Commenter Shek asked:
Would the capture of Richmond in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign have ended the war? The thrust of the question is two-fold. First, would the Confederacy have simply surrendered or would it have moved the capital and carried on the fight. Second, pre-supposing that it would have resulted in surrender, since Union policy at the time was conciliation, the root cause of the war (slavery) would have remained, and so what would have prevent a renewal of hostilities in the future over some later spark?
There are a lot of what-ifs in that one, but one must consider them if one is to assess the importance of the Seven Days and Lee’s repulse of McClellan/McClellan’s change of base to the James.
Would the Confederacy have collapsed? I’m not sure. An evacuation of the capital elsewhere was possible. The capture of a capital does not always mean defeat or victory. Otherwise the United States would have been in a great deal of trouble, and the example of the Mexicans after the capture of Mexico City also stands out.
Would slavery have remained in place had the Confederacy surrendered in 1862? In the short term, yes. In the long term? Well, that’s where one’s imagination grounded in various assumptions takes flight. I also think one might ponder what a surrender would have looked like and what restoration would have looked like under those circumstances. I can see the Confederacy collapse and conflict continue, for example, at least for a while. Perhaps colonization takes hold as the best option under the circumstances … but a relatively intact southern interior might set the stage for a second conflict. Again, we don’t know.