Author: Brian K. Burton

the dean and a professor of management at the College of Business and Economics at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington

Seven Days’ Battles

The Seven Days’ Battles, fought June 25–July 1, 1862, were the decisive engagements of the Peninsula Campaign during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Union general George B. McClellan had attempted to march his Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula between the York and James rivers but was stalled first at Yorktown, then at Williamsburg, and finally at the fierce battle at Seven Pines–Fair Oaks (May 31–June 1), during which Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston was severely wounded. General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia and, to prevent a siege of the Confederate capital at Richmond, went on the offensive. The first of Lee’s attacks occurred on June 26, and after two days of fighting he forced McClellan to abandon his supply line and begin a retreat back to the James River. Lee pursued and came close to destroying the Union army on June 30 at Glendale. He suffered a major tactical defeat the next day at Malvern Hill, but McClellan ensured a Confederate strategic victory by continuing his retreat to Harrison’s Landing. The battles ended McClellan’s campaign to take Richmond, as well as the last chance to end the war under circumstances that might resemble the status quo of 1860.


Peninsula Campaign

The Peninsula Campaign, fought during the spring and summer of 1862, was an attempt by Union general-in-chief George B. McClellan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond from the southeast during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Pressured by United States president Abraham Lincoln to mount an offensive—Union forces had been dormant since the previous July—McClellan steamed his Army of the Potomac down the Chesapeake Bay, landed it at Fort Monroe, and marched it up the Peninsula between the James and York rivers. He was confronted at Yorktown by Confederates under John B. Magruder, who convinced McClellan that Confederate forces were stronger than they actually were. Consequently, on April 5 McClellan began a siege rather than attacking, providing time for Joseph E. Johnston‘s Army of Northern Virginia to arrive. Union and Confederate forces next fought each other at Williamsburg on May 5. Then Johnston took advantage of the fact that McClellan’s army was caught on both sides of a rain-swollen Chickahominy River, attacking him at the Battle of Seven Pines–Fair Oaks on May 31. Johnston was wounded in the two-day battle, and Robert E. Lee took command of Confederate forces, attacking McClellan three weeks later and, in the Seven Days’ Campaign, driving him off the Peninsula and saving Richmond.