Richmond Falls in 1862

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Probable would be more likely considering that even after Lincoln is re-elected and the Southern economy was a basket case Dixie still refused to fold.
But when Lee's army was defeated and Richmond lost, the whole thing collapsed. Now obviously here Lee's army isn't the symbol, but the morale effect of losing the capital is going to be considerable.

I do agree though that the South could quite easily agree to continue fighting - I didn't mean to imply it was unlikely. It's just that their armies are not going to be able to perform at all as well as they did historically. For a start, Tregedar apparently manufactured more than half of all Confederate field artillery, and I would assume the same sort of proportion applied to heavier coastal defence guns; given the importance of artillery in shaping the battlefield and defending against assault, the CSA's going to be in a much worse shape.

I'd nuance the bit about the Peninsular campaign being handled in a more aggressive manner, though - there was nothing wrong with the Peninsular campaign that another 20,000 soldiers wouldn't have solved, while there was a lot that was the problem that more aggression would not solve.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
I'd nuance the bit about the Peninsular campaign being handled in a more aggressive manner, though - there was nothing wrong with the Peninsular campaign that another 20,000 soldiers wouldn't have solved, while there was a lot that was the problem that more aggression would not solve.

McClellan had plenty of troops after Seven Pines to attack Johnston with. Two thirds of his command was above the Chickahominy facing about half of Johnston's command. That would have come to a two to one ratio in favor of McClellan.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
McClellan had plenty of troops after Seven Pines to attack Johnston with. Two thirds of his command was above the Chickahominy facing about half of Johnston's command. That would have come to a two to one ratio in favor of McClellan.
I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "above" the Chickahominy - do you mean south of the river or north of the river?

If you mean north of the river, there's nothing vital to Johnston there - he can just fall back over the Mechanicsville bridges and McClellan's blow will hit air.
If you mean south of the river (which I think is more likely) then the problem is the opposite. Just behind Johnston are several major works in the Richmond fortification belt.


On looking further, as far as I can tell this description (McClellan divided 2:1 over the Chickahominy) refers to the situation before the battle and the 2/3 is north. So it's out of date (as troops moved south over the Chickahominy to reinforce) and any counteroffensive with the remaining troops McClellan actually had left north of the Chickahominy and able to "push" would have been to no useful effect. (After all, the Union line was already at Beaver Dam Creek - what's he going to do, launch an assault crossing of the Chickahominy?)
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Assuming (as I can't confirm it) that Porter's corps had arrived back by 31st May, before the battle McClellan's disposition was effectively four divisions north of the Chickahominy (5th and 6th corps), four south (3rd and 4th corps) and two in reserve north of the river but able to quickly cross (2nd corps).
2nd Corps moved south of the river during the battle, so as of the end of it there were six divisions south of the river and four north.

Johnston's dispositions, on the other hand, appear to have been entirely south of the Chickahominy - so in other words to "get at" Johnston's troops not actively involved in the Seven Pines battle indeed does require a forced crossing of the Chickahominy, or to move the divisions south of the river and attack there. There's no vulnerability north of the Chickahominy because there's nothing north of the Chickahominy that the CS Army actually needs to defend.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "above" the Chickahominy - do you mean south of the river or north of the river?

If you mean north of the river, there's nothing vital to Johnston there - he can just fall back over the Mechanicsville bridges and McClellan's blow will hit air.
If you mean south of the river (which I think is more likely) then the problem is the opposite. Just behind Johnston are several major works in the Richmond fortification belt.


On looking further, as far as I can tell this description (McClellan divided 2:1 over the Chickahominy) refers to the situation before the battle and the 2/3 is north. So it's out of date (as troops moved south over the Chickahominy to reinforce) and any counteroffensive with the remaining troops McClellan actually had left north of the Chickahominy and able to "push" would have been to no useful effect. (After all, the Union line was already at Beaver Dam Creek - what's he going to do, launch an assault crossing of the Chickahominy?)

Above means North of the Chickahominy. I always associate above as being north. As you say Johnston had nothing above the Chickahominy which means there were no troops to stop an advance towards Richmond. What I would consider an aggressive move would be for a combined attack by McClellan on the 1st of June (which is what Longstreet expected) both below and above the Chickahominy.

1599420016578.png


By Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4494834

Put everybody in. Fix Johnston below the river and cross and envelope above with crossings at Mechanicsville. This is assuming that McClellan had pontoon bridges available. If not, get them from Ft. Monroe and attack after the bridges arrive and are placed. Going by the OP Johnston is still around so this show of force might just scare Johnston enough that he abandons Richmond as was his custom.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Above means North of the Chickahominy. I always associate above as being north. As you say Johnston had nothing above the Chickahominy which means there were no troops to stop an advance towards Richmond. What I would consider an aggressive move would be for a combined attack by McClellan on the 1st of June (which is what Longstreet expected) both below and above the Chickahominy.

View attachment 372941

By Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4494834

Put everybody in. Fix Johnston below the river and cross and envelope above with crossings at Mechanicsville. This is assuming that McClellan had pontoon bridges available. If not, get them from Ft. Monroe and attack after the bridges arrive and are placed. Going by the OP Johnston is still around so this show of force might just scare Johnston enough that he abandons Richmond as was his custom.
Okay, I think I see the misunderstanding here, which is that you're not aware of the problem with attacking Richmond north of the Chickahominy.

Richmond isn't north of the Chickahominy. There's no "towards" there - you're moving parallel to the city, not towards it.

The reason why there's nothing there to defend Richmond north of the Chickahominy is because, well... there isn't a way into Richmond north of the Chickahominy - it has to be an assault crossing of a flooded river (the Chickahominy was flooded on the morning of the 1st - at least one bridge collapsed under Franklin, as in under general Franklin himself, and dumped him in the river) and most of McClellan's bridging effort for the last week and a half has gone into bridging between Bottom's Bridge and the Upper Trestle Bridge (and indeed most of the effort would continue to go into making sure these bridges were fit for purpose - see the note about Franklin being dropped in a river by the bridge that was supposed to take his corps across).

AP Hill (shown on the map) wasn't involved in the Seven Pines fighting, just as one example of a unit which was available to respond, and an opposed river crossing with pontoon bridges is a really bad idea when your opponent has troops available to respond.


If what you're basically suggesting is having 2nd, 3rd, 4th Corps attacking south of the river to fix Johnston, and then having 5th and 6th Corps making their assault crossing, the problem that immediately comes up is that as of Seven Pines Johnston has about 140 regiments of all arms in the Richmond battlespace exclusive of the Richmond garrison itself. (That's basically the number of companies divided by ten.) Each of McClellan's binary corps has about 27-30 regiments of all arms (as a rough number - 4th Corps for example has about 28-29 regiments of all arms, while 6th Corps has about 27 and 3rd Corps also has about 27.)

The holding attack south of the river (by about 85 regiments of all arms, going against fortifications) can't really be expected to tie up more than a hundred Confederate regiments of all arms - if they did that well they'd be outperforming - and it still leaves forty regiments of all arms to cover the Chickahominy, which means that 5th and 6th Corps (total about 55 regiments of all arms) are being expected to succeed at roughly 3:2 odds in making an attack over a river, then uphill against forts.

It's not simple at all. In fact I think it's the sort of situation Johnston would be very pleased to be in, because it means the Union troops are battering themselves against his defences in situations guaranteed to cause massive casualties.


June_1st.jpg


Yes, McClellan has some extra troops on top of what are in his corps - but they're not available to attack. In fact this slightly overstates the available attacking strength, because McClellan can't just leave his supply base and rear areas undefended.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
In the hope of providing further clarity, here is what the Richmond forts looked like. The exact dimensions are a little odd but this should give some sense of the level of mutual support the forts had.

default.jpg


As should be clear, the Chickahominy is pretty well covered.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
The retreat of Johnston's army would have to be south. You could fight delaying actions at the James and the Appomattox as you move towards the NC border. Remember, VA has all those west to east flowing rivers, so crossing each one allows you to create some time and space from a pursuiting force.

West doesn't make sense as McClellan could do just like Grant and cutoff any move south. The downfall of Richmond, and a major move south, means the CSA also loses the Valley. That's in many ways just as major as losing Tredegar and the political capital.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Put everybody in. Fix Johnston below the river and cross and envelope above with crossings at Mechanicsville. This is assuming that McClellan had pontoon bridges available. If not, get them from Ft. Monroe and attack after the bridges arrive and are placed. Going by the OP Johnston is still around so this show of force might just scare Johnston enough that he abandons Richmond as was his custom.

McClellan's intent for the 1st was to put everyone bar a portion of 5th Corps south of the Chickahominy to fight the enemy. Indeed, they'd been a stiff argument between McClellan and Franklin on the 31st May with the former telling the latter to get over the river ASAP.

The bridges that Sumner had used had collapsed behind him under the weight of his artillery (only one battery made it over).

The engineers worked hard to constructed a new pontoon bridge at New Bridge and Franklin tested it on the morning of the 1st, before sending troops over to comply with McClellan's order to have at least a brigade over at dawn. It collapsed under the weight of him and his horse, dumping them into the Chickahominy which they had to swim out of.

Things got so heated that McClellan threatened to disband the engineer troops if they couldn't get the bridges in working order immediately.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Really I think the most likely delay for a pursuit of CS forces after the abandonment of Richmond is simply going to be the time taken in crossing the James (which is a pretty major river around Richmond, it's navigable to some shipping). Moving south means the force stays in rail contact with a source of supply, which is just one of the good reasons to head that way.

In my mind the most likely scenario is that after McClellan's battering pieces have neutralized the Richmond forts numbered 10-13 on the map above - let's say that that status is reached on July 10, after around a week or so of battering - Johnston has a choice between fighting without benefit of forts over Richmond or abandoning the city, and he does what he did at Yorktown when a similar situation was being set up.

Basically he marches his entire force out of Richmond overnight en route south. Given the distances his first bound back probably ends at Swift Creek, and his second behind the Appomattox; there might be a delay at that point, but once McClellan has got Richmond under control he can use the Richmond and Danville to outflank a position at Petersburg - so I think Johnston might feel compelled to pull back behind the Roanoke sooner rather than later, using the rail line to move the first troops to Gaston and Weldon (to prevent a Union movement out of Norfolk) then marching his main body down and leaving a rearguard intending to rail out.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Because I made it and I don't want it to go to waste, here's a (rough) image of what regular approaches to Richmond look like.

regular_approaches.jpg



I should note here that 1st Corps is larger than the others, in that effectively the recommendation active from late May onwards was that the "whole or major part" of McDowell's then-current force should go down to join McClellan. Historically one division of the Department of the Rappahanock (the Pennsylvania Reserves) went down to join McClellan and was attached to 5th Corps.

As of the end of May the Dept. of the Rappahanock comprised about 65 regiments of all arms; McClellan could not necessarily expect to get them all but he could reasonably expect to get on the order of forty to forty-five regiments of all arms (i.e. about three divisions' worth on the scale he's working on at the moment). This would be sufficient to cover Tolopatamoy Creek with 1st Corps, as shown, and use 5th Corps to defend the supply lines north of the river from an attack out of Richmond; the rest would be available to push on the south side of the river.

Historically, McClellan basically had enough troops to do all the jobs shown except the job 1st Corps is shown doing. This meant that when the Seven Days began he could both push towards Richmond (taking high ground in the Old Tavern area, upon which he began emplacing his heavy guns - they fired over the Chickahominy during the Gaines Mill battle) and cover against a sally out of Richmond - what they could not do is cover the Tolopatamoy against Jackson coming down from the northwest.

That's why this is an "easy" way to get Richmond to fall in 1862, because it doesn't really rely on any commander's conjectured (or stereotypical) reactions. It simply relies on McClellan having the troops he was promised, doing the thing he said he would do with them, to the north of the Chickahominy - and the south of the Chickahominy going as it did historically up to the 27th of June. If you can have that, you have heavy guns ready to batter the Richmond forts.
 

Pete Longstreet

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
But when Lee's army was defeated and Richmond lost, the whole thing collapsed. Now obviously here Lee's army isn't the symbol, but the morale effect of losing the capital is going to be considerable.
Your referencing this as it happened in 1865, as the south was depleted in men, supplies, and even moral. But in 1862 if Richmond falls, I doubt they just "collapse". The war was still in its infancy more or less and I'm sure Davis would have moved the capital. Possibly Montgomery, which you indicated above. Is the fall of Richmond a huge blow to the Confederacy... absolutely. Would it force R.E. Lee to surrender earlier than April 9th, 1865... most likely. But the south would most likely fight on. Vicksburg was still strong along with the western theater. Maybe Lee moves west and concentrates his forces in Tennessee or Mississippi. But out there, especially with no navy and the loss of Tredeger and the railways surrounding Richmond... they are on borrowed time.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
What I was trying to say is that while the fall of Richmond by itself doesn't lead to the South collapsing (if they've otherwise not been hammered), it has to have a major morale impact. Both in the moment and once the impacts start to filter through, like their artillery becoming a wasting asset.

As for where Lee/Johnston goes to defend, I think he has to try and hold the line of the Roanoke. The Atlantic states are just too economically important to the Confederacy (and important in terms of population, and in terms of running through the blockade - which is how the CSA got something like 90% of its nitre) to sacrifice by abandoning them.
 

Pete Longstreet

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
What I was trying to say is that while the fall of Richmond by itself doesn't lead to the South collapsing (if they've otherwise not been hammered), it has to have a major morale impact. Both in the moment and once the impacts start to filter through, like their artillery becoming a wasting asset.

As for where Lee/Johnston goes to defend, I think he has to try and hold the line of the Roanoke. The Atlantic states are just too economically important to the Confederacy (and important in terms of population, and in terms of running through the blockade - which is how the CSA got something like 90% of its nitre) to sacrifice by abandoning them.
I can agree with your assessment on the impact of morale. But to me morale in this case (fall of Richmond, 1862) has two possible outcomes. It either affects the army and government in a negative way, where they feel they are doomed... or it makes the south more aggressive, almost to the tune of "all or nothing" and they go on an all out offensive campaign. Although, that would probably prove disastrous too in a short period of time.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I can agree with your assessment on the impact of morale. But to me morale in this case (fall of Richmond, 1862) has two possible outcomes. It either affects the army and government in a negative way, where they feel they are doomed... or it makes the south more aggressive, almost to the tune of "all or nothing" and they go on an all out offensive campaign. Although, that would probably prove disastrous too in a short period of time.
The usual result is negative, because armies are not monolithic. Every individual within the army has a different reaction, and usually the result of a negative outcome is that those who are less "committed" will flake away - thus reducing the size of the army.

Couple that with McClellan's policy of conciliation (which was, basically, that citizens of the South were citizens of the United States and should be accepted back into the fold) and you get a situation in which there are strong pressures to give up.
 

Stuey

Private
Joined
Apr 3, 2016
It's a good question. You can't just pick a swamp in the middle of nowhere and make it a national capital (well... not in a wartime which urgently requires bureaucracy) and the largest cities left in the CSA (in mid-1862 but once Virginia is gone) are...


US Population
Rank
City
State
22​
40522​
27​
29258​
41​
22292​
77​
12493​
97​
9621​
99​
9554​
100​
9552​


Augusta, Columbus and Atlanta are the only three of these which are inland (i.e. not the immediate next target for a US amphibious operation), but they're all kind of small. (For reference Richmond had 38,000.)

Charlotte basically did not exist as a city in the Civil War; it had a population of 2,265. A brigade of defending troops would probably outnumber the population!

Wow, i didn't realize Atlanta has such a low population at that time and i didn't realize some of those other cities you listed had such large populations. Live and Learn i guess. Thanks for the information!
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Wow, i didn't realize Atlanta has such a low population at that time and i didn't realize some of those other cities you listed had such large populations. Live and Learn i guess. Thanks for the information!
The thing that I really take away from it is that - for example - in July 1862 the three largest population centres in Virginia were the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Virginia.
 
Top