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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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1862: June

[ Battle of Fair Oaks | Battle of Memphis | Battle of Cross Keys | Battle of Port Republic | J.E.B. Stuart's ride ]
[ Battle of St. Charles | Prohibition of Slavery in US Territories | Seven Days Battles ]


Battle of Fair Oaks: May 31-June 1

The Battle of Fair Oaks, also known as the Battle of Seven Pines was fought from May 31st to June 1st. General Joseph E. Johnston's forces protecting Richmond were already outnumbered by McClellan's troops straddling the two sides of the swollen Chickahominy, but Johnston knew that if McDowell moved south from Fredericksburg his position would be untenable. Thus he decided to attack McClellan's left wing while it was somewhat isolated from the right. He launched the attack on May 31st.

The battle was a sorry spectacle of mistakes and confusion on both sides, with no decisive conclusion. The Confederates gained many supplies, but had over 6,000 casualties compared to just over 5,000 for the Union. The biggest loss for the Southerners was the wounding of Johnston. To replace Johnston, Jefferson Davis appointed Robert E. Lee as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Battle of Memphis

In the spring of 1862, Charles Ellet had convinced Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to let him build a fleet of ram ships, with which he joined the Union fleet above Fort Pillow. About this time, with the evacuation of Corinth, James Montgomery, commander of the Confederate River Defense Fleet, did not feel he could hold the fort, so he fell back on Memphis. Montgomery had eight gunboats at Memphis, with which he confidently faced the Union fleet which appeared on June 6th.

Montgomery told the citizens of Memphis that they should come out to see him "sink the Yankee fleet," but the crowds who gathered were sorely disappointed. Caught by surprise by Ellet's ram fleet, the Confederates were convincingly defeated, only one of the gunboats escaping and the city captured by the Union. This left only one Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, Vicksburg and gave the Union almost total control of this vital waterway.

Battle of Cross Keys: June 8

Also known as the Battle of Union Church, was another engagement in Jackson's Shenandoah Campaign. General John C. Frémont was advancing from Harrisonburg on Jackson's forces in and around Port Richmond. Frémont launched an attack against General Richard S. Ewell's division on the north side of Jackson's forces, but the attack was stopped by a fierce Confederate defense, and Frémont was forced to retreat with nothing gained.

Battle of Port Republic: June 9

Having stopped Frémont, Jackson then went after General Shields forces located along the Luray Road on the east side of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Jackson ordered Ewell to leave a token force to hold Frémont at Cross Keys and join him in the attack on Shields. After an initial set back, Jackson, with Ewell's support, won a decisive victory, pushing Shield's forces back towards Luray. Frémont, stuck on the wrong side of the river, could only watch and ineffectively try to bombard Jackson.

Having been well bloodied in these two battles, both Union armies pulled back, leaving Jackson in control of the middle and southern parts of the Shenandoah Valley. This freed Jackson's army to be able to head south to lend his support to Lee in his defense of Richmond.

J.E.B. Stuart's ride round the Union Army: June 12-15

Lee decided that his best option in the defence of Richmond was to try to hold city itself by keeping just a small part of his forces entrenched against the main Union army south of the Chickahominy, while the main part of his army, plus reinforcements from Jackson, would attack the small Union force under Porter to the north of that river. Before he did this, however, Lee needed information on the situation of roads in that direction and of Porter's disposition. Thus Lee sent J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry on a reconnaissance mission, which Stuart accomplished by flamboyantly riding right around McClellan's entire army.

Battle of St. Charles: June 17

Also known as the Battle of White River. A flotilla, under Commander Augustus H. Kilty, was sent up the White River towards St. Charles, Arkansas, in order to resupply Gen. Samuel R. Curtis's army near Jacksonport. On June 17th, the Union launched an attack on St. Charles, including an infantry attack by Col. Graham N. Fitch. In the attack on the city's defences, the U.S.S. Mound City was hit and her steam drum exploded, scalding most of her men, killing over 100 of her 175 crew. Despite this tragedy, the Union infantry was able to capture the city, but because of falling water in the White River, the flotilla was never able to resupply Curtis.

Prohibition of Slavery in US Territories: June 19

One of the most important causes of the Civil War was the issue of the expansion of slavery into the western territories, culminating in the controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This issued was finally resolved with a Congressional Act on June 19th:

Seven Days Battles: June 25-July 1

Robert E. Lee, appointed commander of the defense of Richmond after Johnston's wounding at the Battle of Fair Oaks, realized he needed to take the offensive in order to prevent McClellan from simply marshaling his forces and overrunning the Confederates. Lee decided that he would attack the Union right flank, with support from Stonewall Jackson, who was on his way from the Shenandoah Valley, while that part of McClellan's army was cut off from the main force by the swollen Chickahominy River. Lee boldly moved the majority of his army, 65,000 men, to face the only Union Corp north of the river, with its 30,000 troops. This left only 25,000 Confederates on the south side of the Chickahominy to face the other four Union Corps, with their 60,000 men.

The Seven Days Battles started with a Union attack, but the majority of the action consisted of Lee attacking and McClellan's troops falling back. From June 25th to the first day of July, the battles between these two armies have been described by Shelby Foote as "one gigantic twenty-mile-long conflict, with bewildering intermissions, not for resting, but for groping spastically in the general direction of an enemy who fought so savagely when cornered that the whole thing had been rather like playing blindman's bluff with a buzz saw…" (The Civil War. A Narrative. Fort Sumter to Perryville. p. 509)

June 25

On June 25th, McClellan sent two divisions towards Richmond in order to test the Confederate lines and to see if he could bring his siege guns within range of city. The Union forces gained only about 600 yards of ground at the cost of over a 1,000 combined casualties. This was the Union army's only attempt at offensive action during the Seven Days Battles.

June 26

Lee had been waiting for Stonewall Jackson's army before beginning his move against McClellan's right flank, but Jackson was slow in arriving from the Shenandoah. Confederate General A.P. Hill, who was supposed to wait for Jackson's attack before launching his own, took the initiative when Jackson never appeared and attacked Union General Fitz John Porter's V Corps anyway. Hill initially pushed Porter back from Mechanicsville, with the Union forces taking up a strong position along Beaver Dam Creek.
Jackson never entered the fray, and despite Hill's repeated attempts to dislodge them, Porter's men were able to hold their position, inflicting terrible losses on the Confederates. The Southerners had some 1,350 casualties, compared to just over 350 for the Union. This loss by the Confederates could have offered McClellan a golden opportunity to counterattack, but he failed to follow up; instead pulling back Porter's troops to Gaines Mill.

June 27

The next day, Lee attacked Porter, who occupied a very strong position on Turkey Hill, with all his assembled forces. This attack by about 57,000 men was the largest Confederate attack of the war. Lee was able to force the Union forces back in a bloody fight, but little was ultimately gained. Overnight, Porter's forces crossed the Chickahominy, with the entire Union army now concentrated on the south side of the river.

This defeat was the turning point in McClellan's peninsular campaign, saving Richmond, at least for the time being. McClellan thought he was outnumbered all along his front, even though there were few Confederate troops between his army and Richmond south of the Chickahominy. McClellan also feared that the attack on his right flank was a feint before a major assault on the south side. As a result McClellan gave up his plan to assault Richmond, instead deciding to save his army by pulling back towards the James River.

June 27-28

Confederate General John B. Magruder was sent forward to probe the Union lines on the south side of the Chickahominy. In attacks on June 27th and 28th, the Confederates were easily repulsed, sustaining over twice the casualties of the Union. However, this prbe did reinforce McClellan's fear of attack on the south side of the Chickahominy River and further convinced him of the wisdom of retreat towards the James.

June 29

McClellan proceeded to direct his men to fall back towards Harrison's Landing on the James River, but he left a sizeable force at Savage's Station to act as rear guard for the retreating army as it navigated the difficult White Oak Swamp. Lee devised a plan for a three prong of attack on McClellan's army while it was vulnerable, to be led by Magruder in the center.

Magruder was able to push back the Union troops, but--as in other instances in the Seven Days Battles--the coordination between the Confederate forces was lacking and only partial success was gained. The Union army continued its retreat, though they had to abandon significant supplies and more than 2,500 wounded soldiers in their haste.

June 30

June 30th saw Lee's last chance to hit McClellan's flank before the Union army escaped to the safety of the James River. Confederate troops under Generals Huger, Longstreet and Hill converged on the Union troops, but the Federals were ready for the assault and the battle was fierce. The Confederates did gain the field of battle, but were unable to stop McClellan's tactical retreat to Malvern Hill.

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