Four Years With General Lee, by Walter H. Taylor, Chapter 5

Four Years With General Lee

General Lee repairs to Richmond.—He is ordered to the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.—His Return thence to Richmond.—He is charged with the Control of the Military Operations of all of the Confederate Armies.—His Duties in that Position.—General Johnston wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines.—General Lee in Command of the Army of Northern Virginia.—The Seven Days Battles around Richmond.—Strength of the Two Opposing Armies.

SOON after the occurrences in Western Virginia just related, General Lee returned to Richmond and resumed his position and duties as adviser and counselor to the President. On the 6th of November, 1861, he proceeded to South Carolina for the purpose of directing and supervising the construction of a line of defense along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. He arrived immediately after the capture of Port Royal by the Federal navy, and established his headquarters at Coosawhatchie, on the railroad, about midway between Charleston and Savannah. Beyond the prosecution of the work of fortifying the cities and principal points on the coast and rivers, nothing of importance occurred during his three months stay in this department. He was in Charleston at the time of the great conflagration, and was compelled to leave the Mills House, where he had taken rooms, and which was with great difficulty saved from destruction, and to take refuge in a private house on the “Battery.”

In March, 1862, he returned to Richmond, and was assigned, on the 13th, under the direction of the President, to the conduct of the military operations of all the armies of the Confederate States. This position was regarded by some as rather anomalous in character, and yet there devolved upon the general a great deal of work that did not appear on the surface, and was of a kind not to be generally appreciated. Exercising a constant supervision over the condition of affairs at each important point, thoroughly informed as to the resources and necessities of the several commanders of armies in the field, as well as of the dangers which respectively threatened them, he was enabled to give them wise counsel, to offer them valuable suggestions, and to respond to their demands for assistance and support to such extent as the limited resources of the Government would permit. It was in great measure due to his advice and encouragement that General Magruder so stoutly and gallantly held his lines on the Peninsula against General McClellan until troops could be sent to his relief from General Johnston’s army. I recollect a telegraphic dispatch received by General Lee from General Magruder, in which he stated that a council of war which he had convened had unanimously determined that his army should retreat; in reply to which General Lee urged him to maintain his lines and to make as bold a front as possible, and encouraged him with the prospect of being early reënforced.

No better illustration of the nature and importance of the duty performed by General Lee, while in this position, can be given than the following letter—one of a number of similar import—written by him to General Jackson, the “rough” or original draft of which is still in my possession:


Major-General T. J. JACKSON, commanding, etc., Swift Run Gap, Virginia.

GENERAL: I have had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday’s date. From the reports that reach me that are entitled to credit, the force of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg is represented as too large to admit of any diminution whatever of our army in that vicinity at present, as it might not only invite an attack on Richmond, but jeopard the safety of the army in the Peninsula. I regret, therefore, that your request, to have five thousand men sent from that army to reënforce you, cannot be complied with. Can you draw enough from the command of General Edward Johnson to warrant you in attacking Banks? The last return received from that army shows a present force of upward of thirty-five hundred, which, it is hoped, has been since increased by recruits and returned furloughs. As he does not appear to be pressed, it is suggested that a portion of his force might be temporarily removed from its present position, and made available for the movement in question. A decisive and successful blow at Banks’s column would be fraught with the happiest results, and I deeply regret my inability to send you the reinforcements you ask. If, however, you think the combined forces of Generals Ewell and Johnson, with your own, inadequate for the move, General Ewell might, with the assistance of General Anderson’s army near Fredericksburg, strike at McDowell’s army between that city and Aquia, with much promise of success; provided you feel sufficiently strong alone to hold Banks in check.

Very truly yours,
R. E. LEE.

The reader will observe that this letter bears the date “April 29, 1862.” On the 5th or 6th of May General Jackson formed a junction between his own command and that of General Edward Johnson; on the 8th of May he defeated Milroy at McDowell. Soon thereafter the command of General Ewell was united to that already under Jackson, and on the 25th of the same month Banks was defeated and put to flight.

Other incidents might be cited to illustrate this branch of the important service rendered at this period by General Lee. The line of earthworks around the city of Richmond, and other preparations for resisting an attack, testified to the immense care and labor bestowed upon the defense of the capital, so seriously threatened by the army of General McClellan.

On the last day of May the battle of Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, was delivered, and General Johnston was wounded. On that afternoon the President and General Lee had gone out on the lines, and were present and under a severe fire as the troops of General Whiting went into action. Major-General G. W. Smith was next in rank to General Johnston, and assumed command of the army after the wounding of the latter. The next day, by order of the President, General Lee took personal command of the Army of Northern Virginia. He proceeded at once to make its position secure against attack, and to enhance its efficiency and strength, by every means in his power, so as to justify aggressive movements.

The brilliant achievements of the army under General Jackson, in the Shenandoah Valley, had so startled and paralyzed the Federal authorities, and had excited such fears for the safety of Washington, as to remove all apprehension of any immediate trouble from the enemy heretofore operating in the Valley, and to render improbable the junction of the army under McDowell with that of McClellan. General Lee, quick to observe and profit by the advantage to be derived from this propitious state of affairs, conceived the plan of drawing Jackson’s command to his aid, swiftly and secretly, in order that he might, when thus reënforced, fall with all his strength upon the enemy’s right flank, and compel him to a general engagement. The necessary orders were given. General Jackson moved with all possible celerity, and when he had reached Ashland, General Lee, having left Generals Magruder, Holmes, and Huger, with about twenty-eight thousand men, in the defenses of Richmond, on the 26th of June moved to the north side of the Chickahominy River with the remainder of his army, and took the initiative in the engagements embraced in the seven days battles, from which resulted the complete discomfiture of the army under General McClellan, and its retreat to the protection of the fleet operating in James River.

Without attempting an account of any one of the severe engagements embraced in the seven days battles, so fully described in General Lee’s official report, I cannot forbear mention of a maladroit performance just before their termination, but for which I have always thought that McClellan’s army would have been further driven, even “to the wall,” and made to surrender—a trifling matter in itself apparently, and yet worthy of thoughtful consideration. General McClellan had retreated to Harrison’s Landing; his army, supply and baggage trains were scattered in much confusion in and about Westover plantation; our army was moving down upon him, its progress much retarded by natural and artificial obstacles; General Stuart was in advance, in command of the cavalry. In rear of and around Westover there is a range of hills or elevated ground, completely commanding the plains below. Stuart, glorious Stuart! always at the front and full of fight, gained these hills. Below him, as a panorama, appeared the camps and trains of the enemy, within easy range of his artillery. The temptation was too strong to be resisted: he commanded some of his guns to open fire. The consternation caused thereby was immediate and positive. It frightened the enemy, but it enlightened him.

Those heights in our possession, the enemy’s position was altogether untenable, and he was at our mercy; unless they could be recaptured his capitulation was inevitable. Half a dozen shells from Stuart’s battery quickly demonstrated this. The enemy, not slow in comprehending his danger, soon advanced his infantry in force, to dislodge our cavalry and repossess the heights. This was accomplished: the hills were fortified, and became the Federal line of defense, protected at either flank by a bold creek which emptied into James River, and by the heavy batteries of the fleet anchored opposite.1 Had the infantry been up, General Lee would have made sure of this naturally strong line, fortified it well, maintained it against assault, and dictated to General McClellan terms of surrender; and had the attention of the enemy not been so precipitately directed to his danger by the shots from the little howitzers, it is reasonable to presume that the infantry would have been up in time to secure the plateau. The following extract from General Stuart’s manuscript, “Reports and Notes on the War,”[2] gives more in detail the circumstances just related:


. . . I therefore sent down that night a howitzer toward Westover, under Captain Pelham, supported by living’s squadron, First Virginia Cavalry, with orders to reach the immediate vicinity of the river-road below, so as to shell it if the enemy attempted to retreat that night. A squadron was left (Georgia Legion) near Shirley, and the main body bivouacked contiguous to oat-fields of necessity our sole dependence for forage since leaving the White House; but the regiments were warned that the pursuit might be resumed at any moment during the night should Captain Pelham’s reconnaissance apprise us of a continuance of the retreat.

During the night Captain Pelham wrote to me that the enemy had taken position between Shirley and Westover, nearer the latter, and described the locality, the nature of Herring Creek on the enemy’s right, and indicated the advantage to be gained by taking possession with artillery of Evelington Heights—a plateau commanding completely the enemy’s encampment. I forwarded this report at once to the commanding general through General Jackson, and proceeded to the ground with my command, except one regiment—the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, Colonel W. H. F. Lee—which was ordered down the road by Nance’s shop, and thence across toward Charles City Court-House, so as to extend my left, and keep a lookout toward Forge Bridge, by which route I was liable to be attacked in flank and rear by Stoneman, should he endeavor a junction by land with McClellan.

I found Evelington Heights easily gained. A squadron in possession vacated without much hesitation, retreating up the road, the only route by which it could reach Westover, owing to the impassability of Herring Creek below Roland’s mill. Colonel Martin was sent around farther to the left, and the howitzer brought into action in the river-road, to fire upon the enemy’s camp. Judging from the great commotion and excitement caused below, it must have had considerable effect. We soon had prisoners from various corps and divisions, and from their statements, as well as those of citizens, I learned that the enemy’s main body was there, but much reduced and demoralized. I kept the commanding general apprised of my movements, and I soon learned from him that Longstreet and Jackson were en route to my support. I held the ground from about 9 A.M. until 2 P.M., when the enemy had contrived to get one battery into position on this side the creek. The fire was, however, kept up until a body of infantry was found approaching by our right flank. I had no apprehension, however, as I felt sure Longstreet was near by; and, although Pelham reported but two rounds of ammunition left, I held out, knowing how important it was to hold the ground until Longstreet arrived. The enemy’s infantry advanced, and the battery kept up its fire. I just then learned that Longstreet had taken the wrong road, and was at Nance’s shop, six or seven miles off. Pelham fired his last round, and the sharp-shooters, strongly posted in the skirt of woods bordering the plateau, exhausted every cartridge, and had at last to retire; not, however, without teaching many a foeman the bitter lesson of death.

My command had been so cut off from sources of supply, and so constantly engaged with the enemy, that the abundant supply it began with on the 26th of June was entirely exhausted. I kept pickets at Bradley’s store that night, and remained with my command on the west side of the creek near Phillip’s farm. General Longstreet came up late in the evening; he had been led by his guide out of his proper route. The next day, July 4th, General Jackson’s command drove in the enemy’s advance-pickets.

I pointed out the position of the enemy, now occupying, apparently in force, the plateau from which I shelled their camp the day before, and showed him the route by which the plateau could be reached to the left, and submitted my plan for dispossessing the enemy and attacking his camp. This was subsequently laid before the commanding general.

The enemy’s position had been well reconnoitred by Blackford, of the engineers, the day before, from a close view, and further on this day, July 4th, demonstrating that his position was strong, difficult to reach, except with rifled cannon, and completely flanked by gunboats—all which were powerful arguments, and no doubt had their due weight with the commanding general against renewing an attack, thus far of unbroken success, against a stronghold where the enemy had been reënforced beyond a doubt. . . .

It is most disingenuous to speak of the retreat of General McClellan’s army as a “change of base” which that commander had purposed to make for some time previous to General Lee’s attack. This has been claimed by certain writers, but his repeated dispatches to the authorities at Washington, the last bearing date the 25th of June, in which he signifies his intention to attack General Lee, completely refute the idea that his movements after General Lee’s assaults were the carrying out of a preconceived determination to change his base of operations to the James River. His army was well in hand, and greatly outnumbered that of his antagonist; he had proposed to assume the offensive and bring on a “general engagement” on the very day that he was assailed;[3] after the first attack at Mechanicsville, when the purpose of General Lee was fully disclosed, he received the assaults of the latter on ground of his own selection; his men were protected to a greater or less extent by hastily-constructed but effective works—especially was this the case at Gaines’s Mill, where Hood’s command charged upon and captured one of the strongest positions ever assailed by either side during the entire war—and he destroyed large quantities of stores in his hurried movements to his “new base.”In all this there is incontestable proof that he was fairly beaten and compelled to retreat. In this connection I submit the following extracts from the dispatches sent by General McClellan at that period to the President and the Secretary of War, and published in full in the “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I., pages 327–340:

May21, 1862.—. . . I believe there is a great struggle before this army, but I am neither dismayed nor discouraged. I wish to strengthen its force as much as I can; but, in any event, I shall fight it with all the skill and caution and determination that I possess. And I trust that the result may either obtain for me the permanent confidence of my Government, or that it may close my career.

June2, 1862.—. . . The result is, that our left is within four miles of Richmond. I only wait for the river to fall, to cross with the rest of the force, and make a general attack. The morale of my troops is now such that I can venture much. I do not fear for odds against me. . . .

June7, 1862.—. . . I shall be in perfect readiness to move forward to take Richmond the moment that McCall reaches here and the ground will admit the passage of artillery. . . .

June11, 1862.—McCall’s troops have commenced arriving at White House. . . . Weather good to-day. . . . Give me a little good weather, and I shall have progress to report here.

June12, 1862.—. . . Have moved headquarters across the Chickahominy. Weather now good; roads and ground rapidly drying.

June 14, 1862.—Weather now very favorable. I shall advance as soon as the bridges are completed and the ground fit for artillery to move.

June 18, 1862.—. . . A general engagement may take place any hour. An advance by us involves a battle more or less decisive. After to-morrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as Providence will permit. We shall await only a favor able condition of the earth and sky, and the completion of some necessary preliminaries. . . .

June 25, 1862.—The rebel force is stated at two hundred thousand, including Jackson and Beauregard. I shall have to contend against vastly superior odds, if these reports be true; but this army will do all in the power of men to hold their position and repulse any attack. I regret my great inferiority of numbers, but feel that I am in no way responsible for it. . . . I will do all that a general can do with the splendid army I have the honor to command, and if it is destroyed by over whelming numbers, can at least die with it and share its fate; but if the result of the action which will probably occur to-morrow or within a short time is a disaster, the responsibility cannot be thrown on my shoulders.

June 27, 1862, 10 A.M.—The troops on the other side are now well in hand, and the whole army so concentrated that it can take advantage of the first mistake made by the enemy. . . . White House yet undisturbed. Success of yesterday complete.

June 27, 1862, 12 M.—My change of position on other side just in time. Heavy attack now being made by Jackson and two other divisions. Expect attack also on this side.

June 27, 1862, 3 P.M.—We have been fighting nearly all day against greatly superior numbers. We shall endeavor to hold our own, and if compelled to fall back, shall do it in good order, upon James River if possible. Our men fight like veterans, and will do all that men can do. If we have to fall back on James River, supplies should be passed up to us, under protection of the gunboats, as rapidly as possible.

June 28, 1862, 12.20 A.M.—I now know the full history of the day. On this side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several very strong attacks. On the left bank, our men did all that men could do—all that soldiers could accomplish; but they were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last reserves into action. Had I twenty thousand or even ten thousand fresh troops to use to-morrow, I could take Richmond; but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat and save the material and personnel of the army. If we have lost the day, we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the Army of the Potomac. I have lost this battle because my force was too small. . . . I still hope to retrieve our fortunes. . . . I know that a few thousand men more would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory.

To this Mr. Lincoln replied:

June 28, 1862.—. . . Save your army at all events. . . .

From Haxall’s plantation General McClellan telegraphed:

July 1, 1862.—. . . My men are completely exhausted, and I dread the result if we are attacked to-day by fresh troops. . . . I now pray for time. . . .

Mr. Lincoln to General McClellan:

July 1, 1862.—. . . If you are not strong enough to face the enemy, you must find a place of security and wait, rest and repair. Maintain your ground, if you can, but save the army at all events, even if you fall back to Fortress Monroe.

General McClellan to President Lincoln:


I have succeeded in getting this army to this place, on the banks of James River. . . .

I have not yielded an inch of ground unnecessarily, but have retired to prevent the superior force of the enemy from cutting me off, and to take a different base of operations.

In the testimony of General McClellan before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, the following appears:

Question. Did you suppose the enemy to be your superior in strength before the battle of Gaines’s Mill?

Answer. My recollection is that I did.

Q. And did you suppose at that time that you would be obliged to retreat?

A. It was a contingency I thought of. But my impression is that, up to the time of the battle of Gaines’s Mill, I still hoped that we should be able to hold our own.[4]

Colonel B.’s. Alexander testified before the committee that

While at headquarters, receiving his instructions (to proceed to James River with an escort to communicate with the gun-boats, and order supplies to be brought up the river), he was shown a printed order, not then issued, directing the destruction of the baggage of officers and men, and the tents, camp-equipage, and things of that kind; appealing to the army to submit to this privation, as it would be only temporary—“only for a few days.” He remonstrated with General McClellan against issuing such an order; that it would have a bad effect, would demoralize the army, as it would be telling them, more plainly than they could be told in any other way, that they were defeated, and running for their lives. The order was not issued, and General McClellan testifies that he has no recollection of any such order.[5]

From these extracts, I think it will be clear to the can did reader that the retreat to James River was a compulsory one, and due to a defeat then acknowledged by General McClellan himself.

The fighting, however, was not invariably attended with success to the Confederates; notably, the defense of Malvern Hill by the Federals was in favor of the latter, which result was as much due to the mismanagement of the Confederate troops as to the naturally strong position occupied by the Federals and their gallantry in its defense.

Considerable delay was occasioned in the pursuit, from the fact that the ground was unknown to the Confederate commanders. On this occasion General Magruder took the wrong route, and had to be recalled, thereby losing much precious time; and, when after serious and provoking delay the lines were formed for attack, there was some misunderstanding of the orders of the commanding general, and, instead of a spirited, united advance by the entire line, as contemplated, the divisions were moved forward at different times, each attacking independently, and each in turn repulsed. Moreover, owing to the peculiar character of the ground, artillery could not be advantageously placed to aid the assaulting columns; whereas the Federal batteries, strongly posted and most handsomely served, contributed in a very great degree to the successful stand made by McClellan’s retreating army at Malvern Hill.


A statement of the strength of the troops under General Johnston, now on file in the Archive-Office of the War Department, shows that on the 21st of May, 1862, he had present for duty:

Smith’s division: consisting of the brigades of Whiting, Hood, Hampton, Hatton, and Pettigrew10,592
Longstreet’s division: consisting of the brigades of A. P. Hill, Pickett, R. H. Anderson, Wilcox, Colston, and Pryor13,816
Magruder’s division: consisting of the brigades of McLaws, Kershaw, Griffith, Cobb, Toombs, and D. R. Jones15,680
D. H. Hill’s division: consisting of the brigades of Early, Rodes, Raines, Featherston, and “the commands” of Colonels Ward and Crump11,151
Cavalry brigade  1,289
Reserve artillery  1,160
Total effective of all arms53,688

In addition to the troops above enumerated, there were two brigades subject to the orders of General Johnston, then stationed in the vicinity of Hanover Junction: one under the command of General J. E. Anderson, and the other under the command of General Branch; they were subsequently incorporated into the division of General A. P.. Hill, and participated in the battles around Richmond. I have no official data to determine the strength of these two brigades; that under General Branch was attacked by Porter’s corps of McClellan’s army, on the 27th of May, and suffered severely. General McClellan claims to have captured seven hundred and thirty prisoners and to have killed two hundred of Branch’s command in that engagement. General Anderson informs me that the strength of his brigade in the seven days battles was between two thousand and twenty-three hundred effective, and agrees with me in estimating the strength of the two brigades at that time at four thousand effective.

Subsequent to the date of the return of the army around Richmond heretofore given, but previous to the battle of Seven Pines, General Johnston was reënforced by General Huger’s division, consisting of three brigades, under Generals Mahone, Armistead, and Wright. In the bound volume of the “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia” (vol. i., pp. 371–385), I find that Mahone’s strength at the commencement of the battles around Richmond was eighteen hundred; Wright’s, two thousand; Armistead’s, twelve hundred and eight, present for duty. Total of Huger’s division, five thousand and eight effective.

If the strength of the five brigades just enumerated be added to the return of the 21st of May, we shall have sixty-two thousand six hundred and ninety-six as the effective strength of the army under General Johnston on the 31st of May, 1862.[6]

Deduct the losses sustained in the battle of Seven Pines, as shown by the official reports of casualties, say six thousand and eighty-four, [7] and we have fifty-six thousand six hundred and twelve as the effective strength of the army when General Lee assumed the command.

Previous to the seven days battles the following reenforcements reached General Lee:

Ripley’s brigade, officially reported as twenty-three hundred and sixty-six strong. [8]

Holmes’s command, embracing the brigades of Ransom, Walker, Daniel, and Wise, and a small force of artillery and cavalry. In his official report, General Ransom puts five of his six regiments at three thousand effective.[9] Allowing the average strength of the reported five for the excluded sixth, viz., six hundred, and it would give thirty-six hundred as his total effective strength. In General Holmes’s report[10] he states the strength of Walker’s brigade as thirty-six hundred; that of Daniel’s, as fifteen hundred and seventy; that of Wise, as seven hundred and fifty-two. Besides the infantry, there were six batteries of artillery (four hundred and forty-three effective), and a battalion of cavalry (one hundred and thirty strong). The total effective of Holmes’s command, including Ransom’s brigade, was, therefore, ten thousand and ninety-five—say ten thousand men.

Lawton’s brigade, the last reënforcement received, was thirty-five hundred strong, as by the official report of its commander.[11]

The commands just enumerated include all the reënforcements received by General Lee, except the command of General Jackson, brought from the Valley. This consisted of two divisions, viz.: Jackson’s old division, embracing three brigades, commanded respectively by General Winder and Colonels Cunningham and Fulkerson; and Swell’s division, embracing the brigades of Elzey, Trimble, and Seymour. These two divisions were very much reduced by reason of the active campaign in the Valley. Of Jackson’s old division, we have the effective strength of one of its three brigades, before it marched to join General Lee, viz., that under Winder, which was officially reported eleven hundred and thirty-five strong.[12] Taking this as an average, the division had an effective strength of thirty-four hundred and five. Of Swell’s division, one brigade—and that the largest—viz., Elzey’s, numbered twelve hundred and ninety-three,[13] when Jackson’s command joined General Lee. Taking that as an average, the division numbered thirty-eight hundred and seventy-nine effective. Add one thousand men for the regiment of cavalry, and the artillery which accompanied General Jackson, and we have eight thousand two hundred and eighty-four as the total effective of his command.

For the purpose of deceiving the enemy, two brigades under Whiting—viz., his own and Hood’s—were sent to the Valley to join General Jackson just before he moved to reenforce General Lee. For the same reason, General Lawton’s brigade, on reaching Virginia when on the way to join General Lee, was in like manner diverted. Having already counted these brigades, I do not estimate them in giving the strength of General Jackson’s command.

We have now seen that when General Lee assumed the command of the Army of Northern Virginia its strength was fifty-six thousand six hundred and twelve; and that he was subsequently reënforced by Ripley’s brigade, numbering twenty-three hundred and sixty-six men; Holmes’s command, ten thousand strong; Lawton’s brigade, thirty-five hundred; and Jackson’s two divisions, eight thousand two hundred and eighty-four: making the total of reënforcements received twenty-four thousand one hundred and fifty; which would make eighty thousand seven hundred and sixty-two as the effective strength of the army under General Lee, in the seven days battles around Richmond.[14]

When General Lee assumed command of the army it was organized into divisions and brigades, as follows:

Longstreet’s division—six brigades, viz.: Pickett’s, R. H. Anderson’s, Wilcox’s, Kemper’s, Pryor’s, and Featherston’s.

A. P. Hill’s division—six brigades, viz.: J. R. Anderson’s, Gregg’s, Field’s, Fender’s, Branch’s, and Archer’s.

D. H. Hill’s division—four brigades, viz.: Rodes’s, G. B. Anderson’s, Garland’s, and Colquitt’s.

Magruder’s command—six brigades, viz.: Semmes’s, Kershaw’s, Griffith’s, Cobb’s, Toombs’s, and D. R. Jones’s. These were organized into three divisions of two brigades each, under Generals Magruder, McLaws, and D. R. Jones.

Huger’s division—three brigades, viz.: Mahone’s, Armistead’s, and Wright’s.

Whiting’s division—two brigades, viz.: his own, under Colonel Law, and Hood’s.

In all, there were twenty-seven brigades.

The army under General Lee in the battles around Richmond embraced the following commands:

Longstreet’s division—six brigades, viz.: Pickett’s, Anderson’s, Wilcox’s, Kemper’s, Pryor’s, and Featherston’s.

A. P. Hill’s division—six brigades, viz.: Anderson’s, Gregg’s, Field’s, Fender’s, Branch’s, and Archer’s.

D. H. Hill’s division—five brigades, viz.: Rodes’s, Garland’s, Anderson’s, Colquitt’s, and Ripley’s.

Magruder’s command—six brigades, viz.: Semmes’s, Kershaw’s, Griffith’s, Cobb’s, Toombs’s, and D. R. Jones’s.

Huger’s division—three brigades, viz.: Mahone’s, Armistead’s, and Wright’s.

Whiting’s division—two brigades, viz.: his own and Hood’s.

Jackson’s division—three brigades, viz.: Winder’s, Cunningham’s, and Fulkerson’s.

Ewell’s division—three brigades, viz.: Elzey’s, Trimble’s, and Seymour’s.

Holmes’s command—four brigades, viz.: Walker’s, Ransom’s, Daniel’s, and Wise’s.

Lawton’s brigade—unattached, under General Jackson’s command.

In all, thirty-nine brigades.

General Lee had received, then, but twelve brigades additional after he assumed command of the army. These, as has already been shown, were Ripley’s, Walker’s, Ransom’s, Daniel’s, Wise’s, Lawton’s, and the six brought by General Jackson from the Valley.

By reference to the official reports of the division commanders of the operations of their respective commands in the battles around Richmond, I find the following concerning the number of troops employed in those operations:

General Holmes puts his command, exclusive of Ransom’s brigade, at six thousand infantry and six batteries of artillery numbering four hundred and forty-three men;[15] General Ransom’s brigade, as already shown, numbered thirty-six hundred;[16] thus Holmes’s entire command amounted to ten thousand men. General Magruder reports his strength as thirteen thousand.[17] General Huger’s—excluding Ransom’s brigade, temporarily attached and already estimated—as shown by the reports of his brigade commanders, was five thousand.[18] General A. P. Hill gives his strength as fourteen thousand.[19] General D. H. Hill puts his at ten thousand.[20] General Lawton gives the strength of his brigade as thirty-five hundred.[21] General Longstreet does not state the strength of his division, but General E. P. Alexander, his chief of artillery, quoting from the official records of Longstreet’s command, puts the strength of the division in the seven days battles at nine thousand and fifty-one.[22] General Whiting does not give his strength, but the two brigades on the 21st of May, 1862, numbered four thousand three hundred and twenty;[23] they lost pretty heavily at Seven Pines or Fair Oaks, and on the 20th of July, 1862, numbered but thirty-eight hundred and fifty-two;[24] it is fair to estimate them, therefore, on the 26th of June, 1862, at four thousand. General Jackson does not give the strength of his two divisions, but I have already adduced good testimony to prove that his command, excluding Whiting and Lawton, did not exceed eight thousand two hundred and eighty-four. Allowing four thousand for the cavalry and the reserve artillery—nearly double what it was a month previous—and there results a total of all arms of eighty thousand eight hundred and thirty-five. This confirms the estimate obtained by my first method.

It appears from the official returns of the Army of the Potomac (as given by Mr. Swinton, in his history of that army), that, on the 20th of June, 1862, General McClellan had present for duty one hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and two.[25] Mr. Swinton also states that General McClellan reached the James River with “between eighty-five and ninety thousand men,” and that the Federal loss, in the seven days battles, was fifteen thousand two hundred and forty-nine; this would make the army one hundred and five thousand strong at the commencement of the battles.

I presume that the difference of ten thousand between this statement and the official returns is explained by the fact that no account is taken of General Dix’s corps of nine thousand two hundred and seventy-seven effective, stationed at Fort Monroe, but under General McClellan’s command and embraced in the returns of his army. The force under General McClellan, however, appears to shrink as we study this question, for the same author says (page 151), “On the north side of the Chickahominy thirty thousand Union troops were being assailed by seventy thousand Confederates, and twenty-five thousand Confederates on the south side held in check sixty thousand Union troops.” The entire strength of General McClellan’s army, according to this last statement, would be but ninety thousand. This is evidently an under-estimate of the Federal strength; and while the Confederate force on the south side, as here given, is nearly accurate, that on the north side is excessive by at least seventeen thousand. There remained on the south side of the Chickahominy, of Lee’s army, the commands of Holmes, Magruder, and Huger; their effective strength on the 26th of June was about twenty-eight thousand, as shown by the reports of these officers of the operations of their commands in the seven days battles.

The difference between this and eighty-one thousand would give fifty-three thousand as the strength of the Confederate force—infantry, artillery, and cavalry—under General Lee, operating in the flank movement on the north side of the Chickahominy. If we adopt as correct the Confederate loss as given by Mr. Swinton, viz., nineteen thousand, it would then appear that when McClellan reached the river with “eighty-five or ninety thousand men,”[26] he was being pursued by General Lee with but sixty-two thousand.


1 “The retreat of the army from Malvern Hill to Harrison’s Bar was very precipitate. The troops upon their arrival there were huddled together in great confusion, the entire army being collected within a space of about three miles along the river. No orders were given the first day for occupying the height which commanded the position, nor were the troops so placed as to be able to resist an attack in force by the enemy; and nothing but a heavy rain, thereby preventing the enemy from bringing up their artillery, saved the army there from destruction. The enemy did succeed in bringing up some of their artillery, and threw some shells into the camp, before any preparations for defense had been made. On the 3d of July the heights were taken possession of by our troops, and works of defense commenced, and then, and not until then, was our army secure in that position.”—Extract from the “Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War” (U.’s. Congress), Part I., p. 27.

General Casey testified as follows: “The enemy had come down with some artillery upon our army massed together on the river, the heights commanding the position not being in our possession. Had the enemy come down and taken possession of those heights with a force of twenty or thirty thousand men, they would, in my opinion, have taken the whole of our army, except that small portion of it that might have got off on the transports. I felt very much alarmed for the army until we had got possession of those heights, and fortified them. After that it was a strong position.”—Ibid., p. 446.

[2] On file in the archives of the Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va.

[3] General McClellan’s report.

[4] “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I, p. 25.

[5] Ibid., Part I., p. 434.

[6] As my purpose is to ascertain the strength of General Lee’s army in the battles around Richmond, I put Huger’s strength at that time in this estimate. The result would be the same, though the method would be different, if I took the strength of the three brigades on the 21st of May and deducted their losses previous to the battles around Richmond; as I have not this information, I adopt the other method.

[7] Longstreet’s loss was four thousand eight hundred and fifty-one, including that sustained by D. H. Hill’s division.—“Southern Historical Society Papers,” vol. i., p. 415.

G. W. Smith’s loss was twelve hundred and thirty-three. General Johnston’s “Narrative,” p. 140.

[8] “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee; published by Authority of the Co[n]federate Congress,” vol. i., p. 234.

[9] Ibid., p. 368.

[10] 4 Ibid., p. 151.

[11] 5 Ibid., p. 270.

[12] “Report of Operations around Richmond,” p. 70.

[13] Ibid., “Early’s Report,” p. 303; and Elzey’s “Brigade Casualties,” p. 142.

[14] General Early, in a very exhaustive article on this subject, published in the “Southern Historical Society Papers,” vol. i., p. 407, puts General Lee’s strength “under eighty thousand effective.”

[15] “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” vol. i., p. 151.

[16] Ibid., p. 368.

[17] Ibid., p. 190.

[18] Ibid., pp. 371–385.

[19] Ibid., p. 173.

[20] Ibid., p. 187.

[21] Ibid., p. 270.

[22] “Southern Historical Society Papers.”

[23] “Return of the Army under General Johnston,” Archive-Office, United States War Department, see chapter xiv.

[24] “Return of the Army of Northern Virginia,” chapter xiv.

[25] For copy of “Return of the Army of the Potomac,” see also “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I., p. 337.

[26] See General McClellan’s testimony, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I, p. 437.

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