Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gaines' Mill panoramas: 'Like a swarm of angry bumblebees'

Click here for my interactive Antietam, Cedar Mountain, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Harris Farm, Manassas, Salem Church and Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefield panoramas.

                                             Union perspective at Battle of Gaines' Mill.

When Rebels charged out of these woods during the latter stages of the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862, they were hot on the heels of Federal troops, preventing nearby Yankee artillery from immediately blasting away with canister.

Lieutenant Charles Phillips witnessed the
rout of the Union army at Gaines' Mill.
 "The woods were full of smoke and bullets buzzed round our heads like a swarm of angry bumblebees," Lieutenant Charles Phillips of the 5th Massachusetts Light Artillery wrote after the battle. "... My horse had a bullet in the flank and one sergeant's horse lay dead on the ground. As yet no men were hit, but louder and louder roared the musketry, and thicker and thicker buzzed the bullets, and suddenly out poured our infantry in disorder, frightened and reckless -- they made an attempt to rally, rushing out right in front of the muzzles of our guns, which were right in front of the trees, but broke and retreated."

The Rebel attack was so overwhelming that Phillips was forced to abandon his cannon, galloping away on his wounded horse. When the animal was struck in the leg by an enemy volley, he tumbled to the ground and was stunned to see a Rebel flag planted on his cannon.

"By this time," Phillips wrote, "all was confusion, the road was filled with fugitives, the officers in vain trying to rally their men, and the thunder of artillery and musketry incessant."

Phillips, a 21-year-old Harvard law school graduate, reluctantly left behind his pocket testament, bridle, saddle and blanket to the Rebels. It could have been worse. In its defeat at Gaines Mill, the largest of the Seven Days' battles near Richmond, the Union army suffered 6,800 casualties.

                        Another view of Gaines' Mill battlefield from Union perspective.

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