SHARE:
This image depicts several soldiers stationed on the Seven Pines Battlefield.

Seven Pines

Fair Oaks

Henrico County, VA  |  May 31 - Jun 1, 1862

Fought over two days during the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Seven Pines resulted in heavy losses for both sides and ended with the wounding of Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnson. Gen. Robert E. Lee replaced Johnson as commander of the Confederate army.  

How It Ended

Inconclusive. After fighting for two days, May 31 - June 1, 1862, and failing to dislodge the Federals, the Confederate army retreated from Seven Pines. Later that day, June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee received command of the Confederate army after Gen. Joseph E. Johnson was wounded. 

In Context

After retreating from Williamsburg, Virginia, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson fell back to Richmond, Virginia. Johnson looked for an opportunity to strike at Gen. George B. McClellan’s larger army and hopefully turn the tide of the campaign.

After the Battle of Williamsburg, fought on May 5, 1862, McClellan's army advanced slowly but steadily toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Reinforcements enabled McClellan to establish two new army corps on the peninsula, in addition to his original three. A plan to send McClellan another corps was scrapped after Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley suffered a defeat at the Battle of Front Royal, May 23, 1862, at the hands of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates. By the end of May, McClellan mustered around 105,000 men. Once outside Richmond, McClellan deployed his army facing the Confederates and moved his supply base forward to White House Landing. However, his army dangerously straddled the Chickahominy River, which ran roughly down the center of the peninsula. Three army corps were north of the river, and two were south of it. During the spring, the river was known to swell with floodwaters, and the Confederates had destroyed most of the bridges in front of their lines. 

South of the river, the Southerners outnumbered the Northern forces almost two to one. Seizing the initiative, Johnston planned to overwhelm the IV Corps under Gen. Erasmus Keyes and the III Corps led by Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman, isolated south of the river with four divisions.

Forces Engaged
73,000
Union
34,000
Confed.
39,000

The Battle of Seven Pines began late on May 31, 1862. The Confederates succeeded in driving Keyes’ IV Corps and inflicting heavy casualties on the Union forces. Timely reinforcements arrived from Heintzelman's corps to support Keyes and hold the Union left.

A mile north of Seven Pines, the Confederate division under Gen. William C. Whiting attacked the Federal right flank near Fair Oaks Station on the Richmond & York Railroad. The Union line stabilized when Gen. Edwin Sumner’s II Corps reinforcements crossed the Chickahominy over Grapevine Bridge. Johnston fell wounded and command of the Confederate army devolved to Gen. Gustavus W. Smith.

Early on June 1, the Confederates renewed their assaults against the Federals, who had brought up more reinforcements. Two Confederate brigades attacked Gen. Israel Richardson’s II Corps division posted along the railroad. While fighting there, a Confederate minie ball shattered Gen. Oliver O. Howard’s right arm; the arm was amputated, and Howard was out of action for several months. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s III Corps division attacked as the Confederates withdrew, ending the two days of fighting.

Union
5,739
0 killed
0 wounded
0 missing & captured
Estimated Casualties
13,736
Union
5,739
Confed.
7,997
Confederate
7,997
0 killed
0 wounded
0 missing & captured

Both sides claimed victory at Seven Pines Johnston's wounding profoundly influenced the war: Davis selected his military advisor, Gen. Robert E. Lee, to replace Johnston. “This may be hailed as the harbinger of a bright fortune,” wrote one of Davis’ aides. Nevertheless, by the end of the month, the more aggressive Lee initiated the Seven Days’ Battles, leading to a Union retreat from the gates of Richmond.

1. How did the appointment of Robert E. Lee after the Battle of Seven Pines change the course of the war?

President Jefferson Davis appointed Robert E. Lee to command the Confederate army defending Richmond after Seven Pines. This dramatically changed the course of the war for the Confederates. Lee was more aggressive and less defensive than Johnston and successfully pushed McClellan away from Richmond.

2. What major river source played an important part in the Battle of Seven Pines?

The Chickahominy River played an essential role in the decision to fight at Seven Pines. With the recent rains flooding much of the area and numerous bridges in a state of disrepair, much of McClellan’s army was forced to stay on the east side of the river. This cut two Union corps away from the army and gave Johnson the motivation to strike.

All battles of the Peninsula Campaign

Hampton Roads
Newport News, Norfok, and Portsmouth, VA  |  Mar 8 - 9, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 393
Union: 369
Confederate: 24
Lee's Mill
City of Newport News, VA  |  Apr 5, 1862
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 240
Union: 165
Confederate: 75
Yorktown
York County and Newport News, VA  |  Apr 5 - May 4, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 482
Union: 182
Confederate: 300
Williamsburg
York County and Williamsburg, VA  |  May 5, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 3,843
Union: 2,283
Confederate: 1,560
Seven Pines
Henrico County, VA  |  May 31 - Jun 1, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 13,736
Union: 5,739
Confederate: 7,997
Beaver Dam Creek
Hanover County, VA  |  Jun 26, 1862
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,700
Union: 400
Confederate: 1,300
Gaines' Mill
Hanover County, VA  |  Jun 27, 1862
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 15,500
Union: 6,800
Confederate: 8,700
Glendale
Henrico County, VA  |  Jun 30, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 7,470
Union: 3,797
Confederate: 3,673
Malvern Hill
Henrico County, VA  |  Jul 1, 1862
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 7,700
Union: 2,100
Confederate: 5,600

Related Battles

Henrico County, VA | May 31, 1862
Result: Inconclusive
Commanders
Forces Engaged
73,000
Union
34,000
Confed.
39,000
Estimated Casualties
13,736
Union
5,739
Confed.
7,997