Posts Tagged ‘Longstreet’

Battle of Williamsburg W-43

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

To the east of the road here, centering at Fort Magruder, was fought the battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862. The Union General McClellan was pursuing General Johnston’s retiring army. The rearguard of which was commanded by General Longstreet. Johnston ordered Longstreet to hold off McClellan’s attacking forces until the confederate wagon trains, bogged down in mud, were out of danger. This mission was accomplished and Johnston continued his retirement.

Further Research

The Battle of Williamsburg Map

The Battle of Williamsburg, also known as the Battle of Fort Magruder, was one of the largest battlefield encounters between Union and Confederate forces during McClellan’s famous Peninsula Campaign.  After having been delayed for around a month at the Yorktown defenses, General McClellan moved his troops in hot pursuit of Johnston and his fellow Confederate soldiers, who had started to retreat for more defensible positions closer to Richmond (Rickard).  At Williamsburg, Confederate soldiers aimed to hold up parts of the defense line simply to hinder the Union forces advancement into Richmond.

The Battle of Williamsburg

Confederate forces had positioned themselves in front of For Magruder, which served as their key point during the battle.  Because of muddy conditions, the Confederate retreat was hindered and thus James Longstreet had to hold the line at Williamsburg while fellow forces moved towards Etham’s landing.  General Sumner and General William F. Smith launched the first assault on Confederate lines on May 4th; but this had to be abandoned because of the woodland between the two forces that hindered them.  The next day, however, General Hooker started the battle facing Fort Magruder, which continued most of the day (civalwar).  The fighting was tremendous and eventually General Winfield S. Hancock was able to push back the Confederate forces with heavy losses.

Battle of Williamsburg--Gen. Hancock's charge, May 5, 1862

McClellan decided that Hancock’s actions were “brilliant” and that this battle was a superior victory for the Union forces – while this fact may be slightly skewed.  Both sides had gained something from this battle in that the Union perceived it as having pushed the Confederates from a defensive line with seriously outnumbered odds.  The Confederates saw the battle as a success because it was seen that General Longstreet had successfully held off Union attack and allowed for the Confederates to withdraw with precious supplies (Rickard).

Further Reading

Civil War Trust. The Battle of Willamsburg. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/williamsburg.html (accessed March 9, 2012)

Rickard, J. Battle of Williamsburg, 5 May 1862. http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_williamsburg.html (accessed March 9, 2012)

Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Battle of Williamsburg W-43,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Battle of Williamsburg Map,” Civil War Trust: Maps of Williamsburg, Virginia, www.civilwar.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Battle of Williamsburg,” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Battle of Williamsburg- Gen. Hancock’s Charge,” Library of Congress, www.loc.goc (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources

Peninsula Campaign W-37

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Inscription:

During the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, both Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan led their armies west toward Richmond on this road. Johnston evacuated Yorktown on 3-4 May and withdrew up the Peninsula, with McClellan in pursuit. On 5 May, two Federal divisions clashed with the Confederate rear guard east of Williamsburg in a bloody but indecisive battle. Johnston’s army continued its march west and on 6-7 May eluded McClellan’s forces at Eltham’s Landing on the York River opposite West Point. By mid-month the Confederates were secure behind the Richmond defenses.

Further Research

Major General George Brinton McClellan, often called “Little Mac” or “Young Napoleon”

The Peninsula Campaign took place during the American Civil War as a major Union operation in southeastern Virginia from March 1862 through July 1862.  The first large-scale offensive, the campaign was head by Major General George B. McClellan and was an attempt to capture Richmond.  While at first successful against Joseph E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee soon emerged and the campaign turned into an Union defeat.

McClellan’s Army of the Potomac consisted of 50,000 men in the beginning but quickly grew to 121,000 before the campaign took place (Sears 361). The amphibious campaign started in Alexandria on March 17 (Sears, 168).  In response to McClellan’s campaign, Magruder set up deceptive defenses, which were actually weaker

Joseph E. Johnston

than they appeared.  In response, McClellan began the siege preparations at Yorktown with a variety of heavy artillery (Sears, 58).  It continued to be a constant battle of the Confederates improving their defenses and McClellan increasing his artillery.  In early May, McClellan found out that the Confederate defenses were deceiving and thus McClellan began to pursue Johnston up the York River (Salmon, 80).

The Peninsula Campaign also included the Battle of Williamsburg, which occurred on May 5, 1862.  This was the first battle of the Peninsula Campaign, which was spearheaded by Major General George B. McClellan. This battle was the result of General Joseph E. Johnston’s shocking evacuation of the Yorktown-Warwick River line just two days prior (Salmon, 80).  As a result of Johnston’s evacuation, McClellan hastily pursued him.  McClellan sent Brig. General George Stoneman to pursue Johnston’s rear guard, which was headed by Brig. General J.E.B. Stuart’s Calvary and with whom his men skirmished many times.  Furthermore, McClellan had ordered Brig. General William B. Franklin to sail up the York River to cut Johnston off and thus prevent him from escaping.  Weary because of foul weather, Johnston decided to wall up his troops at Fort Magruder.  While McClellan considered this battle as an amazing victory, many southerners saw it as allowing the Confederate army to escape towards Richmond (Sears, 82).

The Peninsula Campaign

The campaign continued to Etham’s Landing where McClellan hoped that Franklin would hinder Johnston’s escape.  However, it turned out that the Confederates were prepared and Union troops were forced to seek cover in the woods.  Franklin could not intercept the Confederates and thus allowed them to pass (Salmon, 85).  The next event to mark

Map of Peninsula Campaign

the Peninsula Campaign occurred at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff.  This amphibious battle resulted in the stagnation of the Union advance and took place on May 15, 1862 at Fort Drewry (Sears, 94).  The armies converged in Richmond but the next major battle did not take place until May 27.  Also known as the Battle of Slash Church, the Battle of Hanover Court House resulted in a small Union victory but allowed for McClellan to be more prepared at Seven Pines or Fair Oaks.  Furthermore, McClellan’s reactions made him look like a weak target to Johnston (Sears, 117).  The final battle occurred at Seven Pines on May 31 and June 1.  It was the end effect of the offensive by McClellan when he finally reached the outskirts of Richmond.  This battle is considered the biggest battle of the time with both sides attempting to claim victory.  Union soldiers called it the Battle of Fair Oaks because that’s where they were most successful whereas Confederates fought best at Seven Pines, hence the name (Sears, 149).  However it was not long before Robert E. Lee drove McClellan from the Peninsula and it took around three more years before the Union army finally captured Richmond.

Further Reading

Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Miller, William J. The Battles for Richmond, 1862. National Park Service Civil War Series. Fort Washington: U.S. National Park Service and Eastern National, 1996.

Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Warner, Erza J. Generals In Blue: Lives of Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Peninsula Campaign W-37,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Major General George Brinton McClellan,” Civil War Trust: The Peninsula Campaign, www.civilwar.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Joseph E. Johnston,” Civil War Trust: The Peninsula Campaign, www.civilwar.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Peninsula Campaign,” Lee Hall Mansion: 1862 Peninsula Campaign, www.leehall.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Map of Peninsula Campaign,” Civil War Trust: Maps of the Peninsular Campaign 1862, www.civilwar.org (accessed May 2, 2012).

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources