The major Union offensive to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., triggers fierce fighting May 31, 1862, at the Battle of Seven Pines just eight miles east of that city. Confederates defending Richmond under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston attack two Federal units south of Virginia's Chickahominy River.
The assaults push Union troops back and mark the start of heavy casualties. Fighting rages as more troops on each side join the fray. Johnston is seriously wounded before the battle ends June 1, 1862. This fight ends inconclusively for both sides with more than 13,700 casualties. But significantly, it marks the rise of Gen. Robert E. Lee to the top of the Confederate command shortly after Johnston is wounded.
All Richmond had anxiously watched and waited, amid worries whether the defenses would hold. The Associated Press reports May 27, 1862, that a lead article in the Richmond Enquirer recently issued a "clarion call" for Johnston's army to defend the city at any cost: "The time has come when retreat will no longer be strategy but disaster.
It must therefore give place to battle" the Enquirer stated. The battle will mark a turning point as Confederate fighters dash the hopes of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan of seizing Richmond. And it won't be Johnston but the pugnacious Robert E. Lee who will save Richmond and force
McClellan to retreat in the fighting just ahead. Elsewhere 150 years ago in the war, Confederate forces defending the northeast Mississippi railroad junction at Corinth, Miss., withdraw rather than surrender to Union soldiers closing in on that city. The Confederates leave behind miles of earthworks defending the approaches to Corinth and a key rail crossing for train lines serving nearly the entire South.
The Associated Press