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Take a Virtual Tour by Markers of the Gaines' Mill Battlefield Loop Trail. Use the “First >>” button above to see these markers in sequence.
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Gaines' Mill1862 Seven Days' Battles
(left panel) Visiting Richmond National Battlefield Park The concentration of Civil War resources found in the Richmond area is unparalleled. The National Park Service manages 13 sites, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the battlefield landscapes, to hear the stories of the combatants and civilian residents, and to understand the complex reasons why Richmond came to symbolize the heart and soul of the Confederacy. Regulations This is a partial list of . . . — Map (db m40249) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Gaines’ MillRichmond Battlefield — Richmond Nat’l Battlefield Pk – 1862/64
The action here on June 27, 1862, was the second-largest battle in American history up to that time. One day earlier General Robert E. Lee had pried the Union Fifth Corps from its position at Beaver Dam Creek. Here he brought 65,000 Confederate soldiers to bear against that same corps, which stood on this ground with its back less than two miles from the Chichahominy River and with its front protected by the steep ravine of Boatswain Creek. A vigorous defense by the Union Fifth Corps repulsed . . . — Map (db m15022) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Battle of Gaines’ Mill
Although victorious at Beaver Dam Creek on June 26, 1862, Union General George B. McClellan believed Stonewall Jackson’s 25,000 Confederates threatened the Union right flank. The next morning, June 27, McClellan ordered Fitz John Porter’s Fifth Corps to retire from its position behind Beaver Dam Creek toward the Chichahominy and continue with the rest of the Union army to the James River. McClellan’s decision signaled the end of offensive operations against Richmond. He had surrendered the . . . — Map (db m14999) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — A Powerful Postion
General Porter held an impressive defensive position above Boatswain’s Creek. The first line of battle stood at the base of the hill to your front. The second line was posted nearby, and the third was along the crest behind you, where most of the artillery had unlimbered. All three parallel lines of battle enjoyed clear fields of fire through the scattered, open woods. One Confederate considered Porter’s position “the strongest point I saw occupied by either army during the war.” — Map (db m16393) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Battle Begins
Porter’s soldiers rested their muskets across a make-shift breastwork of felled trees, bales of hay, and knapsacks. A Union soldier remembered “an ominous silence” that covered the battlefield moments before Lee launched his first assault at 2:30 p.m. Union shells screamed overhead ripping huge gaps in the charging Southern lines. When the Confederates reached the exposed high ground across the creek, Porter’s infantry greeted the attackers with “deadly and staggering . . . — Map (db m16392) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Intensity of Battle
“By the time we had gotten across, the front line, broken by our fire, frightened … which sounded like forty thousand wild cats, had reached their second line, … confusion, and they, panicstricken, left their works and croded to the top of the hill, thus preventing their artillery from firing into us….” Edmund D. Patterson, 9th Alabama Infantry New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield defended this sector of Porter’s line. . . . — Map (db m43320) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Decisive Moment
“Dashing up the steep bank, being within thirty yards of the enemy’s works, we flew towards the breastworks, cleared them, and slaughtered the retreating devils as they scampered up the hill towards their battery.” Decimus Barziza, 4th Texas Infantry The decisive moment of the Battle of Gaines’ Mill came around 7:00 p.m. where you are standing. Frustrated by the unsuccessful piecemeal assaults, Lee approached Brigadier General John Bell Hood and asked “Can you . . . — Map (db m43337) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Confederate Grand Assault
“All was disorder and excitement; the field was full of men running for their very lives, and it was almost impossible to make any resistance to the tide of humanity pressing down upon us.” John E. Stewart, 44th New York General James Longstreet received orders to attack just before sunset. Almost as if on dress parade, Longstreet’s regiments started forward across an open field. Union gunners found their range; exploding shells tore huge gaps in the Confederate lines. . . . — Map (db m56493) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Union Left Flank
This loop trail visits the left of the Union line. Along it you will learn about the charge of General Pickett’s Confederate brigade; see more of the ground stubbornly defended by General Morell’s division; learn of the bravery displayed by an Alabama flag-bearer; and read the stories of Federal soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for outstanding heroism at Gaines’ Mill. The final markers discuss the collapse of the Union position; the ill-advised twilight cavalry charge; and a fatal case . . . — Map (db m16394) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Pickett’s Brigade, CSA
“As soon as this advancing brigade reached the summit of the hill it was met by a storm of shot and shell I never saw exceeded except in the famous charge of Pickett’s men at Gettysburg.” Col. Eppa Hunton 8th Virginia Infantry “On they went, down the declivity, their ranks being thinned at every step….Down the hill they went, across the narrow valley.” Letter from a member of Pickett’s Brigade to a Richmond newspaper June 29, 1862 . . . — Map (db m16397) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Morell’s Division, USA
“The rebels rushed down the hill in line of battle, but it wasn’t quite so easy rushing across a swamp, waist deep in thick mud, and as they tried it we tried Sharp’s rifles at eight rods, firing as fast as we could put in cartridges, the distance being so short that aim was unnecessary.” Cpl. William C. Kent 1st U.S. Sharpshooters (Berdan’s) “The noise of the musketry was not rattling, as ordinarily, but one intense metallic din.” Maj. William . . . — Map (db m16398) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Wilcox’s Brigade, CSA
“A private by the name of Jones….seized the colors, his right arm was soon broken, he then held it with his left hand, and he was soon shot through both legs no broken bones, and then his left arm was wounded and the colors fell, were picked up and given to a third man, Jones protesting….said they had taken the colors from him, ‘my arms are broken and I am shot through both 1egs, but I can walk, and I asked them to tie the flag staff to my body and I would and could.” Gen. . . . — Map (db m16399) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade,Longstreet’s Division, — Army of Northern Virginia, CSA
Brigadier General Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade, Longstreet’s Division, Army of Northern Virginia, CSA Near here on June 27, 1862, three Confederate brigades under General Cadmus M. Wilcox ascended this hill, broke the Union line, and later assisted in capturing a battery of artillery. Wilcox’s own Alabama brigade spearheaded the charge, losing nearly 600 men killed and wounded of the 1850 soldiers in the four regiments. (reverse side) Casualties . . . — Map (db m16391) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Union Rifle Pits
These well-preserved rifle pits probably mark the far end of the Union line. The 16th Michigan Infantry or 44th New York Infantry likely built them on the morning of the battle to guard the western flank of the army. Although some Federal soldiers dug-in, none entrenched on this battlefield to the extent they did two years later at Cold Harbor. “I am of the opinion now…that had our lines been better posted and entrenched…we might have been saved from defeat….Two years later the . . . — Map (db m16400) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Mistaken Identity
“It was now sun down and the air was dense with smoke, so that we were realty not certain whether the column before us were friends or enemies….Their banner was furled, and we could not get any clue from that….Just at this time Colonel Jenkins, in stentorian tones called out ‘show your flag or I’ll fire upon you!’ but that flag was not unfurled and the command was given ‘ready, aim, fire.’” Letter to newspaper from a member of the 5th South Carolina Infantry . . . — Map (db m16401) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Cavalry Charge
“In as short while we felt the ground begin to tremble like an earthquake and heard a noise like the rumbling of distant thunder. It was a regiment of United States cavalry charging us….When they were within about forty yards of us, we poured a volley into them and prepared to receive them on our bayonets; but our one volley had done dreadful execution.” Pvt. William R. Hamby 4th Texas Infantry “On came that splendid body of regular cavalry at breakneck . . . — Map (db m16402) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Battle Ends
This panoramic view reveals many of the key scenes associated with the close of the battle. The landscape here has changed very little. When the left of Porter’s line disintegrated just before sunset, much of it fell back through this ground. Desperate rearguard fighting occurred here. Union cavalry, anxious to buy time for the artillery to escape, launched a small counterattack from the low ground bordering the Chickahominy River. It ended in disaster when Southern infantrymen, firing volleys, . . . — Map (db m16395) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — The Federal Collapse
“All was disorder and excitement; the field was full of me running for their very lives, and it was almost impossible to make any resistance to the tide of humanity pressing down upon us….It seemed as though the air was full of bullet, whistling all around us, and 20 or 30 cannon throwing grape and canister in incessant showers. Above all this noise could be heard the shrieks of the wounded and dying, dozens of whom were falling on every side.” John E. Stewart 44th New . . . — Map (db m16403) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — 8 — Whiting's AdvanceApproximate Line of Whiting's Advance
Near this point, between the brigades of Martindale and Butterfield, Confederate forces first penetrated the main Federal position in the Battle of Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862. The Fourth Texas Regiment led the charge. — Map (db m14204) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Hood's Attack
Fitz John Porter's troop had repulsed Confederate attacks throughout the afternoon. With daylight waning, Lee turned to John Bell Hood to spearhead the final assault. Personally leading the 4th Texas and the 18th Georgia, General Hood instructed his men not to fire until they crossed the creek. They "madly plunged" into Boatswain's Creek and shattered Porter's lines. Charging up the steep bank, one Texan remembered slaughtering "the retreating devils as they scampered up the hill." Hood's . . . — Map (db m16396) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Final Stand
Civil War artillery was a splendid defensive weapon, particularly when the battlefield landscape offered the gunners open fields of fire. At Gaines’ Mill the woods plagued the Union artillery. Several gaps in the trees however, offered a direct line of sight toward the massing Confederate infantry 300 yards away. Along most of the line the Union gunners fired through or over the open woods. During the battles climatic moments these Union gunners of the 5th Massachusetts Battery momentarily . . . — Map (db m43334) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Union Artillery
Porter posted his batteries intermittently along this ridge. Most of his guns were twelve-pounder Napoleons like the two here. “The woods were full of smoke,” wrote a Massachusetts artillerist, “and thicker and thicker buzzed the bullets.” Soon the Confederate infantry appeared. One of the Federal guns fired a double charge of canister at 35 yards range, which “mowed their ranks awfully,” It was a last salute. Thousands of gray-clad . . . — Map (db m15234) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Confederate Pursuit
By nightfall Porter’s force had safely retreated across the Chickahominy. Lee had sustained nearly 9,000 casualties in his first victory of the war, while the Federals lost close to 6,000. “I could hear on all sides the dreadful groans of the wounded,” wrote one soldier, “oh the awful scene witnesses on the battlefield.” Determined to destroy McClellan’s army before it reached the James River, Lee continued to attack the retreating Federals. The armies . . . — Map (db m15233) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — PA 25 — Seven Days BattlesGaines’s Mill
Along the slopes of Boatswain Creek, facing north and west, extended Porter’s position in the afternoon of June 27, 1862. The line was held by Sykes’s division facing north, and Morell’s facing west. Later McCall was thrown in to assist Morell. At dark Lee broke the Union line, and Porter retreated across the Chickahominy. — Map (db m15008) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — 7 — The Watt HouseGaines' Mill Battlefield
Entrenched in three lines on this plateau, the right wing of McClellan's army, withdrawn from Beaver Dam Creek, resisted Confederate attacks on June 27, 1862 until driven back at nightfall by a general assault. — Map (db m14201) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Watt Farm Road
Modern snake-rail fencing and shallow depressions carved out long ago by wagons and livestock mark the location of one of two thoroughfares that passed through the plantation. This road led from the Watt Farm to the New Bridge crossing of the Chickahominy River and ultimately to Richmond, a trip that required a full day’s travel. In Richmond an eager market awaited the farm’s vegetables and grains. “Having the advantage of a rail fence, I ordered my boys to make with their . . . — Map (db m43333) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Lee’s First Victory: At a Huge Cost
“Yesterday evening we was in one of the hardest fought battles ever known. I never had a clear conception of the horrors of war until last night….In going round that battlefield with a candle searching for friends I could hear on all sides the dreadful groans of the wounded and their heart piercing cries for water…May I never see any more such in life…I assure you that I am heartily sick of soldiering.” A.N. Erskine, 4th Texas Infantry By nightfall Union resistance on . . . — Map (db m43335) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Springfield Plantation
In 1862 this farmhouse was home to the widow Sarah Watt, her granddaughter, Mary Jane Haw, and a maid. It was a typical Hanover County plantation of several hundred acres with some 28 slaves who produced a modest income from grains, potatoes, and livestock. Around the house stood a kitchen, slave quarters, and other outbuildings. A series of roads, now abandoned, connected the Watt family to their neighbors and Richmond. Their lives drastically changed on the morning of June 27, 1862. The . . . — Map (db m34618) HM
Virginia (Hanover County), Mechanicsville — Watt Family FarmGaines’ Mill – 1862 — Richmond National Battlefield Park
Civil War armies selected battlefields without regard to the civilians who made their homes there. The resulting death and destruction affected the residents’ lives for decades. The Watts lived here for nearly 60 years before the battle. They owned 523 acres and 28 slaves who tended the fields of corn, oats, wheat and potatoes. On June 27, 1862, nearly 100,000 soldiers battled within a two-mile radius of this farmhouse. In the aftermath ”the walls and roof were torn with shot and . . . — Map (db m15232) HM
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