The Seven Days Battles was the first campaign in the Civil War in which Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia. Listed by J. F.C. Fuller as one of the 51 decisive military campaigns in Western history, the Seven Days were fought in the area southeast of the Confederate capital of Richmond from June 25 to July 1, 1862. Lee and his fellow officers, including 'Stonewall' Jackson, James Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and D. H. Hill, pushed George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac from the gates of Richmond to the James River. Along the way, Lee lost several opportunities to harm McClellan severely, but the Union forces, marching all night and fighting during the day, managed to reach safety.
The Seven Days has been the subject of a number of fine historical treatments, but none more detailed and engaging than Brian K. Burton's closely observed account. Extraordinary Circumstances is a moment-by-moment story of the campaign that lifted Southern spirits, began Lee's ascent to fame, and almost prompted European recognition of the Confederacy. The Seven Days also began a string of events leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and the shift toward total war. McClellan's defeat meant that his dream of bringing the United States together as it was before the outbreak of the war was gone forever, and the country's very nature changed as a result.
"Few of those Federals were ready. James Miller of the 2nd Delaware had seen a Southerner climb a tree. Miller pointed out the man just before the shelling started, and perhaps those within earshot were the only ones who knew something was up. The firing caught Baldy Smith dressing after his bath. Overcoming the shock and opening the door of the outhouse he had used, Smith saw Jackson's guns almost literally filling the air with shot and shell. The general tried to get his groom to bring his best horse, but he soon found that the groom had taken the animal and skedaddled. Neither would be seen for two days. An Englishman who was Smith's servant at the time coolly saddled another horse, by which time Smith had hurriedly finished dressing 'leaving his watch behind.'