The Seven Days Battle


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 19, 1862

This Section of the WEB site allows the serious student of the Civil War to develop a more detailed understanding of the key people and events of the Civil War. This archive includes all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This information is simply not available anywhere else.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to a specific page of interest)


John Porter

Fitz-John Porter

The Seven Days Battle

The Seven Days Battle

Lincoln Calls for Troops

Lincoln Calls for More Troops

General Burnside in Newbern

General Burnside in Newbern

Fitz-John Porter

Fitz-John Porter Biography

Chickahominy Swamp

The Chickahominy Swamp

Harrison's Landing

Harrison's Landing

Gaines's Mills

Gaines's Mills Battle Description

Gaines's Mills

The Battle of Gaines's Mills

Battle of Fairoaks

Battle of Fairoaks

Gaines's Mills

Gaines's Mills

Harrison's Landing

Description of Harrison's Landing

Richmond Cartoon




[JULY 19, 1862.



JULY 1, 1862.

I SEE the fair new summer moon

Gliding along the tranquil sky;

It lights that field of blood where soon

Thousands must die!


Are dying—as we talk by starts,

With hushed low voices full of awe,

Of woe to come, and breaking hearts,

The end of war!


The horses' bridles even now

Are red with blood, the trampled field

Is reaped. War's sickle as the plow

Counts up its yield.


Night's languid perfumes, summer's breath

We breathe with sickening thoughts; for there Sulphurous, scorching, charged with Death,

Weighs down the air.


Earth puts on Paradise for us:

Their straining eyes have looked on hell!

Its torments, anguish, curse,

      Around them swell.


Men changed to demons! hate and rage Lighting the dying fires of life

To hurl with oath and shout the gage

      Of hellish strife.

Black parching lips and glazing eyes

Turned upward to this fair, soft light! Shrieks, babbling, praying, moaning cries

Wear out the night.


This is the harvest of the tares

Sown while men slept. Oh fatal sleep!

Alas, what crimson sheaves it bears!

And all must reap!


Shall yet a fair harvest spring

From ground now nurtured by this blood?

Shall we a future paean sing

      Of praise to God?


He only knows. Faith's eyes are dim

With bitter weeping for the slain.

A Nation's trust, placed all on Him,

Seems now in vain,

God hides himself. No wail, no cry

Can pierce the cloud, the end foresee; Beneath His silence dumb we lie—

His "needs must be."

We need this anguish of suspense

To search our hearts and try our lives,

Till Faith, and not its proud pretense,

      Alone survives.


SATURDAY, JULY 19, 1862.


AFTER one of the most exciting weeks of the war, we can at last thank God that the Army of the Potomac is safe, and is in reality nearer the accomplishment of the work that it has been appointed to do than it has ever been. That General McClellan was placed in a position of danger by the sudden appearance of Jackson's army on his right flank, and that in the six battles which occurred on 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th June, and 1st July, we lost a large number of gallant men and officers, is true. But it is also true that the change of base from the Pamunky to the James River had been determined, and actually begun, before Jackson made his appearance. It is also true that, notwithstanding the furious attacks of enormous rebel armies, McClellan's forces moved toward the James River by the roads and at the rate directed by their commander; and after five days' terrible fighting, reached the point he had selected for them ten days previously. At every point which our forces reached in their march to the James River their provident leader had planted on each height heavy batteries of cannon, whose fire mowed down the pursuing rebels by whole battalions and brigades. Lastly, it is also true that, while we may have lost from 15,000 to 18,000 men in killed, wounded, and missing, we have gained the support of the James River gun-boat flotilla, which is worth an army of 100,000 men.

On the other hand, the rebels, who, according to the papers, are returning thanks for a victory, have suffered so terribly that prisoners estimate their loss at 40,000, and General Andrew Porter at 75,000 men. They have gained possession of the swamps where we have lost so many men by fever—nothing more.

On the whole, then, we have gained more than we have lost, and the rebels have lost more than they have gained, by the series of battles ending on 1st July. And now, if McClellan is promptly reinforced, and if Commodore Wilkes displays the energy which he has shown in other days, we shall soon see how absurd and wretched

it was to talk of McClellan's movement as a reverse. Never was there a moment when it was more opportune to renew the cry, On to Richmond!


THE London Herald, a paper which, having long ago ceased to be profitable as a mercantile speculation, is now carried on at the expense of the secessionists in England; the Paris Patrie, whose leading editors are owned by John Slidell; and certain persons in this country whose loyalty is generally distrusted, continue to harp upon the subject of foreign intervention in our war. The open secessionists urge Great Britain and France to interfere; their covert allies affect to fear that they will do so. The object of both is nothing more than to dishearten the North and encourage the South.

For none of them really believe that intervention is at all likely.

There has been, however, so much said on the subject, and so many respectable people seem to entertain vague apprehensions of foreign troubles, that it is worth while to consider the prospect seriously.

It is due to truth to say that international law affords no guarantee against foreign intervention. That law certainly denies, in general terms, the right of interference by one nation in the affairs of another. But it concedes that right when the course of events in any one nation menaces, directly or remotely, the peace or safety of its neighbors—those neighbors being, of course, the judges of what constitutes a menace. And it further concedes the right of intervention whenever "the interests of humanity" call for it; the intervening powers being again the judges of the nature of the exigency.

Thus, in 1854, war existing between Russia and Turkey, three other European Powers, having large interests in the Mediterranean, which they considered to be menaced by the steady encroachments of Russia upon Turkey, made war upon the Czar and compelled him to stay, at least for a time, the advance of his flag in that direction.

So, in 1827, war having existed for many years between Turkey and her revolted province, Greece, and the war being prosecuted with circumstances of the most savage ferocity by the Turks, three European Powers, Great Britain, France, and Russia intervened, in the interests of humanity, recognized the independence of Greece, destroyed the Turkish fleet, and placed a German prince on the Greek throne.

It would be very easy to show that the success of the Union arms involves no menace to Europe and no detriment to humanity. Frequent allusions have been made to the combined intervention in Greece as constituting a precedent for a similar proceeding in regard to the contest here. But the facts do not justify this view. The Greeks actually took up arms against their Turkish oppressors in the year 1770—five years before the American colonies fired the first shot for independence; it was not till fifty-seven years afterward that Europe intervened. Fifty-seven years hence, if we have not suppressed the rebellion, Europe will be welcome to send embassadors to Richmond. From 1792 to 1827 there never was a period of three months during which the Greeks were not fighting, in some part of their country, for their independence. Yet during all these years Europe never interfered, though the Greeks were Christians and their oppressors Turks; though, in 1821, every Greek who could be found in any Turkish city was brutally butchered; though, in 1822, Kara Ali absolutely depopulated the Greek island of Scio, slaughtering every male, and selling so many young girls into slavery that the price of slaves for the harem fell fifty per cent.; though, in 1825, '26, '27, Ibrahim Paella in the Morea cropped the ears of every prisoner he took, and then blew the mutilated bodies out of cannons. The writers who say that the same reasons which justified intervention in Greece would likewise justify intervention in the United States are evidently not familiar with the facts.

But it is clear that, if it was manifestly the interest of Great Britain and France to interfere in our war, they would find law and reasons for so doing. It is therefore of more consequence to us to find out where their interest lies in the matter than to trouble ourselves about laws and precedents.

The first overt act of interference by any foreign power would he instantly met by a declaration of war by the United States. Pending the rebellion, this country will patiently endure almost any amount of humiliation from the foreign world. But interference is war. This is well understood—in Europe as here. It would be a sore trial to us. But we could stand it. Instead of 600,000 men we should put 1,200,000 in the field, besides 150,000 negroes. Instead of $300,000,000, Congress would authorize Mr. Chase to issue $1,000,000,000 of Treasury Notes. Arrangements have already been made by which, in the fall, our iron-clad navy will be equal to that of France and England combined: we should, in the event of a foreign war, double that navy at once. The first of the new iron-clad ships in England is not to be launched till February, 1863: it is probable that neither power


now has a single iron-clad vessel which they would trust on the American coast. The Monitor, as is known, would sink the Warrior in about ten minutes. So much for us. Now for Europe.

In deciding to intervene in this country the Emperor of France and the Prime Minister of Great Britain would have to address their respective nations somewhat as follows:

"We have resolved to make war upon the United States because they are in trouble. We have no quarrel with them. On the contrary, our relations with that Power were never more amicable than they are at present, and by act and deed the Administration of Mr. Lincoln have testified their ardent desire to remain on friendly terms with us. We go to war with them for the purpose of destroying the Union, and securing the establishment of a new Confederacy based on the corner-stone of human slavery — an institution which we loathe and abhor, which we have abolished in our own colonies, and the extension of which we are making treaties and spending large sums of money every year to prevent. Our enemies in this war will be a race of people with whom—since 1812—we have never had any serious misunderstanding: our allies will be the slaveholding aristocracy, whose principle of government will be filibustering aggrandizement, who have already twice attempted to wrest Cuba from Spain, and whose President, at this early stage, already announces, in his letter to Governor Brown, of Georgia, his intention of making war upon his neighbors generally for the purpose of extending the sphere of slave territory. If we succeed in our object, the first victims of the rapacity of the new Confederacy will probably be our own colonies and those of our any Spain. This war will naturally involve some sacrifices. You are already paying pretty heavy taxes—about as heavy as many of you think you can bear. The war will double them. You are already suffering from the reduction of your trade with the United States in consequence of the rebellion. The war will destroy that trade altogether. You will not only sell no goods at all to the Americans, and get no cotton whatever, but you will get from them no gold, no breadstuffs, and no provisions. Food will advance from 20 to 50 per cent. in all your markets. Your foreign trade, if not destroyed altogether, will be prosecuted under circumstances of peculiar peril. American ships of war will at least endeavor to cut off your communication with India, Australia, the West Indies, and South America; the experience of 1812, when the American navy was less than one-fiftieth what it is at present, shows what can be done in this direction. In the mean time it will be necessary for you to keep a sharp eye on dangers at home. A large and powerful party in Ireland would doubtless embrace the opportunity of a war with the United States to strike a fresh blow for independence. In France the 'dangerous classes' would require very close watching indeed. And finally, we learn with regret that Mr. Cameron, United States Minister to St. Petersburg, is carrying on a negotiation with Russia which may lead to very serious complications after our new war with the United States has broken out."

Such would have to be the language of the rulers of the maritime powers of Europe in announcing to their people their intention to interfere in this country. It is easy to understand what would be the response of the people.

No man, in this changing and uncertain world, can be certain of the future. Men and nations have often acted as it seemed absurd and impossible for them to act. But certainly, as the case now stands, it seems gratuitous and absurd to doubt the sincerity of the emphatic declarations of the British and French Governments that they have no intention whatever of interfering in our quarrel.


A DISTINGUISHED American conversing, a few days since, in Paris, with M. THOUVENEL, the French Minister of State, was asked rather impatiently by the Frenchman,

"But, Sir, how much time do you want to take Richmond? How long must we wait?"

"I think, Monsieur, with great respect," was the courteous reply of our countryman, "that we shall be satisfied if we are granted as much time as the allies took to reduce Sebastopol."

M. THOUVENEL changed the subject.



IT is impossible not to feel that there is a great deal that is consoling and inspiring even in the terrible battle and prolonged delay before Richmond. It was one of the longest battles recorded in history. It was a contest between an overwhelming mass of desperate men, standing upon their own soil, well armed, ably led, terribly in earnest, and a smaller body of heroes, upon a strange soil, and inspired with the knowledge that they fought for the very principle of liberty and human civilization.

The battle raged for a week. Our men, fighting like tigers, slowly fell back, disputing every inch of the way, but neither routed nor appalled, and in retreating merely compacting themselves

and forming a better base of operations. In the very wild height of the battle, after it had raged for nearly a week, the gaunt, gray figure of Hentzelman towers along his line, invoking his staggering but undaunted soldiers to strike once more and charge; and with a fierce, grim will, not furiously dashing—they are too utterly spent for that—they launch themselves slowly, steadily, overwhelmingly upon the yelling and exultant foe, on and on, breathing death as they come!—on and on; not a lightning flash, but a lava stream—until, hopelessly swept along, the foe fall away before them in wild dismay, and the last blow of the long conflict is a ghastly victory of ours!

The persistent bravery of our men through the bloody and dreadful week redeems the story of our delay. They have shown the most splendid qualities. Their conduct is the earnest of success. The result is a lesson by which we are wise enough to profit. It is a disappointment that we are not in Richmond—but that is still, and literally, only a question of time. If the people who have not marched to the battle-field are worthy of those who have, the delay will be only a challenge which will be gladly accepted and answered by hordes of men. If we have received a blow, so have the enemy. If we have not succeeded, it is no victory for them.

After Bull Run we had a right to doubt the result, because it seemed as if we were cowards. After the Chickahominy we have a right to be sure of our final triumph, because of the splendor of our heroism. We are learning war. It is a dreadful lesson, in a fearful school. But it will save us untold horrors hereafter.


WHEN Lexington, in Missouri, fell, and Mulligan was captured, even the most faithful supporters of General Fremont shook their heads. They did not admit that he was responsible, but they said under the circumstances the public sentiment will doubtless acquiesce in his removal. But Fremont instantly advanced in person, drove the enemy before him to the Arkansas line, and, in the moment that he awaited a battle, received his recall.

This Lounger's faith in General Fremont did not fall with Lexington, nor has his confidence in General M'Clellan fallen back with his army. Look at the simple fact.

McClellan hoped to take Richmond, and failed. The enemy hoped to annihilate him, and were beaten back. They marched out a hundred and twenty or thirty or forty thousand strong, and fell upon McClellan with eighty or ninety thousand men posted in a swamp and across a river. The foe fought with furious energy, conscious that they must crush him, or his retreat would be their defeat. For a week he resisted them with heroic, with magnificent bravery, retiring not only without panic, but with splendid and terrible sallies of his troops, and at last, reaching his position, turns and drives back the swarming hordes of rebels, and remains fast and impregnable upon his new line of operations.

Of course Richmond, and not Harrison's Landing, was the point that McClellan hoped to reach. But equally, of course, McClellan's annihilation or surrender was the necessary result to constitute a rebel victory. That our General brought his men through such an overwhelming storm of battle safely to the James does not prove him a poor soldier. That he was outnumbered is surely no fault of his. We must remember that immediately after the evacuation of Yorktown, before Beauregard's army reinforced Richmond, M'Clellan said that the enemy was stronger than he. Let us be fair. If he did not win the battle against overpowering odds, he prevented the foe from winning it.


EVERY event in this war teaches us the same lesson. It is as old as human history, but it is hard to learn. It has been urged a hundred times in this struggle of ours, and a hundred times forgotten. It is very simple, for it is only, don't despise your enemy.

From the beginning we have been told that the rebels had no money, no food, no ammunition: that they were demoralized, disheartened, and coerced: that their cause was hopeless, and the issue only a question of a little time; that they were good at a dash, but had no persistence and would soon tire of a profitless and overwhelming war. Several times they have been on their last legs. Several times the back of the rebellion has been broken. The "end" has been "approaching" for a long time: and the staidest and most suspicious papers have occasionally predicted the very day when the national flag would float serene over every inch of the national domain.

We have all shared this happy confidence. These columns have not failed to express it, nor will they ever doubt the success of the nation in subduing this revolt. But let us be childish no longer. The suggestion of the loyal Governors is the prompting of the national heart. It is perfectly clear now, that if we had had a million of men more or less enrolled, and armed as rapidly as possible, we should have taken no steps backward, and the world could not have had the least doubt as to the prospects of the revolt.

Let us henceforth remember that this is a civil war; that the hate of men who have been fellow-citizens is a hundred-fold more bitter than the hate of foreigners; that the rebels feel their cause to be as sacred as ever our fathers or any people thought theirs to be; that they have for long years been taught to hate us and despise us; that the mass of them are profoundly ignorant and poor, and that their prejudice against us is malignant; that they look upon our army as an invading host, coming to waste their homes and insult their families; and that by a thousand reasons of conviction, passion, ignorance, and fear, they are practically united in opposition to the Government. Moreover, a people so inflamed and desperate, occupying 800,000 (Next Page)




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