We were lazy today and decided that we deserved a bit of rest. So, we did not tour any battlefields or museums. We walked a bit along a lake, beside which our motorhome is parked. It is quite a nice RV park with large hardwood shade trees. We walked along a small beach. Carol Ann walked at the water’s edge and her feet became stuck in the mud. It was mostly clay and very sticky. She sank several inches and when she pulled her feet out of the muck her sandals did not come with them. She had to dig them out and then I had to pull her up and out.
After we returned to our coach I spent a little time installing my flag poll on the rear ladder. At the top is the American flag and just below it on a horizontal piece I have the Texas flag on one side and a University of Georgia “G” banner on the other. I also mounted my Hawking Wi-Fi wireless repeater on the pole, however the park’s Wi-Fi antenna is too far from me and there are too many trees in between. I'll have to use the personal hotspot on my iPhone to post this.
Late this afternoon we took a drive down the peninsula (between the James and York Rivers) to the small town of Gloucester, not far from Yorktown of Revolutionary War fame. Gloucester is also close to colonial Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, where the “Clash of the Ironclads” occurred in March 1862. This was the famous fight between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (previously named USS Merrimac before it was converted into an ironclad). They pounded each other for hours before both withdrew from the battle in a draw.
This is the Tidewater area of Virginia, defined from the 3 rivers – the James, York, and Potomac – that flow from the Chesapeake Bay. These rivers did make Richmond vulnerable to attack by water and the Union army under the command of Gen. George McClellan did attempt to reach Richmond by landing on the Eastern tip of the peninsula and marching up it towards Richmond. This was in 1862 and was known as “The Peninsula Campaign.”
McClellan was able to march his troops very close to Richmond. He split his army and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who was then in charge of the Confederate armies, saw an opportunity and attacked McClellan in the Battle of Seven Pines in which Gen. Johnston was wounded. The result was a draw and the Confederates withdrew into their Richmond defenses. Gen. Johnston was replaced by Gen. Robert E. Lee who began calling his command the Army of Northern Virginia.
Lee had Stonewall Jackson march his army from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond and join in attacking McClellan’s army. Jackson was late, yet Lee attacked without him at Mechanicsville. McClellan commanded the largest army in American history with almost 125,000 troops while Lee had barely half of that number. McClellan could have easily fought his way into Richmond but he overestimated the number of Confederates facing him and instead of pushing onward he began to consolidate his forces and retreat. This was the beginning of a week of fighting called “The Seven Days Battles.” From that point on the campaign consisted of McClellan trying to save his army and its supply lines with the Confederate army in close pursuit. On June 27, near Gaines Mill, Lee and Jackson both attacked and broke three consecutive Union lines by direct frontal attack. It was the largest single attack of the war and Lee’s first victory. However, it was just prior to sunset and too late for the Confederates to press on and achieve a total victory.
McClellan continued his fighting retreat throughout the week until he halted and dug in on Malvern Hill. Lee attacked repeatedly but could not take the hill and once again darkness concluded the fight. McClellan withdrew his army overnight and Richmond was spared but at a high cost. A little over 5,000 Confederates were filled or wounded compared to only 3,000 Union casualties.
We will visit the Malvern Hill and Cold Harbor battlefields tomorrow.