|General Robert E. Lee|
RICHMOND, VA., June 1, 1862.General R. E. LEE:
SIR: The unfortunate casualty which has deprived the army in front of Richmond of its immediate commander, General Johnston, renders it necessary to interfere temporarily with the duties to which you were assigned in connection with the general service, but only so far as to make you available for command in the field of a particular army. You will assume command of the armies in Eastern Virginia and in North Carolina, and give such orders as may be needful and proper.
FIELD OF BATTLE, June 1, 1862-12 o'clock.
We have had a desperate battle, in which the corps of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes have been engaged against greatly superior numbers. Yesterday, at 1, the enemy, taking advantage of a terrible storm, which had flooded the valley of the Chickahominy, attacked our troops on the right bank of that river. Casey's division, which was in first line, gave way unaccountably and disunitedly [discreditably*]. This caused a temporary confusion, during which some guns and baggage were lost, but Heintzelman and Kearny most gallantly brought up their troops, which checked the enemy; at the same time, however, [General Sumner*] succeeded by great exertion in bringing across Sedgwick's and Richardson's division, who drove back the enemy at the point of the bayonet,covering the ground with his dead.
This morning the enemy attempted to renew the conflict,but was everywhere repulsed. We have taken many prisoners, among whom is General Pettigrew and Colonel Long. Our loss is heavy, but that of the enemy must be enormous. With the exception of Casey's division [our*] men behaved splendidly.+ Several fine bayonet charges have been made. The Second Excelsior made two to-day.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
*These words in revised copy. See McClellan to Stanton, June 5, 10.30 a.m., p.751.
+See also general report, pp.38-43.
WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., June 1, 1862-9.30.Major-General McCLELLAN:
You are probably engaged with the enemy. I suppose he made the attack. Stand well on your guard, hold all your ground, or yield any only inch by inch and in good order. This morning we merge General Wood's department into yours, giving you command of the whole, and sending General Dix to Fort Monroe and General Wool to Fort McHenry. We also send General Sigel to report to you for duty.
WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., June 1, 1862-1.15 p.m.Major-General McCLELLAN:
You are already notified that General Sigel is to report to you for duty. I suggest (do not order) that he have command of such of the forces about Fort Monroe, Norfolk, Newport News, &c., as you may see fit to put into active service, or such other command as may be suitable to his rank.
Washington City, D. C., June 1, 1862-5 p.m.Major-General McCLELLAN:
Thanks for what you could and did say in your dispatch of noon to-day to the Secretary of War.* If the enemy shall not have renewed the attack this afternoon, I think the hardest of your work is done.
Shields' advance came in collision with part of the enemy yesterday evening 6 miles from Front Royal, in a direction between Winchester and Strasburg, driving them back, capturing a few prisoners and one rifled cannon. Firing in that direction to-day, heard both from Harper's Ferry and Front Royal, indicate a probability that Fremont has met the enemy.
We have concluded to send General Sigel to Harper's Ferry, so that what I telegraphed you about him this morning is revoked. Dix goes to Fort Monroe to-night.
*See Part I, p.749.
Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 569 and others.
The battle at Seven Pines was resumed on June 1, but Longstreet's attempt to organize an attack was ineffectual. The highlight of the day was a charge by the Excelsior Brigade (Union) which had the effect of stabilizing the line. Flooding along the Chickahominy somewhat limited Union operations. The aeronaut T. S. Lowe observed that the fields looked like lakes as a result of the storm before the night of the opening of the battle. Joesph Johnston was wounded twice, superficially by a bullet, seriously by a shell fragment and command fell first to the incapacitated G. W. Smith and then quickly to Robert E. Lee. Lincoln and McClellan converse amiably here, Lincoln seemingly not very excited by the events of the day, McClellan making excuses for the reverses he had suffered.