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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

5 - The Peninsula Campaign

from Part I - Major Battles and Campaigns


In spring 1862, Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac floated down the Chesapeake Bay, landed at Fort Monroe, and marched up the Virginia Peninsula toward the Confederate capital. This campaign was the largest amphibious operation of the war and saw perhaps Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s best chance to destroy an entire Union army. Arriving outside Richmond, Federal troops enjoyed superior numbers, yet during a week of almost continuous fighting Lee used aggressive attacks to drive McClellan away. No Union army would get as close to Richmond for two more bloody years, and Southerners discovered the leader whose subsequent victories helped build and sustain Confederate nationalism. Most important, the campaign led to using emancipation as a means of saving the Union.