Battle of Gaines’ Mill
<<Today is the third of a series of posts on the Seven Days Battles near Richmond, Virginia that occurred 150 years ago this week.>>
On this date of June 27, 1862 occurred what will be the deadliest battle in the east to this time during the Civil War .
The events of the day before aroused great concern in McClellan’s mind that Jackson and his forces were lurking to his east in danger of threatening his supply lines. Orders were given early on the 27th for the army to change its base to the James River – the retreat was on in full flight. It was the role of Fitz John Porter to hold the Federal line north of the Chickahominy.
Porter selected a rather strong position with a new 1.75-mile-long line behind a marshy creek called Boatswain’s Swamp. Here the Confederates sent wave after wave of attacking men under the two Hills, Ewell, and Longstreet – piling up casualties at an alarming rate. The Union badly needed reinforcements, who came too late. The weight of Jackson’s additional troops broke the line, and only darkness prevented a total disaster.
Gaines’ Mill – the largest of the Seven Days Battles – was the only clear-cut Confederate tactical victory of the Peninsula Campaign. Union casualties from the 34,214 engaged were 6,837 (894 killed, 3,107 wounded, and 2,836 captured or missing). Of the 57,018 Confederates engaged, losses totaled 7,993 (1,483 killed, 6,402 wounded, 108 missing or captured).
All of McClellan’s fury toward Washington came pouring out. To Stanton he wired that he was “overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers … I have lost this battle because my force was too small … I should have gained this battle with 10,000 fresh men.”
As if that was not enough venomous spewing, in a wire that was not sent on from the War Department Telegraph office by its head Edward Sanford, McClellan said, “ … I have seen too many dead & wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Govt has not sustained this Army. If you do not do so now the game is lost. If I save this Army now I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other person in Washington – you have done your best to sacrifice this Army.”