Friday, December 4, 2015

19th Virginia Infantry: Seven Days Battles

Continued from 19 Virginia Infantry: Peninsula Campaign:

The Seven Days Battles were a series of six engagements over seven days from 25 Jun 1862 until 1 July 1862 ending with Confederate forces driving Union soldiers back down the peninsula from where they came. These battles marked the end of the Peninsula Campaign, a defeat for the Union Army. General Robert E. Lee had taken over the Army of Northern Virginia a month before, relieving General Johnston, who had been wounded.

Charles Edward, Daniel Rose, John Thomas, and Leroy Powhatan Jennings all participated, fighting with the 19th Virginia Infantry, which was part of Pickett's Brigade and Longstreet's Division. The regiment was camped two miles northeast of Richmond on the Mechanicsville Turnpike when the Seven Days Battles began on 25 June 1862.

Union General McClellan examining Mechanicsville Turnpike before
the Seven Days Battles; image courtesy of the National Park Service

A small battle at Oak Grove that day was a tactical victory for the Union. They gained ground and were several hundred yards closer to Richmond, but lost over 1,000 men. The next day at Beaver Dam Creek, near Mechanicsville, the Union again won a tactical victory. However, their general severely overestimated the number of Confederate forces he was facing and began withdrawing his army to the southeast, away from Richmond. McClellan never again gained the initiative.

The 19th Infantry marched to Mechanicsville the day of the battle and could hear it in the distance. They were supposed to support General A. P. Hill's division which was engaged with the enemy. However, due to delays they were unable to do so and camped that night near Mechanicsville under arms.

On the morning of 27 June the men of the 19th spent some time repairing bridges at the scene of the Beaver Dam Creek battle. Before noon, however, they were at Gaines' Mill where they found the Union forces strongly entrenched.

Battle at Gaines' Mill painted by Alfred R. Waud; image courtesy of

General A. P. Hill was supposed to be positioned in the center of the Union line with Jackson in support to his left (north) and Longstreet's division to his right (south). However, Jackson's division was late arriving so Longstreet was ordered to create a diversion. Pickett's brigade, including the 19th Virginia Regiment, attempted a frontal assault over a hill and down into a ravine, but was beaten back under heavy fire, taking significant losses. It was at this time that Daniel Rose and Leroy Powhatan Jennings were wounded.

After Jackson's men arrived the battle commenced in earnest and the Union army was forced back across the Chickhominy River. It was the only true tactical victory for Confederate forces of the entire Peninsula Campaign. McClellan began a general retreat south towards the James River during the night of 27 June. Lee ordered Longstreet to pursue the enemy.

The battle of Frayser's Farm, or Glendale, began by accident when Longstreet mistook enemy artillery fire for a prearranged signal. As a result his division and that of A. P. Hill began an unsupported attack against the retreating Union army. The 19th Infantry was commanded by Colonel Hunton as Pickett had been wounded at Gaines' Mill. They charged the enemy over broken ground and marsh. As they entered an area of woods, they encountered an enemy brigade in full retreat, forcing its way among their ranks. They reformed and turned slightly left to avoid artillery fire. As they advanced they captured an enemy artillery battery, which they turned on the retreating Union forces. At nightfall the battle of Frayser's Farm ended.

Confederate forces capturing a Union artillery battery during the battle of
Frayser's Farm; image courtesy of the National Park Service

There was another battle at Malvern Hill the next day but the 19th Virginia Regiment did not take part. They had lost 21 men killed, 115 wounded and one missing during the battles at Gaines' Mill and Frayser's Farm.

For the next six weeks they camped near Richmond, resting and receiving new recruits. At this time only brothers, Charles E. and John T. Jennings, remained with the regiment. Their cousins Samuel H. left the regiment in September 1861 due to illness and Daniel R. and Leroy P. Jennings were wounded at Gaines' Mill and sent home to recover. Samuel never returned and Daniel and Leroy returned at the start of the new year.

To be continued...

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.

19th Virginia Infantry: Peninsula Campaign
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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