Following its defeat at the battle of Gaines's Mill, McClellan's Army of the Potomac was in retreat. While his men burned leftover supplies at White House Landing on the Chickahominy River, the Union general ordered two corps to remain at Savage's Station and serve as a rear guard while he withdrew the rest of the army south toward Harrison's Landing on the James River. The Union Second, Third, and Sixth corps, commanded by Edwin V. Sumner, Samuel P. Heintzelman, and William F. Franklin, respectively, were in position by the evening of June 28, 1862. As he had done a few days earlier, Lee devised an overly complicated battle plan—a three-pronged attack that depended upon precise timing and included an assault on the Union rearguard led by Confederate general John B. Magruder.
Confederate troops under Lafayette McLaws formed at the edge of woods and attacked Union troops under John Sedgwick across an open field. Reinforcements on the Confederate right came close to flanking the Union line, and fighting raged on either side of Williamsburg Road until nine o'clock that night, when a rainstorm forced Union forces to withdraw.
The battle cost 919 Union casualties compared to approximately 450 for the Confederates, and in their rush to retreat, Sumner's men were forced to abandon 2,500 of their wounded comrades, many of them victims of fighting earlier in the week. Although Magruder held the field at the end of the fight, Lee rebuked him in a dispatch that evening: "I regret much that you have made so little progress today in the pursuit of the enemy. In order to reap the fruits of our victory the pursuit should be most vigorous … We must lose no more time or he will escape us entirely." The day's events helped to spark Lee's animosity toward Magruder, a graduate of both West Point and the University of Virginia who had hoodwinked McClellan the month before at Yorktown. Following the Seven Days' Battles, Lee would reorganize his army and exile Magruder to the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. For now, however, he kept up the pressure on McClellan, attacking him the next day at White Oak Swamp.
June 26, 1862 - During the Seven Days' Battles, Robert E. Lee attacks Union general George B. McClellan's retreating army at Mechanicsville. McClellan wins a victory but continues his retreat anyway.
June 27, 1862 - During the Seven Days' Battles, Robert E. Lee attacks Union general George B. McClellan's retreating army at Gaines's Mill. Casualties are horrific on both sides, but the Confederates manage to rout the Union troops.
June 28, 1862, evening - The Union Second, Third, and Sixth corps, commanded by Edwin V. Sumner, Samuel P. Heintzelman, and William B. Franklin, respectively, are in position at Savage's Station. They are directed to protect the retreat of Union general George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac.
June 29, 1862, 9:00 a.m. - Confederate general John B. Magruder attacks the Union Second Corps under Edwin V. Sumner at Orchard Station, two miles west of Savage's Station. Despite being outnumbered, Magruder manages to push Sumner back for two hours.
June 29, 1862, 11:00 a.m. - Union general Edwin V. Sumner retreats to Savage's Station and expects to find there Samuel P. Heintzelman's Third Corps; however, unbeknownst to Sumner, Heintzelman has retreated south to White Oak Swamp.
June 29, 1862, 5:00 p.m. - At the Battle of Savage's Station, Confederate general John Magruder is cautious about attacking when he hears that Confederate reinforcements under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson will not arrive until the next day. Still, his troops come close to breaking the Union line.
June 29, 1862, 9:00 p.m. - The Battle of Savage's Station is ended by a driving rainstorm. Despite being outnumbered, Confederates manage to push Union troops off the field.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Lawfer, L. E. Battle of Savage's Station. (2013, July 9). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Savage_s_Station_Battle_of.
- MLA Citation:
Lawfer, Laura E. "Battle of Savage's Station." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 9 Jul. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: February 6, 2012 | Last modified: July 9, 2013
Contributed by Laura E. Lawfer, assistant director of interpretation at Stratford Hall, in Stratford, Virginia.