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Fair Oaks or Seven Pines: in sight of Richmond.

Henry W. Elson

A haven for the wounded — the “Seven Pines” farm-house serving as a hospital for Hooker's division, shortly after the battle of May 30-June 1, 1862


Bridging the morass From the necessity of getting an army across such barriers as this Chickahominy morass arise the most difficult problems of the army engineer. Here is shown Woodbury's Bridge, across the Chickahominy, named after its builder, which was flanked on either side by bottom lands, in some places forming a swamp stretching nearly a mile back from the stream proper. In the depths of this morass, surrounded by multitudes of reptiles, breathing the stagnant air, shrouded in a pall of mist, and accompanied by an immense orchestra of double-bass bullfrogs, the soldiers worked for weeks constructing causeways and bridges for the advance of the army toward Richmond, in 1862. The cutting of dams above, and the heavy rains, several times swept away the half-finished constructions, likewise the reserve material which had been gathered at immense cost in labor.


A victory over swamp and flood Here we see the Fifth New Hampshire Infantry, reenforced by details from the Sixty-fourth New York and from the Irish Brigade, at work in the swamp strengthening the upper bridge across the Chickahominy so as to enable Sumner's troops to cross. The bridge had been completed on the night of May 29, 1862, and Colonel Cross, of the Fifth New Hampshire, was the first man to ride over it. The heavy rains on the night of May 30th had so loosened the supports that when Sumner led his troops across on the afternoon of May 31st only the weight of the cautiously marching column kept the logs in place. Sumner named it the Grapevine Bridge because of its tortuous course. It enabled his troops to turn the tide at Fair Oaks and ward off Federal defeat on the first day. After they had crossed much of the Grapevine Bridge was submerged by the rising flood of the Chickahominy.


The guns that got there. Mud, according to Napoleon, is the fifth important element in war. Here we see the guns of Pettit's Battery, Company B, First New York Artillery, which had just conquered in a contest with mud. On the night of May 30th the swollen Chickahominy had swept away most of the recently constructed bridges. Some of the Federal Artillery had managed to get across, but the soil was so water-soaked that it was almost impossible to move the guns which were needed for the battle of the two following days. During the night of May 31st Pettit's command dragged their guns through the mud up from the river to Richardson's division on the right of the Federal line near the railroad; caisson and gun carriage had sunk to the very hubs, as their condition shows. Of all the artillery that had been ordered up these were the only guns able to answer at the dawn of June 1st.


Regulars who arrived too late at Fair Oaks.

One can well imagine the feelings of the men and officers of these companies of the United States Artillery-Companies C, G, B and L of the reserve, who on the 31st of May could hear the battle raging on the south side of the flooded Chickahominy. The presence of regular troops in the early part of the war always steadied the volunteers. No men were so eager to bring their guns into action as these cannoneers. In the lower picture, to the left, we see part of Captain Robertson's batteries, Companies B and L, drawn up in a cornfield. Before the battle of Fair Oaks he had been attached to General Stoneman's column operating most of the time in the vicinity of New Bridge, where the Artillery Reserve Camp was at length established. To the right we see Batteries C and G (Gibson's) of the Third United States Artillery ready for action which was not renewed. McClellan's fatal pause had just begun, and here the artillery men so much needed during the two days fighting are standing idly by, where they had been robbed by the river of the anticipated chance to distinguish themselves and with no further compensation for their disappointment than the diversion of having their pictures taken. Weeks of waiting were to follow before these batteries were to be again needed to do their share in holding back Lee's forces during their advance in the Seven Days battles. Robertson's guns were in the thick of it at Gaines' Mill and the captain was complimented by General Porter for that day's work.

Captain Gibson and officers of the battery that bore his name the belated batteries

Robertson's Battery-Artillery Reserve

Gibson's Battery--Artillery Reserve


The Confederates, although decidedly successful on their right, had been, it is true, rudely checked on their left; but, in the battle considered as a whole, they not only had not been beaten, but they had driven their antagonists from their entrenchments in one part of the field, and they had guns, small arms, and colors to show as the trophies of their victory. The net result of the battle, in spite of the captured trophies, was undoubtedly favorable to the Federal arms. . . . It remained for General McClellan to utilize the forces at his disposal, to lead his large army of brave men, all of whom were devoted to him, to the achievement of the success which it would seem was really at this period of the campaign within his grasp.

John C. Ropes, The story of the Civil War, Part II, The Campaigns of 1862.

With Yorktown and Williamsburg inscribed upon its victorious banners, the Army of the Potomac took up again its toilsome march from Cumberland Landing toward the Confederate capital on the James. Its route lay along the Pamunkey, a sluggish stream, whose junction with the Mattapony forms the York. Not all the troops, however, were at Cumberland Landing and McClellan had first to bring up the remainder of his forces from Yorktown and Williamsburg. Some came by water up the York, some by land. The march was a picturesque one, through a magnificent country arrayed in all the gorgeousness of a Virginia spring, with its meadows of green set between the wooded hills. Dotted here and there could be seen the mansions of planters, with their slave quarters in the rear. The progress was necessarily slow, for the roads were next to impassable and the rains still continued at intervals.

It was the 16th of May, 1862, when the advanced corps reached White House, the ancestral home of the Lees. On [283]

The goal — the Confederate capitol:

The North expected General McClellan to possess himself of this citadel of the Confederacy in June, 1862, and it seemed likely the expectation would be realized. In the upper picture we get a near view of the State House at Richmond, part of which was occupied as a Capitol by the Confederate Congress during the war. In this building were stored the records and archives of the Confederate Government, many of which were lost during the hasty retreat of President Davis and his cabinet at the evacuation of Richmond, April, 1865. Below, we see the city of Richmond from afar, with the Capitol standing out boldly on the hill. McClellan was not destined to reach this coveted goal, and it would not have meant the fall of the Confederacy had he then done so. When Lincoln entered the building in 1865, the Confederacy had been beaten as much by the blockade as by the operations of Grant and Sherman with vastly superior forces.

The goal — the Confederate capitol Richmond.

The spires of Richmond


Two keepers of Richmond, the Federal goal in June 1862.

Here are the portraits of the two military leaders who were conspicuous in the Confederate attack upon McClellan's Camp at Fair Oaks. General D. H. Hill did most of the fierce fighting which drove back the Federals on the first day, and only the timely arrival of Sumner's troops enabled the Federals to hold their ground. Had they failed they would have been driven into the morasses of the Chickahominy, retreat across which would have been difficult as the bridges were partly submerged by the swollen stream. After General Johnston was wounded, General G. W. Smith was in command during the second day's fighting.

General G. W. Smith, C. S. A.

General D. H. Hill, C. S. A.

[284] every side were fields of wheat, and, were it not for the presence of one hundred thousand men, there was the promise of a full harvest. It was here that General McClellan took up his headquarters, a distance of twenty-four miles from Richmond.

In the Confederate capital a panic had seized the people. As the retreating army of Johnston sought the environs of Richmond and news of the invading hosts was brought in, fear took possession of the inhabitants and many wild rumors were afloat as to the probable capture of the city. But it was not a fear that Johnston would not fight. The strategic policy of the Southern general had been to delay the advance of the Northern army. Fortunately for him, the rainy weather proved a powerful ally. The time had now come when he should change his position from the defensive to the offensive. The Army of Northern Virginia had been brought to bay, and it now turned to beat off the invaders and save its capital.

On the historic Peninsula lay two of the greatest and most splendid armies that had ever confronted each other on the field of battle. The engagement, now imminent, was to be the first in that series of contests, between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, ending three years thereafter, at Appomattox, when the war-worn veterans of gray should lay down their arms, in honor, to the war-worn veterans of blue.

The Union advance was retarded by the condition of the weather and the roads. Between McClellan's position at White House and the waiting Confederate army lay the Chickahominy, an erratic and sluggish stream, that spreads itself out in wooded swamps and flows around many islands, forming a valley from half a mile to a mile wide, bordered by low bluffs. In dry weather it is but a mere brook, but a moderate shower will cause it to rise quickly and to offer formidable opposition to any army seeking its passage. The valley is covered with trees whose tops reach to the level of [285]

From captain to brevet major-general John C. Tidball, Who Won His Spurs on the Peninsula. There is hardly a despatch that concerns the doings of the artillery in the Peninsula Campaign that does not mention the name of the gallant officer we see here leaning against his mud-spattered gun. Tidball's battery was the first to try for the position of honor on the artillery firing line and the last to retire. He was a graduate of West Point, class of 1848, and like all West Pointers, was imbued with the slogan and motto of that cradle of soldiers, “Duty, valor, patriotism.” He was appointed captain in 1861 and given command of four rifled 10-pounder Parrotts and two 12-pounder smooth-bores. Through the heavy roads he kept his guns well to the fore throughout all of the Peninsula Campaign. For his participation in the skirmish at New Bridge he was thrice mentioned in despatches. But previous to this he had been reported for gallantry at Blackburn's Ford in the first battle of Bull Run, his guns being the last of Barry's battery to limber up and retire in order. It was on the 23d of May that Tidball's guns swept the Confederate troops from New Bridge on the banks of the Chickahominy. His firing was so accurate and his men so well drilled that the discharge of his guns was spoken of as being so rapid as to be almost continuous. At Gaines' Mill Tidball and his guns won laurels. The artillery had begun the battle at about 11 o'clock, and it was their fight until nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon of June 27th, when the fighting became general. The batteries were well in front and occupied a dangerous position, but despite the vigor of the attack the guns stayed where they were. General Sykes reported of the artillery this day: “The enemy's attack was frustrated mainly through the services of Captain Reade and Captain Tidball.” Tidball emerged from the action with a brevet of major. He was brevetted lieut.-colonel for gallantry at Antietam on September 17th. At Gettysburg he commanded a brigade of horse artillery which he led in the Wilderness campaign, also, and was brevetted brigadier-general on August 1, 1864, brevetted major-general for gallant and meritorious services at Fort Stedman and Fort Sedgwick in the Petersburg campaign, and confirmed as a brigadier-general at the end of the war.

[286] the adjacent highlands, thus forming a screen from either side. The bridges crossing it had all been destroyed by the retreating army except the one at Mechanicsville, and it was not an easy task that awaited the forces of McClellan as they made their way across the spongy soil.

The van of the Union army reached the Chickahominy on May 20th. The bridge was gone but the men under General Naglee forded the little river, reaching the plateau beyond, and made a bold reconnaissance before the Confederate lines. In the meantime, newly constructed bridges were beginning to span the Chickahominy, and the Federal army soon was crossing to the south bank of the river.

General McClellan had been promised reenforcements from the north. General McDowell with forty thousand men had started from Fredericksburg to join him north of the Chickahominy. For this reason, General McClellan had thrown the right wing of his army on the north of the river while his left would rest on the south side of the stream. This position of his army did not escape the eagle eye of the Confederate general, Joseph E. Johnston, who believed the time had now come to give battle, and perhaps destroy the small portion of the Union forces south of the river.

Meanwhile, General “StonewallJackson, in the Shenandoah, was making threatening movements in the direction of Washington, and McDowell's orders to unite with McClellan were recalled.

The roads in and about Richmond radiate from that city like the spokes of a wheel. One of these is the Williamsburg stage-road, crossing the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge, only eleven miles from Richmond. It was along this road that the Federal corps of Keyes and Heintzelman had made their way. Their orders were “to go prepared for battle at a moment's notice” and “to bear in mind that the Army of the Potomac has never been checked.”

Parallel to this road, and about a mile to the northward, [287]

The advance that became a retreat Here, almost within sight of the goal (Richmond), we see McClellan's soldiers preparing the way for the passage of the army and its supplies. The soil along the Chickahominy was so marshy that in order to move the supply trains and artillery from the base at White House and across the river to the army, corduroy approaches to the bridges had to be built. It was well that the men got this early practice in road-building. Thanks to the work kept up, McClellan was able to unite the divided wings of the army almost at will.

“Regulars” near Fair Oaks — officers of McClellan's horse Artillery Brigade These trained soldiers lived up to the promise in their firm-set features. Major Hays and five of his Lieutenants and Captains here-Pennington, Tidball, Hains, Robertson and Barlow-had, by 1865, become general officers. From left to right (standing) are Edm. Pendleton, A. C. M. Pennington, Henry Benson, H. M. Gibson, J. M. Wilson, J. C. Tidball, W. N. Dennison; (sitting) P. C. Hains, H. C. Gibson, Wm. Hays, J. M. Robertson, J. W. Barlow; (on ground) R. H. Chapin, Robert Clarke, A. C. Vincent.

[288] runs the Richmond and York River Railroad. Seven miles from Richmond another highway intersects the one from Williamsburg, known as the Nine Mile road. At the point of this intersection once grew a clump of Seven Pines, hence the name of “Seven Pines,” often given to the battle fought on this spot. A thousand yards beyond the pines were two farmhouses in a grove of oaks. This was Fair Oaks Farm. Where the Nine Mile road crossed the railroad was Fair Oaks Station.

Southeast of Seven Pines was White Oak Swamp. Casey's division of Keyes' corps was stationed at Fair Oaks Farm. A fifth of a mile in front lay his picket line, extending crescent shape, from the swamp to the Chickahominy. Couch's division of the same corps was at Seven Pines, with his right wing extending along the Nine Mile road to Fair Oaks Station. Heintzelman's corps lay to the rear; Kearney's division guarded the railroad at Savage's Station and Hooker's the approaches to the White Oak Swamp. This formed three lines of defense. It was a well-wooded region and at this time was in many places no more than a bog. No sooner had these positions been taken, than trees were cut to form abatis, rifle-pits were hastily dug, and redoubts for placing artillery were constructed. The picket line lay along a dense growth of woods. Through an opening in the trees, the Confederate army could be seen in force on the other side of the clearing.

The plans of the Confederate general were well matured. On Friday, May 30th, he gave orders that his army should be ready to move at daybreak.

That night the “windows of heaven seemed to have been opened” and the “fountains of the deep broken up.” The storm fell like a deluge. It was the most violent storm that had swept over that region for a generation. Throughout the night the tempest raged The thunderbolts rolled without cessation. The sky was white with the electric flashes. The earth was thoroughly drenched. The lowlands became a [289]

Custer and his classmate-now a Confederate prisoner Friends and even relatives who had been enlisted on opposite sides in the great Civil War met each other during its vicissitudes upon the battle-field. Here, caught by the camera, is one of the many instances. On the left sits Lieutenant J. B. Washington, C. S. A., who was an aide to General Johnston at Fair Oaks. Beside him sits Lieutenant George A. Custer, of the Fifth U. S. Cavalry, aide on McClellan's staff, later famous cavalry general and Indian fighter. Both men were West Point graduates and had attended the military academy together. On the morning of May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Lieutenant Washington was captured by some of General Casey's pickets. Later in the day his former classmate ran across him and a dramatic meeting was thus recorded by the camera.

[290] morass. From mud-soaked beds the soldiers arose the next morning to battle.

Owing to the storm the Confederates did not move so early as intended. However, some of the troops were in readiness by eight o'clock. Hour after hour the forces of Longstreet and Hill awaited the sound of the signal-gun that would tell them General Huger was in his position to march. Still they waited. It was near noon before General Hill, weary of waiting, advanced to the front, preceded by a line of skirmishers, along the Williamsburg road. The Union pickets were lying at the edge of the forest. The soldiers in the pits had been under arms for several hours awaiting the attack. Suddenly there burst through the woods the soldiers of the South. A shower of bullets fell beneath the trees and the Union pickets gave way. On and on came the lines of gray in close columns. In front of the abatis had been planted a battery of four guns. General Naglee with four regiments, the Fifty-sixth and One hundredth New York and Eleventh Maine and One hundred and fourth Pennsylvania, had gone forward, and in the open field met the attacking army. The contest was a stubborn one. Naglee's men charged with their bayonets and pressed the gray lines back again to the edge of the woods. Here they were met by a furious fire of musketry and quickly gave way, seeking the cover of the rifle-pits at Fair Oaks Farm. The Confederate infantrymen came rushing on.

But again they were held in check. In this position, for nearly three hours the Federals waged an unequal combat against three times their number. Then, suddenly a galling fire plowed in on them from the left. It came from Rains' brigade, which had executed a flank movement. At the same time the brigade of Rodes rushed toward them. The Federals saw the hopelessness of the situation. The officers at the batteries tried to spike their guns but were killed in the attempt. Hastily falling back, five guns were left to be turned on them [291]

The slaughter field at Fair Oaks Over this ground the fiercest fighting of the two days battle took place, on May 31, 1862. Some 400 soldiers were buried here, where they fell, and their hastily dug graves appear plainly in the picture. In the redoubt seen just beyond the two houses was the center of the Federal line of battle, equi-distant, about a mile and a half, from both Seven Pines and Fair Oaks. The entrenchments near these farm dwellings were begun on May 28th by Casey's Division, 4th Corps. There was not time to finish them before the Confederate attack opened the battle, and the artillery of Casey's Division was hurriedly placed in position behind the incomplete works.

The unfinished redoubt In the smaller picture we see the inside of the redoubt at the left background of the picture above. The scene is just before the battle and picks and shovels were still busy throwing up the embankments to strengthen this center of the Federal defense. Casey's artillery was being hurriedly brought up. In the background General Sickles' Brigade appears drawn up in line of battle. When the Confederates first advanced Casey's artillery did telling work, handsomely repelling the attack early in the afternoon of May 31st. Later in the day Confederate sharp-shooters from vantage points in neighboring trees began to pick off the officers and the gunners and the redoubt had to be relinquished. The abandoned guns were turned against the retreating Federals.

The “Redhot Battery” On the afternoon of May 31st, at Fair Oaks, the Confederates were driving the Federal soldiers through the woods in disorder when this battery (McCarthy's) together with Miller's battery opened up with so continuous and severe a fire that the Federals were able to make a stand and hold their own for the rest of the day. The guns grew so hot from constant firing that it was only with the greatest care that they could be swabbed and loaded. These earthworks were thrown up for McCarthy's Battery, Company C, 1st Pennsylvania Artillery, near Savage's Station. The soldiers nicknamed it the “Redhot Battery.”

[292] in their retreat. This move was not too soon. In another minute they would have been entirely surrounded and captured. The gray lines pressed on. The next stand would be made at Seven Pines, where Couch was stationed. The forces here had been weakened by sending relief to Casey. The situation of the Federals was growing critical. At the same time General Longstreet sent reenforcements to General Hill. Couch was forced out of his position toward the right in the direction of Fair Oaks Station and was thus separated from the main body of the army, then in action.

The Confederates pushed strongly against the Federal center. Heintzelman came to the rescue. The fight waged was a gallant one. For an hour and a half the lines of blue and gray surged back and forth. The Federals were gradually giving way. The left wing, alone, next to the White Oak Swamp, was holding its own.

At the same time over at Fair Oaks Station whither Couch had been forced, were new developments. He was about to strike the Confederate army on its left flank, but just when the guns were being trained, there burst across the road the troops of General G. W. Smith, who up to this time had been inactive. These men were fresh for the fight, superior in number, and soon overpowered the Northerners. It looked for a time as if the whole Union army south of the Chickahominy was doomed.

Over at Seven Pines the center of McClellan's army was about to be routed. Now it was that General Heintzelman personally collected about eighteen hundred men, the fragments of the broken regiments, and took a decided stand at the edge of the timber. He was determined not to give way. But this alone would not nor did not save the day. To the right of this new line of battle, there was a rise of ground. From here the woods abruptly sloped to the rear. If this elevation were once secured by the Confederates, all would be lost and rout would be inevitable. The quick eye of General [293]

General Silas Casey: a veteran of three wars General Silas Casey at Fair Oaks. Three years before General Lee had left West Point, Silas Casey had been graduated. He was fifty-four years old when the war began. Active service in two exacting campaigns had aged him in appearance, but not in efficiency. He had been with General Worth at Florida in the Seminole War and under Scott at Mexico and had fought the Indians on the Pacific Coast. At Fair Oaks the old veteran's division, after fighting bravely through the woods, was driven back, for it received the whole brunt of the first Confederate attack. The bravely advancing Confederates had gained possession of his Camp before supports could reach him.

Two leaders of the forefront: General Naglee and the Cavalry General Stoneman at Fair Oaks In the center of this group sits General Naglee. At Fair Oaks his troops had rushed to arms in the dark gloom of that cloudy day, the 31st of May. The woods before his forces were filled with sharpshooters, and back of them, massing on his front, came overpowering numbers. Fighting stubbornly, contesting every inch, General Naglee was driven back to the protection of McCarthy's battery near Savage's Station. Twice during the action had Naglee placed himself personally at the head of his men in the firing line. General Stoneman is handing a note to an orderly. Before the battle of Fair Oaks, he had conducted the successful raids against the railroad. At Hanover Court House Stoneman's riders were opposed to those of the great Stuart.


Keyes took in the situation. He was stationed on the left; to reach the hill would necessitate taking his men between the battle-lines. The distance was nearly eight hundred yards. Calling on a single regiment to follow he made a dash for the position. The Southern troops, divining his intention, poured a deadly volley into his ranks and likewise attempted to reach this key to the situation. The Federals gained the spot just in time. The new line was formed as a heavy mass of Confederates came upon them. The tremendous Union fire was too much for the assaulting columns, which were checked. They had forced the Federal troops back from their entrenchments a distance of two miles, but they never got farther than these woods. The river fog now came up as the evening fell and the Southern troops spent the night in the captured camps, sleeping on their arms. The Federals fell back toward the river to an entrenched camp.

Meanwhile at Fair Oaks Station the day was saved, too, in the nick of time, for the Federals. On the north side of the Chickahominy were stationed the two divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson, under command of General Sumner. Scarcely had the battle opened when McClellan at his headquarters, six miles away, heard the roar and rattle of artillery. He was sick at the time, but he ordered General Sumner to be in readiness. At this time there were four bridges across the river--two of them were Bottom's Bridge and the railroad bridge. To go by either of these would consume too much time in case of an emergency. General Sumner had himself constructed two more bridges, lying between the others. The heavy flood of the preceding night, which was still rising, had swept one of these partially away. In order to save time, he put his men under arms and marched them to the end of the upper bridge and there waited throughout the greater part of the afternoon for orders to cross. Before them rolled a muddy and swollen stream, above whose flood was built a rude and unstable structure. From the other side [295]

First New York Light Artillery.

Not long after this picture was taken, the names of most of these men were mentioned in despatches. Against Major D. H. Van Valkenburgh, the gallant soldier leaning on his saber, his arm thrust into his coat, was written, “killed in action at Fair Oaks.” He helped to make the name of the First New York Light Artillery a proud one; and next to him stands Major Luther Kieffer. Perhaps the youngest, who is standing next, is Adjutant Rumsey, who by firing his guns so continuously helped save the wing of the Second Army Corps. He was wounded but recovered. Next to him, looking straight at the camera, is Lieut.-Colonel Henry E. Turner; and standing nearest to the tent is Major C. S. Wainright, who won his spurs at Williamsburg, and again proved the metal he was made of at Fair Oaks. Seated in the Camp chair is Colonel Guilford T. Bailey. who later died beside his guns. It rained during the days that preceded Fair Oaks. It was the treacherous River Chickahominy that helped to baffle the well-laid plans of the Federal commander. Well did the Confederate leaders know that with the downpour then falling the stream would rise. Not immediately, but within the next few hours it would gain strength until at last it became a sweeping torrent. All this proved true; only a part of McClellan's army had crossed the river when the Confederates moved to attack, May 31st. Let the Prince de Joinville, who was a spectator, describe the guns that helped to save the day. “They are not those rifled cannon, the objects of extravagant admiration of late, good for cool firing and long range; these are the true guns for a fight--12-pound howitzers (Napoleons), the old pattern, throwing round projectiles or heavy charges of grape and canister. The simple and rapid discharging of these pieces makes terrible havoc in the opposing ranks. In vain Johnston sends against this battery his best troops — those of South Carolina, the Hampton legion among others, in vain he rushes on it himself; nothing can shake the line!”

Fighting officers of the first New York Light Artillery

Twenty-pound Parrott rifled guns of the first New York Light Artillery

[296] could be distinctly heard the roar of battle. The fate of the day and of the Army of the Potomac rested upon these men at the end of the bridge.

The possibility of crossing was doubted by everyone, including the general himself. The bridge had been built of logs, held together and kept from drifting by the stumps of trees. Over the river proper it was suspended by ropes attached to trees, felled across the stream.

At last the long-expected order to advance came. The men stepped upon the floating bridge. It swayed to and fro as the solid column passed over it. Beneath the men was the angry flood which would engulf all if the bridge should fall. Gradually the weight pressed it down between the solid stumps and it was made secure till the army had crossed. Had the passage been delayed another hour the flood would have rendered it impassable.

Guided by the roar of battle the troops hurried on. The artillery was left behind in the mud of the Chickahominy. The steady, rolling fire of musketry and the boom of cannon told of deadly work in front. It was nearly six o'clock before Sedgwick's column deployed into line in the rear of Fair Oaks Station. They came not too soon. Just now there was a lull in the battle. The Confederates were gathering themselves for a vigorous assault on their opponents' flaming front. Their lines were re-forming. General Joseph E. Johnston himself had immediate command. President Jefferson Davis had come out from his capital to witness the contest. Rapidly the Confederates moved forward. A heavy fusillade poured from their batteries and muskets. Great rents were made in the line of blue. It did not waver. The openings were quickly filled and a scorching fire was sent into the approaching columns. Again and again the charge was repeated only to be repulsed. Then came the order to fix bayonets. Five regiments-Thirty-fourth and Eighty-second New York, Fifteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts and Seventh Michigan--pushed [297]

Sumner in the field — a general full of years and honors. Not many men distinguished in the war could look back upon forty-two years of actual service at the outbreak of hostilities. But such was the case with General Edwin V. Sumner. He stands above in the Peninsula Campaign, at St. Peter's church, near New Kent Court House, Virginia, not far from White House Landing. In this sacred edifice George Washington had worshiped. When this picture was taken Sumner was one year past the age when generals of the present day are deemed too old for service. Commanding the Second Army Corps in the Peninsula Campaign, he was twice wounded; and again, leading his men at Antietam, once more he was struck. He fought again at Fredericksburg, but died from the effects of his wounds in March, 1863. The group above from the left, includes Maj. A. M. Clark, Volunteer A. D. C.; Lieut.-Col. J. H. Taylor, A. G.; Capt. F. N. Clarke, Chief of Artillery; General Sumner; Lieut.-Col. J. F. Hammond, Medical Director; Captain Pease, Minnesota Volunteers, Chief Commissary; Capt. Gabriel Grant.

[298] to the front. Into the woods where the Confederates had fallen back the charge was made. Driving the Southern lines back in confusion, these dashing columns saved the day for the Army of the Potomac.

Night was now settling over the wooded field. Here and there flashes of light could be seen among the oaks, indicating a diligent search for the wounded. General Johnston ordered his troops to sleep on the field. A few minutes later he was struck by a rifle-ball and almost immediately a shell hit him, throwing him from his horse, and he was borne off the field. The first day of the battle was over.

The disability of the Southern commander made it possible for the promotion of a new leader upon whom the fortunes of the Army of Northern Virginia would soon rest. This was General Robert E. Lee; although the immediate command for the next day's contest fell upon General G. W. Smith. Early Sunday morning the battle was again in progress. The command of Smith, near Fair Oaks Station, advanced down the railroad, attacking Richardson, whose lines were north of it and were using the embankment as a fortification. Longstreet's men were south of the railroad. The firing was heavy all along this line, the opposing forces being not more than fifty yards from each other. For an hour and a half the musketry fire was intensely heavy. It was, indeed, a continuous roar. The line of gray could not withstand the galling fire and for the first time that day fell back. But the Union line had been broken, too. A brief lull ensued. Both sides were gathering themselves for another onslaught. It was then that there were heard loud shouts from the east of the railroad.

There, coming through the woods, was a large body of Federal troops. They were the men of Hooker. They formed a magnificent body of soldiers and seemed eager for the fray. Turning in on the Williamsburg road they rapidly deployed to the right and the left. In front of them was an open field, with a thick wood on the other side. The Confederates had [299]

Fair Oaks.

Here we see the beginning of the lull in the fighting of the second day at Fair Oaks, which it has been asserted led to a fatal delay and the ruin of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. The first day's battle at Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862, was decidedly a Federal reverse which would have developed into a rout had not Sumner, crossing his troops on the perilous Grapevine Bridge, come up in time to rally the retreating men. Here we see some of them within the entrenchments at Fair Oaks Station on the Richmond, & York River Railroad. The order will soon come to cease firing at the end of the second day's fighting, the result of which was to drive the Confederates back to Richmond. McClellan did not pursue. The heavy rainstorm on the night of May 30th had made the movement of artillery extremely difficult, and McClellan waited to complete the bridges and build entrenchments before advancing. This delay gave the Confederates time to reorganize their forces and place them under the new commander, Robert E. Lee, who while McClellan lay inactive effected a junction with “StonewallJackson. Then during the Seven Days Battles Lee steadily drove McClellan from his position, within four or five miles of Richmond, to a new position on the James River. From this secure and advantageous water base McClellan planned a new line of advance upon the Confederate Capital. In the smaller picture we see the interior of the works at Fair Oaks Station, which were named Fort Sumner in honor of the General who brought up his Second Corps and saved the day. The Camp of the Second Corps is seen beyond the fortifications to the right.

Aiming the guns at Fair Oaks.

Fort Sumner, near Fair Oaks

[300] posted themselves in this forest and were waiting for their antagonists. The Federals marched upon the field in double-quick time; their movements became a run, and they began firing as they dashed forward. They were met by a withering fire of field artillery and a wide gap being opened in their ranks. It immediately filled. They reached the edge of the woods and as they entered its leafy shadows the tide of battle rolled in with them. The front line was lost to view in the forest, except for an occasional gleam of arms from among the trees. The din and the clash and roar of battle were heard for miles. Bayonets were brought into use. It was almost a hand-to-hand combat in the heavy forest and tangled slashings. The sound of battle gradually subsided, then ceased except for the intermittent reports of small arms, and the second day's fight was over.

The Confederate forces withdrew toward Richmond. The Federal troops could now occupy without molestation the positions they held the previous morning. The forest paths were strewn with the dead and the dying. Many of the wounded were compelled to lie under the scorching sun for hours before help reached them. Every farmhouse became an improvised hospital where the suffering soldiers lay. Many were placed upon cars and taken across the Chickahominy. The dead horses were burned. The dead soldiers, blue and gray, found sometimes lying within a few feet of each other, were buried on the field of battle. The two giants had met in their first great combat and were even now beginning to gird up their loins for a desperate struggle before the capital of the Confederacy.

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