Friday, May 7, 2010

We'd Have Driven Them Into The River

Part of the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Eltham’s Landing took place on May 7th 1862.

Brigadier General William B Franklin had been ordered to protect the road to Barhamsville, New Kent County, Virginia. On May 7th 1862 Union Brigadier General John Newton had a brigade in the woods on either side of the landing road. Confederate Brigadier General John Bell Hood advanced pushing Newton’s skirmish line back. Do to the thick woods, Hood ordered his men to unload their rifles as they advanced. Union troops retreated from the woods onto the plain in front of the landing, where they could get cover fire from the Union gunboats. The Confederates fired artillery into the gunboats, but they didn't have enough range and so disengaged at about 2pm.  After the Confederates pulled back from the area, the Union troops moved back into the woods, but did not try to advance any further.

The action of the Battle at Eltham’s Landing was really little more than a skirmish. The Confederate saw 48 casualties, while the Union side lost 194 men. The action was a draw, although Confederate General Joseph E Johnston considered it a success, having only ordered Hood to feel out the enemy. He asked Hood, "What would your Texans have done, sir, if I had ordered them to charge and drive back the enemy?" To which Hood said, "I suppose, General, they would have driven them into the river, and tried to swim out and capture the gunboats."

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