By the final week of June 1862, the Union army lay sprawled east of Richmond, on both sides of the flooded Chickahominy River. General George B. McClellan planned to move that army within artillery range of Richmond; Confederate leader Robert E. Lee was determined to drive McClellan away from the city, even if that meant fighting a major battle.
A fractured nation watched these events with intense interest. Would the war end in the summer of 1862? Lee's bold gamble on June 26 temporarily split his available force into three separate commands. From here he launched his first attack as commander of the Confederate army. Six days later McClellan's force had been driven 25 miles across the country, to the banks of the James River. With his retreat, any hopes for an early end to the war vanished.
"If there is one man in either army, Federal or Confederate, who is, head & shoulders, far above every other one in either army in audacity that man is Gen. Lee?.Lee is audacity personified. His name is audacity?."
Joseph Ives, officer on the staff of President Jefferson Davis, before the Seven Days' Campaign opened