Chickahominy, a river in S. E. Virginia, near which were fought several important battles during the civil war. It rises in swampy uplands about 20 m. N. W. of Richmond, flows S. E. about 50 m. parallel with and about midway between the James and York rivers, then turns sharply S., and after a winding course of nearly 20 m. falls into the James, about 40 m. S. E. of Richmond, and 10 m. W. of Williamsburg. Toward its mouth it becomes a considerable stream, navigable by small steamers. The military operations of 1862 and 1864 embraced that portion of the river from Bottom's bridge on the south, where it is crossed by the Williamsburg turnpike, to Meadow bridge, 15 m. N. W., where it is crossed by the Fredericksburg railroad. Richmond lies nearly opposite the centre of this line, about 6 m. from the Chickahominy at its nearest approach. Between these points the river flows through a wooded swamp a few hundred yards wide, from which the land slopes gently up about 100 ft. to the level of the surrounding country. In dry weather the stream is here a mere rivulet; but a moderate shower fills the channel, which is a dozen yards wide and 4 ft. deep; a continuous rainfall floods the swamp and overflows the adjacent bottom lands.
These are intersected by deep ditches, and even when not overflowed are so soft as to be impassable for cavalry and artillery. The stream was crossed by several rude bridges, and there were here and there fords, accessible only in dry weather. The spring and summer of 1862 were unusually rainy; the channel was always full to the brim, and every shower flooded the swamp and bottoms. Infantry might possibly have picked their way in loose order through the swamp; but horses would have sunk to their girths, and artillery and trains to the axles. An army could cross only by bridges built above the level of the highest floods, and provided with long approaches through the swamps. As a military obstacle the narrow Chickahominy, with its bordering swamps, is more formidable than a broad river which can be crossed by boats, or over which a pontoon bridge may be thrown in a few hours. - Early in the spring of 1862 the Union army of the Potomac, under Gen. McClellan, disembarked near Fortress Monroe, with the design of moving upon Rich-mond. The natural approach by the James river was commanded by the confederate ironclad Merrimack, and it was resolved to march up the peninsula formed by the York and James rivers. This peninsula is about 60 m. long, with an average breadth of 12 m.
The lower part is covered with swampy forests, and intersected by sluggish creeks. The roads are few and hardly passable by vehicles. After some trials McClellan decided that he could not move his army directly up the peninsula, but must invest and capture Yorktown, near the mouth of the York river, or rather estuary. Yorktown captured, his base of operations would be at West Point, near the junction of the Pamunkey and Mattapony, which form the York, whence a railroad runs to Richmond, 30 m. W., crossing the Chickahominy about midway. I. Williamsburg. The siege of York-town was the initial step in the peninsular campaign of 1862. Strong works had been here erected, which were placed under the command of Gen. Magruder, who had at the outset barely 15,000 men to defend Yorktown, Gloucester point, on the opposite side of the York river, and the line across the peninsula, here about 10 m. broad. But the confederate force in northern Virginia numbered about 50,000, of whom 38,000 were soon transferred to Yorktown, so that by April 17 Gen. J. E. Johnston, who now took the command, had 53,000 men, exclusive of cavalry. Against these McClellan had on the 30th 112,000 present for duty, and 6,000 sick and on special duty.
The siege of Yorktown began April 5, and by the close of the month the batteries were nearly completed. The 6th of May was fixed upon as the day when fire was to be opened. But two days before Johnston evacuated his works, carrying away everything worth taking; his trains and the mass of his troops were well under way toward Richmond hours before their departure was known by the besiegers. The Union cavalry started in pursuit, and came up with the rear of the enemy, who made a stand near Williamsburg, where some works had been previously erected. Hooker's division soon came up, and on the morning of the 5th commenced a vigorous attack, which was continued throughout the day by a constantly increasing force. Longstreet, who commanded the confederate rear, had gone beyond Williamsburg; but he turned back, and a severe action ensued, which toward evening was decided by a brilliant bayonet charge by Hancock's division. The confederates then abandoned their works; but they had delayed the pursuit long enough for their trains to be beyond reach. The Union loss at the battle of Williamsburg was 1,856 killed and wounded, and 372 missing, more than two thirds of which was in Hooker's division of 9,000 men.
The confederate loss is unofficially stated by Gen. Johnston to have been about 1,800; but it was probably considerably larger, for 800 wounded were found next day in the hospitals at Williamsburg, besides many in private houses. "Sickness and the fight at Williamsburg," says Johnston, "reduced our number by 6,000." - McClellan's advance was slow. The right wing kept to the north, striking the Chickahominy at New bridge, directly in front of Richmond; the left, keeping to the south, reached the river at Bottom's bridge, 13 m. below, on May 20. The bulk of the confederates were across the stream, and a detachment at Mechanicsville was easily brushed away by an artillery fire. On the 20th a Union division crossed the river, occupied the high ground, and made two reconnoissances, one reaching beyond the Seven Pines to within four miles of Richmond. The enemy was nowhere found in force, and no traces of defensive works were discovered. The two corps of Keyes and Ileintzelman were then sent across the river, taking up their position near the Seven Pines. Johnston, in his retreat, had neglected to tear up the railroad from Richmond to the Pamunkey. He had indeed partially destroyed the bridge by which it crossed the Chickahominy; but by the 26th the road was in operation up to the river, and the bridge was nearly reconstructed.
There was no military reason why the whole Union army should not then have crossed the Chickahominy by Bottom's bridge and the railroad bridge, and moved directly upon Richmond, where the confederate force numbered 54,000. But McClellan, who had considerably more than 100,000, greatly overestimated the numbers opposed to him. He urged that McDowell, who had 32,000 near Fredericksburg, should be sent to him. This had indeed been promised; but the operations of Jackson in the valley of the Shenandoah alarmed the federal authorities, and McDowell was detained to prevent an anticipated attack upon Washington. II. Hanover Court House. Meanwhile McClellan learned on May 25 that there was a considerable body of confederates at Hanover Court House upon his right and partly in his rear. This force consisted of 13,000 raw troops from North Carolina, who were coming down from Gordonsville to Richmond. McClellan supposed that they were moving up from Richmond, and were "in a position either to reenforce Jackson, or to impede McDowell's junction, should he finally move to join us." Fitz John Porter was directed to dislodge this force on the 27th. A light ensued, the results of which, says McClellan, "were some 200 of the enemy's dead buried by our troops, 730 prisoners sent to the rear, one 12-pound howitzer, one caisson, a large number of small arms, and two railroad trains captured.
Our loss amounted to 53 killed, 344 wounded and missing." The confederates, however, reached Richmond, raising Johnston's force to 67,000. III. Seven Pines and Fair Oaks. On May 28 the Union force was thus posted: The corps of Heintzelman and Keyes, forming the left wing, were on the west side of the Chickahominy, massed checkerwise for a distance of 6 m. along the Williamsburg road. The stronger corps of Sumner, Franklin, and Porter, forming the right wing, were stretched for 18 m. along the east bank of the river. The two wings formed an acute-angled triangle of unequal sides, the apex being at Bottom's bridge. The distance from centre to centre of the wings was barely 5 m., but between them was the Chickahominy, over which there was then no practicable passage except by Bottom's bridge. If the left wing were assailed in force, the right could come to its aid only by a march of about 23 m., which in the condition of the roads at that time could not be made with artillery in less than two days.
For a hostile commander with anything like an equal force, there were two courses open: He might throw himself upon the weaker left, with a probability of annihilating it; or he could assail the extremity of the right wing, threatening its weakly guarded line of communications with West Point. Johnston at the end of May tried the first and most obvious plan, and failed by mere accident. Lee, a month later, tried the second plan, and succeeded, against all military probability. On May 30 Johnston learned the general position of the enemy; he however supposed that only one corps instead of two was across the river, and presumed that he had but 20,000 to deal with, whereas the actual number was something more than 30,000. The attack was to be made by the four divisions of Huger, Smith, Longstreet, and D. II. Hill, numbering about 50,000. During the afternoon and night of the 30th a violent storm swept over the region. The channel of the Chickahominy was already full to the brim, and the stream swollen by the rain would overflow swamp and bottom lands, preventing any aid being sent from the right wing to the left.
The attack was to be made simultaneously at daybreak on the 31st. The storm delayed the movements of the troops; but by 8 o'clock Longstreet was in position, waiting for the arrival of Huger, who did not make his appearance. Soon after noon he began the attack. Casey's division of Keyes's corps was three quarters of a mile in advance of the Seven Pines, its pickets being thrown a third of a mile further up to the edge of a wood. The confederates burst through this screen, forced back the pickets to the intrench-ments, where a stand was made, and the position was held for three hours against greatly superior numbers; but both flanks being turned, Casey fell back to the Seven Pines. The confederate attack here had been made by the division of Hill. Longstreet now pressed upon the Union centre and left. After an hour and a half of stubborn resistance, the Seven Pines was abandoned, and the troops fell back to a belt of wood, where lleintzelman succeeded in rallying about 1,800 men, who formed a firm front, and poured in a fire so deadly that the assault was checked.
The confederates, who had forced the enemy back for two miles, now fell back a little, and passed the night in the camps which they had won; the federals also fell back a mile to an intrenched camp. - Meanwhile another action had been going on at Fair Oaks station, hardly a mile away. The noise of the battle had been heard across the Chickahominy; and McClellan, who was confined to his bed by illness, directed Sumner, who had just constructed two bridges over the Chickahominy, to hold himself in readiness to cross. The river had begun to rise, and the bridges were almost impassable; many of the timbers were already floating. Two of Sumner's divisions, under Sedgwick and Richardson, were advanced to the head of the bridges, ready to cross the moment orders were given. Late in the afternoon tidings came that the battle was going hardly, and Sumner was ordered to move. Sedgwick's division, which got over the shaking bridge, dragged its artillery through the swam]), and, guided by the noise of the firing, moved upon Fair Oaks, where a single brigade of Couch's division of Heintzelman's corps, which had become separated from the main body, was momently expecting an attack from Smith's division of the confederates.
Fair Oaks is somewhat nearer Richmond than the Seven Pines, and here Johnston had posted himself to direct the general conduct of the whole hattle. Sumner now took command here, and received the attack, which began at 4 o'clock, and lasted until twilight, when a vigorous charge hurled the confederates hack in confusion; and the action here closed at almost the same time with that at the Seven Pines. At this moment Johnston was severely wounded, and just afterward Richardson's division of Sumner's corps came upon the field. The bridge by which it had attempted to cross the Chiekahominy had been found impassable, and it was necessary to go to that by which Sedgwick had already crossed. The division was posted, and the two armies bivouacked on the field, so near together that their pickets were within speaking distance. Johnston being disabled, the command of the confederates devolved upon Gen. G. W. Smith, who the next morning (June 1) decided not to attack at the Seven Pines; but the action was renewed near Fair Oaks, the confederate attack falling mainly upon Richardson's division, which had not as yet been engaged. Meanwhile Hooker had come up from the left, and after an hour's hard fighting pushed the enemy from the woods by which they had been sheltered.
The confederates along the whole line retreated in confusion to Richmond. The actions of the Seven Pines and Fair Oaks were fought by the confederates with a much smaller force than had been contemplated by Johnston; for Huger's division got lost in the swamps, and never appeared on the field. The entire attacking force was about 38,000. When strengthened by Sumner's two divisions, the entire Union force on that side of the Chiekahominy was about the same; but at the be-ginning of the action they were considerably scattered, while the confederates were massed upon the assailed points; so that on the 31st the confederates had a decided preponderance in action, but the federals had the advantage of slight intrenchments. The Union loss is officially stated at 890 killed, 3,627 wounded, 1,222 missing; 5,739 in all. The confederate loss was probably rather more, but no official statement appears to have been made. Johnston says, "Longstreet reports the loss in his command at about 3,000; Smith reports his loss at 1,233," 4,233 in all; but no mention is made of the loss in Hill's division, which is elsewhere stated to have been 2,500, which would give a total of 6,733. At Richmond these battles were considered a total defeat; and there is little doubt that had McClellan then moved his whole force against Richmond, the city would have fallen into his hands, for as yet it was defended by none of the works which within a few weeks became formidable.
Smith held the command only two days, when, being partially disabled by a paralytic stroke, he was replaced by Gen. R. E. Lee. - After the battle of Fair Oaks McClellan for some time devoted his attention to building new bridges across the Chiekahominy. By June 20 eleven of these were measurably complete, of which seven were available for army transport. Earthworks of no great strength were also thrown up in front of the line on the west side of the river, and the bulk of the Union army was gradually transferred to that side. The position was in the midst of a swampy region, and notwithstanding considerable reinforcements, the number and strength of the army very considerably declined. On June 13 Stuart with 1,500 cavalry started upon a daring raid clear around the Union army. He reached the White House, McClellan's main depot on the Pamunkey, destroyed some stores, and re-crossed the Chiekahominy 14 m. below the Union left, losing only a single man in the expedition. Lee, whose force had by this time become considerably augmented, now resolved upon an important movement. This was to cross the Chiekahominy above the Union right, and attack the force on the east bank of the stream.
Jackson, who had gathered a considerable army in the valley of the Shenandoah, was to move down and cooperate in this movement; but to veil it, a considerable force was ostentatiously sent from Richmond toward the Shenandoah, giving the impression that a movement from that quarter upon Washington was in contemplation. The ruse only partially succeeded. If the force at Richmond was weakened, the city would be by so much the more open to assault. This was now fairly contemplated by McClellan. By June 24 four of his five corps were across the Chiekahominy, leaving only Fitz John Porter with 36,000 men on the east bank. On the 25th the Union lines were pushed half a mile forward, and a desultory engagement occurred at a place known as King's school house, each side losing some 600 men. This was preparatory for a general forward movement which McClellan designed on the next day. At 5 o'clock he telegraphed to Washington that the affair was over; he had gained his point, and all was quiet. An hour and a half later he sent a quite different despatch.
Jackson's advance was at Hanover Court House; Beauregard was at Richmond; there were 200,000 men opposed to him, and he should probably be attacked the next day; he would do all he could, and if his army was . destroyed by overwhelming numbers, he could at least die with it; if the result of the coming engagement should be disaster, he was not responsible for it. This was partly correct. Lee had also fixed upon the 26th for an offensive movement; Jackson's whole force, not merely his advance, was at Hanover Court House. But Beauregard was in Alabama, not in Richmond; and the confederate force, instead of being 200,000 strong, numbered barely half as many. Instead of having to meet an overwhelming force, McClellan had a slight preponderance, having with him on the Chick-ahominy about 103,000 men present for duty, while Lee had, including those coming on with Jackson, about 100,000. An allowance of 5,000 on either side will cover all possible errors in this estimate. Lee had reasoned that McClellan intended to lay siege to Richmond by regular approaches. The city was in no condition to sustain a prolonged investment, for it had not provisions for a fortnight, and its sources of supply were precarious and liable to interruption.
His object was to raise the siege by attacking McClellan at the point where he was most vulnerable; that is, by threatening his line of supply on the east side of the Chick-ahominy. For this purpose the divisions of linger and Magruder, 24,000 strong, Holmes's division of 7,000, which was posted at Fort Darling on the James river, and the reserve artillery and cavalry, 3,000 more, were to be left on the Richmond side; while A. P. Hill, Longstreet, and D. H. Hill, with 34,000, besides 2,000 cavalry under Stuart, were to cross the Chickahominy and unite with Jackson's command, 30,000 strong, and fall upon the enemy on that side. IV. Mechanicsville. The divisions from Richmond began moving during the night of Thursday, June 25, and reached their assigned positions at 8 o'clock the following morning. They waited till the afternoon for Jackson's approach. He had been delayed, and at last A. P. Hill crossed the stream beyond the extreme Union right, and moved down the bank until he came upon two brigades of McCalFs Pennsylvania reserves strongly posted behind Beaver Dam creek, a small stream falling into the Chickahominy. The creek was five or six yards wide, with steep banks, the water being waist deep.
The roads approaching it were commanded by artillery, and the whole line was defended by rifle pits and felled trees. The confederates made several determined attacks, which were repelled; and at 9 o'clock they fell back, having lost 1,500 men. The federals, fighting under cover, lost barely 300. In this action, sometimes called the battle of Mechanicsville, sometimes that of Beaver Dam creek, the Union force engaged consisted of the brigades of Reynolds and Seymour, 6,000 strong; that of the confederates of five brigades, numbering 12,000. - From the moment that McClellan learned of the approach of the enemy, ho gave up all thought of holding his position on the east bank of the Chickahominy, and began to execute the plan which he had already eonceived of changing his base from the York to the James; a wise operation, which had been perfectly feasible since the destruction of the Merrimack on May 11. The quartermaster at West Point was ordered to forward supplies to the front till the last moment, and to send the remainder to the James, burning everything which could not be got off.
His change of base required that the whole army should be united on the west side of the Chickahominy. McClellan proposed to hold the enemy in check for a few hours on the east side until all his trains could be got over. The position at Beaver Dam creek was considerably in advance of the main line, and though unassailable in front could be easily turned. V. Cold Harbor. During the night of the 26th the troops were quietly withdrawn. Porter's line was posted 5 m. below. The 30 heavy guns which had been placed in batteries between these points, together with nearly all the trains, were safely conveyed over, and the New bridge partially destroyed. There was indeed no necessity for fighting the battle which ensued, for the whole Union army might easily have got over hours before the enemy came in sight on the 27th. The Union position was well chosen. A small stream falling into the Chickahominy was in front. The banks were usually fringed with a belt of swamp; but here and there they were steep. The land rises into a fiat table land, with patches of forest and cultivated fields. Two places are named on the maps, New Cold Harbor, near the Chickahominy, and Cold Harbor, a mile northward, each consisting of three or four dilapidated houses.
Cold Harbor formed the centre of Porter's semicircular line, which covered the bridges across the river. Some rifle pits had been dug and a few trees felled along the sides of the slope, which was crowned with artillery, so that the guns could play over the heads of the infantry upon an advancing enemy. The confederates were astir at dawn, but it was two hours before they began to move. A. P. Hill and Longstreet kept to the right, along the bank of the Chickahominy. D. H. Hill bore to the left in order to unite with Jackson, who had encamped near by. About noon the right column came to Gaines's mill, where a slight encounter took place, from which has been given one of the names by which the whole battle is designated. At 2 o'clock A. P. Hill came in sight of the main Union force drawn up on the hillside beyond the creek. The plain in front, a quarter of a mile wide, was swept by artillery and partly commanded by heavy guns on the opposite side of the Chickahominy. The confederates charged across the plain, floundered through the morass, and pressed up the slope in the face of a fierce fire of artillery and musketry. Some regiments even pierced the Union lines. The battle here raged for two hours, but the assailants were at length driven back in apparent rout.
Long-street's division had been drawn up in the rear of Hill, sheltered by a low ridge. Lee directed him to make a feigned attack upon the Union left, in order to relieve Hill. He found that the force there was too strong to be disturbed by a feint, and that he must make a real attack. Jackson had now come up on the Union right. The direction of the firing showed that on the left A. P. Hill and Longstreet were falling back. Lee ordered a general assault. Porter, seeing the great force advancing upon him, had two hours before asked for reinforcements from the other side of the Chickahominy. Slo-cum's division had been all day kept in readiness for that purpose. It had begun to cross at davbreak, but was recalled when half over. It was now ordered to move, and came upon the field at half past 4. Porter's line was so severely pressed everywhere that he was compelled to send Slocum's division, regiment by regiment, to the most vital points. Still for more than an hour Jackson gained no ground. Lawton's Georgia brigade, 4,000 strong, which had been held in reserve, was now ordered up. It was half past 6, an hour before sunset. The whole force, except a single confederate brigade held in reserve, was now in action.
Making allowance for losses on both sides, the confederates on the field numbered 56,000, the federals 33,000. The Union force was thus pressed along its whole line by almost double its numbers. It gave way almost simultaneously on the right, centre, and left. It was not a rout, but fast threatening to become one. The core of every division remained solid, but fragments were flying off on every side, and all were pressing toward the bridges across the Chickahominy. At this moment the brigades of French and Meagher came over the river, dashed through the stragglers, and up the bluff. The regiments in retreat rallied and faced the pursuers, who fired a few ineffectual volleys, and withdrew as night set in. An hour earlier these two brigades would have secured a victory; as it was, they just prevented a disastrous rout. This action of June 27 has been called the battle of Gaines's Mill, but is more properly that of Cold Harbor; Lee calls it the battle of the Chickahominy. The confederate loss in killed and wounded was 9,500; the Union loss 4,000, besides about 2,000 prisoners, and 22 guns. During the whole of this action McClellan had remained on the west side of the Chickahominy, where the confederates kept up a show of force far greater than they possessed.
For this the formation of the country furnished special facilities. There was a continuous series of swamps, gullies, and ridges, which shut out from view all that was passing at the distance of a few hundred yards. A force would show itself at one point, vanish, and reappear at another; no one could tell whether it was a regiment or a division. An artillery lire might be a feint or the prelude to an attack in force. These movements deceived not only McClellan but Sumner and Franklin, both of whom thought they were confronted by superior numbers. But the only affair which rose even to the dimensions of a skirmish occurred ne:ir sunset, when two confederate regiments attacked a strong picket line at Peach Orchard, and out of 650 men lost 200. - Lee had won a formal victory, in which he suffered double the loss which he had inflicted. But he had placed himself in a perilous position. Two thirds of his force, now not more than 54,000, was east of the Chickahominy, the remaining 35,000 on the west, of whom 7,000 were across the James. Between them lay McClellan with fully 96,000. A third of this would easily have guarded the river; the remainder could have marched into Richmond in five hours.
The fall of Richmond would have involved the dissolution of the army across the Chickahominy, for it had marched out with only three days' supplies; and out of Richmond the confederates had not within 100 m. food to supply the soldiers for a week. The confederate army after the battle of Cold Harbor was in just the position in which an enemy would wish it to be. McClellan, instead of assaulting or besieging Richmond, resolved to move to the James river. VI. Savage's Station. The problem, sometimes called the "change of base," but in reality a retreat, was a very simple one. It was to march 10 or 15 m. with no enemy in front, but with one supposed to be superior upon one flank and possibly in the rear. White Oak creek falls into the Chickahominy three or four miles south of the left of the Union position at the Seven Pines. It is bordered by White Oak swamp, which toward Richmond is several miles wide, and slopes up into a wooded tract extending to the James river. Three main roads, the Charles City, Darbytown, and Newmarket, starting from near Richmond, diverge southeastward toward the Chickahominy, skirting the swamp on its southern side. The region is intersected by obscure cross roads, upon which there is here and there a clearing.
In this region took place the engagements of June 30. The line of the retreat lay through White Oak swamp. The trains, which if drawn up in a single line would have stretched a distance of 40 m., and were accompanied by a herd of 2,500 cattle, were got safely over the creek by noon of the 28th, and, preceded by Iveyes's corps, moved toward Malvern hill on the James, which they reached without molestation on the morning of the 30th. The corps of Franklin and Porter followed on the morning of the 29th, leaving those of Sumner and Heintzehnan to protect the rear. The works at Fair Oaks and Seven Pines were abandoned, and the two corps fell back to Savage's station, on the railroad, where were the hospitals and depots of the army, which they were directed to hold till nightfall. Heintzelman moved away before the time, leaving orders for the destruction of such stores as could not be carried off. The provisions were piled up and burned. The ammunition and shells were heaped upon a train, which with a full head of steam was sent down the railroad toward the river; as it started the train was set afire, and before it reached the bridge the shells began to explode.
The rails across the bridge had been removed; but so great was the momentum that the engine and one car leaped across the chasm and landed on the opposite side. At the same instant the whole mass of powder exploded, and the other cars plunged into the mud of the river. Magruder in the mean time moved cautiously down the railroad, somewhat harassing the retreat, and at half past 5 made an attack at Savage's station, then occupied by Sumner. Darkness put a close to the action; and during the night Sumner moved off, leaving behind 2,500 sick and wounded in the hospital. In the engagement at Savage's station the Union loss was about 000, that of the confederates 400. VII. Frazier's Farm. Early on the morning of the 30th Magruder and Huger were directed by Lee to move from Richmond down the Charles City and Newmarket roads to take part in the flank attack which was meditated, in which they were to be joined by Holmes and Wise from Fort Darling. In this attack the entire effective confederate force, numbering more than 85,000, was to take part.
Early on the morning of the 29th A. P. Hill and Longstreet crossed the Chickahominy by the New bridge, which had been only partially destroyed on the 26th, passed through the deserted Union lines almost to Richmond, turned eastward, and heading the White Oak swamp moved down the Darbytown road, and at nightfall, after a march of 20 m., encamped not for from the centre of McClellan's retreating column. The day had been intensely hot, and many of the men dropped from the ranks. The Union line was 8 m. long, the head having almost reached Malvern hill, the rear being at the crossing of White Oak creek. The bridges over the Chickahominy in front of Jackson were down, and lie was unable to repair them until the morning of the 30th, when he crossed, and by noon came to White Oak creek, the bridge over which was destroyed, and all the approaches commanded by artillery. He was detained here all the afternoon, unable to take part in the battle which was going on two miles distant. Early in the morning Holmes and Wise had come in sight of the head of McClellan's column, upon which they opened a distant fire; but a few rounds of artillery and a few shells from the gunboats scattered their force, which took no farther part in the operations which ensued.
Longstreet and A. P. Hill resumed their march down the Darbytown road, and at noon came in sight of a part of the Union line drawn up at Frazier's farm, near a point where a road leading from the James crosses those from Richmond. Huger was supposed to be moving by the Charles City road upon the same point; but he mistook the way, and did not make his appearance that day, and on the next he was virtually removed from the command of his division. The Union line was so long that it was unoccupied in places. McCall's division was at Frazier's farm; Kearny's on his left, on his right that of Hooker, and beyond him Sumner's corps. Keyes's and Porter's corps had nearly reached Malvern hill; Franklin's corps was in the rear, at White Oak creek. At 4 o'clock the attack was begun upon McCall by Kemper's brigade of Longstreet's division, which had not as yet been engaged, having been kept in reserve at Cold Harbor. It was driven back, losing in a few minutes 250 killed and wounded and 200 prisoners, a quarter of its whole number. Other divisions were sent in, and McCall was forced back for a space; then the enemy were checked by Hooker, and in return driven back.
The whole action now took the form of a desultory fight, each brigade on both sides acting almost independently; batteries were taken and retaken, and ground lost and won by each army; but when night closed in the advantage seemed somewhat on the Union side. McCall's early repulse in the centre had been retrieved, and Hooker and Kearny had gained something on the right and left. Of all the reports on both sides, that of A. P.Hill is the most accurate: "On our extreme right matters seemed to be going badly. Two brigades of Longstreet's division had been roughly handled, and had fallen back. Archer was brought up and sent in, and affairs were soon restored in that quarter. At about dark the enemy were pressing us hard along our whole line, and my last reserve was directed to advance slowly. Heavy reinforcements to the enemy were brought up at this time, and it seemed that a tremendous effort was being made to turn the fortunes of the day. The volume of fire that approaching rolled along the line was terrific. Seeing some troops of Wilcox's brigade who had rallied, they were rapidly reformed, and, being directed to cheer long and loudly, moved again to the fight.
This seemed to end the contest, for in less than five minutes all firing ceased, and the enemy retired." The attempt to break the Union lino had failed. The action was hardly over when the federal retreat was resumed. The rear of the wagon train and artillery had reached Malvern hill at 4 o'clock in the afternoon; and before daylight the last division had come up and taken the position assigned to it. The battle of Frazier's farm, or Charles City cross roads, as it is sometimes called, was fought on the confederate side wholly by the divisions of A. P. Hill and Longstreet. They had crossed the Chickahominy 24,000 strong, and had in the mean time lost 8,200 in killed and wounded. They were so exhausted by four days' continuous marching and fighting as to be unable to take any part in the battle of the next day. The Union loss on this day was about 300 killed and 1,500 wounded; that of the confederates 325 killed and 1,700 wounded. VIII. Malverx Hill. On the morning of Tuesday, July 1, the Union army was posted in a strong position at Malvern hill, an elevated plateau a mile and a half long, and half as broad. The flanks were well covered by woods; in front were gullies rendering the approach difficult except by the roads which crossed them.
On the crest of the hill seven heavy siege guns were placed in position, and the artillery was so posted that a fire of GO guns could be concentrated upon any point which might be assailed. The position was one which could be held against a double force. McClellan had about 90,000 men; Lee, counting every man except the divisions of A. P. Hill and Longstreet, not more than 60,000, with only a portion of which he undertook to storm the Union position. It is clear that he all along vastly underrated the strength of the enemy. When he crossed the Chickahominy on the 26th, he supposed that the greater part of McClellan's army was on the east side; but at Cold Harbor he himself had clearly a great preponderance of numbers, and he might fairly assume that the enemy was weak on the other side, otherwise he would have brought more men upon that field. At Frazier's farm the two divisions of Hill and Longstreet evidently were as strong as the force opposed to them; and if they were too much exhausted to be brought into action, so too would be those with whom they had fought. The dispositions made by Lee for the attack clearly evince that he did not suppose himself to be confronted at Malvern hill by an effective force of more than 50,000 men.
At 9 o'clock in the morning Jackson received orders to attack. Including D. H. Hill's division, which now formed a part of his command, he had, after deducting all losses, about 35,000 men. Hill, being on the confederate right, was opposite the Union left, where Hooker was posted. He suffered so severely from the artillery fire that he halted to reconnoitre, and found the enemy, as he reports, " strongly posted on a commanding hill, all the approaches to which could be swept by his artillery and guarded by swarms of infantry, securely sheltered by fences, ditches, and ravines. Tier after tier of batteries were grimly visible on the plateau, rising in the form of an amphitheatre. We could only reach the first line of batteries by traversing an open space of from 300 to 400 yards, exposed to a murderous fire of grape and canister from the artillery, and musketry from the infantry. If that was carried, another and still more difficult remained in the rear. An examination convinced me that an attack would be hazardous." The assault here was suspended; but Lee still persisted. He sent to each of his commanders a brief message, each word of which cost him a hundred men: " Batteries have been established to act upon the enemy's lines.
If they are broken, as is probable, Ar-mistead, who can witness the effect of the fire, has been ordered to charge with a veil. Do the same." This second attack was to made by Magruder with 20,000 men, comprising his own division and that of linger, who had been displaced. Magruder, after a long and weary march, came up, and found that Armistead, of Huger's division, had driven some skirmishers. The Union line was thought to be broken. "It is reported," Lee wrote to Magruder, "that the enemy is getting off; press forward your whole line, and follow up Armistead's success." Hill pressed forward with the others, and in an hour and a half his division, now reduced to 8,000, lost 336 killed and 1,373 wounded. Ma-gruder's attack failed to make any real impression; his men were mown down as they advanced by a terrific fire of artillery and musketry, which cost him some 500 killed and 2,000 wounded. The battle closed when darkness set in. On the confederate side it had been borne almost wholly by the divisions of D.H. Hill and Magruder, together not more than 28,000 strong. Jackson's own division was not fairly engaged, but being within distant range of the Union artillery it lost 41 killed and 363 wounded. Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and Holmes had no part in the battle.
The Union loss at Malvern hill was about 375 killed and 1,800 wounded; the confederate loss, 900 killed and 3,500 wounded. - The series of engagements from June 26 to July 1 has been styled the "seven days' battles," although there were really but six days. In all, including skirmishes, the Union loss appears to have been 1,582 killed and 7,709 wounded; that of the confederates nearly twice as great, being 3,150 killed and 15,255 wounded. The former lost also 5,958 in missing, of whom 2,000 were the prisoners at Cold Harbor, and 2,500 in the hospitals at Savage's station; the confederate loss in prisoners was about 1,000. So that the entire Union loss was 15,249; confederate, 19,405. Had McClellan followed up the victory at Malvern hill within the next day or two, the confederate army must have been annihilated. But instead of doing this, during the night following he abandoned his strong position, and retreated to an unhealthy one at Harrison's landing, where he intrenched himself, and pleaded for reinforcements.
At first he asked for 50,-000, then for 100,000. Three weeks later he said if he could have 30,000 he might attack Richmond with a good chance of success, though he would then have an effective force of only 120,000, while he estimated that of the enemy at 200,000. So matters rested until the middle of August, when the Union army was withdrawn from the region of the Chickahominy and the James, and ordered to the Potomac. After the battle of Malvern hill the confederates remained for a week near the spot, and then returned to Richmond. Lee had accomplished his main purpose of raising the siege of the confederate capital. IX. Second Cold Harbor. In the spring of 1864 the current of the war again rolled toward the Chickahominy. The command of the Union army was given to Grant, who encountered Lee in the bloody but indecisive battles of the Wilderness, May 5, 6; Spottsylvania, May 11; and the North Anna, May 25. All this time the two armies had been verging toward the region where they had contended two years before. On June 2 Lee had taken up his position near Cold Harbor, while Grant was marching toward him from the same direction in which Jackson had marched upon Porter. The con-federate position was strongly intrenched.
Lee could retreat no further, for behind him was the Chickahominy, now unbridged, and he could not cross it without winning a decisive battle. Grant, whose force was now about 150,000, while Lee had barely 50,000, resolved to attack the enemy in his intrenchments; if he could be forced from these, he must retreat up the bank of the Ohickahominy, pressed by threefold numbers. The plan of attack was simple. Hancock's corps was on the left, then Wright's, then Smith's, massed opposite the confederate right; Warren's corps came next, stretched in a long thin line, which was continued by Burnside's, whose right was flung back. In the gray rainy dawn of the 3d these corps rushed upon the confederate lines. Barlow's division of Hancock's corps, formed into two lines, struck a sunken road in front of the confederate intrenchments, where they met a solid mass of fire and lead, which in a quarter of an hour drove them back, with the loss of a third of their numbers. Gibbon's division, which was next on the right, dashed up to the works, breasting a torrent of musketry, in the face of which they mounted the parapets; but they could go no further, and were soon repelled. Wright and Smith assaulted with like ill fortune, though they maintained the fight for an hour.
Warren was only to hold in check the enemy directly in his front; while Burnside, swinging round, was to fall upon the confederate left. He drove in the outposts, but before he could execute the order to attack in force, it was countermanded; for Meade, who commanded in the field, thought the failure of the assault on the left showed that the confederate works could not be carried. The skirmish line was withdrawn, and the corps set about intrenching itself in its position, upon which the confederates made a feeble sortie, which was easily repulsed. With this closed the second battle of Cold Harbor, in which Grant had wholly failed. His loss was severe, probably not less than 7,000 in killed and wounded; that of the confederates being less than half as many. - For ten days longer the two armies lay facing each other on the east side of the Ohickahominy, Grant edging to the southward, still hoping to be able to turn the confederate right; Lee at the same time extending his intrenched line in the same direction. A continual series of skirmishing and picket firing was kept up, only interrupted on June 7 by a truce in order to bury the dead.
Grant, while making preparations to move his army to the south side of the James river, still hoped that Lee would make some movement which would furnish opportunity for another attack on the Chickahominy. But Lee showed no disposition to move from his intrenchments, which the experience at Cold Harbor had shown to be unassailable. At length on the 12th Grant broke up his position. The bulk of the army marched down the Chickahominy to the James, which was crossed just below the point where McOlellan had remained after the battle of Malvern hill. A portion of the army, however, crossed the Chickahominy below the White Oak swamp. Lee, who could only see this part of the movement, supposed that Grant proposed to march up the north bank of the James, and assail Richmond from that side.
He therefore abandoned his position on the east bank of the Chickahominy, crossed the stream, and fell back within his strong lines in front of Richmond.