The Seven Days
We spent the day today traveling along the path of Union and Confederate armies over the series of battles known as the Seven Days. Roughly following the chronology of the events we started at Seven Pines (which technically preceded the “seven days”) up through Mechanicsville and down to Malvern Hill. Some of the area is well preserved other parts are recognizable only by the roadside marker.
What most struck me following the events and looking at the landscape was the incredible size—of the armies, their lines, the distances traveled and the massive amount of men and material that had to get from one place to another and still maintain some form of organization and purpose. What an incredible challenge to coordinate the movements and supplies of tens of thousands of men spread across miles with a small administrative staff and no phones, radios, internet, automobiles or even bicycles (and only occasional use of telegraph and railroad) largely communication by foot and horse. Not only the challenge, but the costs associated with error, failure or inefficiency are extreme: hunger, disease, mutilation and death, all on a massive scale. When I think of the struggle we have at work to perform relatively simple projects with small teams of people I am humbled by the immense scope and seriousness of all this.
On returning home in the evening I picked up my copy of Eye of the Storm which includes illustrations and diary entries made by Private Robert Knox Sneden while on the Seven Days campaign. Here were Sneden’s pencil and watercolor sketches made during or just after the war depicting the events he was participating in. I had looked at these pictures many times before but now they were transformed. Here were the very same landscapes I had just seen—including buildings and landmarks that I had been standing next to earlier today—no longer populated by imagination but a representation of what Sneden had actually witnessed at the time.
- Civil War Artifacts Unearthed from Former Confederate Prison (history.com)
- ‘Hell Personified was Close at Hand’: Captain John Donovan’s Account of Fredericksburg (irishamericancivilwar.com)