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Battle of Glendale
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles
Battle of Glendale
Battle of Frayser's Farm
Battle of White Oak Swamp
Battle of New Market Cross Roads
Campaign: Seven Days Retreat
As Edwin Vose Sumner withdrew to the south following White Oak Swamp Road after the Battle of Savage's Station, Confederate forces under James Longstreet, A. P. Hill and Stonewall Jackson crossed the Chickahominy River. Benjamin Huger and John Magruder, who had been responsible for holding the Union Army at bay south of the Chickahominy since Mechanicsville, were relieved by the presence of additional forces.
The Union retreat from Savage's Station took Sumner's II Corps to a crossing of the White Oak Swamp River north of Glendale, Virginia. This wide river would provide an excellent natural barrier to protect the Army of the Potomac from Stonewall Jackson, who had drawn pursuit duty. Other federal forces had begun arriving at this roadway hub of the Virginia peninsula on June 29th. They formed a line south of the river that turned south west of the bridge.
Robert E. Lee wanted to continue his push forward, so before the echos at Savage's Station stopped, Huger began moving east along the Charles City Road. One of the best opportunities to trap a significant portion of the Army of the Potomac on Virginia's Lower Peninsula was missed because Huger was overly cautious on the evening of June 29, 1862. He received word that Phil Kearny was due north and preparing to cross White Oak Swamp (a river) at Jordan's Ford, but the information was outdated; Kearny checked the ford hours earlier and decided to continue along New Road to the bridged crossing of White Oak Swamp at White Oak Road.
George McClellan was holed up at Haxall's Landing, east of the Army of the Potomac's destination, Harrison's Landing, without a telegraph. William B. Franklin was trying the best he could to keep the army in order, but in general the Union leaders on the battlefield had been privy to the same mis-intelligence McClellan had and all were concerned about an enemy that outnumbered them by 3-to-1. Actually, Lee's forces never exceeded the Army of the Potomac, but moving towards Glendale Lee had more than 70,000 men against an enemy of 60,000 defending the small town.
With the Yankees on the run, Lee advanced Theophilus Holmes along the River Road to the site of a federal encampment at Malvern Hill. Lee's plan on June 30 called for the rest of his army to split the Yankees, encircling the men near Glendale. The plan counted on the timely arrival of Huger's South Carolinians and Jackson's Army of the Valley, both of which would fail Lee. McClellan was forced to defend Glendale mostly because of the condition of the roads on the peninsula. His wagon train of supplies moved rather slowly and was trying to make it to the James.
Huger's men were delayed by felled logs blocking the road while Jackson, exhausted after nearly 12 hours of chasing Sumner had fallen asleep under a tree. Joining Longstreet at the head of his column Lee and Jefferson Davis discussed plans with the Georgian as they rode down Darbytown Road. Ahead, Powell Hill and Robert Anderson organized the Rebel vanguard for an attack. Lee had heard from Huger, who would be delayed, so Lee ordered Magruder to rest his men. He still had not heard from Jackson.
Bad news came from the forces of Theoplius Holmes. The Union columns were moving past Malvern Hill, which would put them within range of the Union gunboats on the James River. Lee ordered Longstreet to begin the attack on the Union line east of Glendale. Longstreet sent three brigades forward, hitting the Union Army on a farm belonging to R. H. Nelson. Prior to Nelson purchasing the property a man named Frayser had owned it and locals still refered to it as Frayser's Farm.
Straddling Long Bridge Road (the road Longstreet and Powell Hill were advancing down), General George Meade who, as part of George McCall's division had been heavily engaged over the first five of the Seven Days. On McCall's left was Joe Hooker, who had been earning a reputation as a dependable division commander, and on his right was Phil Kearny, another dependable commander. Further north on Kearny's right was Henry Slocum. This mixed command (Hooker and Kearny were under Samuel Heintzelman while McCall was under Fitz-John Porter), would bear the brunt of the Confederate attack late in the afternoon of June 30.
After an artillery duel softened up both Union and Confederate lines, Longstreet's men advanced with Lawrence Branch from A. P. Hill's division in close support. Longstreet held back the rest of Hill's men to give chase when he broke the Union line. The Confederate assault was concentrated against a one-half mile section of the Union line, with Longstreet replacing brigades as they tired.
George McCall's Pennsylvanians were once again in the thick of battle, and as Longstreet swept across Frayser's Farm weak spots developed in the line. The line fell back, coming nearer to Quaker Road - the lifeline to five divisions of men fighting to prevent Rebels from striking the exposed wagon train. Lee, however, lacked the men to accomplish his goal. As the fighting spread south along McCall's line Fighting Joe Hooker got involved. At midday Joe had been scouting for battery positions; by six o'clock he was ordering guns forward to these locations.
Longstreet never exploited Hooker's line, choosing inside to hit Kearny's troops to the north. A veteran of several battles both in the Mexican American War and the Civil War, Kearny called the Rebel onslaught by a mixed division including Maxcy Gregg from Powell Hill one of the largest he had ever witnessed. When Gregg finally hit Kearny's line it nearly broke, but Kearny had moved nearer the battle and he rallied his men from a position not far behind the Union line. Gregg's men began spreading out along Kearny's line as if searching for weakness.
Samuel Heintzelman went looking for support and found it in Henry Slocum's division. Slocum's anticipated battle with Benjamin Huger never developed, so when Kearny's old brigade was ordered forward to support their former commander they literally ran into action, with the brigade commander's aide trying to catch them.
A division from Edwin Vose Sumner under John Sedgwick moved into line in some woods west of Quaker Road. As McCall's men withdrew under pressure of Longstreet's attack, Sumner and Sedgwick prepared to advance. In the line a young captain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, checked his men, tightened up his line and looked out towards the oncoming Rebels. As they moved forward Captain Holmes glanced at his watch. It was 8:30 pm. Sumner, Sedgwick and Holmes came up against Brigadier Generals Dorsey Pender and Charles Fields. Slowly, Sedgewick's men began to gain back ground that had been lost earlier in the evening. A Union battery that had been overrun minutes before by Confederates fell back into Union hands.
McCall decided to attempt to reorganize his men. They had been pushed back by repeated Confederate attacks, then swept up in federal counterattacks. As a result, almost all his units were randomly spread across the battlefield. He rode up to a group of men and ask "Who is your commanding officer?" The men responded "General Fields," to which McCall replied "I don't know a General Fields." The alert Rebels captured General McCall, their biggest prize of the day.
Opposite Sedgwick, A. P. Hill was about to send his final reserve into battle. Following Pender, Joseph R. Anderson was ordered to advance cheering and "making as much noise as possible." Although a few vollies continued from both sides, the Union troops also began to cheer, recognizing the end of battle for the day, at least near Long Branch Road.
Even as the day was winding down for troops in the center of the line, Kearny's men to the north were still being battered by stubborn Rebels, who may have known they were close to breaking the Yankee line. Kearny's old brigade had shored up his line, at least briefly, but an attack by Maxie Gregg was once again pushing Kearny back. Additional support from William B. Franklin came in the form of Colonel Francis Barlow. Franklin, stationed south of the White Oak Swamp Bridge had not been attacked and figured he could spare Issac Richardson's division. When the order came, Barlow did not wait to form, he ordered his New Yorkers to advance to the sound of battle. Barlow looked for a general officer when he arrived and that happened to be John Robinson, commander of Kearny's First Brigade. Robinson ordered them to attack. Barlow had them draw bayonets, and as sundown turned to dusk they were fighting Confederates. Darkness quickly made fighting impossible, and the Union generals began drawing up plans to move south, closer to the James.
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A. P. Hill
Battle of Glendale was last changed on - May 11, 2007
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