The Watt House is preserved on a section of the old Gaines Mill battlefield from the Civil War’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Photograph by Dr. Thomas M. Mingus, March 29, 2011.
Recently I toured the Gaines Mill and Cold Harbor battlefields near Richmond for the first time in more than 20 years. A lot has changed since my first visit, including the creep of urban sprawl into the area and the threat that was what for generations pristine farmland and meadows will become just another section of strip malls, fast food restaurants, and cookie-cutter high end condos. Only a tiny fraction of the old battlefields has been preserved as parks, albeit the small parks are well worth a visit if you are in the Richmond area.
Recently the Civil War Trust announced a campaign to purchase two very small plots of land to be added to the Gaines Mill and Cold Harbor parks eventually. These tracts saw heavy fighting, and the Gaines Mill site is particularly important to me as this was ground over which Wheat’s Tigers charged (I wrote a book in 2009 entitled The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign, and during the Gettysburg Campaign some of Wheat’s boys camped here in York PA near where the Harley Davidson factory is now located). Major Wheat himself perished at Gaines Mill.
Here are some photos of the modern Gaines Mill battlefield, and the blurb from CWPT asking for contributions to reach $177,500 to buy the two plots.
The Civil War Trust is excited to announce a new campaign to save two important tracts associated with two of the most historic and bloody charges of the Civil War.
The first tract is a 1.8 acre section of the Gaines’ Mill battlefield – at the very heart of the battlefield. It was across this ground that soldiers from A.P. Hill’s, Roberdeau Wheat’s, Richard Ewell’s, and John Bell Hood’s units splashed across Boatswain’s Creek and up the steep, wooded slopes to the Union positions above.
The second tract is a 0.6 acre section of the 1864 Cold Harbor battlefield – where the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery made its fateful charge on June 1st into the heavily entrenched Confederate lines. The 2nd Connecticut lost 313 men out of 1,500 in this brave but doomed assault.
Now you have the chance to save the very ground where these soldiers, both North and South, made their desperate charges. Join us in saving more of the Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor battlefields.
Please visit the CWT’s website to learn more or to contribute.
June 27, 1862
In this, the third of the Seven Days’ Battles, Gen. Robert E. Lee renewed his attacks against Fitz John Porter’s Union Fifth Corps. In the early hours of June 27, 1862, Porter’s troops abandoned their position at Beaver Dam Creek and established a new defensive line behind Boatswain’s Swamp, just north of the Chickahominy River. Lee was determined to drive the Army of the Potomac across the river and sent the bulk of his force in search of the Yankees.
Shortly after noon, Confederates drove in Yankee skirmishers and encountered stiff resistance along Boatswain’s Swamp. The Federals beat back successive waves of disjointed Southern troops, inflicting some of the heaviest casualties the war had yet seen. By dusk, however, Lee’s Confederates were more organized. With daylight fading, the reinforced Southerners assaulted Porter’s anemic defensive line and sent the Northerners fleeing toward the river.
Only the approaching darkness prevented Porter’s corps from being decimated. During the night, the Federals limped across the Chickahominy and burned the bridges behind them. The defeat at Gaines’ Mill convinced McClellan to abandon the campaign against Richmond and “change his base” to the James River. Gaines’ Mill was the most sanguinary engagement of the Seven Days’ battles.
Text courtesy of the Civil War Trust. Donate now to help preserve America’s history.
The CWT’s website contains a nice photo gallery of images from the Gaines Mill battlefield.
All photos on this Cannonball blog entry courtesy of Civil War author Dr. Thomas M. Mingus, an adjunct professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He and his brother, a professor at Harrisburg Area Community College, recently published their first Civil War book.