Union forces, with victories at Fort Henry and Donelson in Tennessee under their belt, seemed to be marching towards inevitable victory as they made their way to Richmond, VA, the Confederacy’s capital. But, a newly-appointed Confederate army commander named Robert E. Lee was able to keep the Union troops at bay and send them reeling in defeat. It was a major turning point that changed the course of the then 2-year old war.
Battle of Glendale map courtesy of the Civil War Trust
The Seven Days Battle is actually a series of 6 battles—Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’ Mill, Savage’s Station, Glendale, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill—fought from June 26 to July 1, 1862. Led by George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, the Union forces had Richmond—and an end to the war— in its sights after coming up with victories at Fort Henry and Donelson. A tired and outnumbered Confederate army was staring at certain defeat especially after Joseph E. Johnston, their army commander, suffered a gun shot wound. Facing a serious dilemma, Confederate President Jefferson Davis handed over command of the army to a respected and experienced, but unproven, general named Robert E. Lee.
Abandoning the defensive-minded approach the Confederates had been employing, General Lee ushered in a new aggressive strategy. This offensive line of attack was a success, pushing McClellan and the Army of the Potomac back and eventually forcing them off the threshold of Richmond and retreating down the Virginia Peninsula. The complexion of the Civil War, not to mention the Confederacy’s fortunes, were changed in those seven days and ensured the fighting would continue for three more grueling years.
Want to learn more about the Civil War? Check out a Civil War Sesquicentennial getaway where you can tour actual battlefield land, take part in reenactments, and enjoy 1860s-themed events and meals. Also, make sure to follow our “Civil War Sesquicentennial” Pinterest board to learn about the major battles and find out which B&Bs are donating a portion of each booking to the Civil War Trust as part of “Reservations for Preservation.”