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THIS WEEK IN THE CIVIL WAR 1862 - Battle of Seven Pines, Va.; Rise of Robert E. Lee.

A Union offensive near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., triggers fierce fighting on May 31, 1862, at the Battle of Seven Pines -- or Fair Oaks -- just eight miles east of that city. Confederates defending Richmond under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston attack two Federal units south of Virginia's Chickahominy River. The assaults push Union troops back and mark the start of heavy casualties.

Fighting rages as more troops on each side join the fray. Johnston is seriously wounded before the battle ends on June 1, 1862. This fight ends inconclusively for both sides with more than 13,700 casualties.

But significantly, it marks the rise of Gen. Robert E. Lee to the top of the Confederate command soon after Johnston is wounded. All Richmond had anxiously watched and waited, amid worries whether the city's outer defenses would hold.

The Associated Press reports on May 27, 1862, that a lead article in the Richmond Enquirer recently issued a "clarion call" for Johnston's army to defend the city at any cost: "The time has come when retreat will no longer be strategy but disaster. It must therefore give place to battle" the Enquirer stated. The battle will mark a turning point as Confederate fighters dash the hopes of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan of seizing Richmond.

And it won't be Johnston but the pugnacious Lee who will save Richmond and force McClellan to retreat in the fighting just ahead.

Elsewhere, 150 years ago in the war, Confederate forces defending the northeast Mississippi railroad junction at Corinth, Miss., withdraw rather than surrender to Union soldiers closing in on that city.

The Confederates leave behind miles of earthworks defending the approaches to Corinth and a key rail crossing for train lines serving nearly the entire South.