Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5, 1862 (Wednesday): The Last Gasps of McClellan's Richmond Campaign

First Battle of Malvern Hill (Sneden)

Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Commanding U. S. Army.
MALVERN HILL, August 5, 1862-8 p.m.
    Since my last dispatch Colonel Averell has returned from a reconnaissance in the direction of Savage Station toward Richmond. He encountered the Tenth Virginia Cavalry near White Oak Swamp Bridge, charged and drove them some distance toward Richmond, capturing 28 men and horses, killing and wounding several.
    Our troops have advanced 12 miles in one direction and 17 in another toward Richmond.
To-day we have secured a strong position at Coggins Point, opposite our quarter-master's depot, which will effectually prevent the rebels from using artillery hereafter against our camps.
    I learn this evening that there is a force of 20,000 men about 6 men miles back from this point, on the south bank of the river. What their object is I do not know, but will keep a sharp lookout on their movements.
    I am sending off sick as rapidly as our transports will take them. I am also doing everything in my power to carry out your orders to push reconnaissances toward the rebel capital and hope soon to find out whether the reports regarding the abandonment of that place are true.



Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 1, Page 78.

McClellan was not fully informed initially when he was ordered to remove his wounded to Fort Monroe.  He took the liberty of assuming it was because an advance was contemplated when, in fact, the administration had decided to remove his entire force to Aquia Creek by way of Fort Monroe.  In early August there were rumors, no doubt because of the movement of Jackson to northern Virginia and D.H. Hill towards Petersburg, that Richmond had been abandoned.  McClellan was ordered to press the enemies lines and sent Hooker's Division with Pleasanton's Cavalry towards Malvern Hill, which commanded the road to Richmond along the James River.  The expedition was delayed by a day due to bad maps and poor guides, but it finally succeeded (augmented by Sedgewick's Division) in reaching Malvern Hill where a smart exchange occurred before the rebels retreated.  McClellan then requested reinforcements and received a blunt series of messages from Halleck informing him there were no reinforcements coming and there would be no change in the plan to withdraw his troops. 

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