Page images
PDF
EPUB

the purpose of McClellan to withdraw his army to the James river. The single road by which this movement was to be made was exposed, at different points, to an advance of the enemy from Richmond, by the several roads leading from the city. There was no degree of security until the rear had passed through the Swamp, and on emerging therefrom the danger would be again renewed. The corps of Sumner and Franklin were stationed at Fair Oaks on Sunday, the 29th, (Heintzelman meanwhile retiring.) and having protected the trains, which were now well on their way, (a large amount of property which could not be transferred having been destroyed,) began to fall back. The enemy, perceiving the movement, promptly attacked the retiring forces, about 2 o'clock P. M., and they made a 'stand not far from Sarage's Station. The Rebel masses, brought up within a short distance of our artil. lery, now in position, were repulsed with great loss, and their repeated attacks were successfully repelled. During the night, Sumner and Franklin fell back to the White Oak Swamp bridge. On the morning of the 30th, the last of the troops had followed the trains across that bridge. · Franklin remained to dispute the passage of the Rebels at this point, while Heintzelman, with the four divisions of Hooker, Sedgwick, Kearney and McCall, took position at Charles City Cross Roads, where several roads leading from Richmond intersect. Jackson's corps crossed the Chickahominy early on Monday morning, following up the retreating army by the Williamsburg road. The forces of Longstreet, A. P. Hill, Magruder and Huger went out the Charles City road with the expectation of intercepting our forces at that point. Jackson had come close upon the position held by Franklin at the White Oak Swamp, a little before noon; but the rear of our army had already crossed and destroyed the bridge. An artillery engagement followed, lasting until night, with severe losses on both sides. Two brigades of Sumner's, corps participated in this action. Further pursuit from this direction was not attempted.

Toward night, on the same day, the forces of Longstreet and others (commanded by Gen. A. P. Hill, the former being absent,) attacked the force under Heintzelman, who was aided

by part of Sumner's corps. The enemy was repulsed with great slaughter and thrown into confusion. In vain were fresh troops massed against the well-managed batteries and heavy musketry fire of our forces. After a desperate conflict, in which the fate of the whole Army of the Potomac was at stake, and with all the strength the Rebels could bring upon the field, a decisive victory was gained for the Government. This has been called the battle of Glendale.

The corps of Keyes and Porter had meanwhile moved forward, in advance of the remaining troops, toward James river, near Turkey Bend, to open communication with the gunboats. The rear of the trains had reached Malvern Hill while the action at Glendale was going on. The transports from the White House arrived almost simultaneously. During the night, the corps of Sumner, Heintzelman and Franklin fell back to the vicinity of this point. Here was an elevated open table-land, a mile and a half in length by three-fourths of a mile in breadth, crossed by several intersecting roads. The troops were massed on this hill for a final encounter, most of the artillery being placed in position—including ten siege guns at the very summit. Porter's corps held the left, Heintzelman and Sumner the center, and Keyes the right, the line curving backward nearly to the river. The left flank was protected by the gunboats under command of Com. Rodgers, which took part in the action, and on the right the roads were barricaded.

Thus disposed, after the losses incurred during a wearisome retreat of seventeen miles, fighting by day and mareh, ing by night, the Army of the Potomac was compelled to grapple with the collected forces of the enemy. Before 10 o'clock in the morning, Rebel skirmishers, with. artillery, appeared all along the left wing. About 2 o'clock a column was seen in front of Heintzelman, beyond the range of his artillery, moving toward the right, but it disappeared without making an attack. An hour later, the divisions of Kearney and Couch, on the left center, were fiercely, assailed with artillery and musketry. The fire was returned with such effect as to drive back the assailants in disorder, our forces advancing several hundred yards to a stronger position. This

action occupied about an hour. The enemy renewed the attack on the left about six o'clock, with artillery, advancing his infantry columns to storm the bill. These were swept away by our batteries, and each successive attacking party shared the same fate, until the field was covered with the wounded and dead. Not only artillery fire, but also volleys of musketry and bayonet charges, met the persistent assailants, who advanced, column after column, only to be crushed and scattered, Night ended the terrible struggle—the Stars and Stripes floating in grand triumph over the field made ghastly with the Rebel masses, fallen in the vain attempt to overwhelm a gallant army that six days before had seemed their easy prey.

Instead of improving the advantage gained, to drive into Richmond an enemy whose strength, as now shown by repeated trials, had been greatly overrated, and who was disheartened by continued defeat, the commanding General withdrew his forces from their strong position, retiring to Harrison's Landing. This was effected during the next two days, with no serious attempt at molestation from the enemy. Gen. McClellan states the entire number of his killed, wounded and missing during these seven days, at 15,249.

Thus ended the Peninsular campaign-adding three disastrous months of unmasterly activity to the eight months of dreamy indecision before Washington. It was no fault of the army. It was from no lack of support by the Government. It was due to no combination of untoward events. The positive successes at Williamsburg, at Fair Oaks, at Savage's Station, at Glendale, and at Malvern Hill, show that the Army of the Potomac could win victories, even against great supposed odds in numbers and in position, when courageously led to the fight.

In adopting a route to Richmond by the Lower Chesapeake, against the better judgment of the President, Gen. McClellan had expressed his readiness to stake his reputation, his life, and the cause itself, on the success of his plan. He was furnished all needful means, and every available man, consistently with his own opinions as to the necessary security of Washing,

Originally Quickly Chickabenchments, to do

ton, and with the express conditions agreed to by himself in undertaking the work. He sadly failed in his efforts to employ those men and means to the accomplishment of the end desired.

The military record of the campaign has a singular sameness. When occasionally his roads are good, he can not move without reënforcements. When his reënforcements come, he has to wait for better roads. Thus time passes—the month of April, before an army originally one-eighth as large as his own; much of May and June by the sickly Chickabominy, his men not unfit for duty engaged in throwing up intrenchments, to be abandoned on the first attack. Day after day, he is only waiting for something just on the point of being gained, when his final advance and assault are to commence. But perfect readiness never comes; and at last, the enemy, concentrating all his strength, himself attacks, and puts upon its defense, an army that was confidently led forth for aggressive war.

A month wasted at Yorktown, without plausible palliation; tardy pursuit, after the unintended battle, resulting in victory, at Williamsburg; unaccountable hesitation and slackness on the Chickahominy; utter neglect to use the known absence of Jackson, or to anticipate the arrival of Beauregard after the evacuation of Corinth; insured an otherwise impossible discomfiture. Never did the result of a campaign more bitterly disappoint public hope. The worst that Mr. Lincoln had foreseen from the adoption of the Peninsular plan had happened, and even a loss of the entire army was now dreaded. Every advantage supposed by Gen. McClellan to be attainable by this route to Richmond had been thrown away. The cause had suffered a vastly greater blow than at Bull Run. The nation was more depressed; the Administration more painfully embarrassed, than by any previous calamity. The worst effects upon the cause, abroad and at home, were to be apprehended from this unfortunate issue of a grand military plan.

CHAPTER VIII. Campaign of the Army of Virginia.—Withdrawal of the Army of the

Potomac from the Peninsula.-First Invasion of Maryland.-McClellan Superseded.

GEN. FREMONT, commanding the Mountain Department, and Gen. Banks, commanding the Department of the Shenandoah, having failed to coöperate effectively in carrying out the President's order intended to entrap Jackson in his bold ope. rations in the Valley, and the subsequent movements of GenMcDowell, in command of the Department of the Rappahannock, having also been unable to render decisive aid in this work, it became manifest that a reorganization of the forces in question, under one head, had become necessary. Some time before the final catastrophe at Richmond, it had also become apparent that the Army of the Potomac, instead of accomplishing its object, was rather in danger of being itself sacrificed. Meanwhile, the capture of New Madrid, the occupation of Corinth, and the rapid advance of our forces down the Mississippi, taking possession of Fort Pillow on the 5th of June, and of Memphis on the 6th, and passing with little opposition to Vicksburg, (before which our fleet appeared on the 25th,) had not only secured substantial results, but had also awakened a desire for similar leadership in the East.

Few events of the war, thus far, had evinced better generalship than the operations at New Madrid 'and Island Number

Ten, in which Maj.-Gen. John Pope was the hero. Aside from Gen. Grant, still needed with the Army of the Tennessee, no other general, at this time, was more emphatically a rising man in the army. The President accordingly determined to call Gen. Pope to Washington, where he arrived about the 20th of June. After full consultation and deliberation, the President having visited Gen. Scott at West Point, on the 24th, it was decided

« PreviousContinue »