Battle of Mechanicsville, Virginia

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Civil War Battle of Mechanicsville

Battle of Mechanicsville, Virginia
 
Other Names: Beaver Dam Creek, Ellerson’s Mill, Seven Days Battles

Location: Hanover County

Campaign: Peninsula Campaign (March-July 1862)

Date(s): June 26, 1862

Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee [CS]

Battle of Mechanicsville
Battle of Mechanicsville.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Forces Engaged: 31,987 total (US 15,631; CS 16,356)

Estimated Casualties: 1,700 total (US 400; CS 1,300)

Result(s): Union victory

Description: Second of the Seven Days Battles*. Gen. Robert E. Lee initiated his offensive against McClellan’s right flank north of the Chickahominy River. A. P. Hill threw his division, reinforced by one of D. H. Hill’s brigades, into a series of futile assaults against Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps, which was drawn up behind Beaver Dam Creek.

Confederate attacks were driven back with heavy casualties. Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley divisions, however, were approaching from the northwest, forcing Porter to withdraw the next morning to a position behind Boatswain Creek just beyond Gaines’ Mill. (See Battle of Mechanicsville: A Civil War History.)

Battle of Mechanicsville Map
Battle of Mechanicsville Map.jpg
Civil War Mechanicsville Battlefield Map

* The second phase of the Peninsula Campaign, consequently, took a negative turn for the Union when Lee launched fierce counterattacks just east of Richmond in the Seven Days Battles (June 25 – July 1, 1862). Although they are formally considered part of the Peninsula Campaign, the final battles of June 25 to July 1, with Lee in command and on the offensive against McClellan, are popularly known as the Seven Days Battles.

Source: National Park Service

Recommended Reading: The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula and the Seven Days (Military Campaigns of the Civil War) Description: The Richmond campaign of April-July 1862 ranks as one of the most important military operations of the first years of the American Civil War. Key political, diplomatic, social, and military issues were at stake as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan faced off on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers. The climactic clash came on June 26-July 1 in what became known as the Seven Days battles, when Lee, newly appointed as commander of the Confederate forces, aggressively attacked the Union army. Casualties for the entire campaign exceeded 50,000, more than 35,000 of whom fell during the Seven Days. Continued below…

This book offers nine essays in which well-known Civil War historians explore questions regarding high command, strategy and tactics, the effects of the fighting upon politics and society both North and South, and the ways in which emancipation figured in the campaign. The authors have consulted previously untapped manuscript sources and reinterpreted more familiar evidence, sometimes focusing closely on the fighting around Richmond and sometimes looking more broadly at the background and consequences of the campaign. From the Inside Flap: The Richmond campaign of April-July 1862 ranks as one of the most important military operations of the first years of the American Civil War. These nine original essays, by well-known Civil War historians, explore questions regarding high command, strategy and tactics, the effects of the fighting upon politics and society both North and South, and the ways in which emancipation figured in the campaign. Contributors: William A. Blair, Keith S. Bohannon, Peter S. Carmichael, Gary W. Gallagher, John T. Hubbell, R. E. L. Krick, Robert K. Krick, James Marten, and William J. Miller. About the Author: Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He has published widely on the Civil War, including six previous titles in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series.

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Recommended Reading: Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles. Description: Extraordinary Circumstances tells 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. One of the most decisive military campaigns in Western history, the Seven Days were fought in the area southeast of the Confederate capitol of Richmond from June 25 to July 1, 1862--and began a string of events leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and the shift toward total war. About the Author: Brian K. Burton is Associate Professor of Management and Director of the MBA program at Western Washington University. Continued below...

Reviews:

"A full and measured account marked by a clear narrative and an interesting strategy of alternating the testimony of generals with their grand plans and the foot soldiers who had to move, shoot, and communicate in the smoky underbrush." -- The Virginia Magazine

"A thoroughly researched and well-written volume that will surely be the starting point for those interested in this particular campaign." -- Journal of American History

"A welcome addition to scholarship that should be the standard work on its subject for some time to come." -- Journal of Military History

"A well-written, thoroughly researched study of the Seven Days.... Provides thorough and reasonable analyses of the commanders on both sides." -- Georgia Historical Quarterly

 

Recommended Reading: To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign, by Stephen Sears. Description: To the Gates of Richmond charts the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, General George McClellan’s grand scheme to march up the Virginia Peninsula and take the Confederate capital. For three months, McClellan battled his way toward Richmond, but then Robert E. Lee took command of the Confederate forces. In seven days, Lee drove the cautious McClellan out, thereby changing the course of the war. Intelligent and well researched, To the Gates of Richmond vividly recounts one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Continued below…

Publishers Weekly: Sears complements his 1988 biography of George McClellan with this definitive analysis of the general's principal campaign. McClellan's grand plan was to land an army at Yorktown, move up the Virginia peninsula toward Richmond, and fight a decisive battle somewhere near the Confederate capital, thereby ending the Civil War while it was still a rebellion instead of a revolution. The strategy failed in part because of McClellan's persistent exaggerations of Confederate strength, but also because under his command the Federals fought piecemeal. The Confederates were only marginally more successful at concentrating their forces, but Sears credits their leaders, especially Lee, as better able to learn from experience. Confederate victory on the Peninsula meant the Civil War would continue. The campaign's heavy casualties indicated the kind of war it would be. About the Author: Stephen W. Sears is the author of six award-winning books on the Civil War. He lives in Connecticut.

 

Recommended Reading: Seven Days Before Richmond: McClellan's Peninsula Campaign Of 1862 And Its Aftermath (Hardcover). Description: Combining meticulous research with a unique perspective, Seven Days Before Richmond examines the 1862 Peninsula Campaign of Union General George McClellan and the profound effects it had on the lives of McClellan and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as its lasting impact on the war itself. Rudolph Schroeder’s twenty-five year military career and combat experience bring added depth to his analysis of the Peninsula Campaign, offering new insight and revelation to the subject of Civil War battle history. Continued below…

Schroeder analyzes this crucial campaign from its genesis to its lasting consequences on both sides. Featuring a detailed bibliography and a glossary of terms, this work contains the most complete Order of Battle of the Peninsula Campaign ever compiled, and it also includes the identification of commanders down to the regiment level. In addition, this groundbreaking volume includes several highly-detailed maps that trace the Peninsula Campaign and recreate this pivotal moment in the Civil War. Impeccably detailed and masterfully told, Seven Days Before Richmond is an essential addition to Civil War scholarship. Schroeder artfully enables us to glimpse the innermost thoughts and motivations of the combatants and makes history truly come alive.

 

Recommended Reading: Sword Over Richmond: An Eyewitness History Of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign (Hardcover). Description: Publishers Weekly: Union General George McClellan's attempt to capture the Confederate capital in 1862, one of the most significant campaigns of the Civil War, has been comparatively neglected by popular historians, probably because of its complexity and seeming lack of coherent structure. Wheeler recounts it in a way that should attract a large readership: the judicious use of extensive quotes by participants and observers, linked by expositional passages of remarkable clarity, supported by good maps. Continued below…

The political and strategic aspects of the campaign are given fair due, but the emphasis is on the human element. The central incidents on which the personal narratives hang include the Monitor-Merrimack battle, "Stonewall" Jackson's diversionary maneuvers in the Shenandoah Valley and Lee's daring counteroffensive in the Seven Days Battles. The book is rich in dramatic anecdote, telling detail and eloquence.

 

Recommended Reading: The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Review: This is one of the most useful guides I've ever read. Virginia was host to nearly 1/3rd of all Civil War engagements, and this guide covers them all like a mini-history of the war. Unlike travel books that are organized geographically, this guide organizes them chronologically. Each campaign is prefaced by a detailed overview, followed by concise (from 1 to 4 pages, depending on the battle's importance) but engrossing descriptions of the individual engagements. These descriptions make this a great book to browse through when you're not in the car. Most sites' summaries touch on their condition--whether they're threatened by development (as too many are) and whether they're in private hands or protected by the park service. Continued below…

But the maps are where this book really stands out. Each battle features a very clear map designating army positions and historical roads, as well as historical markers (the author also wrote the /A Guidebook to Virginia's Historical Markers/), parking, and visitors' centers. Best of all, though, many battles are illustrated with paintings or photographs of the sites, and the point-of-view of these pictures is marked on each map!

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