An Aide-De-Camp of Lee
Charles Marshall

[Notes: Chapter 4]

1 Johnston says: “The army crossed the Chickahominy because the possession of James River by the enemy suggested the possibility of a change of base to the river. And it was necessary that we should be so placed as to be able to meet the United States Army approaching either from York River or along the James.”—Battles and Leaders, vol. II, p. 207.

2 Lee found it very necessary to show a bold front in order to revive the spirits of his army. Davis arrived at “The Chimneys” while the conference was in progress and says: “The tone of the conversation was quite despondent, and one especially pointed out the inevitable consequence of the enemy’s advance by throwing out bayoux and constructing successive parallels.” There are few things more demoralizing to troops than having to await passively the slow advance of a superior enemy, and Lee, to avoid that, decided to be as aggressive as possible.

3 Lee’s great contribution to the military art was his use of entrenchments as an aid to manoeuvre. He was the first to perceive the possibilities which improvements in arms combined with entrenchments afforded. In 1815, neither Blücher at Ligny nor Wellington at Waterloo, though both were on the defensive, considered with the weapons of their day the use of entrenchments in field warfare. In 1854, the Russians on the defensive at the Alma had provided entrenchments for some of their guns, but not for their infantry. The Seven Days, therefore, mark the beginning of an epoch in military history.

4 Six miles below Long Bridge.

5 The preliminary order to Jackson to be ready to move was dispatched by Lee on June 11th, the same day on which he ordered Stuart to make the reconnaissance. The final order to Jackson to come to the Peninsula was sent on June 16th. (See O.R., vol. XII, part III, p. 913.)

6 This confirms the stories of D. H. Hill (Battles and Leaders, vol. II, p. 347) and Longstreet (From Manassas to Appomattox). Both these generals were present at the conference. Hill says that Longstreet suggested that Jackson, having the longest march to make, should fix the hour for the beginning of the attack, and that Jackson answered, “Daylight on the 26th.”

Longstreet says that Jackson first fixed the morning of the 25th, and that when he pointed out that the roads would probably be obstructed and Federal pickets met, Jackson altered the hour of attack to daylight on the 26th. To attack on the 25th, Jackson must have had all his force at Ashland Station on the 23rd. Jackson had halted his leading division for their usual Sunday rest day at Frederickshall on the 21st. Frederickshall is 38 miles by road from Ashland Station, and, judging from his experiences in the Valley, Jackson might well have supposed that his force would march that distance in two days. Lee’s order required Jackson to halt on the night of the 25–26th near Merry Oaks Church, 5 miles east of Ashland Station, so that, to get there at the required time, he would not have had to leave Ashland till the afternoon of the 25th. Lee therefore allowed Jackson an ample margin.

Henderson’s elaborate defense of Jackson (Stonewall Jackson, vol. II, p. 22 et seq) will not stand close examination. He blames Lee’s staff for requiring Jackson to do the impossible, and for drafting a “foolish order.” Colonel Marshall here tells us that Lee drafted the order himself, and that his personal staff merely made the necessary copies, and Lee in that order gave Jackson twenty-four hours longer than the latter, in his second opinion, held to be necessary. The fact seems to be that Jackson had rightly acquired a reputation for great speed of movement in the Valley, but that he underrated the difference between moving three or four thousand men quickly and a force of nearly 19,000. Jackson’s command had been largely increased, and now consisted of ten brigades, but his staff had not been increased, and he made a mistake due to inexperience of the time and means required to get a force of that size closed up and deployed for battle. It is also possible that Jackson overrated the use the railway would be to him. He had had no experience of the time required to entrain and detrain a considerable force. In fact, owing to shortage of rolling stock and interruptions to the track by the enemy, the railway was of little service to him after he left Frederickshall.

During the fighting of the Seven Days, Jackson’s command was further increased to nearly 25,000 by the addition of D. H. Hill’s division, and this may also account for the slowness of his movements after he first came into action. Henderson suggests (vol. II, p. 25) that one reason for Jackson’s delay was that he had not enough cavalry, “for Stuart’s squadrons were on his left flank and not on his front.” But a reference to Stuart’s report shows that this was not so, and Colonel Martin, of Stuart’s command, says definitely that he was in touch with Jackson’s advance guard at Ashland Station on the afternoon of the 25th.—O.R., vol. XI, part II, p. 528.

7 The wording of the order ran: “General Jackson bearing well to his left, turning Beaver Dam Creek, and taking the direction toward Cold Harbor.”

8 Lee’s plan was to leave about 28,000 men in the lines south of the Chickahominy to confront McClellan’s main army, while with about 59,000 he attacked the Federal right, north of the Chickahominy. He said to Davis, when the latter was anxious about the dangers to which Richmond would be exposed if McClellan attacked south of the Chickahominy: “I will be on McClellan’s tail.” As Marshall says, celerity of movement was the essence of the plan, and it may easily be imagined how greatly Lee’s anxieties were increased when the man most famous for celerity proved for once to be slow.

9 Jackson marched from Ashland early on the 26th, and the head of his column crossed the Central Railroad at Atlees Station at 9 A.M. so that he was six hours behind time. Jackson sent a report of this to General Branch commanding the left brigade of A. P. Hill’s division. (See O.R., vol. XI, part III), but this report was not passed on to Lee.

10 The defenders of Beaver Dam Creek were the Pennsylvania Reserves of Porter’s command. A. P. Hill, tired of waiting for Jackson, attacked on his own initiative.

11 See Stuart’s Report, O.R., vol. XI, part II, p. 514.

12 One reason why McClellan did not attempt these manoeuvres was that he believed as early as 12 noon on the 26th that he was being attacked by Jackson, and that he was contending against “vastly superior odds.” See McClellan’s Own Story, p. 394.

13 Jackson had halted for the night of the 26th at Hundley’s Corner, about halfway between Shady Grove Church and Bethesda Church. He never came into action.

14 Porter withdrew his troops to Gaines’s Mill during the night, in accordance with orders from McClellan.

15 They were only Porter’s outposts.

16 McClellan very wisely, instead of attempting such a manoeuvre, decided to change his base and retreat to the James. Lee was justified in assuming that his opponent would make use of his superior numbers in an effort to save his communications with White House, and he was unaware on the 27th that McClellan had, on the previous day, given orders for the abandonment of the York River Railway as a line of communication and of White House as a base; but he made a mistake in acting on the assumption before its correctness had been confirmed by information from the front, and in sending off on the 28th Stuart’s cavalry and Ewell’s division from Jackson’s command on what proved to be a wholly unnecessary expedition to White House, which base McClellan had already abandoned. The absence of Stuart’s cavalry was one of the main causes of the lack of information from which Lee suffered throughout the Seven Days.

17 Porter’s force at the beginning of the battle of Gaines’s Mill numbered about 27,000 men.

18 The chief cause of Jackson’s delay is generally said to have been a collision on the Mechanicsville-Bethesda Church road between D. H. Hill’s division moving from Mechanicsville on Cold Harbor and Jackson’s columns coming south from Hundley’s Corner. But in view of Marshall’s suggestion that Lee at noon told Jackson that he expected McClellan to move to his right against Jackson, and that he, Lee, intended then to attack with A. P. Hill and Longstreet, it may well be that Jackson was waiting for a development which never took place.

19 The 4th Texas of Hood’s brigade of Whiting’s division was the first to pierce the Federal line. The Confederate losses in the battle were about 8000, the Federal 6830. Porter, who had about 26,000 infantry against about 48,000 Confederate infantry, made a gallant fight to gain time for McClellan to prepare his retreat.