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Fair Oaks, or seven Pines, battle of

In May, 1862, Gen. Fitz-John Porter was sent by General McClellan with a considerable force to keep the way open for McDowell's army to join him, which he persistently demanded, in order to venture on a battle for Richmond. Porter had some sharp skirmishes near Hanover Court-house, and cut all railway connections with Richmond, excepting that from Fredericksburg. Meanwhile General McClellan telegraphed to the Secretary of War that Washington was in no danger, and that it was the duty and policy of the government to send him “all the welldrilled troops available.” When these raids on the Confederate communications had been effected, Porter rejoined the main army on the Chickahominy, and McClellan telegraphed again to the Secretary, “I will do all that quick movements can accomplish, but you must send me all the troops you can, and leave me full latitude as to choice of commanders.” Three days afterwards General Johnston, perceiving McClellan's apparent timidity, and the real peril of the National army, then divided by the Chickahominy, marched boldly out of his intrenchments and fell with great vigor upon the National advance, under Gen. Silas Casey, lying upon each side of the road to Williamsburg, half a mile beyond a point known as the Sever Pines, and 6 miles from Richmond. General Couch's division was at Seven Pines, his right resting at Fair Oaks Station. Kearny's division of Heintzelman's corps was near Savage's Station, and Hooker's division of the latter corps was guarding the approaches to the White Oak Swamp. General Longstreet led the Confederate advance, and fell suddenly upon Casey at a little past noon, May 31, when a most sanguinary battle ensued.

Very soon the Confederates gained a position on Casey's flanks, when they were driven back to the woods by a spirited bayonet charge by Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine troops, led by General Naglee. Out of the woods immediately the Confederates swarmed in great [307] numbers, and the battle raged more fiercely than ever. The Nationals fell back to the second line, with a loss of six guns and many men; yet, notwithstanding the overwhelming numbers of the Confederates, and exposed to sharp enfilading fires, Casey's men brought off fully threefourths of their artillery. Keyes sent troops to aid Casey, but they could not withstand the pressure, and the whole body of Nationals were pushed back to Fair Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York Railway. Reinforcements were sent by Heintzelman and Kearny, but these were met by fresh Confederates, and the victory seemed about to be given to the latter, when General Sumner appeared with the divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson. Sumner had seen the peril, and, without waiting for orders from McClellan, had moved rapidly to the scene of action in time to check the Confederate advance. The battle continued to rage fiercely. General Johnston was severely wounded, and borne from the field; and early in the evening a bayonet charge by the Nationals broke the Confederate line and it fell back in confusion. The fighting then ceased for the night, but was resumed in the morning, June 1, when General Hooker and his troops took a conspicuous part in the struggle, which lasted several hours. Finally the Confederates, toiled, withdrew to Richmond, and the Nationals remained masters of the field of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines. The losses in this battle were about the same on both sides—7,000 men each. It was nearly one-half of both combatants, for not more than 15,000 men on each side were engaged. In this battle Gen. O. O. Howard lost his right arm. Casey's division, that withstood the first shock of the battle, lest one-third of its number.

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