This Week in the American Civil War: June 25-July 1, 1862

Information Courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday June 25, 1862

SEVEN DAYS CAMPAIGN BEGINS – BATTLE OF OAK GROVE

What became known as the Seven Days’ Campaign before Richmond, Virginia, began with a secondary engagement known as Oak Grove. Federal Major General George B. McClellan ordered advance units on his left to move forward as a preparatory measure to a general forward movement. The main attack by men of Samuel Heintzelman’s corps was well met by Confederates under Benjamin Huger. By evening, there was little change in the lines, while the Federals lost at least 51 killed, 401 wounded and 64 missing for a loss of 516. The Confederates sustained casualties of 40 killed, 263 wounded and 13 missing for a total of 316.

Thursday June 26, 1862

BATTLE OF MECHANICSVILLE

Three Confederate divisions were ready to strike at McClellan’s army east of Richmond. At 3 p.m. Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill attacked and pushed through Mechanicsville as planned forcing Federal General Fitz John Porter to fall back to Beaver Dam Creek and Ellerson’s Mill in a strong prepared position. Hill did not stop his attack and General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was delayed, and the charge was a failure. Over 14,000 Confederates were engaged and sustained losses of 1,484 men. Over 15,000 Federals engaged in the attack and sustained only 361 men killed and wounded.

In Washington, Major General John Pope was formally assigned command of the newly created Army of Virginia, which included the old Mountain Department, the Department of the Rappahannock and the Department of the Shenandoah. The main task of Pope’s new command was to protect Washington and consolidate all land forces in Virginia except McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

Friday June 27, 1862

BATTLE OF GAINES MILL

Confederates attacked in midafternoon across ravines, fields and swamps against the strong Union semicircle defensive positions. Again, there was poor coordination between Southern commanders. Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was delayed again, though at dark John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade and troops from George E. Pickett broke through Fitz John Porter’s line. The disorganized Confederates were unable to take advantage of their success, despite confusion among the Federals. Porter had approximately 36,000 men and lost 894 killed, 3,107 wounded and 2,836 missing or captured for a sustained loss of 6,837 casualties. The Confederates numbered around 57,000 at the beginning of the attack but sustained 8,750 total casualties.

In Washington, President Abraham Lincoln accepted the resignation of Major General John C. Fremont that was offered on June 17. It was the end of the military career of the controversial explorer, politician and soldier. 

Saturday June 28, 1862

Federal Major General George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac began the withdrawal from near Richmond towards the James River. General Robert E. Lee organized his Confederates for another attack, but by evening he knew the Army of the Potomac was heading towards the river. White House on the Pamunkey River was evacuated and burned. Fighting occurred at Garnett’s and Golding’s Farms, and at Dispatch Station on the Richmond and York River Railroad. Meanwhile, the navy moved up the James River from Fort Monroe to open communications with McClellan’s army expected at Harrison’s Landing. Federal cavalry finished the destruction of abandoned Union supplies at White House Landing.

Sunday June 29, 1862

BATTLE OF SAVAGE STATION

Confederate forces north of the Chickahominy River crossed the stream and followed the retreating Army of the Potomac. Confederates south of the river also gave pursuit. McClellan’s rear guard withstood another disorganized drive that never fully materialized. The Federals were able to safely withdraw but were forced to leave 2,500 sick and wounded at Savage’s Station on the Richmond and York River Railroad east of Richmond.

Sergeant Myron Shepard of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry would record this description of the battle in his journal. “Very hot. Regt remains up & under arms nearly all last night. Evacuation going on. Several alarms. We march at early daylight. Halt at railroad a mile or two east of Fair Oaks & take position in line of battle. Engagement begins about 9 a.m. and lasts about 2 hours resulting in enemy being driven. Our regt not engaged but under fire. Continue retreat down RR and reach and open field perhaps 3 miles further on (Savage Station) and rest until nearly sunset when we are attacked. We advance under artillery fire ½ miles to edge of woods, and after maneuvering some, pitched in. 1st Regt in front. Enemy retire and another regt relieves us. Retreat again in the darkness & silently, and marching 7 miles more & crossing a swamp & stopped for rest. Loss severe. Our dead & badly wounded fell into enemy’s hands. Much Gov’t property destroyed. Knapsacks & clothing thrown away.”

George Burgess, the regiment’s color sergeant, was shot through the lungs by a minie ball and killed instantly. Corporal George L. Smith was also killed. Company B’s Sam Bloomer, of Stillwater, becomes the new color sergeant.

Monday June 30, 1862

BATTLE OF GLENDALE

General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was trying to attack Major General George B. McClellan from the north across the desolate mire of White Oak Swamp, and from the west. McClellan realized the plan and effectively halted it, aided by the same lack of coordination which had plagued the Confederate offensive. By night, McClellan drew his lines in tightly upon Malvern Hill just north of the James. In perhaps the decisive day of the week-long campaign, Lee lost his last chance to cut McClellan’s army in two and prevent it from reaching its haven. It was clear by then that Richmond had been saved and a Southern victory was won.

Tuesday July 1, 1862

BATTLE OF MALVERN HILL

The Seven Days Campaign east of Richmond came to an end on Malvern Hill north of the James River. McClellan’s retreating Army of the Potomac took its stand at a strong defensive position readily adaptable for well-placed infantry and artillery. The several Confederate attacks were disjointed and uncoordinated with a large portion of the Southerners never seeing any action. By nightfall the Confederates were spent and the Federals continued down the James to Harrison’s Landing. For the battles of Savage Station¸ Glendale and Malvern Hill, the Federals sustained casualties of 724 killed, 4,245 wounded and 3,067 missing for a total of 8,036 out of 83,000 engaged in an army of over 115,000. Confederate losses were 8,602 killed and wounded with 875 missing for a total of 9,477 out of 86,500 engaged in an army of 88,000 men. For the Seven Days Campaign, Confederates sustained approximately 20,000 casualties to the Federal’s 16,000.

First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Sergeant Myron Shepard recorded the following in his journal. “Warm & clear. After coffee & crackers we were marched to right & front towards enemy’s artillery which had just opened. Stood in line of battle & were fired at nearly 2 hours, our artillery replying. Change positions slightly several times. Friendly march in retreat to the right and are drawn up on low ground in the woods. Rested here an hour or so, then marched further to the right into an oat field and remain on alert balance of day and until midnight when we were carefully withdrawn.”

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of June 25-July 1, 1862 

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Seven Days Campaign during McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Marched to Iuka, Mississippi and Tuscumbia, Alabama.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On Brigadier General Ebenezer Dumont’s expedition to Pikesville, Ky.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry –Duty at Camp Clear Creek near Corinth, Miss.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Companies B, C and D remained in Minnesota and Dakota Territory on garrison duty while the remaining companies were at Camp Clear Creek near Corinth, Mississippi. Companies B and C move to Sioux Agency on the Yellow Medicine River to preserve order during annuity payments to Indians.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Humboldt, Tenn., scouting and protecting the railroad.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On garrison duty at Corinth, Miss.

2nd Independent Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – Marched to Jacinto and Ripley, Mississippi.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty at Falmouth, Virginia.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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