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Stuart 's cavalry, Johnston's rearguard. To give time for the bulk of his army to get free, Johnston detached part of his force to make a stand at a large earthen fortification, Fort Magruder , straddling the Williamsburg Road from Yorktown , constructed earlier by Magruder. The Battle of Williamsburg was the first pitched battle of the Peninsula campaign, in which nearly 41, Union and 32, Confederates were engaged. They assaulted Fort Magruder and a line of rifle pits and smaller fortifications that extended in an arc southwest from the fort, but were repulsed.

Confederate counterattacks, directed by Maj. James Longstreet , threatened to overwhelm Hooker's division, which had contested the ground alone since the early morning while waiting for the main body of the army to arrive.

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Hooker had expected Baldy Smith's division of the IV Corps , marching north on the Yorktown Road, to hear the sound of battle and come in on Hooker's right in support. However, Smith had been halted by Sumner more than a mile away from Hooker's position. He had been concerned that the Confederates would leave their fortifications and attack him on the Yorktown Road. Longstreet's men did leave their fortifications, but they attacked Hooker, not Smith or Sumner. The brigade of Brig. Cadmus M.


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Wilcox applied strong pressure to Hooker's line. Hooker's retreating men were aided by the arrival of Brig. Kearny ostentatiously rode his horse out in front of his picket lines to reconnoiter and urged his men forward by flashing his saber with his only arm. The Confederates were pushed off the Lee's Mill Road and back into the woods and the abatis of their defensive positions. There, sharp firefights occurred until late in the afternoon.

Winfield S.

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Hancock 's 1st Brigade of Baldy Smith's division, which had marched a few miles to the Federal right and crossed Cub's Creek at the point where it was dammed to form the Jones's Mill pond, began bombarding Longstreet's left flank around noon. Hill , commanding Longstreet's reserve force, had previously detached a brigade under Brig. Jubal A. Splitting his command, Early led two of his four regiments through the woods without performing adequate reconnaissance and found that they emerged not on the enemy's flank, but directly in front of Hancock's guns, which occupied two abandoned redoubts.

He personally led the 24th Virginia Infantry on a futile assault and was wounded by a bullet through the shoulder. Hancock had been ordered repeatedly by Sumner to withdraw his command back to Cub Creek, but he used the Confederate attack as an excuse to hold his ground. As the 24th Virginia charged, D. Hill emerged from the woods leading one of Early's other regiments, the 5th North Carolina. He ordered an attack before realizing the difficulty of his situation—Hancock's 3, infantrymen and eight artillery pieces significantly outnumbered the two attacking Confederate regiments, fewer than 1, men with no artillery support.

He called off the assault after it had begun, but Hancock ordered a counterattack. After the battle, the counterattack received significant publicity as a major, gallant bayonet charge and McClellan's description of Hancock's "superb" performance gave him the nickname, "Hancock the Superb. Confederate casualties at Williamsburg were 1,, Union 2, McClellan miscategorized his first significant battle as a "brilliant victory" over superior forces. However, the defense of Williamsburg was seen by the South as a means of delaying the Federals, which allowed the bulk of the Confederate army to continue its withdrawal toward Richmond.

After McClellan ordered Franklin's division to turn Johnston's army with an amphibious operation on the York River, it took two days just to board the men and equipment onto the ships, so Franklin was of no assistance to the Williamsburg action.

But McClellan had high hopes for his turning movement, planning to send other divisions those of Brig. Richardson by river after Franklin's. The landing was close to a key intersection on the road to New Kent Court House that was being used by Johnston's army on the afternoon of May 6. Franklin's men came ashore in light pontoon boats and built a floating wharf to unload artillery and supplies. The work was continued by torchlight through the night and the only enemy resistance was a few random shots fired by Confederate pickets on the bluff above the landing, ending at about 10 p.

Johnston ordered Maj. Smith to protect the road to Barhamsville and Smith assigned the division of Brig. William H. Whiting and Hampton's Legion , under Col. Wade Hampton , to the task. On May 7, Franklin posted Brig. John Newton 's brigade in the woods on either side of the landing road, supported in the rear by portions of two more brigades Brig. Henry W. Slocum and Philip Kearny. As a second brigade followed Hood on his left, the Union troops retreated from the woods to the plain before the landing, seeking cover from the fire of Federal gunboats.

Whiting employed artillery fire against the gunboats, but his guns had insufficient range, so he disengaged around 2 p. Union troops moved back into the woods after the Confederates left, but made no further attempt to advance. Although the action was tactically inconclusive, Franklin missed an opportunity to intercept the Confederate retreat from Williamsburg, allowing it to pass unmolested.

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Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on the Treasury Department's revenue cutter Miami. Lincoln believed that the city of Norfolk was vulnerable and that control of the James was possible, but McClellan was too busy at the front to meet with the president. Exercising his direct powers as commander in chief, Lincoln ordered naval bombardments of Confederate batteries in the area on May 8 and set off in a small boat with his two Cabinet secretaries to conduct a personal reconnaissance on shore.

Troops under the command of Maj. John E. Wool , the elderly commander of Fort Monroe, occupied Norfolk on May 10, encountering little resistance. After the Confederate garrison at Norfolk was evacuated, Commodore Josiah Tattnall knew that CSS Virginia had no home port and he could not navigate her deep draft through the shallow stretches of the James River toward Richmond, so she was scuttled on May 11 off Craney Island to prevent her capture. The Confederate defenders, including marines, sailors, and soldiers, were supervised by Navy Cmdr.

Drewry, the owner of the property that bore his name. An underwater obstruction of sunken steamers, pilings, debris, and other vessels connected by chains was placed just below the bluff, making it difficult for vessels to maneuver in the narrow river. On May 15, a detachment of the U.

The battle lasted over three hours and during that time, Galena remained almost stationary and took 45 hits. Her crew reported casualties of 14 dead or mortally wounded and 10 injured. Monitor was also a frequent target, but her heavier armor withstood the blows.


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Contrary to some reports, the Monitor , despite its squat turret, did not have difficulty bringing its guns to bear and fired steadily against the fort. The two wooden gunboats remained safely out of range of the big guns, but the captain of the USS Port Royal was wounded by a sharpshooter. Around 11 a. Johnston withdrew his 60, men into the Richmond defenses. Their defensive line began at the James River at Drewry's Bluff and extended counterclockwise so that his center and left were behind the Chickahominy River , a natural barrier in the spring when it turned the broad plains to the east of Richmond into swamps.

Johnston's men burned most of the bridges over the Chickahominy and settled into strong defensive positions north and east of the city.

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McClellan positioned his ,man army to focus on the northeast sector, for two reasons. First, the Pamunkey River , which ran roughly parallel to the Chickahominy, offered a line of communication that could enable McClellan to get around Johnston's left flank. Second, McClellan anticipated the arrival of McDowell's I Corps, scheduled to march south from Fredericksburg to reinforce his army, and thus needed to protect their avenue of approach.

White House, the plantation of W. Lee , became McClellan's base of operations. He moved slowly and deliberately, reacting to faulty intelligence that led him to believe the Confederates outnumbered him significantly.


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By the end of May, the army had built bridges across the Chickahominy and was facing Richmond, straddling the river, with one third of the Army south of the river, two thirds north. This disposition, which made it difficult for one part of the army to reinforce the other quickly, would prove to be a significant problem in the upcoming Battle of Seven Pines. Franklin to the VI Corps. The army had , men in position northeast of the city, outnumbering Johnston's 60,, but faulty intelligence from the detective Allan Pinkerton on McClellan's staff caused the general to believe that he was outnumbered two to one.

Numerous skirmishes between the lines of the armies occurred from May 23 to May Tensions were high in the city, particularly following the earlier sounds of the naval gun battle at Drewry's Bluff. While skirmishing occurred all along the line between the armies, McClellan heard a rumor that a Confederate force of 17, was moving to Hanover Court House, north of Mechanicsville. If this were true, it would threaten the army's right flank and complicate the arrival of McDowell's reinforcements.

A Union cavalry reconnaissance adjusted the estimate of the enemy strength to be 6,, but it was still cause for concern. McClellan ordered Porter and his V Corps to deal with the threat.

Porter departed on his mission at 4 a. George W. Morell , the 3rd Brigade of Brig. George Sykes 's 2nd Division, under Col. Gouverneur K. Warren , and a composite brigade of cavalry and artillery led by Brig. Emory , altogether about 12, men. The Confederate force, which actually numbered about 4, men, was led by Col. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch. They had departed from Gordonsville to guard the Virginia Central Railroad , taking up position at Peake's Crossing, 4 miles 6. Porter's men approached Peake's Crossing in a driving rain.