The Peninsular Campaign

The Peninsular Campaign of 1862

There is not room in this book to go into the intricacies of wargame campaigning, where the earlier decisions of commanders and the results of previous battles play their full part in influencing subsequent events, but it is hoped this section might arouse sufficient interest to encourage readers to give campaigning a try; and once you have fought your first campaign it is most unlikely you will ever look back.

In the ACW period the Peninsular Campaign offers a good wargame campaign for beginners: it was fought in a relatively small area; there were a number of smaller actions as well as major battles; and it is well documented. It also includes Jeb Stuart's famous ride around the Union Army!


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The Peninsular Campaign was launched by the Union in the spring of 1862 in an attempt to capture Richmond. During McC/e/lan's buildup of forces in the peninsular the Union Army became divided into two parts by the Chickahominy River and on May 31 the Confederates launched an attack against McClellan's isolated left. Planned as a double envelopment, the attack degenerated into piecemeal frontal assaults due to poor staff work and after two days of fighting the battle ended in defeat for the rebels. General Johnston, severely wounded in the battle, was replaced by Lee on June 1. The map shows the preliminary positions.

Union artillery dump at Yorktown, McClellan's base for the Peninsular campaign.













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Left Mechanicsvilie, June 26

On June 26 southern troops took the offensive against McClellan's forces and fought the battle of Mechanicsvilie, the first of a series of battles now known as the Seven Days' Battles. Again faulty staff work reduced the Confederate plan to piecemeal assaults and the Union troops under Porter could not be shifted from their strong position behind Beaver Dam Creek. However, learning of Stonewall Jackson's approach on his right, Porter withdrew to Gaines' Mill during the night and fought another successful defensive battle there on the 27th. a marks the approach of D.H. Hill and Longstreet from Richmond; b the approach of A. P. Hill; c the route of D.H. Hill to Old Cold Harbor on the 27th to attack the Union right; d the route of A. P. Hill to New Cold Harbor on the 27th to attack the Union centre; and e the route of Longstreet to Gaines' on the 27th to attack the Union left.

Below left Savage's Station, June 29

On the night of the 27th Porter retreated across the Chickahominy and McClellan ordered a general retreat to the Union gunboats on the James River. To reach this position McClellan had to march south across White Oak Swamp, along narrow roads. His retreat was well planned and executed and the rearguard succeeded in holding off repeated Confederate attacks. The third of these, Savage's Station on the 29th, was inconclusive but the Union army had to destroy its stores before completing the crossing of White Oak Swamp.

Above right Frayser's Farm, June 30

This was the fourth dash, beginning about 3pm, fought by McClellan to protect his trains as they passed down the Long Bridge and Quaker roads to

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the James. The map also shows the dispositions of the troops during the artillery action at White Oak bridge at about 11am. The Confederates were again checked long enough for McClellan's trains to pass and the main body to take up a strong position on Malvern Hill.

Page 64 Malvern Hill. July 1

In McClellan's absence (he was at the new base on the James) Porter fought a brilliant defensive action in this, the greatest of the Seven Days' Battles. Within a short time the well-placed Federal batteries had silenced every Confederate battery within range and Lee's assault broke down into a series of unco-ordinated charges which were beaten back with heavy loss; about 5,000 Confederates died on the slopes of the hill.

Malvern Hill was a Union victory but McClellan ordered the retreat to the James to be completed. Union losses in the Seven Days' Battles totalled 15,849; CSA losses 20,614. Lee does not appear to have lived up to the reputation he was to be given; for, with the exception of Gaines' Mill, all Confederate attacks were repulsed; and yet at the end of the day McClellan's army had been forced back from Richmond by Lee's daring, and was now digging in on the banks of the James as if defeated, with McClellan asking Washington for a further 100,000 troops/




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