for the above print as shown on the certificate:
Lincoln's "Prince of Procrastination," General George McClellan,
had finally been prodded into action. On March 17th, 1862, one day ahead
of the deadline imposed by the President, the first of McClellan's
divisions embarked at Alexandria. "The worst is over," the
general assured his superiors by letter. "Rely upon it that I will
carry this thing through handsomely."
optimism was short-lived. McClellan's peninsula campaign did not go nearly
as smoothly as he had anticipated. It was May 24th before his forces
occupied the village of Mechanicsville, still some five miles from
Richmond. Here his progress was stalled because the Chickahominy River was
on the rise and he had to put his men to work building no fewer than
eleven bridges across the river in a twelve mile stretch south to Bottom's
bridge. Then to add to his problems, he received word that General
McDowell's 40,000 men would not be at his disposal as had been the plan.
General Joseph E. Johnston learned that McDowell was returning to
Fredericksburg on the night of May 23rd, a move he knew he had
precipitated by an event at Front Royal on May 23rd. A surprise attack by
Stonewall Jackson upon General Nathanial Banks had set his main army to
flight, half destroyed his wagon train, and in a full scale battle at
Winchester, put the Federals into panic.
that Johnston did not have to worry about McDowell, he would attack the
Federals south of the Chickahominy and overwhelm their left wing before it
could be reinforced from across the river. The battle of Seven Pines began
at 1.00pm on May 31st, when D. H. Hills division launched a massive
attack, overrunning Casey's Federal troops. The battle raged on until dusk
and Johnston concluded that the battle would have to continue the next
about 7.00pm he rode toward the front with his young orderly and a staff
colonel, seeing to the disposition of his troops. As he neared the edge of
the battlefield, Johnston saw the officer duck his head as an enemy shell
whistled by, Johnston smiled and said, "Colonel there is no use of
dodging, when you hear them they have passed." Just then a Federal
musket ball struck Johnston in the right shoulder. A moment later a heavy
fragment of shell slammed into the general's chest, knocking him to the
Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee greeted Johnston as he was moved
to the rear. The severely wounded general had regained consciousness but
was growing weaker and was taken from the field.
pressed General Gustavus Smith, the ranking officer, for his plans since
he would logically inherit command. Smith's hesitant replies did not suit
Davis, and his mention of pulling back even closer to Richmond was
one was near Lee and Davis as they rode slowly through the swarm of
vehicles carrying the wounded into Richmond - not close enough to hear
Davis' words which placed Lee in command; however, his most devoted
biographer was to render them: "General Lee, I shall assign you to
the command of this army. Make your preparations as soon as you reach your
quarters. I shall send you the order when you get to Richmond."
Generals James Longstreet, A.P. Hill and D.H. Hill were already engaged in
the theatre of operations, but before calling these commanders to council,
Lee would add one more name to the list. He sent insistent dispatches to
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson urging him to hurry to Richmond.
Lee put the order gently, "If you agree," but the compelling
haste was clear in every line. Jackson was to conceal his movements and
come as swiftly as possible to the capital. It was an order to delight
Jackson; he might have written it himself.
almost the same moment Jackson read Lee's order, General Banks was
telegraphing Washington that Old Jack was advancing on him in overwhelming
force. Jackson's answer to Lee's summons was not to be an easy task, a
fifty-two mile ride in fourteen hours.
was Sunday, June 27th, and Jackson chose to delay the start of his journey
until 1.00am so that he would not break the Sabbath. It would be mid-afternoon before he arrived at Lee's headquarters in the Dabb's
farmhouse near Richmond. He found Lee at work and waited for him in the
yard, D.H. Hill arrived and was most surprised to find his newly-famous
brother-in-law present for the meeting, since he had only yesterday been
far down the valley confronting Banks. Yet there he was.
were bad, the barbed-tongued Hill told Jackson. His forces were being
crushed by McClellan's huge army. There was little food, scarce supplies,
and even their cannon were untrustworthy.
made little reply to his outspoken friend as they went inside. They were
soon joined by Longstreet and H.P. Hill. Longstreet, a Union captain when
the war came, was squat, stubborn, and becoming deaf at the age of 41.
Red-haired A.P. Hill was hot-tempered, but brilliant and had yet to be
tested in the field.
began to explain the plan of assault on the Yankees. It was a bold plan,
born of desperation in an effort to stave off a siege of Richmond. Lee was
but 55. He had held command for just three weeks and had fought no battle
beyond giving direction in the final hours of the inconclusive action at
Seven Pines. Although there was a gentle authority in his voice, his
manner of offering his plan bordered on humility. He spoke as became the
man who had lately written on taken command from the wounded Johnston,
"I wish his mantle had fallen on an abler man, or that I were able to
drive our enemies back to their homes. I have no ambition and no desire to
but the attainment of this object, and therefore only wish for its
accomplishment by him that can do it most speedily and thoroughly."
the next four days, 85,000 Confederates faced 105,000 Bluecoats and
emerged triumphant. Union General George McClellan not only lost men and
supplies, he lost the initiative. Lee had his first victory.