In June 1862 McClellan continued his advance on Richmond. Lincoln complained that his approach was too cautious and that McClellan was not taking advantage of the confusion and panic Unionist spies had detected in Richmond.
June 1st: Robert E Lee was given command of the Confederate troops defending Richmond following the wounding of General Johnson. A renewed Confederate assault on Fair Oaks resulted in many Confederate casualties – in total the Confederates lost 8,000 men killed, wounded or missing at Fair Oaks. The Unionists lost nearly 6,000 men in total.
June 3rd: Corinth, Mississippi fell to Unionist forces. Their next target was Memphis, Tennessee. A Unionist advance threatened Charleston, South Carolina.
June 4th: The Army of the Potomac prepared for their advance on Richmond.
June 6th: This day dealt two major blows to the Confederates. First, they lost Ashley Turner, considered to be a highly gifted cavalry commander at a time when cavalry units were coming more and more into the war. Second, in a confrontation on the Mississippi, the Confederate Navy lost seven out of eight armed riverboats to a Union fleet that lost none of its seven gunboats. The Confederates lost 80 men killed or wounded and had over 100 taken prisoner. The fleet was guarding Memphis, which fell to Union forces that day. The victory also meant that the Unionist Navy had effective control of the whole of the Mississippi River where it was navigable.
June 7th: Unionists reconnaissance units came into sight of Richmond. In New Orleans, General Butler sentenced William Mumford to death for tearing down the Union flag flying over the city’s mint.
June 8th: 8,000 Confederate troops fought 18,000 Union troops at Cross Keys in the Shenandoah Valley. At the same time another battle took place at Port Republic, fours miles along the Valley. Neither battle is conclusive but in total the Unionists lost 850 men killed and wounded. The Confederates lost about 600 men in both battles.
June 12th: After three days rest, Jackson’s army made a move to Richmond to support Lee. Jackson’s 20,000 men had effectively tied up 60,000 Unionist troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Jefferson Davis had initially feared a two-pronged Unionist attack on Richmond but the work of Lee all but ruled this out.
June 15th: Reports from scouting parties convinced Lee that McClellan’s communication lines were very weak. In an attempt to outthink McClellan, Lee sent 10,000 in the direction of the Shenandoah Valley ostensibly to support Jackson– even though they would never get there as Jackson’s men were marching at speed for Richmond. Lee hoped that McClellan’s poor communication would convince him to keep his 60,000 men in the Valley to fight the extra 10,000 men who marched to be seen by the Unionists – but who were never intended to get to the Shenandoah Valley.
June 17th: President Lincoln was still not convinced that his generals were as offensively minded as he was. Lincoln believed that General John Pope fitted this requirement and appointed him commander of the newly created Army of Virginia.
June 18th: Lincoln wrote to McClellan urging him to attack Richmond. He wrote that with 10,000 less men – those men who had been directed to the Shenandoah Valley – the city was ripe for taking. McClellan viewed the situation differently. He believed that the Confederates had to be exceptionally well dug in and confident of victory if they could allow 10,000 men to leave the city. His response to Lincoln’s exhortation to be more aggressive was to be more cautious!
June 19th: Lincoln made it known that he planned to outlaw slavery in all states in America.
June 24th: The first exchange of fire took place between troops near Richmond.
June 25th: McClellan ordered his men to advance on the left flank of Richmond. He also sent a letter to Washington DC that stated that he was facing an army of 200,000 men and that if he lost to them it would not be his fault and that he would die fighting with his men. McClellan made it clear that if he did lose the battle, there was nothing to stop the Confederates attacking the capital. To the end McClellan remained cautious. But it was a simple fact. If he did lose, what would stop Lee and then Davis entering Washington DC?
June 26th: Lee attacked Unionist forces outside Richmond at Mechanicsville. Lee had decided that attack was his best form of defence. However, an accurate and severe Unionist artillery bombardment threw back the Confederates. Lee withdrew his forces. McClellan remained very cautious and feared that a second attack would be more successful. Despite arguments to the contrary from his in-the-field commanders, McClellan ordered his forward troops to withdraw from their entrenched lines.
June 27th: Lee’s men attacked as expected but the Unionists he expected to face were withdrawing across the Chickahominy River. The withdrawal was disciplined but the Confederates did capture a large amount of Union supplies. Lincoln was furious that McClellan had been overcautious.
June 28th: The Union Army continued its withdrawal and destroyed supplies at White House Landing rather than let them fall into the hands of the Confederates.
June 29th: The Army of the Potomac continued its withdrawal.
June 30th: Lee ordered an attack on McClellan’s troops with all the 80,000 men at his disposal. However, it was never coordinated and by dusk it was plain that the attack had not been anywhere near decisive. If anything, the failed attack acted as a boost to the Unionists after what had happened in the previous three days.
- The plight the South found itself in was highlighted when the Confederate government ordered that men up to the age of 70 could be conscripted…