On The Confederate Left at Gainess Mill

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The Project Gutenberg eBook of Confederate Military History, Vol. 5, by Ellison Capers.

Long debates ensued between president and commander. These disagreements led the obstreperous and balky McClellan to make statements and take actions that would have been—and indeed were—considered insubordinate by almost anyone other than the extremely patient Lincoln. When in March McClellan finally began his Peninsular Campaign , he discovered that Lincoln and Stanton had withheld large numbers of his command in front of Washington for the defense of the capital—forces that actually were not needed there.

Upon taking command of the army in the field, McClellan was relieved of his duties as general in chief.


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Advancing up the historic peninsula between the York and James rivers in Virginia, McClellan began a monthlong siege of Yorktown and captured that stronghold on May 4, A Confederate rearguard action at Williamsburg the next day delayed the blue-clads, who then slowly moved up through heavy rain to within 4 miles 6 km of Richmond. Lee promptly renamed the command the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan counterattacked on June 1 and forced the Southerners back into the environs of Richmond. The Federals suffered a total of 5, casualties out of a force of nearly ,, while the Confederates lost 6, of about 74, men.

McClellan inflicted 20, casualties on Lee while suffering 15, himself. McClellan felt that he could not move upon Richmond without considerable reinforcement, and his estimates of the men he needed went up and up and up.

"To do, or die:" Actions of the 4th Texas Infantry at Gaines’ Mill

Against his protests his army was withdrawn from the peninsula to Washington by Lincoln and the new general in chief, Halleck—a man McClellan scornfully considered to be his inferior. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. American Civil War. Article Media. By early the 1st and 2nd brigades, Reserve Division, contained nine exclusively Regular regiments, while the cavalry reserve contained three regiments of U. Each division in the Army had a Regular battery brigaded with two or three volunteer batteries, and the Artillery Reserve contained a Regular Horse Brigade four batteries , a Regular Light Brigade six batteries , and a fifth Volunteer Brigade with two U.

What was the character of these Regulars? Essentially there were two types of Regulars in two types of organizations.

Battle of Gaines Mill - Confederate Historical Battles - Ultimate General: Civil War

Of the officers who survived the first battle to write reports, nearly all were West Pointers, although the eventual commander of the 2nd Regular Brigade, Major C. Lovell, had enlisted in and been commissioned in Captain T. Hendrickson, commanding the 6th Infantry, had enlisted in and was appointed from the ranks in They possessed all the qualities that make good soldiers: training, discipline and morale.

Large portions of their days before the war had been spent in drills and other duties that promoted teamwork and obedience to superiors. Coupled with life governed by Army regulations and the Articles of War, their environment was one of purposeful subordination of the individual.

The war in the East

They were inured to hardship and were grouped in the regiments of the Old Army. The second type of Regular was the recruit assigned to an older regiment or to a regiment of the so-called New Army. They were typical Americans, enthusiastic individuals with no military experience. Their main advantages were the men who led them—the experienced cadres of officers and noncommissioned officers transferred from the Old Army—and their desire to equal or exceed the reputation of the older regiments.

In the infantry arm of the Union Army, soldiers drew on their prewar and early war experiences to help develop effective tactics. As a defensive or delaying tactic, infantry would use cover and concealment to shield itself from an enemy moving toward them. The soldiers would then spring up, firing muskets, shouting and thrusting bayonets to halt the enemy and either drive him away or trap him in the open, exposing him to protracted fire at close range.

Artillerists aided the infantry by massing on important terrain and seeking to place enfilading fire on the advancing enemy. Their main effect was at close range, using canister or spherical case shot. Artillery, like the bayonet and the prearranged shouting, was often an effective psychological weapon, too. Frequently its mere presence would alter enemy plans. The tradition and reputation of the U.

Undoubtedly the cavalry was the most glamorous arm. But were mounted regiments to function as light dragoons or heavy cavalry? Should they rely on mobility and firepower, or mobility and shock? Answers to these questions would come soon.


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Having created an army of , men, McClellan began to feel pressure to use it. After all, to re-establish its sovereignty the Federal government would have to regain Southern territory. The enormous public expense of raising the army also had to be justified. It is indispensable to you that you strike a blow, Lincoln told the reluctant general. You must act. Lincoln was adamant that corps be added to the chain of command, an evolutionary step that McClellan was not ready to take. On March 3, , Lincoln presented him with a corps structure and commanders, including one, V Corps, commanded by Maj.

Nathaniel P. Banks, a politician turned general. Little Mac was aghast, but he was given a golden opportunity to remedy the situation. He had been ordered to leave garrison and mobile troops to defend Washington from a Rebel thrust via the Shenandoah Valley while he moved south.

Left behind were Maj.

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The war in 1862

He constantly called for reinforcements and moved slowly, allowing the Confederates to shorten their lines and reinforce Johnston. McClellan, now near Richmond, was forced to split his army, leaving three corps north of the Chickahominy River, which runs southeast across the peninsula, to await McDowell and protect White House. Meanwhile, two corps were moved south of the river to confront Richmond. During the operations, Brig.

On May 20, Porter received command of the artillery reserve of the army, in addition to the guns already in his divisions. His inexperienced subordinates bungled the converging attack, however, and Johnston himself was wounded and replaced by General Robert E.

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Lee knew McClellan well. He spent the interval building siege works and conducting local attacks to force Lee into Richmond. However, on June 11, Brig. Also on the 11 th, McClellan moved his headquarters south of the river, leaving Porter on the north bank near Mechanicsville, controlling his own divisions, those of Brig.

George W. Morell and George A. Porter now controlled three of the four mounted regiments in the Army of the Potomac, 18 Regular batteries and nine Regular infantry regiments. The cavalry screened his front between Meadow Bridge and the Pamunkey River. On June 10, Confederate Maj. Thomas Jackson had begun moving from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond. Lee conceived a ruse in front of the city while his force, joined by Jackson, attacked and destroyed the exposed V Corps.

A reconnaissance by Confederate cavalry Maj. The Union commander suddenly decided to change his base from White House to the James. His friend Porter and the reinforced V Corps were all that stood between the Rebels and the reorganizing Army of the Potomac,.

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While McClellan hesitated, convinced that he was dangerously outnumbered, his audacious Southern counterpart continued fine-tuning his own plan of attack. Richmond, Lee told his subordinates, could not be defended against a prolonged enemy siege; it was necessary to go on the offensive. While Jackson descended from the valley to fall on the Union right flank and rear, the divisions of Confederate Generals D. Hill, A. Hill and James Longstreet would begin a frontal attack designed to sweep the Yankees southward. The same night that Lee was meeting with his generals, McClellan was having something in the nature of a vision—a gloomy one, at that.

Writing to his wife, he admitted: I have a kind of presentiment that tomorrow will bring forth something-what, I do not know. We will see when the time comes. After a Confederate deserter disclosed to McClellan the frightening news that Jackson was coming down from the Shenandoah Valley to strike the Union rear, McClellan decided to conduct a reconnaissance-in-force to feel out the Southern defenses east of Richmond.

Operations moving the Union Army base continued, however. Freight carriers began leaving White House, while immovable stores were destroyed. Engineers from headquarters, escorted by the 2nd U. Cavalry, began a reconnaissance of routes to the James. Other engineers selected a new defensive position for Porter between Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy.