The Battle of Oak Grove, 1862

June 25, 1862

The Battle of Oak Grove was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America on June 25, 1862, during the Civil War. The outcome of the battle was inconclusive. The battle is most well-known for being part of the Peninsula Campaign and the first of the Seven Days Battles.

George B. McClellan, General, USA, Civil War, LOC

The Battle of Oak Grove was the first engagement of the Seven Days Battles during Major General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Battle of Oak Grove Quick Facts

  • Also Known As — Battle of French’s Field, Battle of King’s School House
  • Date — June 25, 1862
  • Location — Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond
  • Opponents — United States of America (USA) and Confederate States of America (CSA)
  • USA CommandersGeorge B. McClellan, Samuel P. Heintzelman
  • CSA CommandersRobert E. Lee, Benjamin Hugar
  • Winner — Inconclusive

Battle of Oak Grove Overview and History

On March 17, 1862, Union General George B. McClellan launched his Peninsula Campaign. After transporting the Army of the Potomac by ships to the Virginia peninsula between the York and James Rivers, McClellan planned to advance on Richmond and bring the American Civil War to a quick conclusion. By late May, the Federals had fought their way to the outskirts of the Confederate capital.

Battle of Seven Pines

On May 31, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston struck back at the Battle of Seven Pines. Two days of hard fighting rendered a tactical draw and high casualties on both sides. The aftermath of the engagement, however, produced two important strategic developments. First, Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia after Johnston suffered a severe wound during the fighting. Second, the high casualty rate convinced McClellan to target Richmond rather than risk costly assaults against the Confederate defenses around the capital.

Reprieve for Lee

For nearly a month, McClellan sat idly, developing plans for a siege. The unexpected reprieve presented Lee with an opportunity to organize his command and to plan an offensive designed to drive the Union army away from Richmond. Toward the end of June, McClellan developed a renewed sense of urgency when he learned that Major General Stonewall Jackson was moving to reinforce Lee after concluding his highly successful Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Clash at Oak Grove — McClellan Orders Union Advance

On June 25, McClellan ordered three Union brigades, under the overall command of Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman, to advance west along the Williamsburg Road toward Richmond. Two of the brigades, led by Brigadier-General Daniel E. Sickles and Brigadier-General Cuvier Grover, were part of Major General Joseph Hooker’s division. The other brigade, led by Brigadier-General John C. Robinson, was from Brigadier-General Philip Kearny’s division.

Confederate Opposition

McClellan’s objective was to advance his siege artillery approximately one and one-half miles closer to the Southern capital by taking the high ground on Nine Mile Road around Old Tavern. His new plan was to “shell the city and take it by assault.” Directly in the Federals’ path was a dense forest of oak trees known locally as Oak Grove. Benjamin Huger’s Division of South Carolinians awaited the Northerners on the other side of the trees.

Federals Attack and Confederates Counterattack

Initially, Robinson and Grover made good progress on the left and in the center. Swampy ground, however, slowed Sickles’s men. As the Union advance slowed, Huger ordered a counterattack by Brigadier-General Ambrose R. Wright’s brigade against the Federal center, bringing the Union advance to a halt.

Federal Confusion

Meanwhile, Sickle’s men encountered Brigadier-General Robert Ransom’s brigade on the Union right. The ensuing skirmish sent the Federals fleeing, prompting Hooker to request more men. Heintzelman provided reinforcements, but he also forwarded Hooker’s request to McClellan, who was trying to manage the battle from a position three miles in the rear. After reading Hooker’s dispatches, McClellan ordered a general retreat, just as Sickle’s reinforced brigade began to rally. McClellan then headed off to the front, as his men sat idle for two and one-half hours awaiting orders.

Upon arriving at the front, McClellan ordered his men back into battle, over the same ground that they had conceded earlier. The fighting continued until nightfall, but the Northerners accomplished little.

Battle of Oake Grove Outcome

By the end of the day, the Federals had advanced only 600 yards at an estimated cost of 626 casualties (68 dead, 503 wounded and 55 missing and captured). The Confederacy lost roughly 441 soldiers (66 killed, 362 wounded, and 13 missing and captured).

Insignificant as the Federal gains were, some historians consider the Battle of Oak Grove to be the high-water mark of the Peninsula Campaign. On the next day, Lee launched a major offensive that sent McClellan away from Richmond’s gates and nearly back to the James River by July 1.

By August, Northern authorities recalled the Army of the Potomac to the Washington, DC, area to deal with Lee’s Northern Virginia Campaign.

Battle of Oak Grove Significance

The Battle of Oak Grove was the first engagement of the Seven Days Battles during the Peninsula Campaign.

Battle of Oak Grove Facts

Campaign

Military Forces Engaged

  • USA — 3 brigades (Army of the Potomac)
  • CSA — Hugar’s Division (Army of Northern Virginia)

Number of Soldiers Engaged

  • USA — Undetermined
  • USA — Undetermined

Estimated Casualties

  • USA — 626 (68 killed, 503 wounded, 55 missing)
  • CSA — 441 (66 killed, 362 wounded, 13 missing)

Battle of Oak Grove Timeline

This list shows the main battles and events that took place before and after the Battle of Oak Grove, and how it fits into the chronological order of the Peninsula Campaign. The battles that occurred from June 25 to July 1, 1862, are collectively known as the Seven Days Battles.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title The Battle of Oak Grove, 1862
  • Date June 25, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Oak Grove, Battle of French's Field, Battle of King's School House, Peninsula Campaign
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date February 28, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024

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