Thursday, December 3, 2015

19th Virginia Infantry: Peninsula Campaign

Continued from 19th Virginia Infantry: First Winter Camp:

During the winter, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General George Pickett's brigade and re-designated as Third Brigade. It was part of Second Division, commanded by Major General James Longstreet. Second Division was part of Joseph E. Johnston's army, which was now the Army of Northern Virginia.

The 19th Virginia Infantry regiment had made their winter camp near the scene of the Battle of First Manassas. After a long march, the regiment picked up their new recruits at Orange County Court House, including my great grandfather, Charles Edward Jennings, and drilled for two weeks. Soon they received orders to march to Richmond, where they boarded three schooners and sailed down the James River to King's Mill Wharf near Williamsburg. The peninsula was wet and sloppy and men fell prey to disease, and suffered hurting legs, swollen feet and aching backs.

I imagine the soldiers stopped thinking about personal discomfort and disease when they were attacked by Union union army of General George McClellan on 26 April near Yorktown. Union forces were trying to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital, by sending ships up the James River and troops along its banks. The battle for Yorktown became an artillery duel and the Confederates were outclassed. During the night of May 3, Longstreet's division retreated towards Williamsburg. Companies H and I as well as the 28th Virginia Infantry covered the retreat. The next afternoon the 19th Virginia Infantry camped near the College of William and Mary.

Union artillery and their 13-inch sea monsters, which totally outclassed the
Confederates who were forced to retreat; photograph by James F. Gibson and
held by the Library of Congress

The Union army caught up with the Confederates the next day. General Johnston ordered his army to deploy with Pickett's brigade along the right side of his line. His orders were to turn the enemy's left flank. This was the first large engagement of the Peninsula campaign. Pickett's counterattacks along the enemy's left flank were almost successful until Union troops reinforced the line. The Union was able to destabilize the Confederate's left flank but were unable to exploit this advantage. The Confederates were able to withdraw again during the night.

As the Confederate army retreated up the peninsula towards Richmond, Longstreet's division followed the Chickahominy River. They moved mostly at night and progress was slow due to rain-soaked roads which forced soldiers into swamps. They arrived several miles from Richmond on 17 May and camped along the James River where they stayed until receiving orders to cook three days' rations and prepare to march. The battle of Seven Pines[1] began on 31 May 1862, the culminating battle of the Peninsula Campaign.

Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, by Currier and Ives, c1862; image
courtesy of Wikipedia

The Confederate objective was to overwhelm to Union corps that were isolated south of the Chickahominy River. Neither side made much headway and generals continued feeding soldiers into the battle. Little was achieved though both sides claimed victory. Up to that time it was the largest battle in the Eastern Theater. General Pickett's brigade of which the 19th Virginia Infantry was a part bore the brunt of the attack.

The 19th was stationed along the Confederate army's left flank when a contingent of Union troops appeared. The officer wanted to know what soldiers he had encountered. The 19th responded with a fierce, "Virginians!" and promptly began to attack. The fight did not last long but the regiment suffered 20 percent casualties. Pickett withdrew his men about 1:00 p.m. The four Jennings men -- Charles, Daniel, John and Leroy -- were unwounded and ready to fight another day. Their time would come.

To be continued...

[1] The Battle of Seven Pines is also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks or Fair Oaks Station.

Jennings, Charles E. (my great grandfather), Private, Co. H; enlisted 1 March 1862 at Amherst courthouse; Present until detailed 18 May 1863 to General Hospital in Lynchburg on surgeon's certificate; absent there through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Daniel R. (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse; age 20, farmer; Private to 4th Corporal by August 1863; 4 Corporal to 3rd Corporal by October 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by February 1864; Present until wounded at Ganes Mill on 27 June 1862; returned, wounded in action at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863; sent to Lynchburg Hospital; absent, detailed on government work, dropped as non-commissioned officer from 16 April 1865. Surrendered at Appomattox, pension in 1910.

Jennings, John T. (my great grand uncle), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse, age 23, farmer; present through last roll 31 December 1863.

Jennings, Leroy P.  (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. I; enlisted 29 April 1861 at Buffalo Springs; age 19, farmer; Private to 3rd Corporal by August 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by October 1863; Present till wounded at Gaines Mill on 27 June 1862; returned; wounded in action and taken prisoner of war on 3 July 1863 at Gettysburg; gunshot in right lung; paroled at General Hospital West's Building in Baltimore on 25 September 1863; returned to duty by February 1864; through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Samuel H. (my first cousin three times removed), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst courthouse; age 24, farmer; Present until discharged discharged on 12 September 1861 by order of General Beauregard, surgeon's certificate, listed disease was smallpox. Pension 1900.

Mapping the 19th Virginia Infantry: January-August 1862
19th Virginia Infantry: First Winter Camp
Mapping the 19th Virginia Infantry: 1861
19th Virginia Infantry: First Blood at Manassas
A Lover, Not a Fighter

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