June 30, 1862: Battles of Frazier’s Farm and White Oak Swamp

As June 30th dawned the Union army was in full retreat to the James.  By noon, one-third of the Army of the Potomac had reached the James, while the other two-thirds was strung out on roads leading to the James between Glendale and White Oak Swamp.  This presented a tempting target to General Lee.  Ordering Jackson in the north to cross White Oak Creek and press the Union rear guard, the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia, some 45,000 men, would attack two miles southwest at Glendale, and inflict what Lee hoped would be a crushing defeat on the Union forces marching to the James.  It was a good plan that fell down almost completely in execution.

Jackson, with that strange lethargy that marred all his operations in the Seven Days, spent all of the day north of White Oak Creek, launching feeble assaults which were easily repulsed by the Union VI Corp under General William Franklin.

The Confederate attack at Glendale fared little better.  Huger’s division failed to participate in the offensive,  slowed by felled trees and the failure of Huger to take an alternative route.  Holmes and Magruder launched a weak attack against the V Corps of General Fitz John Porter, the attack being broken up by Union artillery fire, supplemented by naval bombardment.

At 4:00 PM the divisions of Longstreet and A.P. Hill attacked at Glendale with the fighting centering on Frazier’s Farm, held by the Pennyslvania Reserves division of the V Corps under General George McCall.  Hard fighting continued until 8:30 PM.  The Union line held, and the Union army continued its retreat to Malvern Hill on the James.  The battle resulted in similar casualties for both sides:  Confederate 3,673 and Union 3, 797.  A golden opportunity to do severe damage to the Union army had been missed due to the poor execution which was a hallmark of the inexperienced Confederate command structure during the Seven Days.  Here is General Lee’s report written on March 6, 1863:


       Jackson reached Savage Station early on the 30th. He was directed to pursue the enemy on the road he had taken and Magruder to follow Longstreet by the Darbytown road. As Jackson advanced he captured such numbers of prisoners and collected so many arms that two regiments had to be detached for their security. His progress was arrested at White Oak Swamp. The enemy occupied the opposite side and obstinately resisted the reconstruction of the bridge.

       Longstreet and A. P. Hill, continuing their advance on the 30th, soon came upon the enemy strongly posted across the Long Bridge road, about 1 mile from its intersection with the Charles City road. Huger’s route led to the right of this position, Jackson’s to the rear, and the arrival of their commands was awaited to begin the attack.

      On the 29th General Holmes had crossed from the south side of James River with part of his division.

      On the 30th, re-enforced by General Wise with a detachment of his brigade, he moved down the river road and came upon the line of the retreating army near Malvern Hill. Perceiving indications of confusion, General Holmes was ordered to open upon the column with artillery. He soon discovered that a number of batteries, advantageously posted, supported by an infantry force superior to his own and assisted by the fire of the gunboats in the James River, guarded this part of the line.

      Magruder, who had reached the Darbytown road, was ordered to re-enforce Holmes, but being at a greater distance than had been supposed, he did not reach the position of the latter in time for an attack.

       Huger reported that his progress was obstructed, but about 4 p.m. firing was heard in the direction of the Charles City road, which was supposed to indicate his approach. Longstreet immediately ‘opened with one of his batteries to give notice of his presence. This brought on the engagement, but Huger not coming up, and Jackson having been unable to force the passage of White Oak Swamp, Longstreet and Hill were without the expected support. The superiority of numbers and advantage of position were on the side of the enemy.

       The battle raged furiously until 9 p.m. By that time the enemy had been driven with great slaughter from every position but one, which he maintained until he was enabled to withdraw under cover of darkness.

       At the close of the struggle nearly the entire field remained in our possession, covered with the enemy’s dead and wounded. Many prisoners, including a general of division, were captured, and several batteries, with some thousands of small-arms, taken. Could the other commands have co-operated in the action the result would have proved most disastrous to the enemy.

       After the engagement Magruder was recalled to relieve the troops of Longstreet and Hill. His men, much fatigued by their long, hot march, arrived during the night.

Published in: on June 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 30, 1862: Battles of Frazier’s Farm and White Oak Swamp  
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