It seemed that June would end quietly in 1862. Gen. George McClellan and his huge Army of the Potomac sat outside of Richmond, having been stopped in his advance on the city by the battle of Seven Pines (also known as Fair Oaks).
In front of him was the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, outnumbered and under a new commander. Gen. Joseph Johnston had been seriously wounded during Seven Pines and to replaced him, President Jefferson Davis turned to his military advisor, Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Lee had not performed well in his earlier command, in West Virginia, where he was defeated by troops under Gen. William Rosecrans (although McClellan took the credit).
However, he was highly regarded by many, having been decorated for bravery in the Mexican War and having served as superintendent of West Point and as second in command of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry under Albert Sidney Johnston. He was so well respected that President Lincoln had offered him command of the U.S. Army, but Lee turned it down.
In the Shenandoah Valley, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson had succeeded in neutralizing larger forces under generals John C. Fremont, Nathaniel Banks and James Shields.
Gen. John Pope was brought from Tennessee to command a new Army of Virginia formed by merging the forces of Fremont, Banks and Irvin McDowell (including Shields’ division) and Fremont resigned in protest at being placed under Pope’s command.
Lee brought Jackson and most of his forces to Richmond and on June 26, he unleashed an attack on the Union right at Mechanicsville. What followed was a series of battles that were mostly Union victories, but McClellan retreated all the way to a new base at Harrison’s Landing on the James River.
The names of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mills, Savage Station, Glendale and Malvern Hill were added to the list of battles that had been fought, McClellan’s reputation was severely tarnished and reputation of Robert E. Lee began to grow because of the end result, not because of how the individual engagements were fought.