The Civil War at 150 - The Peninsular Campaignby Walter Coffey on 05/30/12
After a month-long siege, George McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac captured Yorktown on the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James Rivers. The Confederates defending Yorktown had held firm against vastly superior numbers, and when McClellan prepared to bombard the city with massive siege guns, Confederate General Joseph Johnston withdrew.
After securing Yorktown, McClellan continued his slow, cautious advance up the Virginia Peninsula. Johnston’s Confederates withdrew to Williamsburg after abandoning Yorktown. A sharp fight ensued between McClellan’s vanguard and Johnston’s rearguard. There was no clear winner, but both sides sustained heavy casualties, prompting McClellan to slow his advance even further.
Impatient with McClellan’s slow pace, President Abraham Lincoln informed him that he should either attack Richmond immediately or return his troops to Washington. When McClellan requested more troops, Lincoln replied that no more troops were available because they were being assembled to confront "Stonewall" Jackson in the Shenandoah.
The Federal threat to Richmond prompted the Confederates to abandon the Norfolk Navy Yard. Meanwhile, Johnston's Confederates withdrew across the Chickahominy River to within three miles of Richmond. McClellan halted his advance within six miles of the capital and again requested reinforcements.