The Seven Days’ Battles continue at Glendale (White Oak Swamp), Virginia, as Robert E. Lee has a chance to deal a decisive blow against George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had already won the Seven Days’ Battles, but the Confederates’ attempt to rout McClellan cost many Southern casualties.
The Seven Days’ Battles were the climax of McClellan’s Peninsular campaign in Virginia. For two months, the Union army sailed down Chesapeake Bay and then inched up the James Peninsula. In late June, the two forces began a series of clashes in which McClellan became unnerved and began to retreat to his base at Harrison’s Landing on the James River. Lee hounded him on the retreat.
On June 30, Lee plotted a complex attack on the Yankees as they backed down the peninsula. He hoped to hit the front, flank, and rear of the Union army to create confusion and jam the escape routes. Those attacks did not succeed, as they required precise timing. Lee’s own generals were confused, the attacks developed slowly, and they made only temporary ruptures in the Federal lines. Most disappointing for Lee was the performance of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson was coming off a brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, but he showed little of his skill during the Seven Days’ Battles. His corps halted at the edge of White Oak Swamp, and he focused his attention on taking a bridge from the Yankees. His officers located fords that would have allowed his men to bypass the bottleneck, but Jackson stayed put. This allowed the Union to move troops from Jackson’s sector of the battlefield to halt a Confederate attack in another area.
Lee’s failure at Glendale permitted McClellan’s army to fall back to higher, more defensible locations. The next day, July 1, Lee assaulted Malvern Hill and his army suffered tremendous casualties in the face of a withering Union artillery barrage.