The Peninsula What happened to Jackson at the Seven Days Battles?

rickvox79

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I am reading Porter Alexander's "Military Memoirs" and currently I am at the section where he discusses the Seven Days Battles. He seems to be just as perplexed as everyone else as to what happened with "The Jackson of the Valley" and him being replaced with "The Jackson of the Chickahominy." He seems to take the attitude of "Who is this imposter and what have you done with the real Jackson" when talking about this campaign.

I'm sure it has been discussed on here many times but thought I'd throw this thread out there to get the forums opinions on it. Jackson seemed to be aggressive so many times, why would he falter now? Fatigue? Not wanting to encroach on the Lord's day perhaps? I found this part of Alexander's book interesting when he quoted Wade Hampton.



"We could see a very wide and deep ravine in which was a line of Federals lying down in line of battle, and evidently expecting, if any attack was made upon them, it would be from the open field below the ford of the stream. In this event their position would have been very strong. "Withdrawing without attracting their notice, I returned across the swamp and gave to Gen. Jackson all the facts stated above. "He asked if I could make a bridge across the stream, to which I replied that I could make one for the infantry, but not for artillery, as cutting a road would disclose our position.


He directed me to make the bridge. Ordering a detail of my men to cut some poles where they were standing and to carry them into the swamp, a bridge was made in a few minutes. I then again reconnoitered the position of the enemy whom I found perfectly quiet unsuspecting. On my return to our side of the swamp, I found Gen. Jackson seated on a fallen pine alongside of the road that led down to the ford, and seating myself by him, I reported the completion of the bridge and the exposed position of the enemy. He drew his cap down over his eyes which were closed, and after listening to me for some minutes, he rose without speaking, and the next morning we found Franklin with the rest of the Federal troops concentrated on Malvern Hill.

"While we were waiting at the White Oak crossing we heard the noise of Longstreet's battle at Frazier's Farm, and Capt. or Maj. Fairfax of Longstreet's staff came with a message from the general to Gen. Jackson. Though I heard this message, I cannot recall it. . . . In speaking to Gen. Lee in 1868 on this subject he expressed the greatest surprise at my account of this matter, and he said that he never had understood why the delay had occurred.
"Gen. Jackson was too great a soldier, and I was too much attached to him, for me to venture to criticize his actions or his plans, but it seems to me that everything which throws light on the plans of our great chief, Gen. Lee, should go down in history. I believe that if Franklin, who opposed us at White Oak, could have been defeated, the Federal army would have been destroyed.
"Yours truly,
"WADE HAMPTON."

Much comment suggests itself, but little is needed : Who that fought with Lee can picture to himself without emotion what might have happened had the Jackson of the Valley had the opportunity presented to him which Gen. Hampton has described as offered in vain to the Jackson of the Chickahominy"



I find it interesting that Hampton spoke to Lee about this incident in 1868 and Lee was surprised. No one is perfect, but Alexander truly seemed to think if Jackson showed more initiative during this campaign they could have struck a serious blow to the Union. I wonder what Jackson was thinking during this time? I know he pushed his men hard, but maybe he felt sorry for how hard they had worked recently and decided not to push them? I guess we'll never know for sure.
 

diane

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It's sort of like the discussions on what happened to Lee at Gettysburg - something was wrong but what? The general definitely wasn't on top of his game!

I'm of the belief that Jackson's problem was exhaustion. He had one of his chest colds, too, and he pushed himself even harder than his men - and that was legendary. Jackson fell asleep there and could not be awakened - his staff squatted around him like a group of frogs calling to him, shaking him, even trying to stand him up - nothing woke him! I think his body just shut him down and it was at a really bad moment.

There is also another theory, and that is Jackson was not exactly crystal clear as to what Lee wanted and so followed only the letter of Lee's written orders. When he was unsure, that was his fall-back - do exactly what he was told and that was all.

There is also good reason to believe Jackson could do no more than he did - never mind his personal or physical state.
 

rpkennedy

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I think diane hit the nail on the head. I think it was a combination of him not feeling well, complete mental exhaustion (there was a time when he was bringing his men from the Valley where he was awake for something like 48+ hours), and unclear goals and routes. In addition, I believe there were two times where he was led astray by guides.

R
 

atuttle32

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Yet if one of Jacksons subordinates acted like this, he would have had charges pressed against him by Jackson....

Good point. As others were certainly brought up charges - Lee seems to have been all forgiving. I wonder if there is anyone he ever admonished for poor behavior/actions?
 

rickvox79

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Here is Porter Alexander quoting DH Hill on the matter and also throwing in his thoughts again.

"D. H. Hill (who was Jackson's brother-in-law), writing in the Century of this occasion many years after the war, says:

"After showing how the crossing of White Oak might have been effected, Dabney adds: 'The list of casualties might have been longer than that presented on the 30th, of one cannoneer wounded, but how much shorter would have been the bloody list filled up the next day at Malvern Hill? This temporary eclipse of Jackson's genius was probably to be explained by physical causes. The labor of the previous days, the sleeplessness, the wear of gigantic cares, with the drenching of the comfortless night, had sunk the elasticity of his will and the quickness of his invention, for the nonce, below their wonted tension."'
D. H. Hill does not comment upon this explanation, but it will not bear examination. For two days Jackson and his command had been quietly in camp; and his lapse from duty, while culminating only on June 29 and 30, in fact dated from the very first of the Seven Days. Hill submits his own explanation of the matter as follows :

"I think that an important factor in this inaction was Jackson's pity for his own corps, worn out by long and exhausting marches, and reduced in numbers by its numerous sanguinary battles. He thought that the garrison of Richmond ought now to bear the brunt of the fighting."

This last expression is but another form of a rumor which, to my knowledge, had private circulation at the time among the staff-officers of some of the leading generals. It was reported that Jackson had said that "he did not intend that his men should do all the fighting."
Jackson's troops (his own and Ewell's divisions) had had a sharp campaign in the Valley, but the rest of the army at Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Seven Pines had suffered just as many hardships, and done even more severe fighting, as the casualties will attest. There were no arrears to be made up. The total killed and wounded of Jackson's six brigades in the Valley campaign from Kernstown (March 23) to Port Republic (June 9) were but 2311. Three brigades Rodes's, Garland's, and G. B. Anderson's of D. H. Hill's division had had killed and wounded the first day at Seven Pines 2621. During the Seven Days they lost 2277 more, while Jackson's six brigades lost but 1152.

It is only natural and right that every division commander should feel both pity and affection for his own men, but to manifest either by shirking battle is no real kindness to them, apart from the tremendous consequences to the army and the nation."


I love how candid Porter Alexander is in his book so far. I can see why so many recommended it. He was not afraid to pass blame around, even to those that were held in such high regard, if he felt their actions warranted it.
 

K Hale

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I think diane hit the nail on the head. I think it was a combination of him not feeling well, complete mental exhaustion (there was a time when he was bringing his men from the Valley where he was awake for something like 48+ hours), and unclear goals and routes. In addition, I believe there were two times where he was led astray by guides.

R
That sums it up as I understand it. The perfect storm.

Don't give a lot of credence to D.H. Hill... he fell out with Jackson and was a bitter, angry man.
 

K Hale

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I love how candid Porter Alexander is in his book so far. I can see why so many recommended it. He was not afraid to pass blame around, even to those that were held in such high regard, if he felt their actions warranted it.
As a side note, this isn't the one I recommended. That was Fighting for the Confederacy. I haven't read his Military Memoirs of a Confederate. Two different books.
 

rickvox79

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As a side note, this isn't the one I recommended. That was Fighting for the Confederacy. I haven't read his Military Memoirs of a Confederate. Two different books.

Yeah I remember "Fighting for the Confederacy" was highly recommended by you. I picked up "Military Memoirs" because I was able to find it for the Kindle so made it easier for me to pick up right away. I definitely want to read "Fighting" soon, I will just have to order the hard cover from Amazon at some point instead of being lazy and just downloading it for my Kindle since they don't seem to have it. I could be wrong but I didn't really see Hill's comments as being that derogatory towards Jackson in this instance unless I'm just not reading into it the way I should be.
 

K Hale

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"I think that an important factor in this inaction was Jackson's pity for his own corps, worn out by long and exhausting marches, and reduced in numbers by its numerous sanguinary battles. He thought that the garrison of Richmond ought now to bear the brunt of the fighting."

This last expression is but another form of a rumor which, to my knowledge, had private circulation at the time among the staff-officers of some of the leading generals. It was reported that Jackson had said that "he did not intend that his men should do all the fighting."

Derogatory as can be. It would also be pretty out of character for Jackson.
 

rickvox79

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Derogatory as can be. It would also be pretty out of character for Jackson.

I guess I saw it more of him making an excuse for Jackson. But I guess making an excuse could be construed as an insult especially when that excuse goes against the character of Jackson. I didn't really see where he called him out other than just saying he believed Jackson may have felt sorry for his men. Maybe I'm just looking for a "Jackson was an idiot and ruined it for us!" type comment but I suppose they weren't as blunt back then hehehe
 

diane

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Stuart had informed Lee that Porter's right was in the air - Lee wanted a flank attack by Jackson, as nobody did them better! Everybody was in place but a lot of things besides Jackson got in the way. A P Hill was impatient and that was his worst flaw - he picked a premature fight at Mechanicsville. Then there was a deserter from Jackson's army who ratted out Jackson's position. Near impossible to get the guns across the swamp. Coordination with the Hills and Longstreet was ragged. If all had been right, Lee would have gotten a very nice feather in his cap the size of Chancellorsville. Jackson wasn't in peak form that day but he can't be blamed entirely for the loss.
 

K Hale

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I guess I saw it more of him making an excuse for Jackson. But I guess making an excuse could be construed as an insult especially when that excuse goes against the character of Jackson. I didn't really see where he called him out other than just saying he believed Jackson may have felt sorry for his men. Maybe I'm just looking for a "Jackson was an idiot and ruined it for us!" type comment but I suppose they weren't as blunt back then hehehe
He didn't just say Jackson felt sorry for his men, he said Jackson allowed his men to malinger. That's a very serious accusation, and it goes completely against everything we know about Jackson.
 

rickvox79

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He didn't just say Jackson felt sorry for his men, he said Jackson allowed his men to malinger. That's a very serious accusation, and it goes completely against everything we know about Jackson.

I know Hill had a vendetta for being removed from command later on, did he have one towards Jackson? Jealously for his success? I'll have to research more on him. Hopefully my thread didn't come across as me doubting Jackson as a commander. Was just curious what thoughts were on this forum as to why this campaign didn't go like the others for him. Thanks for the thoughts and opinions, gives me a better idea as I read over Alexander's memoirs.
 

Michael Condon

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I know Hill had a vendetta for being removed from command later on, did he have one towards Jackson? Jealously for his success? I'll have to research more on him. Hopefully my thread didn't come across as me doubting Jackson as a commander. Was just curious what thoughts were on this forum as to why this campaign didn't go like the others for him. Thanks for the thoughts and opinions, gives me a better idea as I read over Alexander's memoirs.

DH Hill was mainly removed from his command because he had chronic back pain throughout the first couple years. He was actually a very aggressive commander from what I have read on him. I do think he became jealous because they with brother-in laws, and trust me there is some compeition within family. haha
 

rpkennedy

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DH Hill was mainly removed from his command because he had chronic back pain throughout the first couple years. He was actually a very aggressive commander from what I have read on him. I do think he became jealous because they with brother-in laws, and trust me there is some compeition within family. haha

He was also removed from command because he was well-known as not getting along with virtually anyone. He had a tendancy to rub people the wrong way. He did it with the AoNV, he did it in Richmond, and he did it with the AoT. Hill was an aggressive and competant commander but was just a jacka** personally.

R
 

Michael Condon

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He was also removed from command because he was well-known as not getting along with virtually anyone. He had a tendancy to rub people the wrong way. He did it with the AoNV, he did it in Richmond, and he did it with the AoT. Hill was an aggressive and competant commander but was just a jacka** personally.

R
haha more of a tattle tale than a jackarse, i guess you could say. I think he was good friends with Longstreet?
 
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