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Battle of Oak Grove
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Battle of Oak Grove
Alternate names:The Orchard, King's School House, French's Field
As the Union Army advanced towards Richmond in late May, 1862 General Silas Casey [US] built a fort south of Fair Oaks to protect his men, the forward echelon of the Army of the Potomac. That fort, recaptured by the Union Army at the end of Seven Pines, was to be the starting point for Joe Hooker's [US] men at the start of the battle of Oak Grove. Now much larger than originally, the fort was Redoubt No. 3 in a string of federal fortifications along the front.
George McClellan chose the Rebels' right flank for the attack because the left flank ended at the Chickahominy River, where a large number of Confederates had amassed. The attack on the southern end of the Rebel line was only part of a general advance that day, incorporating four corps (Keyes, Heintzelman, Sumner, and Franklin) and the goal was to reach high ground northwest of Fair Oaks.
At 8:30 am Hooker sent two brigages under Generals Dan Sickles [US} and Cuvier Grover [US] forward through woods known as Oak Grove. The dense woods between Union and Confederate lines near the headwaters of White Oak Swamp had become the informal boundary between the Yankees and the Rebels over the last month. To their right was the the York Railroad, which McClellan intended to use to move his siege guns forward while on the left a lone brigade from Phil Kearney covered the flank.
Opposing Hooker was Ben Huger's [CS] South Carolinians, who had been ostracised heavily for their role in the loss at Fair Oaks, whether they deserved it or not. To the north, John Magruder's men stretched from the York Railroad to the Chickahominy River, where his line tied into the Rebels guarding the river to the north.
The rain of the past month had dried up and the temperature was soaring as Sickles probed the woods with a skirmish line. Grover, south of Sickles, advanced with two full regiments in a strong line of battle. Sickles men were heavily impeded by the thickest part of the forest but did eventually meeting the forward Rebel skirmish line and the main battleline. In the center of Huger's line Ambrose Wright's brigade moved out in waves against Grover's battleline across an open field south of Oak Grove. Wright's attack slowed and then stopped Grover's advance.
At 10:30am, less than two hours into the battle came word from McClellan to cease fighting. It seems that Hooker had been wiring his corps commander, Samuel Heinztelman for more men (an expected response to an advance on a battlefield) and Heinztelman, in addition to acting on Hooker's requests had been forwarding them to McClellan (this too, would have been normal). For some reason, McClellan read something into Hooker's reports and ordered the men back to their lines just as Dan Sickles had fully engaged the Confederates south of the York Railroad and drove them back.
McClellan had decided to move forward to command the battle and it took nearly 2 and a half hours to move from his headquarters to Redoubt No. 3. Robert E. Lee also moved to the front, concerned that McClellan's attack might not be to gain territory but to hit Lee's depleted line. Lee had repositioned most of his men to the south bank of the Chickahominy River in preparation for a planned attack the next morning.
Fighting resumed after McClellan set up his position, but little was accomplished that afternoon. The goal of the battle had been Old Tavern, a high knoll northwest of Fair Oaks, and as Heinztelmen's 3rd Corps battled Huger's men, Edwin Vose Sumner occupied the ground. The Battle of Oak Grove, although Union victory, is the first battle in the Seven Days Retreat
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Battle of Oak Grove was last changed on - November 28, 2006
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