June 28, 1862:
Eastern Theater, Peninsula Campaign
Seven Days' Battles, Day 4
There is no significant fighting on this day, although the Union Army is very busy. Gen. McClellan is convinced that he must retreat and that the project to take Richmond is no longer feasible. He sends out orders to abandon all non-essential equipment (tents, camp equipment, etc.) and for all supply and ammunition trains and their wagons to withdraw south and east to Savage’s Station, along the York River Railroad. An immense amount of army stores are put to the torch. He also orders that “the sick and wounded that are not able to walk must necessarily be left.” This is a decision that will not sit well with a number of people in the North. Gen. Porter is able pull his entire force south of the Chickahominy River, and the Federals torch their base on White House on the York River. McClellan himself rides all the way down to the James River and moves his headquarters to a gunboat on the river, leaving others to attend to the complicated details of the retreat.
|Union wounded at a field hospital following the Battle of Gaines Mill|
In the meantime, Lee has his troops on the move. Surmising correctly that McClellan is moving south to the protection of the Navy’s gunboats on the James River, Lee hopes to trap McClellan as the Federals try to disentangle their army from the Chickahominy and especially the White Oak Swamp: if the Rebels can catch them in the midst of this morass before the bluecoats pass through it, it might mean the end of the Army of the Potomac, or at least severely crippling it. Today, Gen. Magruder sends out a reconnaissance in force to tap the Federal lines at Golding’s Farm on the far left Union flank, mostly to convince the Yankees that the entire Union line was under attack, or soon would be.
---Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in collusion with telegraph officials, elects to send ot Lincoln only an expurgated and vetted version of McClellan’s insubordinate telegram from last night, omitting the lines, “If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.”
---Admiral Farragut, in an extended re-attempt at taking Vicksburg, finally has to admit that he cannot take the city without the Army, and Gen. Williams and his brigade just are not enough troops to do it. Farragut writes to Captain Charles Davis about his dilemma:
I think, therefore, that so long as they have the military force to hold the back country, it will be impossible for me to reduce the place without your assistance and that of the Army. I have only about 3,000 soldiers, under General Williams, associated with me, but they are not sufficient to land in the face of all Van Dorn’s division of Beauregard’s army.
Gen. Williams has attempted to dig a canal to re-route the river, but is losing too many men to illness, and finds that the canal would be too narrow for the job, and so abandons the project.
---Lt. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry regiment, writes home of his frustration over the Secessionville debacle, and of the inefficiency of the Union command in the South Carolina coastal theater---and of the stumbling blocks that the many missionaries and philanthropists in the wake of the Army have imposed by getting underfoot of military priorities:
And today, though under every circumstance I have looked on riding into Charleston as a sure and ample reward for all I might be called on to undergo, I hear that the chances are immense against my ever receiving that reward with an indifference which surprises me. I am ordered and I can’t help it; though it seems strange to me that we must turn our backs on these fellows for lack of ten poor regiments out of the grand army of the republic. I do so know we could whip these men if we had two chances out of five, and we would so like to do it; and now to go back with nothing but failure — oh! for one hour of generalship!! Everything here but honor has been sacrificed to the fussy incompetence of Benham, the unmilitary amiability of Hunter, and the misplaced philanthropy of Edward L. Pierce…. Philanthropy is a nuisance in time of war. . . . I respect the missionaries for their objects and perseverance, but they have no business here. Their time is not yet and they make us fight in fetters. . . .
---John Beauchamp Jones, in Richmond, writes of the gleeful spectacle made by over 2,000 Union prisoners in the city, including field officers such as Gen. McCall and Gen. Reynolds:
To-day some of our streets are crammed with thousands of bluejackets—Yankee prisoners. There are many field officers, and among them several generals.
General Reynolds, who surrendered with his brigade, was thus accosted by one of our functionaries, who knew him before the war began: “General, this is in accordance with McClellan’s prediction; you are in Richmond.”
“Yes, sir,” responded the general, in bitterness; ” and d—n me, if it is not precisely in the manner I anticipated.”