The Confederate experiment seemed doomed in the spring of 1862. On the Mississippi River, Union forces occupied New Orleans and launched a drive to wrest control of the river from the Rebels.
In the East, the plodding Peninsula campaign of General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac finally reached the outskirts of Richmond at the end of May amidst rumors that the Confederate government was ready to evacuate their capital.
On May 31, however, the Rebels struck back. General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army attacked McClellan’s forces at the crossroads of Seven Pines village east of Richmond. Although Johnston’s force outnumbered the Federals, he had devised a far too complex plan of battle, which resulted in a series of uncoordinated and costly attacks against determined Union resistance.
The fighting continued into the morning of June 1 and ended with the Confederates withdrawing from the battle after failing to break Union lines. While the immediate result of the battle was inconclusive, there were two important consequences.