The Seven Pines, looking East, after a rough sketch made during the War.|
here the Williamsburg
“old stage” road is intersected by theNine-mile road, at a point seven miles east of Richmond
, was fought the first great contest between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia
and the Federal
Army of the Potomac.
The junction of these two roads is called Seven Pines
About one mile from Seven Pines
, where theNine-mile road crosses the Richmond
and the York River Railroad, there is a station called Fair Oaks
Before the action ended there was a good deal of fighting near the latter place.
The Federals called the action of May 31st and June 1st the battle of Fair Oaks
Before describing this contest, a sketch will be given of the movements of the two armies from the time the Confederates
withdrew from Williamsburg
It is well, however, to say here that, in preparing an account of the battle, I have felt constrained to refer to some important matters in more detail than would have been considered essential, if there was not such direct conflict of “high authorities” in regard to them.
For instance, nearly all the descriptions of this action heretofore published give as the intention of the Confederate
commander that Longstreet
's division was to move to the Williamsburg
road and support D. H. Hill
's division on that road.
In “asserting” that this is an error, I have felt that, under the circumstances, it is incumbent on me to prove what I say on that subject.
It is broadly stated by many authorities that General Johnston
's division should attack the Federal
left flank and rear, Huger
's attack to be followed by D. H. Hill
's division falling on the Federal
front; and it is claimed by many that the slowness of Huger
's division caused the failure of complete Confederate success the first day. In refutation of these statements and claims, I have felt constrained to give proofs, and not leave these questions to be decided by mere “assertion.”
The position of the Confederate
troops at dark, May 31st, has been erroneously stated by General Johnston
, and in such particularity of detail as at the time to satisfy me that, in the main, he was correct.
But the “Official records,” recently published, show beyond question that General Johnston
is in error on this point.
It has, therefore, been considered necessary in this article to give definite proof in regard to the position of the Confederate
forces when the command of the army devolved upon me, by reason of General Johnston
's being wounded.
His statement of the reasons for my not having ordered the attack to be renewed the next morning (June 1st) calls for specific proof that I did order the attack to be renewed, and for a detailed exhibit of General Longstreet
's battle-field notes to me on that day.
Without specifying further, at this time, in regard to the “misunderstanding,” misapprehension, and other causes that have led to erroneous published accounts of important events in this battle,--to some extent on the Federal
, but more on the Confederate
, side,--it may be added that the recent publication of the “Official Records
,” when carefully studied, throws a great deal of light upon these events, the accounts of which have heretofore been nearly as dark and confusing as were the dense, tangled wood and swamps in which most of the close and desperate fighting took place.
The Federal accounts, as now officially published, are full; they embrace the reports of nearly every regimental, brigade, division, and corps commander engaged; but many of the Confederate
reports are missing, those in D. H. Hill
's division being the only ones that are complete in regard even to brigade commanders.
There are, however, enough others, when taken in connection with the full Federal reports, to give quite a clear understanding of the main facts on both sides.
THEaffair at Williamsburg
, May 5th, was an incident in the withdrawal of the Confederate army from its fortified lines, near Yorktown
, to the open country between the Pamunkey
and the Chickahominy rivers
, where General Johnston
intended to halt, near the Richmond and York River Railroad, and contest the farther advance of General McClellan
's and Hill
's divisions, both under General Longstreet
, moved on the Charles City
road, which crosses the Chickahominy
at Long Bridge
; the division of G. W. Smith
's forces — commanded by him before Johnston
's army arrived at the Yorktown lines
— moved on the road that passes through Barhamsville
and New Kent Court House and crosses the Chickahominy
at Bottom's Bridge.
All the Confederate
troops on the latter road were under my command, and they were followed by the Federal
Excepting occasional collisions between our rear-guard and the Federal
advance-guard, nothing of special interest occurred after we left Barhamsville
, near which place, below West Point
, the Federals
landed quite a large force, and seemed disposed to move out against us. General Johnston
ordered nearly the whole of his army to Barhamsville
, and came there in person.
The next day, May 7th, the Federal
skirmishers advanced, but their main force gave us no opportunity to cut them off from their gun-boats.
At this point there was a good deal of sharp fighting for several hours.2
From this time
were more worried by the deep mud through which they were patiently trudging than they were by any movements of the Federals
In a letter to me from Palo Alto
, on the Charles City
road, dated Headquarters, Second Corps, May 8th, General Longstreet
If your road can beat this for mud, I don't want to see it. “” If you see the General [Johnston] , say to him that we are as happy as larks over here, till we get 126 wagons [the total number] up to the hub at one time.
“” I don't fear McClellan or any one in Yankeedom.
When my command had passed the Baltimore Cross-roads, four and a half miles west of New Kent Court House, and had reached position about half-way between the Pamunkey
and Chickahominy rivers
, on good ground, they were halted.
's corps was again within easy supporting distance of mine, and General Johnston
intended in that vicinity to contest the further advance of McClellan
We remained there about five days. The troops, having rested from the tiresome service in the trenches near Yorktown
, and the fatiguing march, were now furnished with abundant supplies from Richmond
, and were elated at the prospect of meeting the enemy on an open field of battle.
then supposed that something effective had been done by the Government
for the local defense of Richmond
, during the month that had elapsed since his army moved from there to the peninsula.
On the 14th of May he learned, through his chief engineer, that little or nothing — either in the way of fortifications or of troops — had been provided; and that the enemy, on the James River
, were above City Point
, and threatening Drewry's Bluff
, as well as the obstruction in the Appomattox
, four and a half miles below Petersburg
This report closed with the remark: “The danger is on the south side of James River
On the same day General Johnston
received intelligence of the destruction of the Confederate iron-clad Virginia
--called by the Federals
The next day news was received of the attack on Drewry's Bluff
[see p. 271], and of the confusion and fright in Richmond
In this state of affairs, General Johnston
decided that it was expedient to cross the Chickahominy
and take position nearer the city, rather than continue to wait, north of that stream, for the advance of McClellan
from the Pamunkey
Accordingly, orders were issued that night for