Gaines’s Mill, VA

Campaign to save Gaines’ Mill

Yesterday I received an interesting e-newsletter from the Civil War Trust. According to their mission statement, they are the largest non-profit organization (501-C3) in the US that is devoted to the preservation of America’s endangered Civil War battlefields. They also promote “educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war’s history and the fundamental conflicts that sparked it.”

You may recall the numerous posts I wrote about Uzal Trowbridge who died during the Battle of Gaines’ Mill. Well, interestingly the Trust has an opportunity to preserve 285 acres of the former battlefield that have become available for purchase. They need to raise $1.2 million, and donations are being matched at $2.67 for every $1.00 donated. The Trust states that if they can save this battleground it will be one of their greatest achievements thus far. The additional 285 acres will expand what of the battlefield is currently preserved by 400 percent.

For more information about this extremely worthwhile cause, visit their website. Sounds like you can trust that your donations, if made, will be in good hands. They have a 4-star rating with Charity Navigator.

Categories: Civil War, Gaines's Mill, VA, Trowbridge | Leave a comment

Uzal Trowbridge’s Fate, Part III & The Price of War at Gaines’s Mill

(cont’d. from previous post)

The events of June 27, 1862, were on the largest scale of the entire Peninsula campaign. The day was also the most costly. Altogether nine hours of fighting cost the armies of the North and South 15,223 men.  The North’s casualties were not as great as the South’s. Under General Fitz John Porter’s command, 894 were killed, 2,829 were captured and 3,114 were wounded for a total of 6,837 (roughly 6.5% of McClellan’s army). Lee lost a total of 7,993: 1,483 were killed, 6,402 were wounded, and 108 went missing. Imagine a headline today describing a loss of that magnitude in a single day. It is very difficult if not impossible to fathom. Wrote Stephen Sears in his book, To the Gates of Richmond ( p. 249), “There would be veterans of four years’ fighting in both armies who insisted that the volume of fire at Gaines’s Mill was unmatched in all their wartime experience.”

Uzal Trowbridge was in Company A, First Regiment, New Jersey. The 1st New Jersey fell under the command of Brigadier General George W. Taylor, who presided over the 1st Brigade which included 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th New Jersey. Taylor was under the command of Brig. General Henry W. Slocum (1st Division). Slocum was under the command of Brig. General William B. Franklin (VI Corps).

The History of Union and Middlesex Counties edited by W. Woodford Clayton (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1882) describes the participation in the Civil War by the citizens of those counties. On pages 144-145 of the book we find the text of the official report by General Taylor on the events at Gaines’s Mill involving  New Jersey regiments on the afternoon of June 27, 1862 (Note: the Chickahominy is a river):

It seems likely that Uzal Trowbridge was killed in the woods to which he was dispatched with the other men in his regiment (paragraph 5).

The several pages leading up to Taylor’s description give a history of 1st NJ Company A to that point. Interestingly Company A (of Elizabeth, NJ) was “the first company mustered into the United States Service under the first call for volunteers to serve three years or during the war (p. 143).” Gaines’s Mill was their fourth engagement with the enemy since they were mustered in on May 21, 1861. By far, Gaines’s Mill was the fiercest fighting they had seen.

Company A had 1,397 men when it was mustered in at Camp Olden, Trenton, New Jersey. Roughly three years and one month later, on June 29, 1865, Company A was mustered out at Hall’s Hill, Virginia. Its strength had diminished to 483 men. Over the course of the company’s service:

  • Resigned           24
  • Discharged    332
  • Promoted         62
  • Transferred    113
  • Died                   234
  • Dismissed            4
  • Deserted          124
  • Unaccounted for   21

Categories: Civil War, Gaines's Mill, VA, Trowbridge, Woodruff | Leave a comment

Uzal Trowbridge’s Fate, Part II

Lee’s win was a huge psychological blow to the people of the North. They had gone along for months believing things would work themselves out and the war would end, only to discover that the conflict had suddenly deepened… and drastically so. It must have been gut-wrenching to read the list of troops lost and wounded in the press.

Coming as they did in the week before the 4th of July, the North’s losses dampened all celebrations; people became depressed; an end was no longer in sight, and greater sacrifice would be called for.

Published July 23, 1862 in the New York Times:

“THE BATTLES BEFORE RICHMOND; Lists of Wounded in the Different Encounters. NAMES OF THE PRISONERS IN RICHMOND. SECOND MAINE REGIMENT. TWENTY-SECOND MASSACHUSETTS REGIMENT. TWENTY-FIFTH NEW-YORK REGIMENT. SIXTEENTH MICHIGAN REGIMENT. FOURTH MICHIGAN REGIMENT. EIGHTY-THIRD PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS. SIXTY-SECOND PENNSYLVANIA REGIMENT. NINTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS. FIRST MICHIGAN REGIMENT. SEVENTH PENNSYLVANIA RESERVE. TWELFTH NEW-YORK. ELEVENTH PENNSYLVANIA RESERVE. THIRD NEW-JERSEY. FOURTH NEW-JERSEY. SIXTY-SEVENTH PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS. FIRST NEW-JERSEY. FOURTEENTH NEW-YORK. SECOND MICHIGAN REGIMENT. FORTY-FOURTH NEW-YORK. LIST OF WOUNDED IN HOWE’S HOUSE HOSPITAL. AFTER THE BATTLE OF JUNE 27, 1862. FIRST UNITED STATE CAVALRY SICK OF THE FIRST CONNECTICUT ARTILLERY AT THE HOUSE OF MILES GARTHWAIT. ATTENDANTS. NURSES. LIST OF THE SICK AT MEDOW’S, JULY 3, 1862. NURSES. WOUNDED AND SICK IN HOSPITAL NO. 1, RICHMOND, JULY 10, 1862.

The following are full lists of the wounded left in the Gaine’s Mill Hospital after the battle of June 27, and since sent to Richmond:

Sergt. Wooster — ball through right arm, fractured.

Herrick Lufkin — ball through left arm.

T. Brisnahan — ball through left arm.

R.K. Glover — ball in right lung.

Corp. H.A. Harlow — through right leg, flesh.

H. Reynolds — through right leg.

T. Robbins — through left leg, fractured.

E.H. Dum — through left side.

Corp. A.J. Tosur — left hand, finger amputated.

Dr. A.D. Palmer, Assistant Surgeon.

Dr. W. Edgerly, Hospital Steward.

Major Tilden — ball through right shoulder….”

[There are literally hundreds of men listed. If you scroll down far enough, you will come to:]

“Uzal H. Trowbridge, Co. A, 1st New-Jersey — flesh wound of hip”

Categories: Civil War, Gaines's Mill, VA, Trowbridge, Woodruff | Leave a comment

Uzal Trowbridge’s Fate, Part I

When I was researching Uzal Trowbridge, an uncle four generations back whose Civil War correspondence was mentioned in previous posts, I learned the very sad news that he was killed on June 27, 1862, during the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, which took place 149 years ago this month.

When talking about ones ancestors, particularly those of generations past, it seems to me that it is easy to say that “so and so” was killed or injured during the battle of “xyz,” without taking the time to grasp or ponder what that really meant—parents losing children, brothers and sisters losing a sibling, children losing fathers, wives and children left destitute, limbs lost, lives lived out in constant pain or paralysis. Behind each soldier in a list of the killed, missing, captured, or injured is a sea of friends, family, neighbors, and fellow townspeople. So, I wanted to know more about the events surrounding Uzal Trowbridge’s death, and the events of the war in general at that time. Having read his personal correspondence to his niece and nephews, I felt like I owed that to him as strange as that may sound. I’m sure those letters and his loss had an enormous impact on those children.

Some of the materials I read included the below books all of which I can highly recommend.

  • To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign by Stephen W. Sears
  • The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula & the Seven Days edited by Gary W Gallagher
  • Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles by Brian K. Burton

In no way can I, a non-historian, speak as well or as exhaustively as these authors do about the events of that period. And I certainly can’t possibly summarize the content of their books in the space of this blog. I’ll do my best just to give a bit of a summary (recognizing it will be very simplistic) and recommend that those interested in further details refer to the appropriate resources.

The battle of Gaines’s Mill was part of the Seven Days Battles, a series of battles that took place at the end of June 1862. Ultimately, these battles marked a major turning point in the war. Up until then, the North had been hoping that the South would come to its senses and give up its ambitions to break with the northern states. The abolition of slavery had not yet been set as a condition of the Confederacy’s surrender.  The goal of the campaign in the peninsula to the south of Richmond, Virginia, was to take the city, the capitol of the Confederacy, and thus force the South to surrender and end the war.

General McClellan and Robert E. Lee were the big players during those engagements of June 1862. It was here that Lee’s heroics made him famous with his fellow southerners. General Fitz John Porter, who was commanding the Union army in the field at Gaines’s Mill on June 27, took the heat for McClellan while the latter executed details (and periodically gave misdirection) from the sidelines. As the Union position, which from the start was far from ideal, quickly unwound, McClellan was forced to withdraw the Union troops to the James River, away from their goal of Richmond.

In the weeks leading up to the Seven Days Battles, McClellan made a number of tactical mistakes. A cautious and vain man, who habitually deflected blame away from himself, McClellan failed to act upon key intelligence that he could have used to his army’s advantage.  His prolonged preparations, as if waiting for all the stars in the heavens to align properly, and his constant complaints to Washington that he did not have enough troops frustrated Washington (note: author Brian Burton estimates that the two armies were very close in effective strength—nearly 90,000 each; see pages 401-403 of his book, Extraordinary Circumstances). All of his delays gave the South time to amass a greater force and make more solid preparations.

In spite of the disastrous events of the Seven Days Battles, McClellan remained well-liked by his troops who believed he’d done his utmost for them. Only the officers and others closest to McClellan knew of some of the awful choices he’d made. The truth appears to be that had someone else been in charge of the Union troops at that time, someone much more decisive, Richmond may well have been taken, and the War might have ended then and there. While the cost in lives might have been even greater that June of 1862, in the long run far more many lives would have been spared—on both sides.

Lee made his mistakes, too, during the seven days but won the overall strategic campaign. Of the battles, Gaines’s Mill was the most successful for Lee. Some days were a draw and some a failure, but overall Lee managed to drive the Union troops away from Richmond and capture many men, supplies, and weapons, including a sizable amount of heavy Union artillery. Most significantly, Lee boosted the morale of the people and the army. Had not Stonewall Jackson made the missteps he made during that week, the Union army would have suffered even more at the hands of Lee’s army.

(continued in next post)

Categories: Civil War, Gaines's Mill, VA, McClellan, Gen. George B., Trowbridge, Woodruff | Leave a comment

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