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American Civil War: Battle of Seven Pines

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American Civil War: Battle of Seven Pines

Battle of Seven Pines, 1862

Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Battle of Seven Pines - Conflict:

The Battle of Seven Pines took place during the American Civil War.

Battle of Seven Pines - Date:

The fighting at Seven Pines occurred on May 31, 1862.

Armies & Commanders:

Union

Confederate

Battle of Seven Pines - Overview:

As Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac advanced on Richmond, his Confederate counterpart, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston moved to defend the capital. Outnumbered, Johnston sought to isolate and destroy the Union III and IV Corps which were operating south of the Chickahominy River. His plan called for two-thirds of his army, approximately 51,000 men, to make the attack while the remaining third occupied and held the bulk of the Union army north of the river.

The execution of Johnston's plan went badly from the start, with the attack beginning five hours late and with only a fraction of the intended troops participating. After some initial resistance, the men of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill's division succeeded in pushing back elements of the IV Corps to their secondary defensive line at Seven Pines. After being reinforced, Hill was able to flank the southern wing of the IV Corps, forcing them to retreat to the Williamsburg Road. During the fighting, Johnston moved forward with three brigades against the northern part of the IV Corps' line near Fair Oaks Station.

Reinforced by a division from the II Corps, this part of the Union line held. Around dusk, Johnston was struck in the right shoulder by a bullet and in the chest by shrapnel. Briefly replaced by Gen. G.W. Smith, he was officially replaced by Gen. Robert E. Lee that night. Lee renewed the attack the following morning, but was unable to dislodge the Union troops.

Aftermath of the Battle of Seven Pines:

The Battle of Seven Pines cost McClellan 790 killed, 3,594 wounded, and 647 captured/missing. Confederate losses numbered 980 killed, 4,749 wounded, and 405 captured/missing. The battle marked the highpoint of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign and the high casualties shook the Union commander's confidence. For over three weeks the Union army sat idle until the fighting was renewed at the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25. The battle marked the beginning of the Seven Days Battles which saw Lee force McClellan away from Richmond and back down the Peninsula.

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