Seven Days battles

Seven Days battles, in the American Civil War, the week-long Confederate counter-offensive (June 26–July 2, 1862) near Richmond, Va., that ended the Peninsular campaign. After the battle of Fair Oaks the Union general George B. McClellan moved his army so that only the 5th Corps under Fitz-John Porter remained N of the Chickahominy River. Gen. Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, planned to attack Porter and cut McClellan off from his base at White House Landing on the Pamunkey River. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, who was on his way from the Shenandoah Valley to join Lee, was to advance from the north and turn Porter's strong position behind Beaver Dam Creek. A. P. Hill was then to attack the Union advance lines at Mechanicsville, a village c.5 mi (8 km) NE of Richmond. Jackson failed to arrive; nevertheless, Hill's troops attacked and were severely repulsed in the battle of Mechanicsville (or Beaver Dam Creek) on June 26. Porter then fell back to another strong position at Gaine's Mill, a locality near Old Cold Harbor, c.10 mi (16 km) NE of Richmond. There on June 27, Longstreet, Jackson, A. P. Hill, and Daniel H. Hill led the Confederates against Porter's greatly outnumbered forces and at nightfall finally broke the Union resistance. With a good part of his corps, Porter crossed the river and joined the bulk of McClellan's army, which had remained inactive. McClellan decided to move his base to the navigable James River in order to add naval support. His march from the Chickahominy River was well executed, and Lee was unsuccessful in intercepting him in the battles of Savage's Station on June 29 and Frayser's Farm (or Glendale) on June 30. McClellan posted his army on Malvern Hill, a strong defensive position on the north bank of the James c.18 mi (29 km) SE of Richmond. In the battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, the Union troops repeatedly repulsed the Confederate attacks in some of the hardest fighting of the war. On the next day, however, McClellan, declining to take the offensive, withdrew to Harrison's Landing on the James River, and the Peninsular campaign was over. Lee had suffered the heavier losses, and he had been unsuccessful in his attempts to dismember McClellan's retreating army. However, by taking the offensive Lee had saved Richmond, and not until 1864 did Union forces again come so near the Confederate capital.

See C. Dowdey, The Seven Days (1964).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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