Friday, April 01, 2022

Was the battle of Glendale, VA in the Civil War potentially pivotal?

In a 2017 book review entitled CWT BOOK REVIEW: BATTLE OF GLENDALE AND BATTLE OF FAIR OAKS /a>, ROBERT K. KRICK questions the idea that the Battle of Glendale was as significant as Stempel suggested.

But not only did Stempel not use Patterson’s or Cannon’s contributions, or any of the multitude of others, he didn’t even consult the Official Records. The result is a dreadfully confused account. Badly flawed maps compound the narrative’s defects. Stempel’s uncertainty in identifying the Willis Church Road as the Quaker Road, for example, vitiates the book’s breathless subtitle. The South “nearly won the war,” we are told, when Colonel Micah Jenkins’ Confederates cut the enemy in half on that road—had someone only been willing to support him. Jenkins, however, never actually occupied the road during the battle, nor did he ever claim that he did so. The colonel, in his own words (which the author apparently did not see in any detail, as he does not even cite Jenkins’ original report), notes that his men “had gained command” of the road. What that meant was his riflemen irritated enemy reinforcements by firing toward the road—a worthwhile achievement, but not nearly the decisive event you’re led to believe it was.

Brian K. Burton wrote

As the day progressed, all over the Virginia countryside Confederates were running into problems. Holmes’s small command, marching down the River Road, reached a spot within artillery range of Malvern Hill. A blast of fire from the Southerners started what proved to be a vastly unequal contest between batteries, with Union Navy gunboats adding their shells for good measure. Holmes’s infantry broke under the heavy Northern shelling, leaving whatever role Lee might have assigned him impossible for Holmes to carry out. Huger ran into different problems on the Charles City Road. Union pioneers cut trees across the road, and Brigadier General William Mahone’s men lost the “battle of the axes,”[2] slowing them down, as did Federal skirmishers. Huger also was worried about his left flank’s exposure to enemy troops that might still be near that part of White Oak Swamp. Finally he found Slocum’s men near Brackett’s field. He engaged with artillery, but no infantry from Huger’s division fought that day, and eventually Slocum became unconcerned with him. Magruder’s move from the Williamsburg Road to the Darbytown Road was accomplished with no problems, but once there someone (the record is unclear) ordered him to support Holmes, a move that made no sense. He had reached the River Road with part of his force when he was ordered to march to Glendale; none of his men fought at all on June 30.

(...) It was what happened away from Glendale that made the fighting at the crossroads purposeless. Jackson’s inactivity at White Oak Swamp let 10,000 Northerners move from that area to Glendale. Huger’s inactivity let another full brigade move from the Charles City Road to Glendale. And confusing orders kept Magruder from adding his men to the fight on the Southern side. In total, 80,000 men were within range of Glendale on June 30 but did not fight there. On the Union side, that was because they were not needed. On the Confederate side, however, that was because some commanders did not perform. If they had, Glendale itself and the outcome of the campaign might have been very different.


And then there is the viewpoint of monodisperse at

The idea that McClellan intended to continue from Glendale is wrong. McClellan intended to remain there, resupply his army from Carter’s and Haxall’s Landings, and counterattack once he’d resupplied. The quartermasters set up landing points and depots at those two places (which they wouldn’t do if the intent was Harrison’s), only for the Navy to state they couldn’t protect transports that far upriver. The Navy wanted for the army to retreat all the way to Dancing Point (i.e. the mouth of the Chickahominy). Tactically, the reason for the withdrawal from the Glendale position is that Baldy Smith suffered a complete mental breakdown, and marched his division away from the White Oak towards Charles City without telling anyone, and Franklin followed him. The rebels never intended to attack the crossroads, at least not on the 30th. Like the attacks at Malvern Hill the following day, it was an unco-ordinated snowballing attack. Jenkins’ unordered charge at about 1645 caused a shocked Longstreet to order a general attack at 1700. Since no-one expects to make an attack that day, the response is ragged; only Kemper advanced promptly. It was about 2 hours after Jenkins’ first charge that Pryor and Featherstone advanced. The reason for the disruption was simple – no-one expected there to be a battle. Longstreet’s ill-considered order for a general attack failed to account for the fact that most of his men had gone into routine and were busy cooking their dinners. Hence he lost 3 casualties for every two inflicted (ca. 4,349 received vs ca. 2,813 inflicted) to gain 100 yards of ground. The guns were not in rebel possession at the end of the battle, but rather between the lines. Baldy Smith’s psychosis covers up Longstreet’s mistake, because Jackson crossed the White Oak in the dark, and unzipped the whole Federal position.


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