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CHAP. XXI. to observe the river by the Meadow and New
Bridges. After the plan of battle was arranged, a violent storm of rain came on and continued most of the night. This was a welcome incident to Johnston, as it inspired the hope that the river might overflow its banks and sever the communication between the two wings of the Federal army. He did not permit the rain to delay him, though the swollen creeks and soggy woods retarded the movements of his troops.
The division commanded by D. H. Hill attacked Casey's division of Keyes's corps with great impetuosity, about one o'clock in the afternoon of May 31. Keyes's corps, supported later by that of Heintzelman, defended their ground with gallantry and pertinacity against the forces of Hill, aided and supported by the divisions of Longstreet and Huger; but when night came on, they had been forced back more than a mile and a half east of the position that they had occupied in the morning.
The forces under G. W. Smith, accompanied by Johnston in person, were in reserve near the junction of the New Bridge and Nine-mile roads. On account of a peculiar condition of the atmosphere, the sound of the musketry at Seven Pines had not reached Johnston and Smith. But about four o'clock Johnston, having been informed of the progress of affairs in Longstreet's front, determined to put Smith in upon the Union right flank, being by this time relieved of all fear of a reenforcement from the other side of the river. Fortunately for the Union cause, the forces immediately opposite this position were commanded by General Sumner, an officer whose strongest traits
were soldierly ardor and generosity. He had been CHAP. XXI. ordered, as soon as the firing began, to hold himself in readiness to move to the assistance of his comrades at Fair Oaks; but he gave these orders a liberal interpretation, and instead of merely preparing to move he at once marched with two divisions to the two bridges he had built and halted them, with his leading companies at the bridges. In this manner an hour of inestimable advantage was saved. The swollen river soon carried away one of the bridges, and the other was almost submerged when the order came to Sumner to cross.
Without delaying a moment on the west bank, Sumner marched through the thick mud in the direction of the heaviest firing and repulsed the attack of Smith, who had been pressing the troops under Couch; the latter at Fair Oaks having become separated from Keyes's main force at Seven Pines. This Union success was the result of Sumner's straightforward and unhesitating march. His appointment to the command of an army corps had been bitterly opposed and never forgiven by General McClellan; he had been treated by his commander with studied neglect and disrespect; and this magnificent service was his only revenge. About seven o'clock the Confederates met their severest mischance of the day; General Johnston received, at an interval of a few moments, two severe and disabling wounds. The firing ceased, “terminated by darkness only,” Johnston is careful to say, before he had been borne a mile from the field. The command had devolved by seniority of rank upon General G. W. Smith.
There was great confusion and discouragement in the rebel councils. Jefferson Davis found hope in the suggestion that “the enemy might withdraw during the night, which would give the Confederates the moral effect of a victory." Early on June first the battle was renewed, and the Union troops reoccupied part of the ground east of Seven Pines that had been lost on the day before. At two o'clock, after the battle had ceased, General Lee took command, and during the night the Confederates withdrew.
A great battle had been fought absolutely without result. The Confederates had failed in their attempt to destroy McClellan's two outlying corps, but their failure entailed no other consequences. The losses were frightful upon both sides: the Union army, in the two days, lost 5031, and the Confederates 6134. But there was this enormous difference between the condition of the two armies: the Union troops south of the Chickahominy, though wearied by the conflict, with ranks thinned by death and wounds, had yet suffered no loss of morale; on the contrary, their spirits had been heightened by the stubborn fight of Saturday and the easy victory of Sunday. North of the river lay the larger portion of the army, which had not fired a gun nor lost a man in the action.
Jackson was in the Valley of the Shenandoah, detaching from the main army a force of 16,000 men. The enemy had thrown two-thirds of his whole force against McClellan's left wing, and had received more injury than he inflicted. Our right wing was intact; the material for bridging the upper Chickahominy had been ready for three
days. Even so ardent a friend of McClellan as Chap. XXI. the Prince de Joinville writes :
The Federals had had the defensive battle they desired; had repulsed the enemy; but arrested by natural obstacles which perhaps were not insurmountable, they had gained nothing by their success. They had missed an de Parmée unique opportunity of striking a blow. 1
W. R. Vol. XI., Part I.,
But the next day and during the week that followed, the enterprise assumed so many difficulties that McClellan could not have been expected to pp. 130, 131. attempt it. The rains continued; the sluggish river became a wide-spreading flood; the ground, a mixed mass of clay and quicksand, afforded no sure standing-place for horse, foot, or artillery; most of the bridges were carried away; the army, virtually cut in two by the river, occupied itself in the arduous work of intrenching. General Lee, the ablest officer in the Southern Confederacy, his mind put entirely at ease in regard to an immediate attack upon Richmond, had leisure to devote himself to restoring the organization and morale of his army, and bringing from every side the reënforcements that he was to use with such effect a month later in the bloody contests from the Chickahominy to the James.
1“ The repulse of the rebels now know that it could have been at Fair Oaks should have been followed into Richmond. Had it taken advantage of. It was one been so, there would have been of those occasions which, if not no resistance to overcome to seized, do not repeat themselves. bring over our right wing.” — ReWe now know the state of dis- port of General J. G. Barnard, organization and dismay in which Chief of Engineers, Army of the the rebel army retreated. We Potomac. W.R. XI., Pt. I., p. 130,
“STONEWALL” JACKSON'S VALLEY CAMPAIGN
S we have said before, it was the intention
of the Administration to dispatch the whole of McDowell's corps to reënforce McClellan, as soon as the situation in Northern Virginia would permit. Franklin's division was so dispatched, in ample time to have taken part in the operations against Yorktown, though General McClellan made no use whatever of that fine body of troops until Yorktown was evacuated. Preparations were vigorously made by the Government for the march of McDowell towards Richmond, and Shields's division, one of the best of Banks's army, was ordered to reënforce him. The most important results were expected from such an attack as an officer of McDowell's ability and zeal would have made upon the left flank of the Confederate forces in front of Richmond. It is one of the admitted misfortunes of the war that this attack was never made, and the question as to who was responsible for it has given rise to much discussion. A simple statement of the facts in the case, without imputation of ignoble motives in any quarter, seems the preferable way to treat this subject. It may be profitable for a moment to consider the character