Friday, June 29, 2012

Battle of Savage Station

150 years ago today the Confederates continued to execute Lee's complicated plan to crush the retreating army of McClellan. The battle began about 9 am when Magruder pushed his troops forward. Two Georgia regiments encountered the Federals, and the fighting continued for several hours before they disengaged. Although the Federals were vulnerable, retreating across his front, Magruder became confused and thought he was going to be attacked and overwhelmed. He requested and received reinforcements from Lee. The rest of the Confederate plan was not going smoothly either, with Jackson again moving slowly.
"Prince John" Magruder

The Federals were not immune from mistakes. Three corps had been assigned to stay around Savage Station, facing Magruder, but Heintzelman decided he was not needed and left, leaving only Sumner and Franklin.

After hesitating throughout the day Magruder finally ordered two and a half brigades forward at around 5 pm. They were supported by what was called the Land Merrimack, a 32 pounder cannon mounted on a railroad car and shielded with armor plates. This was the first use of an armored railroad battery in combat. The Federals responded with only a small force, so the fighting turned into a stalemate until darkness ended the conflict. Around 1,030 were lost by the Federals and 475 by Magruder. Magruder's cautiousness meant that the opportunity to destroy McClellan was wasted. Lee wrote him a letter in which he delivered an rebuke unusual for him:
"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 that pursuit should be most vigorous. ... We must lose no more time or he will escape us entirely."
The next day would come quickly, bringing new opportunities for Lee to strike McClellan.
Field Hospital at Savage Station


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