On May 31 of 1862 the Confederate army attacked and nearly defeated federal forces at Seven Pines, but the Union pulled through with some last-minute reinforcements. Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnston was wounded, and command of the Army of Northern Virginia fell to Robert E. Lee. See also The Peninsular Campaign.

Called "Fair Oaks" by the North. Heavy rains on the 29th and 30th had swollen the Chickahominy river to the point where most of the bridges were washed out, and the weaker left side of General George B. McClellan's Union forces was isolated. On the 31st Joseph E. Johnston, under the lash of Jefferson Davis, attacked.

The attack was a disaster. James Longstreet's division marched the wrong way and fouled the advance of two others, and the other attacks bogged down in mud with small gains that were beaten back the next day. Joseph E. Johnston's wounds late on the 31st were a blessing in disguise, as Robert E. Lee was placed in charge, and immediately broke off the faltering offensive.

Scrape the mud off and march to the Seven Days.

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