Civil War Week by Week: 5/1/12–5/7/12

May 1st 1862

The official change of administration occurred today in New Orleans, La. Having been Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician) at age 4...taken by the fleet of Admiral Farragut, it was turned over today to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler for military administration. His tenure was noted by great efficiency in such things as sanitation and engineering, and great difficulties in getting along with the local populace. His dealings with the women of the city would prove particularly strained.


May 2nd 1862

A constant theme of communications between President Lincoln and his generals in the field was impatience. Few letters were written than did not request movement, action, or battle, or at least information on when such activities might get underway. Today George McClellan receive a note that his request for heavy guns “alarms me–chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?” Lincoln wanted to know.

May 3rd 1862

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, CSA, had been battling for more than a month to fend off the Army of the Potomac under George McClellan. The Federals had brought in siege guns, and were adding more forces across the Rappahannock, and Johnston finally decided to evacuate Yorktown to further up the Peninsula. McClellan, despite outnumbering the Confederates 2-1, had never launched an actual attack because he feared he was the one outnumbered.

May 4th 1862

Gen. Joseph Johnston’s decision yesterday to withdraw from Yorktown, Va., allowed McClellan to move the Army of the Potomac in today without opposition. Some units were ordered to move further ahead on the road to Williamsburg, and they encountered troops of Longstreet and Hill, with minor unpleasantness occurring. The Stars and Stripes were raised over Gloucester Point, across the river from Yorktown.

May 5th 1862

The Union Army, having taken Yorktown without a fight when Gen. Joseph Johnston withdrew, got a little ahead of themselves today. Units of the Army of the Potomac came upon the rearguard of Longstreet and Hill, in trenches dug earlier by Magruder. What was essentially a fighting retreat turned into pitched battle as more and more soldiers piled in. Winfield Hancock’s men eventually outflanked the Confederate line. Only with the fall of night were the Southerners able to complete their withdrawal.

May 6th 1862

The Confederate forces continued to retreat back towards Richmond just barely ahead of the oncoming Union troops. Today it was the town of Williamsburg which essentially saw the rearguard leaving as the Union scouts hit the other side of town. Union forces were being augmented by fresh troops which were being transported up the York River, escorted by the USS Wachusett under Cmdr. W. Smith.

May 7th 1862

The Federals continued their pursuit of the retreating Virginians on the Peninsula today. No major battle occurred, but there was an attack on William D. Franklin’s men by Confederate G.W. Smith. Smith was protecting the wagons holding vital Southern supplies. This is variously known as the Battle of West Point, Barhnamsville, or Eltham’s Landing. Other fighting occurred at Purdy, Tenn., and Horse Creek, Mo.


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