Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles

Synopsis

The story of the Seven Days Battles, the first campaign in the Civil War in which Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia. Listed by J.F.C. Fuller as one of the 51 decisive military campaigns in Western history, the Seven Days were fought in the area south-east of the Confederate capital of Richmond from June 25 to July 1, 1862. Lee and his fellow officers, including Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, A.P. Hill and D.H. Hill, pushed George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac from the gates of Richmond to the James River. Along the way, Lee lost several opportunities to harm McClellan severely, but the Union forces, marching all night and fighting during the day, managed to reach safety. The campaign lifted Southern spirits, began Lee's ascent to fame, and almost prompted European recognition of the Confederacy. The Seven Days also began a string of events leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and the shift toward total war. McClellan's defeat meant his dream of bringing the United States together as it was before the outbreak of the war was gone forever, and the country's very nature changed as a result.

Excerpt

In may of 1862, the Civil War was just over a year old. the North was closing in on victory; on almost every front the Federals had an advantage over the Confederates. the first four months of 1862 in the western theater had been decisive ones. Brigadier General George H. Thomas had turned away a Confederate invasion of Kentucky at Mill Springs in January. in early February Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, opening both vital arteries to the Union. Nashville was taken soon after. Marching down the Tennessee, Grant had stopped at Pittsburg Landing in southern Tennessee, where Confederates under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston attacked him in early April. But Johnston was killed, and Grant, reinforced by Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, repulsed the rebels, forcing them to retreat to Corinth, Mississippi. Major General Henry W. Halleck, the overall Union commander in the western theater, then combined Grant’s and Buell’s forces to move on Corinth, a strategic rail center.

The Mississippi River divided the Confederacy, and its importance to Midwest business and agriculture as well as its strategic importance demanded Federal attention. in late February Brig. Gen. John Pope advanced against New Madrid, Missouri, located on the river. By early April—actually, on the same day as the conclusion of the battle of Pittsburg Landing (also known as Shiloh)—Pope had taken both New Madrid and Island No. 10. This dual success opened the river to Yankee navigation nearly to Memphis. Moving inland from the south, Rear Adm. David G. Farragut ran his ships past the forts guarding the river’s mouth and forced the surrender of New Orleans in late April.

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