had accumulated there were hastily reshipped, and several vessels loaded with provisions were already proceeding down York River, with directions to await further instructions at the entrance of the James. The execution of these measures, which had begun amid the silence of the night of the 25th-26th, was continued during the two succeeding days, despite the noise and turmoil of conflicts. From that moment the army of the Potomac, able to depend upon its own resources for a whole week, resembled a ship which, with its cargo and ballast on board, is only fastened to her mooring by a slender rope. It was destined to encounter many storms before casting anchor on the banks of James River. To venture thus with an army of more than one hundred thousand volunteers into a series of operations, in the midst of which, whether victorious or vanquished, it was destined for some time to see its communications cut by the enemy, was certainly one of the boldest resolutions which can be adopted by a general in war. It was in singular contrast with the circumspection which had hitherto characterized all the movements of the Federals; but despite appearances, it was the less dangerous [90] course to pursue, and this contrast was in perfect harmony with the American character, which can at times combine a temporizing prudence with the strangest rashness.

On the morning of the 26th the Confederate army was in motion. Jackson left Ashland with his three divisions, marching toward the west. He was to take in rear all the positions which the Federals might attempt to defend along the Chickahominy. Branch's brigade, which was encamped higher up the river, came down by the left bank, while A. P. Hill crossed it at Meadow Bridge, in order to appear before the strong positions of Mechanicsville, and attack them in front, as soon as Jackson's cannon should announce that they were turned on the left. D. H. Hill and Longstreet were waiting for the bridge at Mechanicsville to be freed by this movement, in order to cross it immediately in succession. The first, bearing to the left, was to join hands with Jackson, and thus unite for the battle all the Confederate forces into a single army. The second was to take position on the right of A. P. Hill, and follow the course of the Chickahominy, while the left wing, formed now by Jackson, and the centre by the two Hills, would continue to advance in order to attack the right wing of the Federals, which was expected to deploy beyond the White House railway. Magruder, with his own division and that of Huger, numbering altogether about twenty-five thousand men, was left to cover Richmond and watch Mc-Clellan's left wing.

The movements of the Confederate army were not punctually executed. Jackson and his principal lieutenants were not so well acquainted as the defenders of Richmond with the country in which they were about to operate; they found it difficult to move their troops through that region, covered with woods and traversed by sinuous roads, so unlike the wide open spaces in the valley of Virginia. These unavoidable delays which Jackson had to encounter, however, did not prevent him from following Lee's instructions. After having communicated, through his scouts in the vicinity of Meadow Bridge, with the army which was coming out of Richmond, and having assured himself that he was supported in the bold movement he had undertaken, he took the White House railway for his objective point, and following as [91] straight a line as possible, preceded by the whole of Stuart's cavalry, he started on his march; he expected to meet the enemy on the borders of the Tolopotamoi.

While Jackson was approaching this water-course, the banks of which he was to find deserted, Lee had also put his army in motion. General A. P. Hill had massed his division in front of Meadow Bridge for the purpose of forcing the passage of that bridge as soon as Jackson had turned it by extending his left beyond Mechanicsville. Having advanced at the appointed time, he had met with no resistance around the bridge itself, of which he took possession without striking a blow; but a serious engagement took place shortly after between his troops and those of McCall, forming the extremity of the Federal line on that side.

McCall had only left one regiment and a battery at Mechanicsville, and this detachment had fallen back upon the rest of the division, after having checked for a moment by its fire the columns which were climbing the bare slopes of the hill on the summit of which the village stands. In was on Beaver-dam Creek, in fact, that the Federal general was awaiting the enemy. This marshy stream, which runs into the Chickahominy though a ravine with precipitous sides, is only accessible by two roads, one, to the north, leading to Bethesda church and the Pamunky; the other, to the south, communicates with Cold Harbor junction by way of Ellyson's Mills. McCall had entrusted Reynolds' brigade with the defence of the first pass, while Seymour was directed to guard the second. His third brigade, commanded by Meade, was held in reserve. A. P. Hill, having reached the Mechanicsville heights, deployed his division, nearly fourteen thousand men strong, in front of the formidable positions occupied by the Federals. His namesake, D. H. Hill, followed in his rear for the purpose of extending to the left, with Ripley's brigade in advance. Lee directed in person all the movements which were to place his army in line. President Davis had come out of Richmond to witness the first act of this great conflict. The Confederates knew that it was easy to turn the position of the Federals by attacking it from the north. If McCall was supported on that side—that is to say, on his right—by considerable forces, Jackson could not fail to meet it on his route, and the noise of cannon would soon [92] apprise his chief of such an encounter. It was natural to infer, therefore, from the prolonged silence, that McCall was isolated, and that the army of the Shenandoah was about to take his position in rear without striking a blow; consequently, there was nothing to be done but to wait for the issue of this movement. But Lee, rendered impatient at the slowness with which his orders were executed, and stimulated, it may be, by the presence of the President, could not resist the temptation to hurl against the Federal positions the fine troops he was leading into battle for the first time. It is true that time was precious, and that no one among the Confederates who saw those magnificent regiments and witnessed the fervent zeal which animated them was doubtful of success. Pender's brigade, of A. P. Hill's division, reinforced by that of Ripley, attempted to cross the Beaver-dam at Ellyson's Mills, while a strong demonstration was made on the left upon the Bethesda road. But the Federals, being completely sheltered, received with a terrific fire of musketry and artillery the assailants, who were utterly unprotected against their shot. On the left a Georgia regiment advanced alone close to the Union lines; but a final volley drove it back in disorder upon the rest of the column engaged in this demonstration. At Ellyson's Mills, Pender and Ripley, after witnessing the destruction of one half of their brigades, without being even able to reach the enemy, were obliged to recross the stream with the remnant of their troops. Meanwhile, the Confederate chief, exasperated by this check, still persisted in attacking the Federal positions in front. Their whole line advanced, and was exposed to the fire of the enemy's cannon, while a new attack was attempted against the batteries which commanded Ellyson's Mills. Vain was the bloody effort. The assaulting columns were checked and driven back, the Federal shells striking the long lines of the Confederates fairly in the centre, and after four hours of fighting night put an end to the conflict, without a solitary inch of ground having been gained by the assailants. This imprudent attack had cost them nearly three thousand men, while the Federals had only two hundred and fifty wounded and eighty killed.

The battle of Beaver-dam Creek, where so many men had been sacrificed fruitlessly, was an unfortunate beginning for the [93] great operation of Lee. The number of victims was concealed from the army, and the Confederate generals waited to hear from Jackson, whose cannon had not been once heard during the whole of that day.

The latter, however, had executed the movement which had been prescribed to him. Crossing the Tolopotamoi, he had continually pushed forward, leaving the Chickahominy gradually behind him, but without meeting any of the enemy's forces, except Stoneman's cavalry, and night had overtaken him near the clearings of Hundeley's Corner, where he had bivouacked. Impressed with the purpose of his chief, in haste to outflank the right wing of the Federals and to seize the White House railway, the noise of cannon along the Beaver-dam, on which he had turned his back, had only the effect of hastening his march. McClellan, on his side, had been informed of Jackson's movement, both through Stoneman, who had been watching the march of the Confederate general since morning with several regiments of cavalry, and by the few words which had fallen from prisoners captured by McCall. As the latter all belonged to Lee's army, it was evident that Jackson was manoeuvring on the extreme Federal right, and that his approaching arrival would be sufficient to cause the defences of Beaver-dam Creek to fall. McClellan was expecting this, and had instructed General Barnard, chief of engineers of his army, to select a new position, which covered the bridges of the Chickahominy, upon which the whole right wing was ordered to fall back on the 27th at daybreak.

This position was not very strong; the hills adjoining the Chickahominy, although quite steep on the river side upon which the Federals were resting, sloped down in slight undulations on the side where the enemy was expected, and presented no natural line of defence. Between Mechanicsville and the Alexander bridge, where the forest sweeps down to the edge of the Chickahominy swamps, the hills commanding the left bank of this water-course are for the most part under cultivation, and their crest alone is crowned with isolated clusters of trees. This open space stretches thus a distance of from five to six miles in length, while its width gradually increases from one and a half to three miles on a line with the Alexander bridge. [94] At the point where this breadth is greatest stands the building which gives its name to the important cross-roads of Cold Harbor. Among the roads crossing at this point, one connects at Bethesda with that from Mechanicsville to the Pamunky; another leads to Mechanicsville by way of the houses of New Cold Harbor and Doctor Gaines'; a third, passing by McGee's farm, at a distance of three or four hundred feet from Cold Harbor, descends toward the Chickahominy, to continue its course through the woods as far as Dispatch station. The causeway constructed by Colonel Alexander, leading to the bridge which bears his name, struck this road a little above the point where it penetrated into the marshy forest bordering the large clearing; and finally, a cross-road branched off from this same point, connecting it directly with New Cold Harbor, and running beside a long narrow wood belonging to this plantation.

The line of defence selected by General Barnard rested its left on the Chickahominy below the Gaines house. This portion of the line could have been effectively protected by the small stream called Powhite Creek, which runs at right angles to the course of the river, and on which Gaines' Mill is situated; but it had been laid out two or three hundred feet in rear, through a long strip of wood rather narrow and easy of access, which descended nearly to the river. It fronted westward. The centre of the line, placed at right angles and facing north, followed the New Cold Harbor road, resting upon the woods; thence it stretched over a considerable space of decidedly undulating ground, and crossed an open field, terminating on the other side of the same wood, the extremity of which it intersected. The right of the line, still more drawn back, was traced across McGee's farm on the road from Cold Harbor to Dispatch, resting upon the impassable swamps which border the large clearing on this side.

A little before daylight McCall left the position of Beaver-dam, which he had so well defended the day before. The brigades of Martindale and Griffin of Morell's division, which had come the previous evening to take position alongside of him, but had not been in action, remained to cover his retreat. The Confederates soon attacked them with as much fierceness, but with as little success, as on the preceding day. Taking advantage of a moment's [95] pause, while his adversaries were resting, Morell quickly abandoned the works he occupied, and hastened to join the rest of Porter's corps at Gaines' Mill without being pursued.

At noon on the 27th the twenty-five thousand men composing this corps awaited the enemy in the position we have described. All their baggage, all their materiel, their park of siege guns and their reserve artillery, had been transferred, during the night or early in the morning, to the other side of the Chickahominy; the difficult task entrusted to the right wing of the army of the Potomac was not to throw any obstacle in the way of the enemy to prevent him from extending his lines and cutting the railroad, but simply to bar his approach to the river. General McClellan, as we have before remarked, had no other object in view but to prevent his opponent from crossing this stream during the movement he was obliged to make in order to reach the James. But he was of opinion that to defend the right bank it was necessary to wait with firm attitude for the Confederates on the left bank; otherwise, they could have rapidly descended as far as Bottom's Bridge, or even Long's Bridge, and there finding crossings which the Federals could not guard, they could fall upon the seemingly less exposed flank of the long columns which were about to march in toward the James.

Porter placed Morell in the narrow wood which extends back of Powhite Creek. The three brigades belonging to this division were thus disposed: Butterfield on the left, in the flat lands adjoining the river; Martindale in the centre, occupying the edge of the Powhite wood; Griffin on the right, deployed across the forest of which this wood is only the extremity, and resting upon New Cold Harbor. The position of the last was a difficult one, for his line was not fortified by any depression in the ground, while the thickness of the surrounding foliage exposed it to all surprises of the enemy. Sykes' division formed the centre and the right of Porter's corps. The brigades were deployed in two lines each consisting of two regiments. McCall's division was placed in reserve; one of his brigades under Meade on the left, in rear of Morell's troops; the rest under Reynolds and Seymour, on the extreme right, observing the road to Dispatch station. Twelve batteries, half of which were regular artillery, supported [96] the Federal infantry, but the undulations of the ground and the proximity of the woods destroyed much of their efficiency. A few squadrons of the Fifth regular cavalry, and two regiments of mounted volunteers, completed this force.

Master of the Beaver-dam passes, Lee had followed the Federals step by step, pressing them close, but being careful not to bring on an engagement. Indeed, he was far from having fathomed the designs of his adversary. Believing him still bent upon preserving his communications with the White House, he expected every moment to hear that Jackson had met the right wing of the Federals, and wanted to give his lieutenant time to feel the enemy before going into battle. Meanwhile, the whole of his army had been deployed as soon as he had obtained control of the Beaver-dam passes. Longstreet had come by Ellyson's Mills to take position on the right and rear of A. P. Hill; D. H. Hill, resting upon the left, had struck into the road leading from Mechanicsville to the Pamunky, upon which he was to join Jackson.

About one o'clock the heads of column of A. P. Hill, who was following the Cold Harbor road, encountered the first line of Griffin's brigade at the entrance of the wood occupied by the Federals, whose fire, supported by numerous cannon, brought them to a full stop. Hill's artillery planted itself in vain within short range to support the attack; the Federal shells which swept the plateau soon reduced it to silence. In vain did Hill bring back his division to the charge several times. Fatigued and probably discouraged by the combat of the previous day, and the fruitless losses they had sustained, his soldiers were unable to break the Federal line. Three regiments, which for an instant struck it, were immediately repulsed, and the rest fell back in disorder. Hill's main attack had been directed upon the wood of New Cold Harbor, between that place on the left and a point on the right where this wood becomes narrower as it stretches down into the valley. This attack had been repulsed by the right of Morell's division and Sykes' left brigade, commanded by the young and valiant Warren; before the end of the first engagement these troops had been reinforced by Meade's and Seymour's brigades.

Lee had arrived on the field of battle; the unexpected resistance that Hill had met with showed that he had a considerable [97] portion of the enemy's army before him, and that, instead of extending his lines to defend his communications with the White House, the Federal commander had concentrated his entire force in the neighborhood of the Chickahominy. It was necessary, therefore, that Jackson, who was proceeding toward the left of Tunstall station, should return to the right to attack the flank of the Federals in the positions they had selected, and cut them off entirely from York River, which was the object of all the manoeuvres executed during these three days. Cold Harbor was indicated to Jackson as the point of direction.

While waiting for the arrival of this powerful reinforcement, Lee made a new attempt between three and four o'clock to carry the Federal positions. In pursuance of his instructions, Hill returned to the charge near New Cold Harbor, and Longstreet, who had deployed on his right, made a strong diversion against Morrell's and McCall's troops, posted in the narrow section of the woods, while this movement was supported by all the available artillery. But Hill was not more successful this time than before, and Longstreet soon perceived that he would have to bear the whole brunt of the battle. Instead of making a simple demonstration, he determined to charge the Federal troops opposed to him, with his whole division.

Those troops received at the same instant an important reinforcement. Porter's three divisions, numbering about twenty-five thousand men, which until then had held out against the equal forces of Hill and Longstreet, had been engaged to the last man; at the solicitation of their chief, who felt himself pressed on every side, General McClellan had just sent Slocum's division of Franklin's corps to their assistance. It arrived just at the moment when Longstreet was charging the left wing of the Federal army with the greatest vigor. The latter resisted with difficulty. Porter always showed himself where the danger was greatest, encouraged his soldiers and re-formed their ranks in the midst of a shower of balls. The battle raged with equal violence along the whole line from New Cold Harbor to the Chickahominy. The brigades and regiments successively brought forward from the reserve, to fill the gaps caused by the enemy's fire, or to replace the troops who had exhausted their ammunition, had become [98] divided and scattered; McCall's soldiers had become mixed with those of Morrell in the woods, so that the generals, having no longer their troops in hand, could not direct them, and were reduced to giving the combatants examples of personal bravery wherever the chances of the conflict led them. Besides, it was impossible, amid the dust and smoke and the intervening clusters of trees which intercepted the view, to form a clear idea of the whole field. At this juncture Slocum made his appearance. His division was immediately parcelled out like the others; Bartlett went to the right to support Sykes; Newton got into line on the left to oppose Longstreet, by the side of Morrell's and McCall's soldiers. If, in thus sharing his division, Slocum had deprived himself of the means of uniting it again for a new effort, he had at least supplied with fresh troops all the points menaced by the enemy; he arrested the assailants, and inflicted upon them, for the moment, a bloody check. It was nearly five o'clock in the evening; Lee had not been able to effect a breach in a single one of the positions which since four o'clock he had attacked with so much vigor. The soldiers of Hill and Longstreet were exhausted.

Meanwhile, Porter, seeing that the enemy would not grant him a moment's rest except for the purpose of instantly returning to the charge, called for immediate reinforcements. General McClellan, informed by the occurrences of the preceding day, of the presence of Jackson, and of the crossing to the left bank of the Chickahominy by a portion of the Confederate army, knew that the enemy must have more than sixty thousand men on that side of the river. He had opposed to this force up to that time only thirtythree thousand or thirty-five thousand, under Porter at Gaines' Mill; he had yet a few hours of daylight before him to finish the battle, and could have availed himself of them to bring the largest portion of his army to the succor of his lieutenant, and face the Confederates with a force at least equal to their own. But convinced that Lee commanded an army of one hundred and sixty thousand men, he believed that nearly one hundred thousand of them had been left in front of his lines, from White Oak Swamp to Golding; he was unwilling to weaken his left wing in their presence, to strengthen his right. His corps commanders, being consulted by him, fully endorsed his views, saying that they needed all their [99] troops to defend their positions. Old Sumner alone had offered two brigades, which were forwarded to the battle-field at the close of the evening.

While a decisive struggle was taking place on the left bank, and all the available forces of the enemy were being brought together, to attack the thirty-five thousand men forming the right wing of the army of the Potomac, seventy or eighty thousand Federals were thus kept back on the right bank by twenty-five thousand Confederates. Magruder, who was in command of the latter, succeeded, as he had done at Warwick Creek, in deceiving his adversary as to his real strength. He kept him constantly on the alert during the entire day; and just when the fire slackened on the other bank, he even made a vigorous attack upon Smith's division at Golding. He was repulsed with loss, leaving the greatest portion of a Georgia regiment, with its commander, Colonel Lamar, formerly a member of Congress, in the hands of the Federals. But he had thereby accomplished his object and prevented new reinforcements from being sent to the aid of the Federal right wing.

In the mean time, Lee was impatiently waiting for the arrival of Jackson, who had been delayed on his march, and who alone could henceforth secure him the victory. The commander of the army of the Shenandoah had joined D. H. Hill's division at Bethesda, and was approaching the field of battle with an army of forty thousand men, fresh and full of ardor. The firing of musketry, the repeated volleys of which burst forth on the side of Cold Harbor, on the extreme left of the Confederate line, soon proclaimed that he had at last met the enemy, and that the battle was about to assume a new aspect. Lee rushed to the sound, and meeting Jackson concerted with him a general attack. Whiting and a brigade of Jackson's old division proceeded to the right to support Longstreet and take position between him and the debris of A. P. Hill's division. The attack on the wood of New Cold Harbor on the left was entrusted to the remainder of Jackson's division; in the vicinity of Cold Harbor were deployed Ewell's forces first, then those of D. H. Hill, while Stuart's cavalry was drawn up still further to the left, as far as the forest. [100]

Toward six o'clock this new army renewed the attack upon Porter's troops, already exhausted by five hours fighting. D. H. Hill gave the signal of attack to the extreme left, and in less than a quarter of an hour the battle raged along the whole line from the borders of the Chickahominy to the front of Cold Harbor. The Federal artillery was reinforced, and concentrated its fire upon every point where the enemy's battalions could be seen. Nor was it made to falter by the advance of the enemy on its right, near McGee's farm, but poured grape-shot into the ranks of D. H. Hill, almost at the cannon's mouth. The latter captured a few pieces of cannon, only to lose them again an instant after. They had, however, gained some ground on this side, but in the mean while Ewell, who was posted between McGee's farm and New Cold Harbor, had seen all his efforts fail before the well-sustained fire of his adversaries. He nevertheless led to the attack soldiers proved by all the marches and victories in the valley of Virginia, but he found before him the brigade of regulars, who make it a point of honor never to yield before volunteers, whatever may be their number. To support Ewell, Jackson ordered three brigades of his old division to advance successively against the wood of New Cold Harbor. This was the weakest point of the Federal line; for lying across the densest part of the forest, it was exposed to constant surprises, and could not be supported by artillery, as elsewhere. The brigades of Meade and Taylor of Slocum's division made a stubborn defence in this difficult position, but they were slowly driven back by the superior forces which attacked them. This advantage which the Confederates had gained in the centre exposed the angle of the wood at the point where it becomes narrow as it stretches down toward the Chickahominy. The Federal left had hitherto made an obstinate stand in this narrow section of the wood, against the assaults of Longstreet at first, and of Whiting after him. The latter finally availed himself of the confusion into which his adversaries had been thrown by the loss of the wood at New Cold Harbor, to take possession of it; but every time that his soldiers ventured beyond the curtain of trees the enemy's cannon compelled them to run back for shelter behind this protecting screen. Meanwhile, the Federal infantry, which had again formed into line near its guns, was becoming exhausted by so unequal a [101] struggle; the ammunition was giving out, no reinforcements arrived, and the moment approached when excessive fatigue would overcome the energy of the steadiest men. The regiments, of which more than one were reduced to a handful of men, drew together in isolated groups; the combat continued, but was carried on individually, by soldiers among whom all systematic connection had ceased to exist. Precisely at this moment Jackson came forward with his last reserves and ordered a general attack. The attenuated lines of the Federals were everywhere shattered. Whiting sent forward one of his brigades, composed of Texan soldiers, into the re-entering angle formed by the thick wood of Cold Harbor and the clusters of trees which extend its line toward the river. General Hood, who was then one of the most brilliant officers in the Confederate army, although he subsequently became a most indifferent general-in-chief, was in command of this brigade, to which he imparted his own martial ardor. In vain did the Federal artillery concentrate its fire to check him like the others as he emerged from the wood. The four Texan regiments advanced without faltering, under a shower of shells. As they closed up their ranks, which the Federal missiles were thinning more and more, their long line scarcely wavered. They paused for a moment to fire, but Hood instantly pushed them forward; they rushed onward with loud yells to the very mouth of the guns which had so mercilessly poured grape into them. The artillery horses hitched to the limbers either ran away with their drivers, or were driven off by them. The Federal soldiers, who up to this time had stood by those guns to support them, grew weak at last; not daring yet to take to flight openly, they began to desert the post of danger under pretence of carrying to ambulances the wounded, whose number was rapidly increasing. The most determined among them were soon hurried along in the retreat, which was accelerated more and more, and the few gunners who had persisted in remaining at their post to the last, also disappeared in the tide of Texans, which overwhelmed them in an instant, leaving nothing behind but corpses lying on the ground.

Longstreet has imitated this movement on the extreme left of the Federal line, and the greater part of Butterfield's brigade, being cut off from the rest of the army, barely escaped through [102] the Upper Duane bridge. The regular cavalry, led by a chief of great personal bravery, but more accustomed to the pursuit of Indians than to handling squadrons before a disciplined enemy, tries in vain to regain a portion of what has been lost. Placed at the bottom of the valley, General Cooke, in order to lead his men to the charge, makes them scale the steep, clayey acclivities, the summit of which is already occupied by the right wing of the Confederates; consequently, his horses are soon out of wind. The Federal cavalry, in confronting the enemy's lines, which are unflinchingly awaiting its approach, disperses into skirmishing squads, which resort to pistol-fighting, after the manner they had learned in the far West. Such a conflict could not last more than a few minutes. One-half of the mounted regulars are left upon the field, or in the hands of the enemy; the rest fall back to throw confusion into the Federal battalions, already in full retreat. The Confederates are carrying everything before them along the whole line. Two Federal regiments, which have bravely kept up the fight in the wood of New Cold Harbor when all was giving way around them, find themselves surrounded, decimated and compelled to surrender. Ewell and D. H. Hill also take advantage in their turn of the successes achieved by the right wing of the army. Their artillery succeeds at last in planting itself on the summit of the hill so long occupied by Sykes' division, and crushes that division with its fire. Being thus attacked in front and menaced in flank by the enemy, who has taken possession of the wood of New Cold Harbor, Sykes falls back, defending the ground foot by foot. But a portion of his artillery, the teams of which have been killed, remains on the field of battle. The regulars do not allow Hill to push his success along the road leading from Cold Harbor to Dispatch, by which he could have cut off the retreat of the enemy. Fearfully reduced as they are, they care less for the losses they have sustained than for the mortification of yielding to volunteers.

Meanwhile, the retreat of the Federals on the left and centre threatens to become a rout. The crowd of fugitives, with which are mingled artillery teams, followed at a distance by groups of brave soldiers who have rallied around their chiefs, has rapidly descended into a small ravine, beyond which rises another hill. [103] On the summit of this hill the two Cold Harbor roads form a junction to gain the Alexander bridge beyond, at the bottom of the valley, the only passage by which the Federals may yet be able to cross the Chickahominy. If the enemy succeeds in seizing this position, his two wings will unite for the purpose of driving the debris of the right wing of the army of the Potomac into the swamp, and crush them before they have been able to cross the narrow defile of the bridge. But at this critical moment fortune does not employ her final rigors against the Federals. The Confederates, fatigued by the effort they have just made, halt to re-form their lines. Hood's brigade alone has lost over one thousand men in the last charge. Stuart, near Cold Harbor, does not know how to make his excellent troops play the part which appertains to cavalry on the eve of a victory; he allows himself to be held back by the resolute stand of the regulars, and some few hundred men bearing the flags of Warren's brigade.

The retreat of the Federals, which was hastened by the declivity which they were descending into the ravine, is, on the contrary, slackened when they climb the other side. The battle has suddenly ceased; an effort is made to ascertain the condition of things; they halt. Twenty-two pieces of cannon have fallen into the hands of the enemy, but there yet remain forty or fifty. Most of these are again placed in battery, and open from a distance upon the lines of the assailants a fire which restores courage to the Union soldiers. The latter listen once more to the voices of their chiefs. Porter, Morrell, Slocum, Meade and Butterfield see increasing the groups gathering around them at random from every regiment. On the right the Federals have lost less ground and preserved better order in their retreat. At this instant Richardson9 and Meagher arrive on the ground with the two brigades sent by Sumner. The second is composed exclusively of Irishmen, [104] the green flag, ornamented with a golden harp, floating in their midst. They arrive, shouting vociferously and displaying all that vivacity and dash for which the children of this ancient warlike race are noted when marching to battle. Their comrades, on finding themselves thus supported, respond with loud hurrahs, by which they seek to gain fresh courage. In the mean time, the enemy has re-formed his ranks, and is again in motion; but instead of a routed crowd he beholds a body of resolute troops, who seem to be calmly waiting for him on the slopes situated on the other side of the ravine. At this sight he hesitates, and approaching night puts an end to the sanguinary struggle.

The losses were heavy on both sides. Out of thirty-five thousand men engaged, the Federals had nearly seven thousand killed or wounded. The assailants suffered even more, but they had achieved a signal victory. Twenty-two guns, a large number of prisoners, and most of the wounded, abandoned by the enemy on the field of battle, afforded substantial proof of their success. Their opponents had fought with great vigor, and it was no disgrace to Porter's soldiers that they had to succumb in such an unequal struggle. Besides, the success of the Confederates was not so decisive as they at first imagined. The resistance made by the Federals at Gaines' Mill, and their inaction on the other side of the Chickahominy, had led Lee and his generals to believe that they had just beaten the largest portion of the army of the Potomac, and that by driving it back to the river they had completely turned it by their manoeuvres. Convinced that they had cut off the Federals from their only line of retreat, they already fancied that McClellan, hemmed in among the marshes of the Chickahominy and White Oak Swamp, was about to capitulate with all his forces, or that the great army of invasion, harassed on every side, exhausted by fatigue and hunger, would dissolve before them like a storm-cloud after thunder.

While they were preparing to gather the fruits of their victory, the Federals were collecting together and counting their numbers. Generals and colonels were trying to rally the scattered fragments of their brigades and regiments. Then, when order was completely restored, battalion after battalion passed over the Alexander bridge, occupied by a squadron of cavalry, which, during [105] the evening, had prevented the fugitives from approaching it. In the midst of the obscurity, the Union general Reynolds had been separated from his men by the enemy's pickets. But despite a few incidents of this nature, the retreat was ably conducted, and at daybreak not a single straggler, wounded man nor cannon remained on the ground which had been occupied during the night by Porter's troops. The regulars were the last to cross, after which they entirely destroyed the magnificent bridge which had cost so much trouble to construct.

The Federals had not succeeded in preventing the Confederates from occupying the left bank of the Chickahominy, but they had made them pay so dear for its possession that the latter did not feel disposed to make an immediate attempt to force a passage, for the purpose of disputing with them the opposite side of the river.

While the darkness of a short summer night was covering the mournful and silent march of the Federal soldiers who had just fought the battle of Gaines' Mill, a blazing pine-wood fire was crackling under the tall acacias which commanded the south entrance of the Alexander bridge. It was on this spot that the headquarters of the army had been situated during the preceding days. This camp had been broken up like all the rest, for the entire army was ready to march; but the tall flitting shadows, projected here and there by the flame upon the dark background of the surrounding trees, showed that its occupants had not yet deserted it.

In fact, General McClellan had assembled several of his generals around this fire, and was consulting with them regarding the dispositions to be made for the following day, upon which the very existence of the army of the Potomac seemed to depend. The idea was for a moment entertained of playing double or quits on the right bank of the Chickahominy the game which had just been lost on the other side. It was McClellan himself who, forgetting his habitual circumspection, and emboldened by the imminence of the danger, thought of taking advantage of the enemy's movement against his right wing to throw himself upon unprotected Richmond with all the forces that were left him. The Confederates, being separated from their capital by the Chickahominy, [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.


[107]

Chapter 4:

Glendale and Malvern.

WE have stated that the army of the Potomac, by changing its base of operations a few weeks sooner, might have accomplished important results. But even if it had been entirely free to execute this movement, the configuration of the James would have compelled it to move away from Richmond, to rest upon that part of the river which the navy could reach without danger. This manoeuvre, which had been in preparation by McClellan for several days, would not have assumed the character of a retreat if it had not been undertaken the day after a bloody defeat.

But on the evening of the 27th of June it had become a necessity. It alone, in fact, afforded the Federals the means of escaping a serious disaster. A few words, regarding the situation of the two armies, will enable the reader to appreciate the difficult position in which they found themselves, the resources they still possessed for getting out of it, and the rare ability with which General McClellan knew how to use them.

The Chickahominy, after running parallel to the James River and the Pamunky, at nearly an equal distance from these two streams, empties into the former about fifty kilometres below Richmond. The James in its numerous windings alternately approaches and recedes from this water-course. In the elbow called Turkey Bend, which lies twenty-three kilometres in a direct line from Richmond, the river, which is both wide and deep, waters the base of a large hillock, that rises on the left bank in a succession of bare slopes above the forest. From this eminence, named Malvern Hill by the early English settlers, to the confluence of White Oak Swamp and the Chickahominy below Bottom's Bridge, there is only a distance of twelve kilometres, but the tract which separates them is singularly difficult. The White [108] Oak Swamp, which we have described as covering the Federal left, and forming by its course an acute angle with the Chickahominy, was the first obstacle which the Federals had to encounter if they proceeded toward the James. There was but one road crossing it, which, connecting with the Williamsburg turnpike near Bottom's Bridge, ran due south for a distance of five kilometres, crossing the waters of the swamp, which, being shut in between two unwooded hills, presented only the appearance of a small stream, and reascended on the other side the cultivated slopes called Frazier's Farm. One or two kilometres beyond, this road joins that coming from New Kent Court-house—that is to say, from the east—which crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge. Thence it inclined to south-west, and at the end of a mile and a half, it entered a group of connected clearings known by the name of Glendale, the centre of which was occupied by the large farm of Mr. Nelson. Farther yet, the road took a southerly direction, under the name of Quaker road, and struck the northern slopes of Malvern Hill, five kilometres farther on, ascending them directly, and finally descending in an oblique line on the other side, to join the elbow of Turkey Bend at Haxall's Landing. A great number of smaller roads coming from Richmond debouched perpendicularly into the Quaker road, like so many radii connecting the are of a circle with its centre. To the north of White Oak Swamp there was only one of these roads, the Williamsburg turnpike, the old line of attack of the Federals, while south of it there were three principal ones—the Charles City road, following the right bank of White Oak Swamp, the New Market road, near the left bank of the James, and the Central road, between the two. Before approaching Malvern Hill, however, the New Market road turned abruptly to the left, intersecting the Central road and merging into the Charles City road, to connect with the Quaker road in the Glendale clearings. Several smaller roads, less practicable for an army, wound about these three principal roads, connecting the New Market and Central road directly with Haxall's Landing and the Quaker road. Their numerous zigzags turned them into perfect labyrinths, calculated to lead a solitary traveller astray, or to misdirect the heads of column of an army on the march. With the exception [109] of the clearings of Frazier's Farm and Glendale, and the cultivated slopes of Malvern Hill, the whole of this region was only a dense forest of oaks and magnolias, but the soil was generally sandy and solid. There was but one small water-course to be met with, the Western Run, which, skirting Malvern Hill, slopes north and east, and empties into the James below this hill.

All these topographical details were unknown at McClellan's headquarters, and, what is yet more extraordinary, they were no better known to the Confederate staff, who had never expected to make a campaign on that side. The information possessed by the Federals, regarding the country into which their army was about to be launched with its accompanying heavy trains, was extremely vague, and it may be truly said, that in making Turkey Bend the objective point of his march, General McClellan was combining a journey of discovery with the retreat of his army. He was therefore obliged, throughout the whole of this dangerous expedition, to assure himself personally of the direction indicated to each of his corps, and was thereby prevented from commanding in person at all the battles that were fought on the route, which subsequently drew upon him the most violent and undeserved reproaches.

During the night of the 27th-28th, Porter's corps, after crossing the Chickahominy, occupied the line of heights which command the course of this river on the right bank. Turned toward the north, these troops faced the hills where their adversaries of the day previous were posted. Slocum's division had taken post on their left, adjoining that of Smith, which with it formed Franklin's corps, and which was posted among the earthworks of Golding. The rest of the line of entrenchments facing Richmond was occupied by four divisions, disposed as follows from right to left: Richardson, who had just been joined by the two brigades sent to Gaines' Mill; then Sedgwick, both under the orders of Sumner; farther on, Hooker and Kearny, composing Heintzelman's corps; at the extreme left, Keyes, with the divisions of Couch and Peck, guarding the passes of White Oak Swamp.

On the other side, the conquerors of Gaines' Mill had slept on the field of battle, while Magruder kept a watch around Richmond, [110] very uneasy when he thought of the small number of troops he had at his command.

The retreat upon the James afforded McClellan the important advantage of releasing him from the defence of his line of communications with the White House, against which it was evident the Confederates at first intended to direct all their efforts. In the condition in which his army found itself after the battle, a retreat begun across a difficult country for the purpose of covering the White House would probably have only terminated under the walls of Yorktown. By abandoning his depots on York River he avoided this danger; but it then became necessary for him to carry along all that was needed to subsist his troops, until he could find new supplies on the James—that is to say, for five, or perhaps six, days. The foresight of the general-in-chief had fortunately provided beforehand all the resources which such an enterprise required. But while these indispensable resources rendered the march of the army practicable, they could not fail to impede and retard its movements. The soldiers received two or three days cooked rations, additional provisions for three more days being placed in the wagons. A drove of two thousand five hundred head of cattle had been also on its way to White Oak Swamp since the evening of the 27th. This long line of bellowing cattle was in singular contrast with the warlike scenes through which it had to pass. At times these thousands of animals, utterly indifferent to their surroundings, would stop, despite the cries of the drivers, who escorted them on horseback, and persistently browse on the grass silvered by the full moon; again, they would precipitate themselves with blind fury across the bivouacs, where everything contributed to increase their fright.

Three days rations for one hundred thousand soldiers and twenty thousand non-combatants, five days forage for forty thousand horses, three hundred and fifty pieces of artillery—in short, the munitions of such an army—constituted a formidable train. It was the task of the army of the Potomac to protect this train as far as the borders of the James. Consequently, however urgent may have been the march of the army itself; it was compelled to remain motionless, until this interminable ribbon should be unwound along the only and narrow road which was open to [111] it. Keyes' corps alone received orders to march on the evening of the 27th. Being placed at White Oak Swamp, it was directed to take the advance, with injunctions to cover continually the right flank of the train. The other corps, unable to move out of their positions in consequence of the crowded condition of the roads, were not even able to put their division-trains in motion before the evening of the 28th, so long was the line of wagons belonging to the general administration.

Meanwhile, the work of destruction, the inevitable consequence of every retreat, was rapidly progressing. No portion of the enemy's cavalry having reached the railroad during the night, that line remained open, and advantage was taken of it to send back upon York River the greatest possible number of sick, wounded, non-combatants of every description, as well as a large quantity of materiel. The last train of cars was then loaded with powder and shell, and the locomotive was despatched, under a full head of steam, in the direction of the Chickahominy bridge, which had been burning for some few minutes. A terrible explosion announced the arrival of this dangerous cargo amid the flames, and the simultaneous destruction of the bridge, cars and ammunition. The telegraph, however, had not ceased to perform its functions, but still continued to be the connecting link between the soldiers of the army of the Potomac and all that was dear to them now left behind. General McClellan was thus enabled to send a last despatch to the government at Washington, giving an account of the dangerous situation of his army. As he said himself, in words full of sadness and dignity, if so many brave soldiers were to perish in vain, the fault rested with those who had so imprudently haggled about reinforcements at the critical moment. This was a responsibility which the Federal authorities were unwilling to accept at any price. In order to get rid of it, they resorted to a culpable stratagem. Far from letting the public know the truth regarding what was taking place around Richmond, the Secretary of War, forgetting that he had to deal with a free people who would not tolerate deception, gave out that the army of the Potomac had undertaken a strategic movement which would result in the capture of Richmond. Consequently, when, after waiting four days, it became known that this army had [112] reached Turkey Bend with considerable difficulty, the excitement was all the greater, because the people had been kept in ignorance of its dangers, and had anticipated a very different issue. McClellan's enemies, instead of rendering justice to the manner in which he had conceived and executed this strategic movement, censured him for it as being nothing but a rout, and sought to turn it into ridicule. It would be perhaps going too far to interpret this announcement of an impending victory, made by the Federal government at the very time when McClellan was informing them of the difficulties of his position, as a perfidious scheme, designed to excite public opinion against the commander of the army of the Potomac; it is certain, however, that the government sought to conceal the facts which made the chief responsibility for the defeat fall upon itself. It persistently refused to give the text of McClellan's despatches to the newspapers; and, what is worse, when the whole series of official documents was laid before the committee on the conduct of the war, the government permitted itself to mutilate the text of its correspondence with the general, without making any mention whatever of the omissions.10

On the other bank of the Chickahominy, as soon as the sun of the 28th began to shine over the battle-field so painfully conquered the day before, Lee and his lieutenants bethought themselves of gathering the fruits of their recent victory. Their army had suffered cruelly. It required time to reorganize the corps, to collect together their elements, which had been scattered during the conflict, to attend for the first time to the ten thousand or eleven thousand wounded who were lying on the heights of Gaines' Mill, and finally to see to the distribution of rations and ammunition. Nevertheless, the Confederate army, still full of ardor, despite the heavy losses it had sustained, was able to put part of its battalions in motion by midday. Moments were precious, for it was important [113] to forestall McClellan on his line of retreat, and turn into a rout the retrograde march which his check of the preceding day would no doubt compel him to undertake. Jackson's soldiers were not in the habit of resting the day after a battle; therefore they were soon in motion. Lee, however, had not understood the manoeuvre of his opponent. From the moment he crossed the Chickahominy to join Jackson, we have seen him actuated by the desire of flanking McClellan's right wing, so as to separate him from York River. In order to accomplish this object, he had already caused the army of the Shenandoah to follow the eccentric direction which came near preventing it from reaching the battle-field of Gaines' Mill in time. In delivering this battle, he had proposed to cut off McClellan entirely from the road leading to White House. Consequently, after having won this battle, all the movements of his army during the 28th were intended to prevent the army of the Potomac from putting itself again in communication with York River. If McClellan had the design naturally attributed to him by his adversary, he had but two ways of carrying it into effect: he could have crossed the Chickahominy with his whole army between Gaines' Mill and Bottom's Bridge, and tried to force a passage through the positions occupied by the Confederates; otherwise, he should have endeavored to outstrip them in speed by pushing his way back of the river, to cross it at some point lower down, so as to fall back upon Williamsburg. But, as we have seen, these two alternatives had been both discarded by McClellan, and his sagacity had inspired him with a determination, the merit of which consisted in its not having been fathomed by his adversaries. Consequently, the Confederate generals, after having vigorously executed a well-conceived plan, were deceived by their own wishes; they too readily imagined that the Federal general would fall into the trap which they had been preparing for him.

A division of cavalry, cleverly directed by Stoneman, contributed to confirm them in their error. The latter, in fact, by slowly retiring toward New Kent Court-house, seemed as if intending to cover the lower passes of the Chickahominy, as well as the Williamsburg turnpike, and he thus drew a portion of the enemy's forces on his side. Whilst Longstreet and Hill, who had suffered [114] most the day before, continued to occupy the heights of Gaines' Mill, three of Jackson's divisions deployed along the Chickahominy, as if to defend the left bank against the Federals, who were massed on the other side; the fourth, Ewell's, was despatched to Bottom's Bridge, when it became evident that McClellan had no intention of forcing a passage near the battle-field of the preceding day. Magruder, on his side, retaining his position in front of the Federal lines, could easily perceive that the number of troops occupying them had not diminished. For an instant only toward noon he thought these positions were about to be abandoned. Smith's division evacuated a few breastworks which had been erected in front of the fortifications at Golding. Magruder at once launched the Seventh and Eighth Georgia regiments of Toombs' brigade against these works; but being received by the fire of Hancock's brigade, they were repulsed, leaving two hundred wounded and prisoners on the ground, one of whom was a colonel. This brisk discharge of musketry was the only thing that occurred to disturb the silence of that long day, the 28th.

Every hour that elapsed amid this silence afforded an additional chance to the Federals for reaching the James without serious interruption. Consequently, in the midst of the apparent quiet among the troops, the work of pushing forward the train, and opening a way for its passage, was carried on with the utmost activity, while at the headquarters astonishment was manifested at the inaction of an adversary hitherto so vigilant and enterprising.

The dust raised above the forest by Ewell's march toward Bottom's Bridge soon explained the error committed by the enemy. Although a yet thicker cloud of dust betrayed the movement of the Federal train on the opposite bank, its appearance failed to undeceive the Confederates. They persisted in believing that McClellan was proceeding in the direction of Williamsburg. It was only when Stuart, who had followed Stoneman step by step with his cavalry, had reached the last fords of the Chickahominy, without finding even a Federal vidette to guard them, that Lee understood at last the bold manoeuvre by which McClellan was about to rob him of a success which he had considered certain. [115]

It was too late to remedy his mistake; the whole precious day had been wasted. Stuart's cavalry, which might so effectually have harassed the Federal vanguard, and preceded it to the borders of the James, either through White Oak Swamp or the lower Chickahominy, had advanced so far into the peninsula that it did not again make its appearance during the whole of the campaign. Ewell's soldiers, who were brought back during the night and posted near the remainder of Jackson's troops, had been exhausted by a fruitless march, and it was necessary to grant them at least a few hours' rest.

During the whole of this same night, the trains of the army of the Potomac were on their way toward White Oak Swamp. The bridge situated in front of Frazier's Farm had been reopened toward noon, and Keyes with his two divisions had encamped at Glendale, in the neighborhood of Nelson's Farm. The topographical officers had, moreover, discovered another passage through the swamp above this bridge, leading directly from Savage station to Glendale—a precious discovery, although this road was too much exposed in flank to the enemy, to venture over it with the train. The moment had arrived for evacuating the works which had hitherto concealed the preparations for the movement. This was a most delicate operation. It would have been desirable to effect it during the night, but the length of the train had not permitted this. Fortunately, when day broke, instead of shedding a glaring light over the two armies as on the preceding mornings, it was darkened by a thick fog, which for several hours completely concealed the movements of the Federals from the enemy. Their retreat had commenced. Henceforth, until the friendly gun-boats floating on the waters of the James should greet their sight, they would have to fight by day, and march during the night, almost without rest. Nor was the train, which resembled an immense reptile, allowed to make any stop. When wagons were drawn aside to give the horses time to feed, other wagons took their places. This column, formed of four or five teams abreast, moved along quite regularly in the midst of whirlwinds of dust and a stifling heat. The troops marched on the sides of the road. Between the heavy vehicles of the commissary department there were light ambulances overloaded with [116] wounded men; around the train crept along a large number of other wounded and sick men, who had left the hospital to follow the army, falling at every step and presenting a lamentable spectacle. It had been found impossible to take along all those who had been wounded in the recent battles, and nearly two thousand five hundred of them had been left at Savage station, with some surgeons, and recommended to the humanity, already experienced, of the Confederates. Near them a small mountain of coffee, rice, biscuit and hams was burning as a sort of holocaust offered to the god of war.

The troops who had suffered so severely at Gaines' Mill were immediately to follow Keyes' corps toward the James. The task of covering the retreat was entrusted to the yet untouched corps of Sumner and Heintzelman, and to Smith's division. As between White Oak Swamp and Turkey Bend the army was to be exposed to flank attacks of the enemy, who could not fail to come down from Richmond by the three roads we have mentioned, the troops covering this march were ordered to remain stationary during the day, and to move on again at night; in this way they were to relieve each other successively, each gaining one stage in the journey before the sun allowed the enemy to renew the fighting. On the morning of the 29th, Porter's corps and the divisions of McCall and Slocum took position beyond White Oak Swamp, so as to support Keyes at Glendale, and occupy the difficult pass of the swamp in force.

During this time the works in which the army had passed three long weeks were quietly evacuated. General McClellan had indicated to Sumner the positions which the troops forming the rear were to occupy, and had gone to superintend in person the march of the remainder of the army; for it was by the right border of the swamp that the enemy could strike the most dangerous blows. The rear-guard, on the contrary, had its two flanks protected against all attack from Richmond, before reaching the bridge,—on the left by the swamp, on the right by the Chickahominy; and these two obstacles, drawing gradually nearer to each other, narrowed the space of ground it had to defend, in proportion as it fell back.

The main portion of the Confederate army was therefore separated [117] from the enemy by a river difficult to cross, and had an immense circuit to make to overtake him on the new line of retreat he had chosen. Huger, with a single division, numbering from eight to ten thousand men, had been ordered several days before to occupy the right bank of White Oak Swamp. It would certainly have been impossible for him to impede McClellan's march with such a small force, but he could easily watch his movements, and ought to have noticed the direction in which Keyes had been marching since the 28th. He did not, however, display more activity on this occasion than at the battle of Fair Oaks. Allowing some of his squadrons to be borne down by Averill's Federal cavalry, without affording them any assistance, he remained inactive on the Charles City road, while the Federals continued their march unmolested during the whole of the 29th, without having to fire a musket-shot south of White Oak Swamp. Longstreet and Hill returned on the 29th, crossing by New Bridge to take position in his rear in the vicinity of Richmond, ready to operate, as circumstances might require, on either side of the swamp. Jackson, with his four divisions, remained north of the Chickahominy.

Finally, toward eight o'clock in the evening, Magruder, perceiving the abandonment of the Federal works, pushed forward McLaws' division, which had been placed under his orders, together with Griffith's brigade of his own division. The Federals steadily awaited their approach.

Heintzelman's corps, posted across the Williamsburg turnpike, occupied the works before which the Confederates had stopped on the day of Fair Oaks, his lines extending as far as the railroad. On his right was deployed Sumner's corps, skirting the edge of a wood situated about two kilometres in advance of Savage station. Of the two divisions composing this corps, that of Sedgwick was placed between Heintzelman and the railroad, and that of Richardson on the other side of this line. Still more to the right and in the rear, Smith's division occupied the heights which overlook the Chickahominy, where Porter had encamped the day before.

Toward nine o'clock the Confederates began the attack on a point called Allen's Farm, where Sedgwick's right formed a junction with Richardson's left. The latter first, and then Sedgwick, had to sustain the whole brunt of the fight. But the enemy was [118] repulsed along the whole line; and seeing the fruitlessness of their assaults, the Confederates soon retired. The darkness, in the midst of which this engagement ended, which had commenced too late to lead to any serious results, was against the aggressors, who, not being able to combine their movements, unnecessarily lost many men, and among others General Griffith.

Meanwhile, Jackson had been ordered to cross the Chickahominy on the morning of the 29th, and to throw himself with all his forces upon the troops posted on the other side of the river, which he had thus far believed to be held in check by his mere presence. He at once set himself to work to reconstruct the Alexander bridge, designated in his reports by the name of Grape-vine bridge. This bridge opened at the foot of the hill where Doctor Trent's house stands. The Federals no longer occupied this position, Franklin having placed Smith's division lower down, so as to cover the approaches to Savage station, on the side of the Chickahominy.

As to Sumner, he was ordered to fall back until he should join Smith's left. He nevertheless remained for some time before Allen's Farm, thus leaving his right entirely unprotected (en l'air), and opening a vast space in the Federal line in front of the Trent house, precisely at the point upon which Jackson's heads of column could not fail to emerge. The Union generals, however, had quickly perceived this danger. Franklin had brought Smith back nearer to Savage station, in order to close up the Federal line. On being informed of this movement, Sumner finally determined to fall back likewise upon the position, of which Savage is the centre; and assuming command of the five divisions which were about to assemble at this point, he resolved to defend it to the utmost, agreeably to McClellan's orders.

Heintzelman, who with his army corps formed the Federal left, had received formal orders to halt at a short distance from the station and not to continue the retreat until dark; but instead of complying with these instructions, he proceeded with his two divisions in the direction of White Oak Swamp. McClellan had designated to him a road which, after following the line of this swamp for some distance, crossed it at Brackett's Ford, above the bridge, over which the remainder of the army was passing. He [119] entered this road at noon, thus uncovering the entire left flank of Sumner, who had not been apprised of his sudden departure.

The Confederates were not slow in taking advantage of such a blunder. They advanced by the Williamsburg road and along the railroad track, preceded by an engine, to which was attached an iron-plated car carrying a heavy gun. This strange machine, which was called the Land Merrimac, stopped from time to time to fire a random shot; but it does not appear that anybody was hurt by it. As we have before stated, Sumner's two divisions were deployed in the vicinity of Savage station; that of Sedgewick occupied the clearing between the railroad and the Williamsburg road; that of Richardson had fallen back so as to form a right angle with the line of the first, along the railway track, facing north. Sumner, believing his left to be covered by Heintzelman, had not occupied in force the wood bordering the Williamsburg road, and Franklin, finding no enemy in sight, had sent Smith's division to the rear. That of McCall was posted at Bottom's Bridge, guarding the passage of the Chickahominy.

Toward four o'clock in the afternoon the officers of the signal corps announce the approach of the enemy. Smith, being hastily recalled by his chief, has barely time to throw Hancock's brigade on Richardson's right, to extend his line by resting it upon a thicket, which the enemy will presently take from him, and at the same time to send Brooks' brigade to the extreme left. The latter general arrives just in time to occupy the wood stretching along the road, and to reinforce Burns' troops, of Sedgwick's division, who are keeping up an unequal fight from their position across this road. Magruder, in fact, taking advantage of the gap made by Heintzelman's unhoped — for departure, has with his wonted vigor hurled his own and McLaws' division against the weakest point of the Federal line. He almost breaks it, when the opportune arrival of the reserve of Sumner, who had soon recovered from his surprise, checks him. Brooks re-establishes the battle on that side; but the struggle continues with fierceness along the whole line until after sunset. The Confederates, encouraged by their victory of Gaines' Mill, and finding that their adversary is about to escape them, are determined at all hazards to inflict another reverse upon him before night comes on to protect his retreat. The [120] Federal lines give way more than once under their repeated efforts, but each time they are speedily re-formed; and despite all his fire and the ardor of his soldiers, Magruder cannot effect a serious breach. Jackson, whose arrival on the field of battle might have proved fatal to the Federals, as it had done two days before, did not make his appearance. The construction of the bridge detained him the whole day, and it was only after sunset that his troops were at last able to cross the Chickahominy. Thus, although only two regiments had been engaged during the whole of the 28th, Lee was only able to bring two divisions at most into line on the 29th. Disconcerted by McClellan's unlooked — for manoeuvre, the Confederate generals seemed to have lost that capacity for the initiative which had succeeded so well on former occasions. On the evening of the 29th, the brave Sumner was unwilling to abandon the ground he had so gallantly defended. Nevertheless, the safety of the army required that its lines should be extended as little as possible, and that in proportion as the heads of column drew near to the James the rear-guard should follow their movements. It required a positive order from General McClellan to determine Sumner to cross the White Oak Swamp; finally, on the 30th, at five o'clock in the morning, French's brigade, being the last to pass, destroyed the bridge which had been thrown over the stream near Frazier's Farm.

This day's operations were a great success for McClellan. The first and most difficult step in his retreat movement was taken, and with fortunate results. He had succeeded in placing White Oak Swamp between his army and the main body of his adversaries, and in surmounting this serious obstacle without losing either a cannon or a vehicle. All the efforts of the enemy to effect a rout in his rear-guard had been repulsed with loss. The following movement of troops took place on the right bank of the swamp during the afternoon of the 29th: Slocum, having crossed in the morning, had taken the position previously occupied by Keyes' corps at Glendale. The latter had started for Turkey Bend, on the banks of the James, with instructions not to stop until he had reached that place. Porter had passed Slocum, who was facing north, for the purpose of covering the road from Frazier's Farm to Nelson's Farm; and taking post at the [121] other extremity of the Glendale clearings, he guarded their approaches to the west on the side of the New Market road. He was ordered to remain there until evening, and to resume his march in the track of Keyes immediately after nightfall.

At daybreak on the 30th the approaches to White Oak Bridge and Frazier's Farm were occupied by Franklin, with the divisions of Smith and Richardson and Naglee's brigade. On the left was deployed Slocum's division, his right resting on the Charles City road. Heintzelman, who had crossed the swamp at Brackett's Ford the previous evening without being molested, had come during the night to take the position occupied by Porter a few hours before, beyond Glendale. McCall had left Frazier's Farm, and his troops were making coffee in the neighborhood of Nelson's Farm. Sumner soon joined him there with Sedgwick's division. Keyes, followed close by Porter, continued to lead the advance of the army, reaching Haxall's Landing, on the James, in the course of the morning. But both had been delayed on their march, and they had not informed the general-in-chief of their movements. The latter was utterly ignorant of their fate, merely presuming that, as he had not heard the sound of cannon, his two lieutenants had not had any serious engagement. The impossibility of exactly tracing in advance the movements of his troops, of knowing the country through which they had to pass, and of obtaining timely information regarding the positions they had occupied, rendered McClellan's task singularly difficult. The topographical officers who had been detached on the 28th to make a reconnaissance of the roads leading to the James had not yet returned, nor even sent a solitary guide to headquarters. Fortunately, in the midst of these uncertainties it became known that Keyes had accidentally discovered a road running parallel to the Quaker road, which had been abandoned for a number of years, half buried under the grass, wild vines and the trunks of fallen trees, but nevertheless easily reopened. It was a valuable discovery; for this road, lying to the left of the Quaker road for troops marching toward the James, offered a safe way for the train, the right flank of which would thus be covered by the whole army. The long file of vehicles, ambulances and baggage-wagons at once entered it. [122]

In the course of the morning, when Keyes, followed by Porter, reached the James, the line of the army of the Potomac extended from White Oak Bridge to Haxall's Landing, a distance of thirteen kilometres. This line was too long to be everywhere defended by the Federals against a vigorous attack, nor could they shorten it; for in order to protect the train and prevent the enemy from placing himself on the left flank of the troops in the march, it was necessary to bar the passage of White Oak Swamp against him. The three principal points of this line had, therefore, to be occupied in force. The first was that portion of the bank of the James toward which the army was directing its course. At Haxall's Landing the river borders an immense clearing occupied by a few huts situated to the south, and consequently beyond Malvern Hill, for those approaching that position either by way of the Quaker road or New Market road. All the roads leading to this landing pass either along the side or at the foot of the hill which thus commands the approaches. It overlooks the whole surrounding country; wooded at the east, it is entirely bare on all the other sides. A cluster of acacias surrounds the old house of Mr. Crewe, situated on the highest point above the rather abrupt acclivities which stretch down to the James. These slopes are less precipitous to the west on the side facing Richmond, and become still gentler to the north toward the Quaker road. A point equally important to defend was that of Frazier's Farm, at the other extremity of the line, for it commands the passage of White Oak Swamp. The intermediate position was that of Glendale. At this point all the roads through which the enemy, coming from Richmond, might try to throw himself upon the flank of the Federal column, emerge into the Quaker road. Omitting a few irregularities and one or two cross-roads of no importance, the intersection of these different roads at Glendale may be represented by a square, the four angles of which, each facing a cardinal point, would mark the entrance of the four principal roads into the clearing. The Confederates, who had crossed the White Oak Swamp by following the tracks of Heintzelman, or those who had followed the right bank, were to debouch by the Charles City road into the northern angle; those who had come down by the Central or New Market road were to unite, [123] in order to penetrate together into the clearing by the western angle. The Federals, coming from White Oak Bridge, entered the road by the eastern angle, in order to strike at the southern angle the Quaker road, which led to the margin of the James,

These were the only three points in which the line formed by the Federals to cover their movement was vulnerable. In fact, the line occupied by the Federals between Glendale and Frazier's Farm was covered by the White Oak Swamp on the Richmond side. Between Glendale and Malvern Hill small swamps, forming the source of the Western Run, and rendered impassable by a dense forest, extended to the right of the Quaker road, so that the roads coming from the Central or New Market road, being compelled to avoid them, all converged upon the slopes themselves or in full view of Malvern Hill. This was the line that all the forces of Lee intended to attack on the 30th of June, and that McClellan had to defend for a sufficient length of time to enable his train to reach Haxall's Landing without impediment. On this occasion he could no longer count upon the inaction of the enemy, for Lee had had ample time to concentrate his army. Visiting all the points which were menaced, General McClellan speedily made his dispositions for battle. Keyes left Haxall's and proceeded to occupy the space comprised between the James at Turkey Bend on one side and Malvern Hill on the other. Porter, who had arrived by the Quaker road, took a strong position on this hill. At Frazier's Farm, Franklin was ordered to defend to the last the pass of White Oak Swamp, as the troops against whom Sumner had fought the day previous at Savage station were sure to come and dispute it. Finally, McClellan's attention having been called to the Glendale junction by the prince de Joinville, whose suggestions he always willingly listened to, he saw at once all the importance of this point. It was evidently here that Lee was preparing to strike the decisive blow. In order to cover the march of the army it was necessary to hold and preserve at all hazards the western and southern angles. Accordingly, all the disposable forces yet remaining were sent to defend this position. The moments were precious, the forest thick, the roads intricate, and it was essential to spare the worn-out troops all unnecessary countermarches; they were consequently drawn up somewhat at random, [124] but finally succeeded in forming a large arc of a circle, covering the greater part of the Glendale junction, the convexity of which was turned toward Richmond. Slocum was deployed on the right of the Charles City road, his left resting upon this road and facing north; Kearny, who remained where he had bivouacked during the night, joined him, his lines being deployed on the left of this road a little above the New Market road and looking toward the north-west. McCall had come about noon to take position on his left en potence; he rested his right on the New Market road, across the cross-road which connected the former with the Quaker road, and awaiting the enemy from the west. In rear, on Mc-Call's left, Hooker had deployed his division, his right extending as far as the cross-road which forms an angle toward the south; he thus found himself facing south-west and resting upon the edge of a wood before a large clearing intersected by the New Market road. A space of several hundred metres separated Hooker's right from McCall's left, but at a short distance in rear of this gap was posted Sumner with a portion of Sedgwick's division, which was half concealed by the other two. The remainder of this division had not yet left Frazier's Farm. There was hardly any connection between the different parts of the line which had thus been formed at Glendale; the generals of division were all ignorant of the positions of their neighbors, and found it difficult to maintain communications between them in the midst of the forest. Nor does it appear that any person had assumed the superior command of the troops assembled in the vicinity of this clearing; but they were in sufficient proximity to each other for mutual support, should the din of battle reveal the presence of the enemy at any given point.

On the part of the Confederates, their whole army was preparing to make a desperate effort before McClellan could have time to reach the James. Jackson with his four divisions had only halted for a moment at Savage, and had entered the road which Sumner had taken during the night for the purpose of forcing the passage of White Oak Swamp, in front of Frazier's Farm. Hill and Longstreet, who had left Richmond, were proceeding along the New Market and the Central roads, having sent a few detachments forward on the Charles City road. They [125] were therefore to debouch directly upon Glendale. Magruder, having returned to the rear after his reverse at Savage station, had joined Huger, and following them closely with his united forces was to form the Confederate right in the general attack. Wise's legion, with other troops hitherto posted on the right bank of the James, crossed the river at Drury's Bluff; they were ordered to take position on the extreme right, so as to forestall the Federals if possible in the occupation of Malvern Hill.

Jackson had reached the pass of White Oak Swamp at eleven o'clock in the morning, where he found Franklin firmly posted. The latter, having eight or nine batteries at his command, covered the passage with the fire of his guns. His infantry, just reinforced by a portion of Sedgwick's division, thus consisting of nine brigades, was drawn up a little in the rear. Jackson's forces were far superior in number to those of the Federals; he brought with him his four large divisions, and the eighteen or twenty batteries which he had commanded since the 26th. But the approaches to White Oak Bridge, encompassed on both sides by wooded swamps, rendered it impossible for him to avail himself of this superiority and to bring all his troops into line at once, so that, in spite of his great daring, in spite of the interest he had in acting promptly, he was afraid of venturing with his soldiers into this formidable defile. Seven Confederate batteries were placed in position above the pass with a view of silencing the fire of the Federal guns before the infantry should attack in full force. The Federals seemed at first to have the worst of it; the two batteries of Hazzard and Mott, which were in the first line, were silenced, nearly all their guns being shattered by the enemy's projectiles. The combat, however, was soon renewed .with rifled ten-pounders, which, being able to keep farther back, and almost beyond range of the Confederate artillery in consequence of their light calibre, inflicted upon the latter considerable losses in their turn. Meanwhile, the battalions of infantry of both parties continued under arms, one side ready to commence the attack, the other to repulse it, and both alike exposed to the enemy's projectiles, which were causing cruel ravages in their ranks. Notwithstanding all their efforts, the Confederates were unable to silence the fire of Franklin's artillery; the cannonading was thus continued during the [126] whole day; and when night came, Jackson had not even made an attempt to force the passage. The losses had been severe on both sides.

The battle of Frazier's Farm was an important success for the Federals; Franklin had succeeded in holding nearly one half of the Confederate army in check the entire day. In contenting himself with extending his line in a manner which might appear excessive, rather than abandon the passage of White Oak Swamp, McClellan had prevented Lee from uniting his two wings, which were separated by this marsh. He had thus paralyzed Jackson's four divisions at a moment when their presence on another battlefield might have been decisive. In fact, a fierce and sanguinary conflict was taking place on that very day around the Glendale junction, a few kilometres from that spot.

Toward two o'clock in the afternoon a few Confederate detachments, coming by way of the Charles City road, had attacked Slocum, but were easily repulsed. They preceded the troops of Longstreet and A. P. Hill, amounting in all to about eighteen or twenty thousand men, then under command of the latter. A little before three o'clock these two corps debouched upon the Glendale clearings by way of the New Market road, the first on the right, the second on the left of that road, and fell directly upon McCall's division, which, placed in the centre, occupied the most salient point of the Federal front. McCall had ranged his troops in two lines, Meade on the right, Seymour on the left, with Reynolds' brigade in reserve, while five batteries covered his front. After having prefaced the attack with a shower of shell, the Confederate columns charged their adversaries with great vigor. McCall's small division was reduced to six thousand men by his losses of the preceding days, and for the last four days it had fought more and marched more than any other division in the army of the Potomac; nevertheless, it succeeded in thoroughly repulsing the first onset; Seymour and Meade being each attacked in succession by the enemy, who was endeavoring to find the weak point in the line, defended themselves most energetically, and even took several hundred prisoners.

But at each new attack, the Confederates bring forward fresh troops, and McCall's Pennsylvanians become exhausted. Hill has at [127] length found the open breach between this division and that of Hooker, and availing himself of this discovery endeavors to turn both of them in succession. On the left of the Federal line, Hooker, fiercely attacked, is obliged to bring all his reserves, and a regiment detached from Sumner's corps, to the assistance of Grover, who commands his first brigade. More to the right another charge is made by the Confederates against Seymour's brigade, forming McCall's left wing, and against two German batteries borrowed from the reserve artillery, which cover it. The gunners are put to flight; a great portion of this brigade is thus placed between two fires; it at once becomes disintegrated, and the fugitives are driven back upon Hooker. The latter allows them to pass through his ranks, and receives the pursuing Confederates with a murderous fire. Longstreet's soldiers have not been able to preserve their ranks during the charge, and thus they arrive in disorder. They are stopped short, and two of Hooker's regiments, the First and Sixty-ninth Massachusetts, resuming the offensive, drive them at the point of the bayonet upon McCall's two other brigades, which, having firmly kept their ground, receive them with a wellsustained fire. Sedgwick, in the mean time, has received reinforcements; the two brigades which had been detached in the morning to support Franklin at Frazier's Farm have been sent back to that general, as soon as he has found himself strong enough to defend the pass without them. These troops, still fresh, arrive at Glendale, and proceed to occupy the space left open in the Federal line by Seymour's brigade, which is entirely disorganized. The battle is re-established, although some little ground has been lost. The enemy, however, constantly renews his attacks, and he turns from the line occupied by Hooker and Sedgwick, to direct his main efforts against McCall's right and Kearny's left, at the other extremity of the Federal positions. Kearny is supported by Taylor's brigade of Slocum's division, which had long been under his own command. The sight of their old chief infuses additional ardor into the four New Jersey regiments comprising it, and this timely reinforcement enables him to hold his position. But McCall's right, consisting of Meade's brigade, is again engaged in an unequal and murderous struggle. Many are the attacks it has already repulsed, when, toward six o'clock, the Fiftyfifth [128] and Sixtieth Virginia make a desperate charge upon Randall's regular battery, posted alongside of Meade, which, up to this time, has resisted every assault. The Virginians, carrying the musket in one hand, and drawn up in the form of a wedge, rush forward at a run across the open space of six hundred metres which separates them from the Federal guns. Nothing can withstand them; although decimated by grape and musketry, they are not staggered. They reach the goal at last; the gunners are killed, the cannon captured, and Meade's brigade is obliged to fall back. It however continues to fight with uncommon obstinacy; at seven o'clock a new charge results in the capture of Cooper's battery in the centre of McCall's line. But the Ninth Pennsylvania charges back in return, and, after a fierce engagement, recaptures the guns. The enemy at the same time abandons those taken from Randall, which he has not been able to carry off.

It is near sunset, and the contest becomes less animnted. The two magnificent divisions of Hill and Longstreet have been lavish of their efforts; there is not a man left in reserve. Magruder, who should long since have been on the field of battle, has not yet made his appearance. Jackson's cannon is still thundering in the direction of White Oak Swamp, but he has made no progress since morning—a bad sign for the Confederates. No intelligence can be obtained of him, because in order to reach him it would be necessary to go round the whole swamp and through the suburbs of Richmond, a distance of from forty to fifty kilometres. The Confederate army, divided into two parts by this obstacle, is rendered powerless. The Federals have had but fifteen or eighteen thousand men engaged at Glendale against the twenty thousand who have attacked them; but the remainder of the divisions of Hooker, Sedgwick and Slocum are within reach, ready to sustain them, and the Confederates have not failed to perceive, toward the close of the battle, that they have been dealing with troops who felt sure of support. They relinquish the attack; and believing these troops to be even more numerous than they really are, they abandon the greater portion of the ground they have just conquered, in order to disengage themselves. General Lee was on the field of battle, and had brought with him President Davis; for it was hoped in Richmond that this day, the 30th, would complete the destruction [129] of the army of the Potomac. How grieved Lee must have felt at having lost so much time on the 28th, when he saw two of these divisions struggling alone in fruitless efforts against the vital point of the enemy's line; how bitterly he must have regretted having caused Jackson to waste the whole of the 29th, by uselessly detaining him in front of the ruined bridges of the Chickahominy, and by having finally placed him with four divisions, on the 30th, between two swamps, before a defile which a few guns had prevented him from crossing! His mistake as to McClellan's real design had compromised the most brilliant results of his victory at Gaines' Mill. Far from rectifying this error, he had made matters worse when, on being informed of the march of the Federals toward the James, he had directed one half of his army into the blind alley of Frazier's Farm. It is difficult to account for this blunder on the part of so skilful a general, except by attributing it to his ignorance of the country occupied by his adversary. If he had brought back Jackson to Richmond on the 29th, leaving Magruder to follow Sumner alone, he would have been able on the 30th to place three-fourths of his army in line between White Oak Swamp and the James.

An engagement of secondary importance had taken place on the banks of this river, while the battles of Frazier's Farm and Glendale were being fought. Wise's legion had come down the James for the purpose of forestalling if possible the Federals at Turkey Bend. In order to do this it had to go completely round the foot of Malvern Hill. Before reaching this point it ran against Porter's corps, which, as we have said, was posted upon the slopes of the hill extending to the flat wooded lands which separate it from the James. The Confederates attacked it from that side, but with the lack of spirit felt by troops who do not anticipate meeting the enemy; and despite the protection afforded them by the thick underwood, they were easily repulsed by Warren's brigade. At the same time they engaged in an artillery fight with Porter's batteries posted on the summit of the hill, and for a moment threw the march of the Federal train into confusion. A few gun-boats, under Commodore Rodgers, were waiting for the army at Haxall's Landing; one of them, the Galena, had just taken General McClellan on board, who desired to make a reconnaissance up the [130] river, when Wise's attack commenced. Rodgers immediately threw a few of Parrott's hundred-pound shells in the direction in which the enemy's reserves were supposed to be. These missiles, fired at random, could not do much harm to troops scattered about the forest; but the strange noise which announced their approach, and the crashing of trees which they shattered on their passage, and finally the violence of their explosion, produced a deep impression upon the Confederates. The Federals, on the contrary, who heard from a distance the heavy and powerful voice of the naval guns, hailed it as that of an auxiliary impatiently expected.

It was time for them to reach the banks of the James. During the whole of the 30th, notwithstanding the opportune discovery of a new road, as above mentioned, the train had proceeded very slowly and with much difficulty. The booming of cannon, resounding along so many points of the line, had more than once spread senseless alarms among the drivers of this long column. The larger part of reserve and siege artillery, and the batteries detached from the several corps which McClellan had ordered to Malvern Hill to fortify that position, found great difficulty in advancing. All the farmhouses, all the huts, were converted into hospitals, where the victims of the battles of Savage station, Frazier's Farm and Glendale were huddled. There was scarcely a sufficient number of surgeons to attend to their most pressing wants; and most of the wounded felt the painful certainty of being left at night in the hands of the enemy. The stifling heat of a Virginia summer, the want of sleep, the long marches, the combats incessantly renewed, the excitements and the anxieties of every description, triumphed over the most robust constitutions, and prostrated those whom the terrible swamp-fever had yet spared. Night marches had also singularly contributed to diminish the effective force of the several corps, and to increase the number of stragglers. Many soldiers became lost in the obscurity, and, being unable to find their regiments, at daylight rejoined the invalid column, which extended the whole length of the train. Frequently without haversacks, but always armed and well provided with ammunition, they moved along in groups of from three to twenty; and finding themselves freed from all official [131] authority, they soon resumed the independence natural to their character. The sick, the lame and the crippled increased in a frightful proportion. Finally, what was a still greater cause of the privations of the soldier in the midst of these incessant engagements, the distribution of rations could not be made with any regularity. In proportion as this crowd, composed of so many different elements, perceived from afar across the verdure the waters of the James, the smooth surface of which sparkled under a burning sun, but one idea pervaded it, one common ardor gave strength to these worn-out men. They rushed toward the river to refresh themselves, to make sure that they were not the sport of some delusive mirage, to take a nearer view, and to touch, if they could have done so, those gunboats whose assistance was to put an end to their dangers and sufferings; and finally, to hail the national flag, which, floating gently in the breeze, reflected its constellated azure in the waters. To witness their eagerness one would have said that the James was to them the river of oblivion, to which, the poet tells us, the shades repair in crowds in search of a sovereign remedy against all their sufferings.

The sight of their comrades under arms, however, military honor, the exhortations of the officers who had been detailed to reorganize them, soon restored strength to the most disheartened, and in a short time improvised companies and battalions, inspired with fresh ardor, might be seen falling into line behind the welltrained soldiers of Porter.

To sum up the account, the operations of the 30th had secured to the Federals all the advantages which those of the 29th had led them to expect. Placed as it were back to back and able to support each other mutually, their rear-guard on one side, and their centre on the other, had repulsed all the attacks of the enemy. Franklin, resting his left upon impracticable swamps, had held in check with eighteen thousand men an army of more than thirty-six thousand, commanded by the redoubtable Jackson, whilst Slocum, extending his right as far as these same swamps, occupied the extremity of the other line, which at Glendale covered the roads followed by the entire army. These two lines formed thus an acute angle, the vertex of which, posted on the southern bank of White Oak Swamp, was protected by this insurmountable obstacle, [132] and entirely separated the two wings of the assailants. If Jackson had succeeded in pushing his way beyond Frazier's Farm, he would have taken the Federal combatants at Glendale in rear and crushed them between two fires. If, on the other hand, Hill had been able to penetrate as far as the Quaker road, he would have cut the Federal army in two and secured the destruction of one-half that army.

The battle of Glendale, therefore, was remarkable for its fierceness among all those that have drenched the American forests in blood. Nothing could have been more serious than the game which was played in the clearing only the day before, unknown to the staffs of both armies. If the number of trophies had constituted the only evidence of success, although the Confederates left a few in the hands of their opponents, all the advantage would have been on their side. They had made many more prisoners than they had lost, and in the course of the evening their outposts had picked up General McCall, who had lost his way in the woods. They had captured eight or ten guns from the Federals, while the latter only carried off four flags, to which must be added two pieces of artillery which Wise had left at Malvern in Porter's hands. But the Federals had reason to consider themselves fortunate in not having paid dearer for the results they had obtained by their tenacity in that battle; their retreat was thereby assured, and the delicate operation of a change of base might be considered an accomplished fact. Indeed, by four o'clock in the afternoon on the 30th, the last wagons had reached Malvern Hill. Before sunset the entire train was encamped in the vast clearing at Haxall's, doubled upon itself, and protected against all attacks by the position of Malvern Hill, while the numerous field and siege guns which had accompanied the train were painfully climbing the height which they were about to render impregnable.

All the ambulances were in safety; only about one hundred wagons failed to appear at the muster, to which trifling number must be added one cannon abandoned in a quagmire, four or five guns lost by McCall at Glendale, and as many dismounted pieces which Franklin was obliged to leave at Frazier's Farm. Four thousand wagons, four or five hundred ambulances, three hundred and fifty field-pieces, fifty siege guns and two thousand five hundred [133] head of cattle had thus followed a single road, a mere woodland path, constantly occupied by troops on the march, or obstructed either by infantry or cavalry, amid the din of battle, which was heard simultaneously in front, in the rear and on the flank, and had travelled a distance of more than thirty kilometres in forty-eight hours. General McClellan had good cause to consider such a march as an almost unlooked — for success, and the manner in which it was conducted was highly creditable to the administrative departments of the Federal army.

Nevertheless, although this army had fortunately escaped from a perilous situation, it could not remain in the positions which it occupied from Frazier's Farm to Haxall's Landing. Not only was it necessary that it should be concentrated for purposes of defence, provisions and rest, but it was also compelled by the configuration of the course of the James to leave Haxall's Landing, and look for a more favorable point for revictualling lower down. In fact, the James River becomes so narrow above its confluence with the Appomattox at City Point, that vessels going up to Haxall's would have been constantly exposed to the fire of batteries erected by the enemy on the right bank of the river; consequently, Commodore Rodgers, at his first interview with McClellan, had recommended Harrison's Landing as the most favorable point to establish depots for the army. It was here, therefore, that its march was to terminate, for it could not think of remaining on White Oak Swamp, or even at Malvern, receiving its supplies by land from Harrison's Landing; it would have been starved in a very few days.

Malvern Hill first, then Harrison's Landing, were therefore the two stages in the journey naturally appointed for the army of the Potomac. General McClellan had no intention of defending Frazier's Farm and Glendale, and was waiting for the reports of the generals who had just fought in those positions, to send them the order to fall back. An immediate retreat, however, had become so necessary that they took upon themselves to carry it into effect. Franklin, the most distant, began his movement about ten o'clock in the evening, having previously notified the headquarters of his intention. His neighbors were only apprised of this movement by General Seymour, who, while wandering about [134] in search of his brigade, from which he had become separated at the time of his rout at Glendale, accidentally fell in with Franklin's heads of column. There was no longer time to ask for instructions from headquarters at Malvern Hill. Franklin's retreat opened the way for Jackson. Heintzelman and Sumner prepared at once to carry their troops to the borders of the James. In this they only anticipated the orders which McClellan was about to send them. The general-in-chief had no reason to blame his lieutenants for this great eagerness to fall back, for the ignorance in which he remained till evening in regard to their situation, and which occasioned the delay in forwarding the orders for retreat, could only be attributed to the very imperfect organization of the Federal staffs. The necessity of providing for the ulterior movements of his troops justified his remaining on the gun-boats of Rodgers; but his momentary absence had been noticed by soldiers who needed encouragement in the midst of a bloody strife, and also by lieutenants who were already too much inclined to criticism. By not waiting for his tardy instructions, his corps commanders rendered the retreat which had become inevitable more easy of accomplishment. The night march was performed in the best order, and before daybreak the Federal army was concentrated around the approaches of Malvern Hill.

This hill afforded an admirable position. Its summit, two thousand five hundred metres in length by one thousand two hundred in width, formed a level and open plateau. Rising gradually from north to south to the ridge of the acclivity overlooking the James, it presented great facilities for the manoeuvring of troops. From north-east to south, at the foot of the barren slopes which terminated the descent, its base was enveloped by the Western Run and thick underwood. To the west wound one of the tributaries of this stream, also surrounded by swampy forests, and quite difficult for artillery to cross. The approaches to Malvern Hill were only easy between these two water-courses. On this side, below the principal hillock, the slopes extended gradually across an open country. The Quaker road, after joining a crossroad coming from the New Market road, took advantage of these slopes to ascend Malvern Hill, leaving a small wood and the West house on the left, then forked before reaching the summit. [135] The west branch followed the western ridge, passing by the Crewe house, thence descending upon the steep acclivities which look to the south to cross the Western Run at Turkey Bridge. Finally, not far from this bridge it again connected with the direct road from Richmond to Haxall's, which is a continuation of the New Market road, running close to the banks of the James. The east branch skirted the eastern side of Malvern Hill, and after passing the Binford house descended into the woods which overshadow the Western Run, to merge at last into the other branch at Haxall's.

The last Federal troops reached Malvern on the 1st of July at ten o'clock in the morning. Before going on board the Galena to make a reconnaissance, McClellan himself posted these troops upon the ground, which he had examined the day before, giving to their line the form of a vast semicircle, which extended from the Crewe house to the Binford house, through the wood adjoining the West house. Refusing his extreme right, he had deployed it to the east along the Western Run as far as in front of Haxall's, while the extreme left was effectively protected by the impassable mouth of this stream and by the gun-boats presenting their broadside in the James. The army thus guarded all the approaches to Malvern, bringing its two wings close to the banks of the river. It was disposed in the following order, reckoning from left to right: At the extreme left, Sykes guarded the approaches of the direct road from Richmond to Haxall's, having one brigade posted at the foot of Malvern, near Turkey Bridge, and the other two on the slopes of the hill; Morrell was on his right, beyond the Crewe house; together they formed Porter's corps. Couch's division, which had been detached from this corps, was placed by McClellan immediately after it. It was deployed midway between the summit of Malvern Hill and the woods bordering its base, its right resting upon a deep and wooded ravine. This ravine, which extended almost as far as the West house, marked the boundary of what was properly called Malvern Hill, separating the Federal left from the centre. This centre was formed by Heintzelman's corps, extending from the ravine to the wood of West, the skirt of which he occupied; his forces lay across the Quaker road, Kearny on the left and Hooker on the right. [136] Between Hooker and the Binford house the line was prolonged by Sumner's corps,—first Sedgwick, then Richardson, on his right. Farther on, the course of Western Run was guarded by the divisions of Smith and Slocum, composing Franklin's corps. Finally, the bridge of Carter's Mill spanning this stream, and the approaches to Haxall's, where a large number of roads converged, were entrusted to Keyes, with Peck's division, who thus found himself facing eastward, with his back turned toward that of Sykes. There was every indication that the efforts of the Confederates would be directed against the Federal left. In fact, they could only approach the army of the Potomac by two roads—that from Richmond to Haxall's and the Quaker road, which, fortunately for the Federals, led to that part of their positions easiest to defend. It was this side, therefore, that McClellan took particular care to fortify. The division of Pennsylvania Reserves, which McCall had commanded till the battle of Glendale, where he was taken prisoner, was placed in rear of Porter. Although this small band had been terribly decimated, it was yet ready to make a gallant fight. The general-in-chief gave, moreover, a powerful reinforcement of artillery to his left wing. For the first time since the beginning of the campaign, the ground was admirably adapted to the employment of this arm; and the foresight with which McClellan had organized a reserve of more than one hundred cannon, the constant care he had shown in attending to its requirements, and the energy he had displayed in preserving it intact during the retreat, in spite of its weight and the many dangers to which it had been exposed, were at last to be abundantly rewarded on this evening of July 1st. The reserve batteries were massed on the left and centre of the Federal lines under the direction of Colonel Hunt, an officer of the highest merit. They were placed wherever a favorable position could be found, and more than sixty pieces were so disposed as to cover with their converging fire every point of Porter's line. Finally, the heavy siege guns having reached Haxall's, thanks to the unremitting zeal of Colonel Tyler, who had left but one behind during the retreat, ten of them were hauled up to near the Crewe house, whence they could, by firing over the friendly lines, reach [137] the assailants if they should venture upon the slopes of Malvern Hill.

It was evident that the Confederates intended to try a last attack upon the army of the Potomac. On the evening of the 30th their situation was much less favorable than it had been three days before. The army which they thought, after the battle of Gaines' Mill, they held shut up within a network of iron, had escaped them with all its materiel, leaving in their hands only some wounded men, a few thousand prisoners and broken cannon. All their efforts to crush it had failed, and it had finally found a position on the James whence it could, at the first opportunity, undertake operations much more dangerous to Richmond than those which had been prevented at so great a sacrifice. On the other hand, the Confederate army was at the end of its resources. Forced marches and countermarches, only interrupted by frequent and bloody combats, had greatly attenuated its ranks, and the number of men it was able to bring into line before Malvern Hill on the 1st of July was much inferior to the force with which it had commenced its movement six days before. The woods were filled with its wounded, sick and stragglers. The two corps of Longstreet and A. P. Hill had suffered so severely at Glendale, that a day's rest was absolutely indispensable to them, and they had to be relieved during the night by those of Huger and Magruder.

The retreat of the Federals, however, had at last enabled Lee to bring the two wings of his army together. Although this concentration was effected somewhat tardily, he could not fail to take advantage of it to attack his adversary, who was equally exhausted, before the latter should have time to establish himself in an entrenched position. At break of day Jackson crossed the White Oak Swamp, and soon reached the battle-field of Glendale. He received an order to continue to follow the enemy by the Quaker road, while Magruder and Huger were to file to his right by forest paths, to gain the road to Haxall's and come up to attack McClellan's left wing. Longstreet and Hill, being held in reserve, followed in the rear of Jackson, and came to take position on his left, at a considerable distance from the field of battle, which they did not leave during the whole day. Before crossing [138] the Western Run at the Quaker road ford, and appearing in front of the first slopes of Malvern, Jackson left his old division, with two of Ewell's brigades, in the woods near Willis' Church, and moved forward with the remainder, Ewell's third brigade in the centre, Whiting's division on the left, and D. H. Hill on the right. The latter, deploying between the road and the tributary of the Western Run, followed the course of this stream by partly extending his line into the adjoining woods. Having reached the point where this stream connects with the ravine which separated McClellan's centre from his left, the Confederate general sent, beyond the ravine, Anderson's brigade, which thus debouched upon the right of Couch's division, formed by Howe's brigade. It was three o'clock. Whilst the artillery of Whiting and Ewell was cannonading the Federal centre, Anderson, supported by the fire of two batteries, vigorously attacked the Federals, but in vain. Howe had been waiting for the Confederates at a short distance. The latter, being received by a terrific fire, halted, when a charge of the One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania completed their repulse on one side, while on the other the Thirty-sixth New York carried off the flags of the Fourteenth Alabama. The Lafayette Guards, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Thouret, fully sustained the reputation they had already acquired at Williamsburg and Fair Oaks, and Couch took advantage of this success to rectify his line by advancing about eight hundred metres. The attack of the Confederates was not renewed. Lee had sent an order to his generals to wait until the whole army had got into line before resuming the offensive. Armistead's brigade of Huger's division was, by rushing forward with loud yells, to give the signal for a general assault upon the enemy's positions.

Meantime, the march of Magruder and Huger was impeded by the woods and swamps they had to cross before reaching the positions which had been assigned them. Their artillery especially could scarcely be dragged along. Through some unaccountable neglect on the part of the Confederate staff, no map of this region existed in the army; as we have already stated, no one had foreseen the possibility that the tide of war would flow in that direction. The column therefore proceeded somewhat at random. At last two of Huger's brigades emerged from the woods on [139] Anderson's right. The third, Armistead's, which was to have commenced the attack, followed Magruder. The latter, pushing his heads of column forward as fast as the thick underwood which he had to clear right and left from his path permitted, arrived about four o'clock in front of Porter's positions, and immediately placed Purcell's guns in battery, the only field-pieces that had been able to follow him. But the Confederate artillerists have scarcely shown themselves when they are crushed by the fire from Porter's powerful guns. Despite their stubbornness, their pieces are speedily dismounted or reduced to silence. Another battery, called the Letcher Artillery, which has come up to their assistance, has also most of its cannoneers killed or wounded in a short space of time. Magruder, whom no obstacle can dismay, thinks he can rescue this battery by making his soldiers charge some of the Federal guns posted nearest to his point of attack. This task is entrusted to one regiment, which rushes up bravely to the assault within one hundred and fifty metres of the enemy's guns; but the latter reply by such a shower of grape that the Confederates recoil in disorder, leaving the ground strewn with dead and wounded. A second and a third charge, also made by a single regiment at a time, are followed by the same result. The fire of the artillery is supported by the volleys of musketry from Porter's troops. No direct orders, no general command, control the movements of the Confederate army. Stuart, carried away first toward the White House by the greed for plunder, then into the peninsula in the vain hope of overtaking Stoneman, has not yet rejoined Lee, and it may be said that with him the eyes of the Confederate army are absent. Whiting on the left, D. H. Hill in the centre, Magruder and Huger on the right, afford each other no mutual support, there being no communication between them, nor any instructions from Lee to enable them to act in concert. After having given to the different corps, as a signal of attack, an indication entirely insufficient, the commander-in-chief of the Confederate army seems to have ceased to preside over the movements of these corps, which are, as it were, lost in the midst of the forest. The Federals, on the contrary, from the heights of Malvern Hill, can perceive all these movements at a glance, and their central position enables them at all times rapidly to mass men [140] and cannon upon the point most menaced. Their view extends even so far that McClellan can see the columns of Longstreet and A. P. Hill as they proceed to take position in the rear on the left of Jackson; and being anxious about his right flank, which is not so well protected by nature, he retains a considerable force there for a considerable time. We have seen that Magruder, not having all his troops in line, was unwilling to push the battle to the extreme; but he had sustained useless losses by risking a few batteries first, then three regiments one after the other. This valiant soldier had been exasperated by reproaches which had been cast upon him the day before for not having reached Glendale in time, so that he had sworn, it is said, to lead his soldiers directly up to the enemy the first time he should encounter him, and it is to this motive that his bloody attacks, so imprudently renewed, must be attributed.

Meanwhile, the sound of the battle, which was being fought on the extreme right of the Confederates, did not reach the rest of their line, being intercepted by the density of the forest, and undoubtedly also by the wind, which had suddenly changed,—an unreliable messenger, upon which Lee had reposed too much confidence. As we have said, Armistead's brigade, which was to have given the signal for the attack, having followed Magruder instead of proceeding with the remainder of Huger's division, found itself placed in a portion of the line where it could no longer play the important part which had been assigned to it. But toward six o'clock D. H. Hill, who had been impatiently waiting for the signal agreed upon, thought that he had heard it at last. He distinctly recognized the sound of sharp musketry mingled with hurrahs, and did not wait for anything more to put his division in motion. He was probably deceived by the distant echo of one of the last partial charges attempted by Magruder, the first having been made an hour before. Such was the utter want of communication between the different generals that Hill remained in ignorance of the fact, not only during the whole battle, but even for some days after, when he wrote his report, that Magruder had really attacked the enemy before himself, and sustained a combat much longer than his own. When he put his division in motion, believing the whole army to be engaged, his neighbors on the [141] right and left, having heard nothing, remained motionless in their turn; and even after the battle had commenced they do not appear to have received any order to support him. If we make this assertion with some reservation, it is because the Confederate reports, from that of the general-in-chief to those of simple colonels, are so vague, so confused and contradictory in all that concerns the hour, that it is almost impossible to arrive at any positive conclusion as to the share of responsibility for the check resting upon each. However that may be, Hill advanced alone against the Federal positions. After Anderson's first attack he had borne toward his right, Lee having indicated the enemy's left as the point upon which all the efforts of his army were to be concentrated. He had therefore before him Morrell's right, Couch's division, reinforced by Caldwell's brigade, which had been temporarily detached from Richardson, and finally the left of Kearny. The woods skirting the foot of Malvern Hill had hitherto protected the Confederates; but as soon as they had passed beyond the edge of the forest they were received by a fire from all the batteries at once, some posted on the summit of the hill, others ranged midway, close to the Federal infantry. The latter joined its musketry fire to the cannonade when Hill's first line had come within range, and threw it back in disorder on the reserves. While it was re-forming new battalions marched up to the assault in their turn. The remembrance of Cold Harbor doubles the energy of Hill's soldiers. They try to pierce the line sometimes at one point, sometimes at another, charging Kearny's left first, and Couch's right, formed by Caldwell's and Howe's brigades, and afterward throwing themselves upon the left of Couch's division. But here also, after having nearly reached the Federal positions, they are repulsed. The conflict is carried on with great fierceness on both sides, and for a moment it seems as if the Confederates are at last about to penetrate the very centre of their adversaries, and of the formidable artillery which but now was dealing destruction in their ranks. But Summer, who commands on the right, seeing no likelihood of any attack on that side, detaches Sickles' and Meagher's brigades successively to Couch's assistance. During this time Whiting on the left, and Huger on the right, suffer Hill's soldiers to become exhausted, without supporting [142] them. Neither Lee nor Jackson has sent the slightest order, and the din of the battle which is going on in their immediate vicinity has not sufficed to make them march against the enemy. Jackson, however, feels at last the necessity of reinforcing Hill and aiding him in the desperate attack he has undertaken. Taking upon himself the management of the battle on this side, and directing in person those bloody but fruitless assaults, he calls up in great haste from Willis' church his reserves, consisting of his old division and that of Ewell. But these troops are far off; and notwithstanding their alacrity, they cannot arrive until after sunset. At seven o'clock Hill reorganized the debris of his troops in the woods. He had no longer the means for essaying a new attack; his tenacity and the courage of his soldiers have only had the effect of causing him to sustain heavy losses.

He complained bitterly of having been sacrificed and abandoned by his colleagues; yet he had not been so entirely isolated as he imagined, for more to the right Magruder had been engaged at the same time as himself, and under circumstances equally unfavorable, in a struggle which was to have an issue not less fatal. Recognizing the uselessness of his former attacks, he has ceased fighting in order to wait for the arrival of his artillery, which he left behind during his march a few hours before, and to which he sends orders to sacrifice everything in order to join him in time. He depends upon the fire of his rifled guns, about thirty in number, to silence the batteries which protect Porter's line, and to enable him to charge at the point of the bayonet. But it is near six o'clock. Day declines, and the artillery does not arrive. Perhaps the fiery Magruder has also heard the distant sound of the battle in which Hill was then engaged. Without waiting for his cannon any longer, he orders his fine division to attack the formidable positions occupied by the Federals. He points out to them as the aim of their efforts the Crewe house, around which a large portion of McClellan's reserve artillery is concentrated. This is, in fact, the key to the whole position. Before they can reach the Federal lines which cover it, the assailants have to cross six hundred metres of a rather steep slope, which does not afford the least shelter. Magruder's first brigade has scarcely appeared in sight when it is exposed to a terrible artillery fire. Still the [143] Confederates continue to advance; but the Federal infantry, which has been waiting for them within a short distance without firing, receives them with a murderous discharge, and taking advantage of the confusion thrown into their ranks to assume the offensive, drives them back upon the slopes which they have ascended with so much difficulty. Magruder, not considering himself beaten, brings all his brigades successively into action, and Huger rouses himself at last from his long inaction to participate in the battle. But the Confederate generals, by dividing their efforts, have lost all chances of success. A charge en masse of one or two entire divisions could alone have compensated for their inferior artillery, and while it would have involved the sacrifice of fewer men than they had lost in detail, they might perhaps have thus succeeded in reaching and surrounding the Federal batteries. As soon as Porter understands the tactics of his opponent he husbands his resources. His infantry and artillery consume an enormous quantity of ammunition, but their losses are insignificant, for the enemy has never been able to make a stand sufficiently near them to engage in a regular musketry fight. Each time that an attacking column stops to fire it is immediately driven back. Whenever one of his regiments or one of his batteries has exhausted its ammunition, Porter replaces them with others, sending the former to the second line to fill their cartridge-boxes or their caissons. In this manner he keeps up the fight, exposing only a portion of his troops, and keeping the remainder massed in case the enemy should attempt a general assault with all his forces.

It is already near seven o'clock. Magruder, Huger and D. H. Hill — that is to say, the whole Confederate right — have successively taken part in the struggle. But Whiting remains inactive, and limits himself to the exchange of a few cannon-shots with the enemy from a distance; Ewell and Jackson's old division cannot arrive in time; Magruder's artillery has not made its appearance, nor have Longstreet and A. P. Hill been brought forward. Even where the battle is raging with the greatest violence, Lee, as we have seen, has not succeeded in preserving concert of action. The attacks are made by each general individually, without any understanding with his neighbors; consequently, they [144] have all had the same issue. More than once the Federal lines have seemed on the point of being charged and broken, so great is the impetuosity of the assailants; but at the last moment the latter are always checked and compelled to redescend those fatal slopes, already covered with the dead bodies of their comrades. The last rays of the setting sun, gilding the tree-tops and the smoky heights of Malvern, light up this bloody scene. In the centre D. H. Hill has given up the contest, but Magruder, 10th to resign himself to this cruel reverse, persists in continuing the fight. It is only toward nine o'clock that the booming of cannon gradually dies away along the entire line, and the silence of the night succeeds at last, unbroken, to the noise of battle.

This time the Confederates had experienced a defeat unmitigated by any compensation. The great effort they had made to repair the errors committed on the preceding days had signally failed. Their divisions, exhausted and diminished by six days marching and fighting, had been led to the assault of formidable positions without order or unity of action, and had paid dearly for the confidence of their generals — a confidence which, since the victory of Gaines' Mill, had become positive presumption. Their losses were enormous and out of all proportion to those they had inflicted upon their adversaries.-So useless a sacrifice of life troubled and discouraged them. Magruder's corps was partially destroyed; those of D. H. Hill and Huger had suffered cruelly; those of Longstreet and A. P. Hill had not yet recovered from the effects of the battle of Glendale. The troops of Whiting, Ewell and Jackson would no doubt have been in a condition to renew the contest on the following day, but the struggle was virtually at an end. It was one of those facts which impress themselves upon the strongest minds. Up to this time the Confederate army had labored under the conviction that the capitulation of McClellan and all his troops would be the inevitable result of the campaign. The soldier, unable to judge of the combined movements of the Federals, had seen nothing but success in all his encounters with them, and believed that as great advantages had been obtained at Frazier's Farm and Glendale as at Gaines' Mill; consequently, when on the evening of the 1st of July he found himself repulsed at all points by those very men whom he [145] had supposed to be in fill flight, discouragement took the place of the assurance which until then had imparted so much strength. The men still fit for service set themselves to numbering those present and those that were absent—the killed, the wounded, the sick and the stragglers; the latter were in frightful numbers. If Lee had desired at this moment to lead his army once more to the charge, he would not have been followed. He had to remain contented with the results obtained-results, indeed, of sufficient importance to satisfy any rational mind that had not been lulled into illusions. Lee could show, as substantial evidences of his success, fifty pieces of cannon—most of them damaged, it is true— which his soldiers had captured at the point of the bayonet or picked up on the field of battle, a considerable number of wagons, a large number of muskets, accoutrements of every description, provisions, tents, ammunition, together with six thousand prisoners, one-half of them wounded, and among them several generals. In a strategic point of view, the results were still more considerable. McClellan, who may be said to have been laying siege to Richmond, had been violently interrupted in that siege, conquered in open field, and compelled to undertake a perilous retreat in order to find a new base of operations at a much greater distance from the aim of all his efforts. He had sustained considerable losses, for the materiel which the enemy had taken from him was nothing compared with what he had himself been obliged to destroy. The wounded who had followed the army were far more numerous than those who had remained behind. No one had as yet counted the dead, who might be reckoned at many thousands. Finally, the thought that a campaign undertaken with so much perseverance had ended in a disaster, depressed the courage of every one, from the general-in-chief to the simple soldier.

The Federals, however, had achieved on the borders of the James the victory which had been denied them on the Chickahominy. If the first part of this short but sanguinary campaign was illustrated by the battle of Gaines' Mill, the second was by that of Malvern Hill. The enemy, therefore, could not compel them to fall back farther. But the motives which had decided McClellan to select a position below City Point for his army [146] still existed; the vicinity of the right bank would always have rendered it difficult to provision Malvern Hill. The generalin-chief, therefore, adhered to the order issued before the battle, directing the evacuation of this position during the night of the 1st and 2d of July. The place he had designated as the quarters for the army near his new base was Harrison's Landing, formerly the property of President Harrison, situated twelve kilometres lower down in a direct line. Whilst the convoy, which had resumed its march since the evening of the 30th, was approaching the Harrison plantation by roads which, at times, had to be cleared with the axe, and was fast covering all the spaces surrounding the improvised wharves along the river, the greater part of the army was slowly falling back by way of Haxall's. Porter, who was the last to leave, covering its march with a regiment of cavalry and the brigade of regulars, only reached this point on the morning of the 2d. At Haxall's he passed Peck's division, which, after having prepared the road to Harrison, formed the rear-guard of the whole army, under the chief command of General Keyes, who had several regiments of cavalry to protect this march. The heat of the preceding days had been followed by torrents of rain; and if it proved an obstacle to the pursuit which the Confederates might have wished to attempt, it also impeded the movement of the wagons. Nevertheless, they continued their course over two roads without any difficulty, before the enemy was able to disturb them; and when he finally made his appearance, he no longer found anything to pick up on the track of the Federals. He did not venture to attack them, while Stuart, who had followed Keyes with several batteries of horse artillery, contented himself with sending after him a few harmless cannon-shots.

The army of the Potomac was to find at Harrison's Landing the repose it absolutely needed. The retreat from Malvern Hill was effected without any trouble; but precisely, perhaps, because they were no longer stimulated by the presence of the enemy, the soldiers gave way more rapidly to physical exhaustion than before. This last night march, following so many other fatigues, transcended the powers of endurance of most of them; when the columns, more and more stretched out and reduced, reached the [147] encampments which had been assigned to them, Nature asserted her rights, and the need of rest overcame every other consideration. Fortunately, but few troops were required to cover the position, which was naturally very strong. The army was massed between the James and a deep marshy water-course called Herring Creek. The approaches to the peninsula, thus formed by the river and the stream, were speedily protected by a considerable abatis and field-works. A fleet of transports soon came to cast anchor in front of the army, and a few hours later the wagons were carrying rations to all the divisions of the army. The functions of the quartermaster's department, under the superintendence of Colonel Ingalls, were admirably performed. The army was soon rested and organized; the sight of a few reinforcements sent from Fortress Monroe had produced the best effect upon the spirits of the soldiers, whose imagination magnified their number. The stragglers had all rejoined their regiments, so that an estimate could be formed of the number present. The army of the Potomac, reunited before Richmond June 20th, had an effective force of one hundred and four thousand seven hundred and twenty-four men fit for service, and eleven thousand two hundred and eighty-nine sick or unable to perform any kind of service. On reaching Harrison's Landing there were scarcely fifty thousand men in the ranks, but on the 4th of July, when the corps commanders made their reports, it was found that the net losses of the army since the 20th of June amounted to fifteen thousand two hundred and forty-nine men, of whom one thousand five hundred and eighty-two had been killed, seven thousand seven hundred wounded, and five thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight missing. This last figure comprised, besides prisoners, all the soldiers who had been left on the field of battle, whose fate, whether killed or wounded, could not be ascertained; to this number may be added, without exaggeration, six thousand sick or lame who had gone to the hospital in consequence of the excessive fatigues of the preceding days. McClellan therefore found himself with about eighty-four thousand men under arms, not counting those who had just joined him.

The losses of Lee's army during the seven days amounted to twenty thousand men, to which number must also be added at [148] least five thousand rendered unfit for active service by the same causes which had operated with his adversaries; this army, therefore, had undergone a diminution of twenty-five thousand men.11 This was more than one-fourth of its effective force on the 26th of June.

An interlude was to follow this great struggle. While McClellan was fortifying himself at Harrison's Landing, Lee, hampered like himself by the difficulty of subsisting his army, was obliged to fall back as far as the environs of Richmond. Both sides were gathering their troops together while waiting for a favorable opportunity to renew the contest. In the estimation of those who did not allow themselves to be troubled by foolish alarms and were not blinded by party prejudices, McClellan's situation was far from bad. The material losses he had sustained could be easily repaired. The great danger the army had incurred had excited an extraordinary sensation in the North, which resulted in numerous enlistments; the government felt at last that it could no longer haggle about reinforcements; the soldiers had been trained by their trials, and their chief had displayed qualities which justified the confidence reposed in him. Planted on the James, McClellan could, either by ascending this river or by seizing upon Petersburg, strike much deadlier blows at Richmond than when his army lay across the Chickahominy, far from any water communication.

Such was the position of the two armies about the 7th of July. On this day the steamer coming from Fortress Monroe landed a passenger at Harrison's Landing, whose dress, as simple as his manners, did not at first attract any attention, but in whom people soon recognized President Lincoln. He had come to consult with the commander of the army of the Potomac about the measures to be adopted under those grave circumstances.

But before we begin the narrative of the new campaign which was preparing in Virginia, we must retrace our steps to relate the events of which the valley of the Mississippi had been the theatre during the spring of 1862.

1 This was the status of the Army April 1, 1862:

Present for active service.On special service or on sick list.Absent.Total.
Second corps, Sumner26,7781,1293,13031,037
Third corps, Heintzelmann33,0472,7953,01038,852
Fourth corps, Keyes32,9241,8743,11237,910
Regular infantry3,9052376234,765
Regular cavalry2,0011703703,141
Reserve artillery2,7311752103,116
Of different corps910731611,144
——————
Total102,8966,45310,616119,965

2 For one month the headquarters of the army were within reach of the enemy's projectiles. The latter tried in vain to discover their locality, and during that entire month but one single Confederate cannon-ball whistled above the tents of the general staff.

3 He had only lost four hundred men by the fire of the enemy. The five thousand that were missing must therefore have been stragglers, men on the sick-list, and probably a few deserters.

4 ‘Either attack Richmond, or give up the job and come to the defence of Washington.’

5 The official reports give the following figures for the army of the Potomac: Sumner, one hundred and eighty-three killed, eight hundred and ninety-four wounded, one hundred and forty-six prisoners; Heintzelman, two hundred and fifty-nine killed, nine hundred and eighty wounded, one hundred and fifty-five prisoners; Keyes, four hundred and forty-eight killed, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-three wounded, nine hundred and twenty-one prisoners; total: eight hundred and ninety killed, three thousand six hundred and twenty-seven wounded, and one thousand two hundred and twenty-two prisoners. For the army of Northern Virginia: Longstreet and Hill, a little over three thousand; Smith, one thousand two hundred and thirty-three men disabled.

6 See Note A in the Appendix to this volume.

7 The following was the morning report of the army of the Potomac on the 20th of June: Present, one hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and two; sick, detached, under arrest, twelve thousand two hundred and twenty-five; absent, twenty-nine thousand five hundred and eleven; total, one hundred and fifty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight. The garrisons of Fort Monroe and Yorktown should be deducted from the first figure. Sumner's and Franklin's corps had the least number of men unfit for service. On the 10th of July, out of thirty-eight thousand two hundred and fifty absentees, thirty-four thousand four hundred and seventy-two were on regular leave of absence, three thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight had deserted to the interior.

8 Captain Royall was severely wounded in several places, but recovered, and is still in the United States army.—Ed.

9 This is a slight error. The brigades were those of French and Meagher. See General McClellan's Report, page 127: ‘French's and Meagher's brigades now appeared, driving before them the stragglers who were thronging toward the bridge.’ And again: ‘These brigades advanced boldly to the front, and by their example, as well as by the steadiness of their bearing, reanimated our own troops and warned the enemy that reinforcements had arrived.’ This praise of their conduct renders it the more important that it should rest where it was merited.—Ed.

10 Thus the despatch of which we have spoken above, addressed to Mr. Stanton on the 28th of June, twenty minutes after midnight, closed with these words: ‘If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other person in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.’ This phrase was suppressed at the War Department, as any one may ascertain by comparing two official documents, McClellan's Report, p. 132, and that of the committee, first part, first volume, p. 340.

11 See the tabular figures of effective strength in Note B, Appendix to this volume.

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