Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Huger’s (and Lee’s) Presence at Oak Grove

Above: Part of a map showing the "Position of Troops, Morning of June 25, 1862." Huger’s Division’s position is shown at left center toward the top of the legend. This map was probably the principal source for Sears’ map of Oak Grove in To the Gates of Richmond. Source: Library of Congress. Geography & Map Division. Landers, Howard Lee, and Donald E. Windham. [Seven Days' Battles, Virginia, June 25-July 1, 1862]. S.l: s.n.], 1929.

Earlier I mentioned the fact that Lee had informed President Davis that Huger was not at his post when McClellan’s offensive of June 25, 1862, hit Huger’s Division along the axis of the Williamsburg Road. This attack was of the greatest concern to Lee, since McClellan hit hard at the weakest sector of the Confederate line just a day before Lee himself launched his great offensive against the weak Federal right flank (at Mechanicsville). McClellan, by dumb luck struck the Army of Northern Virginia where it was most vulnerable and threatened to derange all of Lee’s plans for his own offensive.

Huger’s absence at the outset of the Federal attack was unforgivable. The pertinent sequence of events is best followed not in the Official Records, nor in the secondary literature, but rather in the following source:

Lee, Robert E., and Clifford Dowdey. The Wartime Papers of R.E. Lee. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961.

Huger’s mission on the 25th was outlined in Lee’s G.O. No. 75 (June 24), which was his mission order to his army for the first phase of the Seven Days’ offensive (doc. 210 in the above).

I have previously quoted from Lee’s Dispatches the evidence that Huger was not at his post. Lee’s actions subsequent to this discovery are outlined in a letter to Davis (doc. 211, which appears to be misdated June 24) and doc. 212, Lee to his wife, dtd. June 25.

In doc. 211, Lee states that he was “called to the Williamsburg road” by the fighting on Huger’s front and that the “affair on the whole was not well managed.” Nonetheless, he was determined to stick to his overall offensive plan. He states that he ordered Huger to hold his lines “at all hazards.” So, it is apparent that Huger did join his division during the fighting and that Lee firmly reiterated his orders and expectations to him.

In doc. 212, Lee gives the time of his arrival and other facts that indicate his preoccupation with events on Huger’s front.

Knowledge of the entirety of the documentation of events that day (such as it is) will definitely help to improve the Oak Grove scenario I’m designing for TCHAE. Also, the time spent in working through these events has rather tempered my sympathy for Huger for his shabby treatment by Longstreet and Johnston after Fair Oaks.

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