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RICHMOND
National Battlefield Park
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PART ONE
THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN, SUMMER, 1862

(continued)

McClellan's withdrawal
McClellan's withdrawal.
From a contemporary sketch.


End of Campaign

During the night McClellan continued his withdrawal, and the next day found the Army of the Potomac safe at Harrison's Landing under the protection of the Federal gunboats on the James. The Seven Days were over. Total casualties: Army of Northern Virginia, 20,614; Army of the Potomac, 15,849.

In his official report of the campaign Lee stated: "Under ordinary circumstances the Federal Army should have been destroyed. Its escape was due to * * * the want of correct and timely information. This fact, attributable chiefly to the character of the country, enabled Gen. McClellan skillfully to conceal his retreat and to add much to the obstructions with which nature had beset the way of our pursuing columns * * *." But his other objective had been achieved—Richmond was safe, at least for the time being.

Harrison's Landing
Army of the Potomac at Harrison's Landing.
From a contemporary sketch.

While McClellan had successfully changed his base of operations from the York to the James River and saved his army in the process, he had failed in his first objective of capturing Richmond and possibly ending the war. The decision to remove the army from the peninsula, rather than reinforce it for another attempt on Richmond, was made in Washington over McClellan's strong objections. He wrote to Gen. Henry W. Halleck: "It is here on the banks of the James, that the fate of the Union should be decided."

Although McClellan wisely realized the advantages of another assault on Richmond on the line of the James, it was his own mistaken view of Lee's strength that was the major reason for the withdrawal. As Halleck explained to him:

You and your officers at one interview estimated the enemy's forces in and around Richmond at 200,000 men. Since then you and other's report that they have received and are receiving large re-enforcement's from the South. General Pope's army covering Washington is only about 40,000. Your effective force is only about 90,000. You are 30 miles from Richmond, and General Pope 80 or 90, with the enemy directly between you, ready to fall with his superior number's upon one or the other, as he may elect. Neither can re-enforce the other in case of such an attack. If General Pope's army be diminished to re-enforce you, Washington, Maryland, and Pennsylvania would be left uncovered and exposed. If your force be reduced to strengthen Pope, you would be too weak to even hold the position you now occupy should the enemy turn around and attack you in full force. In other word's, the old Army of the Potomac is split into two part's * * * and I wish to unite them.

In August the Army of the Potomac was transported by water back to Washington to support Pope's campaign in Northern Virginia. McClellan's failure to capture the Confederate Capital, combined with Lee's failure to destroy the Union Army, assured the nation a long, bitter war that became one of the great turning points in American history.

McClellan's cartographers
McClellan's cartographers.
Courtesy, Library of Congress.


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