Fortune’s Favor~June, 1862~the fourth week

The month of June concludes with some of the worst fighting yet seen. However, by the beginning of July it will become clear that Lee has lifted the siege of the Richmond area. Lee and Jackson continue to grow in popularity with southerners. Union General Butler is increasingly unpopular with the people of Louisiana. Sarah Morgan compares the situation under Butler’s occupation to that of “the bitterness of slavery.”

Soldiers such as Elisha Hunt Rhodes begin to wonder about McClellan’s ability while some civilians in the North optimistically, but wrongly, expect part of McClellan’s army to be in Richmond. McClellan, unable to accept any responsibility for his own mistakes, blames the President for Confederate success. President Lincoln expresses his determination to pursue the war, calls for many more volunteers and demonstrates his wit with reporters. The North sees the formation of Union League clubs which will become politically important after the war.

The New York Times compares the adventure of Napoleon III in Mexico to that of Napoleon Bonaparte in Russia in 1812 and predicts the same result.


McClellan versus Lee

June 24– Tuesday– Jersey City, New Jersey– When asked by reporters why he went to West Point to see the elderly General Winfield Scott, President Lincoln replies, “Now, I can only remark that it had nothing whatever to do with making or unmaking any general in the country. The Secretary of War, you know, holds a pretty tight rein on the press, so that they shall not tell more than they ought to; and I’m afraid that if I blab too much, he might draw a tight rein on me.”

 June 24– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– In his diary government clerk John B Jones praises Lee and Jackson. “This is the harbinger of success, and I predict acareer of glory for Lee, and for our country! There are some vaguerumors about the approach of Stonewall Jackson’s army; but no one knowsanything about it, and but few believe it. Recent Northern papers say he is approaching Winchester, and I see they are intrenching in the valley to guard against his terrible blows. This is capital!”

 June 25– Wednesday– East of Richmond, Virginia– Federal and Confederate forces engage in the first day of fighting in what will be called “The Seven Days Campaign.” Today’s exchange takes the lives of 51 Union soldiers and 40 rebel soldiers, relatively small loss compared to what is coming.

 June 25– Wednesday– Pekin, Illinois– The first Union League, a club of upper middle class men interested in promoting loyalty to the Union cause, is formed.

 June 26– Thursday– Mechanicsville, Virginia– In the second day of battle around the Richmond area, a Confederate attack is repelled by Union forces. The Confederates losses of dead, wounded and missing total 1484 compared to the Federal total of 361 dead, wounded and missing.


Confederate hospital during this campaign

June 26– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– Citizens hear canon fire for much of the day. John B Jones takes this as a sure sign of Confederate victory. “The business is upon earth, where many a Yankee will breathe his last this night! McClellan must be thunderstruck at this unexpected opening of a decisive battle. Our own people, and even our own general officers, except those who were to participate in the attack, were uninformed of Lee’s grand purpose, until the booming of Jackson’s guns were heard far on our left.”

 June 27– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports that the news of the French defeat in Mexico on May 5th comes slowly into Europe and ponders how France will respond. “We notice in some of the European journals, rumors, ill-defined, it is true, that the French Emperor is accumulating sea transportation for an immense military force, cavalry and infantry. We also notice that the Paris correspondent of the Independance Belge states that the development of Napoleon’s designs will soon startle the world. . . . We cannot believe, under the circumstances, that so far as France is concerned, all is to settle down into a peaceful calm. And if the storm does burst forth, will its force be directed against Mexico, England or the United States; or, in favor of the Southern Confederacy, as some venture to whisper? In any event, we believe that the evil star of Napoleon III. like that of his uncle when he went to Moscow, has risen, and will, in the regular order of nature, culminate at no distant day.”


President Lincoln

June 27– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln accepts General Fremont’s resignation.

 June 27– Friday– Gaines Mill, Virginia– General Lee’s forces successfully relieve the Union pressure on Richmond in a bloody battle that causes General McClellan to withdraw. Federal casualties amount to 6,837 killed, injured and missing while Lee’s total approximately 8,750. As the day ends the Union army begins to move back toward the James River although McClellan held back about half of his force, keeping them in reserve rather than attempting to blunt or counter Lee’s attack.

 June 27– Friday– Whitby, Ontario, Canada– Birth of Georgina May Campbell who as May Irwin will become an actress, singer and popular vaudeville star.


May Irwin in a stage costume

June 28– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a private letter to Secretary of State Seward about the state of the war and his intentions. “I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me.”

 June 28– Saturday– Union army headquarters near the James River, Virginia– General McClellan sends a nasty telegram to President Lincoln in which he blames his defeat yesterday on the Lincoln Administration because “my force was too small.” McClellan does not say anything about the 20,000 troops he kept in reserve.

artillery mounted on a flatcar which became more common as the war continued

June 29– Sunday– Savage Station, Virginia– General Robert E. Lee changes the technology of warfare by mounting artillery on a railway car and having it pushed into combat by a locomotive on the Richmond and York River line.

 June 29– Sunday– Charles City Crossroads, Virginia– In disgust, Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary, “Well, the Grand Army is on the retreat. . . . General McClellan determined to raise the siege of Richmond and fall back to the James River.”


typical tent camp

June 29– Sunday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes in her diary about her present situation under Union occupation, complaining in particular about General Butler who had several men arrested. “We all felt so helpless, so powerless under the hand of our tyrant, the man who swore to uphold the Constitution and the laws, who is professedly only fighting to give us all Liberty, the birthright of every American, and who, nevertheless, has ground us down to a state where we would not reduce our Negroes, who tortures and sneers at us, and rules us with an iron hand! Ah! Liberty! what a humbug! I would rather belong to England or France, than to the North! Bondage, woman that I am, I can never stand! Even now, the Northern papers . . . taunt us with our subjection . . . . Ah, truly! this is the bitterness of slavery, to be insulted and reviled by cowards who are safe at home and enjoy the protection of the laws, while we, captive and overpowered, dare not raise our voices to throw back the insult, and are governed by the despotism of one man, whose word is our law!”

 June 30– Monday– New York City– Mr Daniel Dodge writes to the Pennsylvania politician Joseph H. Scranton, commenting about General McClellan. “The only hope I have in the absence of reliable information is that the strategy of our young Napoleon has taken his left wing into Richmond while he made a show of falling back with his right wing. Time will show.”

 June 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln calls for 150,000 additional troops.

 June 30– Monday– East of Richmond, Virginia– Confederate forces under General Lee fail in an attempt to cut General McClellan’s Union army in half.

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