It’s historic anniversary season for McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign… So which battle or skirmish on the Virginia Peninsula was most significant and important between March and June 1862? Why?
Let’s leave the Seven Days Battles for another discussion…
So glad the question addresses the period March til June 1862, because the most significant “action” was neither a battle nor a skirmish, but a Decision: that which removed McClellan as Chief of the Union Army. Because the immediate result was establishment of President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as co-chiefs of the Union Army (an experiment that failed, and failed badly.)
I was going to comment along the same lines, but I re-read the question and saw the specific timeline mentioned, so my musings became invalid.
I vote for Drewry’s Bluff.
I like Maxwell’s thinking, although I can’t see how removing McClellan and replacing him with the two headed circus really lowered the bar any further. Both were equally inept. I would vote for the “siege” of Yorktown, which allowed Johnston to at least concentrate his army without undo haste.
USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. Well, not exactly “on” the Peninsula, but close. McClellan asked Welles to send Monitor up the Potomac to cover his troop convoys to the Peninsula. Welles dispatched new orders to New York where Monitor was fitting out but fortunately they arrived a few hours after she had departed for Hampton Roads.
Seven Pines because Joe Johnston’s wound resulted in Lee’s elevation to command significantly impacting the Eastern theater as well as the Confederate strategic thinking for the rest of the war.
McClellan’s failure to take advantage of Magruder’s flawed line by April 7, opting instead for a siege. An examination of the line and of Magruder’s indisputable lack of adequate numbers to hold it shows that this was McClellan’s best chance to achieve his objectives. His poor decision here essentially dictated the direction of his campaign. I’ll leave Mac’s ridiculous math to another time.
Yep, the engagement at Lee’s Mill on April 5 (not to be confused with Dam Number 1 on April 16) eroded any chance of McClellan’s move to the Peninsula catching the Confederates off guard. One small battery, incredibly flawed maps, and a timid commander bogged the Army of the Potomac down on the peninsula.
It is remarkable that some folks still try to justify McClellan’s decision. Magruder was in a high anxiety state for a reason – he knew he didn’t have close to what he needed at the Warwick line. As Johnston would say later, “only McClellan …” I am convinced that McClellan “learned” all of the wrong lessons in the Crimea. The Lee’s Mill event was a perfect example that the combination of McClellan making a decision based on input from Keyes was 0 + 0 = -2. And Keyes was a guy who McClellan did not think highly of – except, of course, when Keyes “validated” Mac’s own timidity.
The single event in my mind is McClellan’s intelligence assessments. The significant overstating of ha he faced as far as troop numbers impacted virtually everything in the campaign.
That should have said “The significant overstating of what he faced…..”
I ask again, PLEASE put an ‘edit’ function on here!
I’m voting for the Battle of Williamsburg. Maybe not a hugely significant moment, but it’s an irony in American history for sure. And battlefield leaders start to emerge there – W.S. Hancock “was superb”, for example.
One of the single best pieces by a sketch artist during the war was Waud’s wash drawing of Kearney at Williamsburg. If you never read anything about Kearney, that drawing still would tell you everything you need to know. .
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NOT being a scholar in the subject, it is my opinion that the most important event of the period was the Union overnight flight from Savages Station to the one good escape crossing at White Oak Swamp. Had Lee realized this he might have bottled up the entire Union army.
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