previous next


The battle of Malvern Hill.

by Fitz John Porter, Major-General, U. S. V.

An orderly at headquarters.

Before the battle of Gaines's Mill (already described by me in these pages), a change of base from the York to the James River had been anticipated and prepared for by General McClellan. After the battle this change became a necessity, in presence of a strong and aggressive foe, who had already turned our right, cut our connection with the York River, and was also in large force behind the intrenchments between us and Richmond. The transfer was begun the moment our position became perilous. It now involved a series of battles by day and marches by night which brought into relief the able talents, active foresight, and tenacity of purpose of our commander, the unity of action on the part of his subordinates, and the great bravery, firmness, and confidence in their superiors on the part of the rank and file.

These conflicts from the beginning of the Seven Days fighting were the engagement at Oak Grove, the battles of Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines's Mill, the engagements at Golding's and Garnett's farms, and at Allen's farm or Peach Orchard; the battle of Savage's Station; the artillery duel at White Oak Swamp; the battle of Glendale (or Charles City cross-roads); the action of Turkey Creek, and the battle of Malvern Hill. Each was a success to our army, the engagement of Malvern Hill being the most decisive. The result of the movement was that on the 2d of July our army was safely established at Harrison's Landing, on the James, in accordance with General McClellan's design. The present narrative will be confined to events coming under my own observation, and connected with my command, the Fifth Army Corps.

Saturday, June 28th, 1862, the day after the battle of Gaines's Mill, my corps spent in bivouac at the Trent farm on the south bank of the Chiekahominy. Artillery and infantry detachments guarded the crossings at the sites of the destroyed bridges. Our antagonists of the 27th were still north of the river, but did not molest us. We rested and recuperated as best we could, amid the noise of battle close by, at Garnett's and Golding's farms, in which part of Franklin's corps was engaged, refilling the empty cartridge-boxes and haversacks, so as to be in readiness for immediate duty.

Our antagonists on the north bank of the river were apparently almost inactive. They seemed puzzled as to our intentions, or paralyzed by the effect of their own labors and losses, and, like ourselves, were recuperating for a renewal of the contest in the early future; though to them, as well as to us, it was difficult to conjecture where that renewal would be made. The only evidence of activity on their part was the dust rising on the road down [407] the river, which we attributed, with the utmost unconcern, to the movements of troops seeking to interrupt our already abandoned communications with York River. The absence of any indication of our intention to maintain those communications, together with the rumble of our artillery, which that night was moving southward, opened the eyes of our opponents to the fact that we had accomplished the desired and perhaps necessary object of withdrawing to the south bank of the Chickahominy, and for the first time had aroused their suspicion that we were either intending to attack Richmond or temporarily abandon the siege, during a change of base to the James River. But the active spurts on the 27th and 28th of June made by the defenders of that city against our left created the false impression that they designed to attack the Second, Third, and Fourth Corps, and thereby succeeded in preventing an attack upon them. So, in order to thwart our plans, whatever they might be, promptly on the 29th our opponents renewed their activity by advancing from Richmond, and by recrossing to the south bank of the river all their forces lately employed at Gaines's Mill. But at that time the main body of our army was beyond their immediate reach, taking positions to cover the passage of our trains to the new base and to be ready again to welcome our eager and earnest antagonists.

Between 2 and 9 P. M. on the 28th, my corps was in motion and marched by the way of Savage Station to the south side of White Oak Swamp; and at the junction of the roads from Richmond (Glendale) to be prepared to repel attacks from the direction of that city. General Morell, leading the advance, aided General Woodbury, of the engineer corps, to build the cause-ways and bridges necessary for the easy passage of the trains and troops over the swamps and streams. Sykes and McCall followed at 5 and 9 o'clock, respectively, McCall being accompanied by Hunt's Artillery Reserve. We expected to reach our destination, which was only ten miles distant, early on the 29th; but, in consequence of the dark night and of the narrow and muddy roads, cut up and blocked by numerous trains and herds of cattle, the head of the column did not arrive till 10 A. M., the rear not until midnight. McCall arrived latest, and all were greatly fatigued.

The enemy not having appeared at Glendale on the afternoon of the 29th, and other troops arriving to take the place of mine, General McClellan ordered me to move that night by the direct road to the elevated and cleared lands (Malvern Hill) on the north bank of Turkey Creek, there to select and hold a position behind which the army and all its trains could be withdrawn with safety. General Keyes was to move by a different road and form to my right and rear.

Again the dangers and difficulties of night marches attended us, followed by the consequent delay, which, though fortunately it was counterbalanced by the slowness of our opponents in moving to the same point, endangered the safety of our whole army. Although we started before dark, and were led by an intelligent cavalry officer who had passed over the route and professed to know it, my command did not reach Turkey Creek, which was only five miles distant, until 9 A. M. on the 30th. In fact, we were misled up the [408]

The Parsonage, near Malvern Hill. This house was in the rear of the Confederate line, which was formed in the woods shown in the back-ground. It was used as a Confederate hospital after the fight. The road is the Church road (known also as the Quaker road), and the view is from near C. W. Smith's, which was for a short time the headquarters of General Lee. The trees of this neighborhood were riddled with bullets and torn with shell, and in 1885, when this view was photographed, the corn was growing out of many a soldier's grave.--Editors.

Long Bridge road toward Richmond until we came in contact with the enemy's pickets. Then we returned and started anew. Fortunately I was at the head of the column to give the necessary orders, so that no delay occurred in retracing our steps.

Our new field of battle embraced Malvern Hill, just north of Turkey Creek and Crew's Hill, about one mile farther north. Both hills have given name to the interesting and eventful battle which took place on July 1st, and which I shall now attempt to describe.

The forces which on this occasion came under my control, and were engaged in or held ready to enter the contest, were my own corps, consisting of Morell's, Sykes's and McCall's divisions, Colonel H. J. Hunt's Artillery Reserve of one hundred pieces, including Colonel R. 0. Tyler's Connecticut siege artillery, Couch's division of Keyes's corps, the brigades of John C. Caldwell and Thomas F. Meagher of Sumner's corps, and the brigade of D. E. Sickles of Heintzelman's corps. Though Couch was placed under my command, he was left uncontrolled by me, as will be seen hereafter. The other brigades were sent to me by their respective division commanders, in anticipation of my needs or at my request. [409]

This new position, with its elements of great strength, was better adapted for a defensive battle than any with which we had been favored. It was elevated, and was more or less protected on each flank by small streams or by swamps, while the woods in front through which the enemy had to pass to attack us were in places marshy, and the timber so thick that artillery could not be brought up, and even troops were moved in it with difficulty. Slightly in rear of our line of battle on Crew's Hill the reserve artillery and infantry were held for immediate service. The hill concealed them from the view of the enemy and sheltered them to some extent from his fire. These hills, both to the east and west, were connected with the adjacent valleys by gradually sloping plains except at the Crew house, where for a little distance the slope was quite abrupt, and was easily protected by a small force. With the exception of the River road, all the roads from. Richmond, along which the enemy would be obliged to approach, meet in front of Crew's Hill. This hill was flanked with ravines, enfiladed by our fire. The ground in front was sloping, and over it our artillery and infantry, themselves protected by the crest and ridges, had clear sweep for their fire. In all directions, for several hundred yards, the land over which an attacking force must advance was almost entirely cleared of forest and was generally cultivated.

Major-General George W. Morell: from a photograph.

I reached. Malvern Hill some two hours before my command on Monday, June 30th; each division, as it came upon the field, was assigned to a position covering the approaches from Richmond along the River road and the debouches from the New Market, Charles City, and Williamsburg roads. Warren, with his brigade of about six hundred men, took position on the low-lands to the left, to guard against the approach of the enemy along the River road, or over the low, extensive, and cultivated plateau beyond and extending north along Crew's Hill. Warren's men were greatly in need of rest. The brigade had suffered greatly at Gaines's Mill, and was not expected to perform much more than picket duty, and it was large enough for the purpose designed, as it was not probable that any large force would be so reckless as to advance on that road. Warren was supported by the 11th U. S. Infantry, under Major Floyd-Jones, and late in the afternoon was strengthened by Martin's battery of 12-pounders and a detachment of the 3d Pennsylvania cavalry under Lieutenant Frank W. Hess.

On the west side of Malvern Hill, overlooking Warren, were some thirty-six guns, some of long range, having full sweep up the valley and over the [410] cleared lands north of the River road. These batteries comprised Cap-tain S. H. Weed's Battery I, 5th U. . Artillery, Captain John Edwards's Batteries L and M, 3d U. S. Artillery, J. H. Carlisle's Battery E, 2d U. S. Artillery, John R. Smead's Battery K, 5th U. S. Artillery, and Adolph Voegelee's, Battery B, 1st N. Y. Artillery Battalion, with others in reserve. To these, later in the day, were added the siege-guns of the 1st Connecticut Artillery, under Colonel Robert 0. Tyler, which were placed on elevated

The Crew House. The Upper picture shows the old House, and is from a color-sketch taken soon after the War; the New House shown in the lower picture is from a photograph taken early in 1885. The old building, sometimes called Dr. Mellert's, was the headquarters of General Morell; during the battle members of the Signal Corps were at work on the roof. It was burned after the war and rebuilt on the old foundations. The view in each case is from the east.

The lane, in the lower picture, leads to the Quaker road and was the line of Griffin's guns. McQuade's repulse of the attack on the hill took place behind the cabin on the left of the picture. The Crew farm is said to be one of the most fertile on the Peninsula.--Editors.

ground immediately to the left of the Malvern house, so as to fire over our front line at any attacking force, and to sweep the low meadow on the left.

To General (then Colonel) Hunt, the accomplished and energetic chief of artillery, was due the excellent posting of these batteries on June 30th, and the rearrangement of all the artillery along the whole line on Tuesday (July 1st), together with the management of the reserve artillery on that day.

Major Charles S. Lovell, commanding Colonel William Chapman's brigade of Sykes's division, supported some of these batteries, and, with the brigade of Buchanan on his right, in a clump of pines, extended the line northward, near the Crew (sometimes called the Mellert) house.

Morell, prolonging Sykes's line on Crew's Hill, with headquarters at Crew's house, occupied the right of the line extending to the Quaker road. To his left front, facing west, was the 14th New York Volunteers, under Colonel [411] McQuade, with a section of Captain W. B. Weeden's Battery C, 1st Rhode Island Artillery, both watching the Richmond road and the valley and protecting our left. On their right, under cover of a narrow strip of woods, skirting the Quaker road, were the brigades of Martindale and Butterfield, while in front of these, facing north, was Griffin's brigade. All were supporting batteries of Morell's division, commanded by Captain Weeden and others, under the general supervision of Griffin, a brave and skilled artillery officer.1

About 3 o'clock on Monday the enemy was seen approaching along the River road, and Warren and Hunt made all necessary dispositions to receive them. About 4 o'clock the enemy advanced and opened fire from their artillery upon Warren and Sykes and on the extreme left of Morell, causing a few casualties in Morell's division. In return for this intrusion the concentrated rapid fire of the artillery was opened upon them, soon smashing one battery to pieces, silencing another, and driving back their infantry and cavalry in rapid retreat, much to the satisfaction of thousands of men watching the result. The enemy left behind in possession of Warren a few prisoners, two guns and six caissons, the horses of which had been killed. The battery which had disturbed Morell was also silenced by this fire of our artillery. On this occasion the gun-boats in the James [see p. 268] made apparent their welcome presence and gave good support by bringing their heavy guns to bear upon the enemy. Though their fire caused a few casualties among our men, and inflicted but little, if any, injury upon the enemy, their large shells, bursting amid the enemy's troops far beyond the attacking force, carried great moral influence with them, and naturally tended, in addition to the effect of our artillery, to prevent any renewed attempt to cross the open valley on our left. This attacking force formed a small part of Wise's brigade of Holmes's division. They were all raw troops, which accounts for their apparently demoralized retreat. This affair is known as the action of Turkey Bridge or Malvern Cliff.2

Our forces lay on their arms during the night, in substantially the positions I have described, patiently awaiting the attack expected on the following day. [412]

Map of the battle of Malvern Hill, showing, approximately, positions of brigades and batteries. The road passing Willis Church and uniting, north of the West house, with the road to Richmond (via Darbytown road) was known locally as the Quaker road. Union generals and, with few exceptions, Confederate generals, mean that highway whenever they mention the Quaker road. An unused road nearly two miles farther west, communicating between the Long Bridge road and Charles City (River) road, was sometimes called the Quaker road.

General Magruder supposed he was to take the latter road when ordered to move by the “Quaker road,” and ascribed to that mistake his delay in getting into position on the right of Jackson at Malvern Hill.--Editors.

The Union batteries, as indicated on the map, were: 1, Martin's; 2, Tyler's; 3, 4, 5, 6, batteries in reserve; 7, Hunt's reserve artillery; 8 and 11, first and second positions of Waterman's (Weeden's); 9--9, Edwards's, Livingston's, Ames's, Kingsbury's, and Hyde's; 10, Snow's, Frank's, and Hyde's; 11, Kingsbury's and Seeley's.

On the Union side the chief variations from these positions were the advance of a part of Butterfield's brigade, between Griffin and Couch, and the transfer of batteries from Morell to Couch. During the afternoon Sickles's brigade took the place of Caldwell's, which had come up to Couch's aid and had suffered severely. Meagher advanced about 5 o'clock, accompanied by 32-pounders under Colonel H. J. Hunt, which did terrible execution.

The Confederate brigades are placed in the order of their attack; those marked with an arrow were in the charges or in the front line after dark. It is difficult to fix the positions of the Confederate artillery. In general, 12 indicates Moorman's, Grimes's, and Pegram's; and 13 denotes the position of Balthis's, Poague's, and Carpenter's. In other positions, the batteries of Wooding (one section under Lieutenant Jones), Carrington, Hardaway, Bondurant, Hart, McCarthy, and the Baltimore Light Artillery were engaged to some extent.--Editors.


McCall's division of Pennsylvania Reserves, now under General Truman Seymour, arrived during the night and was posted just in front of the Malvern house, and was held in reserve, to be called upon for service only in case of absolute necessity.3

Early on Tuesday our lines were re-formed and slightly advanced to take full advantage of the formation of the ground, the artillery of the front line being reposted in commanding positions, and placed under General Griffin's command, but under Captain Weeden's care, just behind the crest of the hill. The infantry was arranged between the artillery to protect and be protected by its neighbors, and prepared to be thrown forward, if at any time advisable, so as not to interfere with the artillery fire.

Berdan's sharp-shooters (of Morell's division) skirmishing in the Meadow wheat-field.


The West House, looking toward the Crew House. From a photograph taken early in 1885. This house was the dividing point between Couch's division and Morell's line, the artillery fronting the fence and being nearly on the line indicated by it. The West house was occupied as headquarters by General Couch.--Editors.

The corps of Heintzelman and Sumner had arrived during the night and taken position in the order named to the right and rear of Couch's division, protecting that flank effectively toward Western Run.4 They did not expect to be seriously engaged, but were ready to resist attack and to give assistance to the center and left, if circumstances should require it. At an early hour in the day Sumner kindly sent me Caldwell's brigade, as he thought I might need help. This brigade I placed near Butterfield, who was directed to send it forward wherever it should be needed or called for. He sent it to Couch at an opportune moment early in the day.

General McClellan, accompanied by his staff, visited our lines at an early hour, and approved my measures and those of General Couch, or changed them where it was deemed advisable. Though he left me in charge of that part of the field occupied by Couch, I at no time undertook to control that general, or even indicated a desire to do so, but with full confidence in his ability, which was justified by the result of his action, left him free to act in accordance with his own judgment. I cooperated with him fully, however, having Morell's batteries, under Weeden, posted so as to protect his front, and sending him help when I saw he needed it. The division of Couch, though [415] it suffered severely in the battle of Fair Oaks, had seen less service and met with fewer losses in these “Seven days battles” than any one of my three, and was prepared with full ranks to receive an attack, seeming impatient and eager for the fight. Its conduct soon confirmed this impression. Batteries of Hunt's Artillery Reserve were sent to him when needed — and also Caldwell's brigade, voluntarily sent to me early in the day by Sumner, and Sickles's brigade, borrowed of Heintzelman for the purpose.

About 10 A. M. the enery's skirmishers and artillery began feeling for us along our line; they kept up a desultory fire until about 12 o'clock, with no severe injury to our infantry, who were well masked, and who revealed but little of our strength or position by retaliatory firing or exposure.

Up to this time and until nearly 1 o'clock our infantry were resting upon their arms and waiting the moment, certain to come, when the column of the enemy rashly advancing would render it necessary to expose themselves. Our desire was to hold the enemy where our artillery would be most destructive, and to reserve our infantry ammunition for close quarters to repel the more determined assaults of our obstinate and untiring foe. Attacks by brigade were made upon Morell, both on his left front and on his right, and also upon Couch; but our artillery, admirably handled, without exception, was generally sufficient to repel all such efforts and to drive back the assailants in confusion, and with great loss.

View from the Meadow West of the Crew House. From a photograph taken early in 1885. The Crew house is in the extreme right of the picture. The hill to the left is the high ground shown on p. 419. The ravine between the two is the ravine shown in the right of the picture on p. 418. At the time of the battle the low ground was in wheat, partly shocked, affording protection for the. Union sharp-shooters under Berdan. Farther to the left, up this valley, and in the rear of the hill, was the right of the Confederate line, which late in the evening made several assaults upon the Crew Hill, by way of the ravine and meadow.--Editors.


Scene of the Confederate attack on the West side of Crew's Hill, looking from the Crew House South-West toward the James River. From a photograph taken early in 1885. The Confederates came down the valley or meadow from the right, and advanced up this slope toward the two guns of Weeden, which were supported by the Fourteenth New York Volunteers. The road across the meadow leads to Holmes's position on the River road.--Editors.

While the enemy's artillery was firing upon us General Sumner withdrew part of his corps to the slope of Malvern Hill, to the right of the Malvern house, which descended into the valley of Western Run. Then, deeming it advisable to withdraw all our troops to that line, he ordered me to fall back to the Malvern house; but I protested that such a movement would be disastrous, and declined to obey the order until I could confer with General McClellan, who had approved of the disposition of our troops. Fortunately Sumner did not insist upon my complying with the order, and, as we were soon vigorously attacked, he advanced his troops to a point where he was but little disturbed by the enemy, but from which he could quickly render aid in response to calls for help or where need for help was apparent.5

The spasmodic, though sometimes formidable attacks of our antagonists, at different points along our whole front, up to about 4 o'clock, were presumably demonstrations or feelers, to ascertain our strength, preparatory to their engaging in more serious work. An ominous silence, similar to that which had preceded the attack in force along our whole line at Gaines's Mill, now intervened, until, at about 5:30 o'clock, the enemy opened upon both Morell [417] and Couch with artillery from nearly the whole of his front, and soon after-ward pressed forward his columns of infantry, first on one and then on the other, or on both. As if moved by a reckless disregard of life, equal to that displayed at Gaines's Mill, with a determination to capture our army, or destroy it by driving us into the river, regiment after regiment, and brigade after brigade, rushed at our batteries; but the artillery of both Morell and Couch mowed them down with shrapnel, grape, and canister; while our infantry, withholding their fire until the enemy were with — in short range, scattered the remnants of their columns, sometimes following them up and capturing prisoners and colors.6

As column after column advanced, only to meet the same disastrous repulse, the sight became one of the most interesting imaginable. The havoc made by the rapidly bursting shells from guns arranged so as to sweep any position

Repulse of the Confederates on the slope of Crew's Hill [see P. 416].


The main battle-field — view of the Union position from the wooded knoll shown in the following page. From a photograph taken in 1885. Morell's line extended from the Crew house on the right to the West house in the extreme left of the picture. Couch extended the line a third of a mile to the left of the West house. The ravine, to the right of the barn and buildings in the middle-ground, descends to the meadow: it was by this ravine and the shelter of the out-buildings that the Confederates effected a lodgment on the hill, at dusk, compelling Griffin to shift his guns to avoid capture.

General A. R. Wright, who commanded a brigade in Huger's division, in his official report describes as follows the aspect of the Federal position, as seen from the wooded knoll shown on the following page: “I suggested to General Armistead that we go forward to the edge of the field, and, under protection of a strong force of skirmishers, ascend a high knoll or hill which abruptly sprang from the meadow below and on our right, from the summit of which we would be able to observe the enemy's movements. Having reached this position, we were enabled to get a very complete view of McClellan's army. Immediately in our front, and extending one mile, stretched a field, at the farther extremity of which was situated the dwelling and farm-buildings of Mr. Crew (formerly Dr. Mellert). In front and to our left the land rose gently from the edge of the woods up to the farm-yard, when it became high and rolling. Upon the right the field was broken by a series of ridges and valleys, which ran out at right angles to a line drawn from our position to that of the enemy, and all of which terminated upon our extreme right in a precipitous bluff, which dropped suddenly down upon a low, flat meadow, covered with wheat and intersected with a number of ditches, which ran from the bluff across the meadow to a swamp or dense woods about five hundred yards farther to our right. This low, flat meadow stretched up to, and swinging around, Crew's house, extended as far as Turkey Bend, on James River. The enemy had drawn up his artillery (as well as could be ascertained about fifty pieces) in a crescent-shaped line, the convex line being next to our position, with its right (on our left) resting upon a road which passed three hundred yards to the left of Crew's house on to Malvern Hill, the left of their advanced line of batteries resting upon the high bluff which overlooked the meadow to the right (our right) and rear of Crew's house. Their infantry, a little in the rear of the artillery, an d protected by he crest of the ridge upon which the batteries were placed, extended from the woods on our left along the crest of the hill and through a lane in the meadow on our right to the dense woods there. In rear of this and beyond a narrow ravine, the sides of which were covered with timber, and which ran parallel to their line of battle and but a few rods in the rear of Crew's house, was another line of infantry, its right resting upon a heavy, dense woods, which covered the Malvern Hill farm on the east. The left of this line rested upon the precipitous bluff which overhung the low meadow on the west of the farm. At this point the high bluff stretched out to the west for two hundred yards in a long ridge or ledge (nearly separating the meadow from the lowlands of the river), upon the extreme western terminus of which was planted a battery of heavy guns. This latter battery commanded the whole meadow in front of it, and by a direct fire was able to dispute the manoeuvring of troops over any portion of the meadow. Just behind the ravine which ran in rear of Crew's house, and under cover of the timber, was planted a heavy battery in a small redoubt, whose fire swept across the meadow. These two batteries completely controlled the meadow from one extremity of it to the other, and effectually prevented the movement of troops in large masses upon it. The whole number of guns in these several batteries could not have fallen far short of one hundred. The infantry force of the enemy I estimated at least 25,000 or 30,000 from what I saw. Large numbers, as I ascertained afterward, were posted in the woods on our extreme right and left, and the line of ditches across the meadow were lined with sharp-shooters.”--Editors.


The main battle-field — view of the Confederate position from the Union line near the West House. Based upon a photograph taken in 1885. The confederate advance was from the woods in the right and center of the background and from the meadow (not visible) on the left. The wooded knoll is supposed to be the point from which Generals Wright and Armistead reconnoitered the Federal position, as described by General Wright in his report. [See p. 418.]--Editors.

far and near, and in any direction, was fearful to behold. Pressed to the extreme as they were, the courage of our men was fully tried. The safety of our army — the life of the Union--was felt to be at stake. In one case the brigades of Howe, Abercrombie, and Palmer, of Couch's division, under impulse, gallantly pushed after the retreating foe, captured colors, and advantageously advanced the right of the line, but at considerable loss and great risk. The brigades of Morell, cool, well-disciplined, and easily controlled, let the enemy return after each repulse, but permitted few to escape their fire. Colonel McQuade, on Morell's left, with the 14th New York, against orders and at the risk of defeat and disaster, yielding to impulse, gallantly (lashed forward and repulsed an attacking party. Assisted by Buchanan of Sykes's division, Colonel Rice, with the 44th New York Volunteers, like-wise drove a portion of the enemy from the field, taking a flag bearing the inscription “Seven Pines.” Colonel Hunt, directing the artillery, was twice dismounted by having his horse shot under him, but though constantly exposed continued his labors until after dark. General Couch, who was also dismounted in like manner, took advantage of every opportunity to make his opponents feel his blows.

It is not to be supposed that our men, though concealed by the irregularities of the ground, were not sufferers from the enemy's fire. T[he fact is that before they exposed themselves by pursuing the enemy, the ground was literally covered with the killed and wounded from dropping bullets and bursting shells and their contents; but they bravely bore the severe trial of having to remain inactive under a damaging fire.

As Morell's front ranks became thinned out and the ammunition was exhausted, other regiments eagerly advanced; all were stimulated by the hope of a brilliant and permanent success, and nerved by the approving shouts of their comrades and the cry of “Revenge, boys!” “Remember McLane!” “Remember black!” “Remember Gove!” or “Remember Cass!” Black and Mc-Lane and Gove had been killed at Gaines's Mill; [420]

Malvern Hill, from the direction of Turkey Island Bridge. From a sketch made soon after the War: view from Malvern Hill, looking toward the James. From a photograph taken in 1885. This view is taken from near the position of Tyler's siege-guns (see map). The engagement of Malvern Cliff, or Turkey Island bridge, on the 30th of June, between Generals Warren and Holmes, took place on the road at the foot of the hill which passes near the house in the middle-ground. The bridge is to the left on this road. The winding stream is Turkey Creek. In the middle distance is the position of the three gun-boats which shelled the woods at the right both on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.--Editors.

Woodbury and Cass were then lying before them.7 Colonel McQuade was the only regimental commander of Griffin's brigade who escaped death during the Seven Days, and he was constantly exposed.

During that ominous silence of which I have spoken, I determined that our opponents should reap no advantage, even if our lines yielded to attack, and therefore posted batteries, as at Gaines's Mill, to secure against the disaster of a break in our lines, should such a misfortune be ours. For this purpose I sent Weed, Carlisle, and Smead, with their batteries, to the gorge of the roads on Crew's Hill, from which the enemy must emerge in pursuit if he should break our lines; instructing them to join in the fight if necessary, but not to permit the advance of the foe, even if it must be arrested at the risk of firing upon friends. To these Colonel Hunt added three batteries of horse artillery. Though they were all thus posted and their guns loaded with double canister, “they were,” as Captain Smead reported, “very happy to find their services not needed on that occasion.” [421]

It was at this time, in answer to my call for aid, that Sumner sent me Meagher, and Heintzelman sent Sickles, both of whom reached me in the height of battle, when, if ever, fresh troops would renew our confidence and insure our success. While riding rapidly forward to meet Meagher, who was approaching at a “double-quick” step, my horse fell, throwing me over his head, much to my discomfort both of body and mind. On rising and remounting I was greeted with hearty cheers, which alleviated my chagrin. This incident gave rise to the report, spread through the country, that I was wounded. Fearing that I might fall into the hands of the enemy, and if so that my diary and dispatch-book of the campaign, then on my person, would meet with the same fate and reveal information to the injury of our cause, I tore it up, scattering the pieces to the winds, as I rode rapidly forward, leading Meagher into action. I have always regretted my act as destroying interesting and valuable memoranda of our campaign.

Advancing with Meagher's brigade, accompanied by my staff, I soon found that our forces had successfully driven back their assailants. Determined, if possible, satisfactorily to finish the contest, regardless of the risk of being fired upon by our artillery in case of defeat, I pushed on beyond our lines into the woods held by the enemy. About fifty yards in front of us, a large force of the enemy suddenly rose and opened with fearful volleys upon our advancing line. I turned to the brigade, which thus far had kept pace with my horse, and found it standing “like a stone-wall,” and returning a fire more destructive than it received and from which the enemy fled. The brigade was planted. My presence was no longer needed, and I[ sought General Sickles, whom I found giving aid to Couch. I had the satisfaction of learning that night that a Confederate detachment, undertaking to turn Meagher's left, was met by a portion of the 69th New York Regiment, which, advancing, repelled the attack and captured many prisoners.

Brevet Brigadier-General James McQuade. (died 1885.) at Malvern Hill Colonel of the 14th New York. From a photograph.

After seeing that General Sickles was in a proper position, I returned to my own corps, where I was joined by Colonel Hunt with some 32-pounder howitzers. Taking those howitzers, we rode forward beyond our lines, and, in parting salutation to our opponents, Colonel Hunt sent a few shells, as a warning of what would be ready to welcome them on the morrow if they undertook to disturb us. [422]

The Malvern House. From a photograph taken in 1885. During the engagement at Turkey bridge and the battle of Malvern Hill, this house was the headquarters of General Porter, and was a signal-station in communication with the gun-boats in the James River, toward which it fronts. It was built of imported English brick, of a dark but vivid red. The main battle-field is in the direction of the trees on the right, and Tyler's siege-guns were near the small trees in the left distance.--Editors.

Almost at the crisis of the battle — just before the advance of Meagher and Sickles — the gun-boats on the James River opened their fire with the good intent of aiding us, but either mistook our batteries at the Malvern house for those of the enemy, or were unable to throw their projectiles beyond us. If the former was the case, their range was well estimated, for all their shot landed in or close by Tyler's battery, killing and wounding a few of his men. Fortunately members of our excellent signal-service corps were present as usual on such occasions, and the message signaled to the boats, “For God's sake, stop firing,” promptly relieved us from further damage and the demoralization of a “fire in the rear.” Reference is occasionally seen in Confederate accounts of this battle to the fearful sounds of the projectiles from those gunboats. But that afternoon not one of their projectiles passed beyond my headquarters; and I have always believed and said, as has General Hunt, that the enemy mistook the explosions of shells from Tyler's siege-guns and Kusserow's 32-pounder howitzers, which Hunt had carried forward, for shells from the gun-boats.

While Colonel Hunt and I were returning from the front, about 9 o'clock, we were joined by Colonel A. V. Colburn, of McClellan's staff. We all rejoiced [423] over the day's success. By these officers I sent messages to the commanding general, expressing the hope that our withdrawal had ended and that we should hold the ground we now occupied, even if we did not assume the offensive. From my standpoint I[ thought we could maintain our position, and perhaps in a few days could improve it by advancing. But I knew only the circumstances before me, and these were limited by controlling influences. It was now after 9 o'clock at night. Within an hour of the time that Colonels Hunt and Colburn left me, and before they could have reached the commanding general, I received orders from him to withdraw, and to direct Generals Sumner and Heintzelman to move at specified hours to Harrison's Landing and General Couch to rejoin his corps, which was then under way to the same point.8

These orders were immediately sent to the proper officers, and by day-break, July 2d, our troops, preceded by their trains, were well on their way to their destination, which they reached that day, greatly wearied after a hard march over muddy roads, in the midst of a heavy rain. That night, freed from care and oblivious of danger, all slept a long sleep; and they awoke the next morning with the clear sun, a happier, brighter, and stronger body of men than that which all the day before, depressed and fatigued, had shivered in the rain.

The conduct of the rear-guard was intrusted to Colonel Averell, commander of the 3d Pennsylvania Cavalry, sustained by Colonel Buchanan, with his brigade of regulars, and the 67th New York Regiment. No trying trust was ever better bestowed or more satisfactorily fulfilled. At daybreak Colonel Averell found himself accidentally without artillery to protect his command in its difficult task of preventing an attack before our rear was well out of range. He at once arranged his cavalry in bodies to represent horse-batteries, and, manoeuvring them to create the impression that they were artillery ready for action, he secured himself from attack until the rest of the army and trains had passed sufficiently to the rear to permit him to retire rapidly without molestation. His stratagem was successful, and without loss he rejoined the main body of the army that night. Thus ended the memorable “Seven days battles,” which, for severity and for stubborn resistance and endurance of hardships by the contestants, were not surpassed during the war. Each antagonist accomplished the result for which he aimed: one insuring the temporary relief of Richmond; the other gaining security on the north bank of the James, where the Union army, if our civil and military authorities were disposed, could be promptly reinforced, and from whence only, as subsequent events proved, it could renew the contest successfully. Preparations were commenced and dispositions were at once made under [424]

I.--headquarters of General Heintzelman on the River side of Malvern Hill.
II.-Turkey Bridge, under Malvern Hill. From War-time sketches.

every prospect, if not direct promise, of large reinforcements for a renewal of the struggle on the south side of the James, and in the same manner as subsequently brought a successful termination of the war.

In the Fifth Corps, however, mourning was mingled with rejoicing. Greatly injured by the mishap of a cavalry blunder at Gaines's Mill, it had at Malvern, with the brave and gallant help of Couch and the generous and chivalric assistance of Heintzelman and Sumner, successfully repulsed the foe in every quarter, and was ready to renew the contest at an opportune moment. Our killed and wounded were numbered by thousands; the loss of the Confederates may be imagined.9

While taking Meagher's brigade to the front, I crossed a portion of the ground over which a large column had advanced to attack us, and had a fair opportunity of judging of the effect of our fire upon the ranks of the enemy. [425]

General Fitz John Porter's headquarters in the Westover mansion, camp at Harrison's Landing, July, 1862. from a War-time sketch.

It was something fearful and sad to contemplate; few steps could be taken without trampling upon the body of a dead or wounded soldier, or without hearing a piteous cry, begging our party to be careful. In some places the bodies were in continuous lines and in heaps. In Mexico I had seen fields of battle on which our armies had been victorious, and had listened to pitiful appeals; but the pleaders were not of my countrymen then, and did not, as now, cause me to deplore the effects of a fratricidal war.

Sadder still were the trying scenes I met in and around the Malvern house, which at an early hour that day had been given up to the wounded, and was soon filled with our unfortunate men, suffering from all kinds of wounds. At night, after issuing orders for the withdrawal of our troops, I passed through the building and the adjoining hospitals with my senior medical officer, Colonel George H. Lyman. Our object was to inspect the actual condition of the men, to arrange for their care and comfort, and to cheer them as best we could. Here, as usual, were found men mortally wounded, by necessity left unattended by the surgeons, so that prompt and proper care might be given to those in whom there was hope of recovery.

While passing through this improvised hospital I heard of many sad cases. One was that of the major of the 12th New York Volunteers, a brave and gallant officer, highly esteemed, who was believed to be mortally wounded. While breathing his last, as was supposed a friend asked him if he had any message to leave. He replied, “Tell my wife that in my last thoughts were blended herself, my boy, and my flag.” Then he asked how the battle had gone, and when told that we had been successful he said, “God bless the old fla----” and fell back apparently dead. For a long time he was mourned as dead, and it was believed that he had expired with the prayer left unfinished [426] on his closing lips. Though still an invalid, suffering from the wound then received, that officer recovered to renew his career in the war.10

On the occasion of this visit we frequently witnessed scenes which would melt the stoutest heart: bearded men piteously begging to be sent home; others requesting that a widowed mother or orphan sisters might be cared for; more sending messages to wife or children, or to others near and dear to them. We saw the amputated limbs and the bodies of the dead hurried out of the room for burial. On every side we heard the appeals of the unattended, the moans of the dying, and the shrieks of those under the knife of the surgeon. We gave what cheer we could, and left with heavy hearts.

At noon on the 4th of July the usual national salute was fired, and the different corps were reviewed. General McClellan, as opportunity offered, made a few remarks full of hope and encouragement, thanking the men in most feeling terms for their uniform bravery, fortitude, and good conduct, but intimating that this was not the last of the campaign.

Contrary, however, to his expectations, the Peninsular campaign of the Army of the Potomac for 1862 virtually ended on the 4th of July. From that date to August 14th, when the army at sundown took up its march for Fort Monroe, its commander was engaged in the struggle to retain it on the James, as against the determination of the Secretary of War to withdraw it to the line of the Rappahannock, there to act in conjunction with the Army of Virginia.

Although General McClellan was assured, in writing, that he was to have command of both armies after their junction, he preferred, as a speedy and the only practicable mode of taking Richmond, to remain on the James, and

Supplying the hungry Army at Harrison's Landing. From a War-time sketch.


Berkeley, Harrison's Landing, as seen from McClellan's headquarters tents. From a War-time sketch. This house was the birthplace of General (afterward President) William Henry Harrison. During the month of July, 1862, it was used as a hospital and signal station.

renew the contest from the south bank, for which he had commenced operations.11 During this period he omitted nothing which would insure the removal of the army without loss of men and material. The withdrawal of the army changed the issue from the capture of Richmond to the security of Washington, transferred to the Federals the anxiety of the Confederates for their capital, and sounded an alarm throughout the Northern States.

1 These batteries as located on Tuesday, the day of the battle, were those of Edwards, Livingston, Kingsbury, Ames, part of Weeden's under Water-man, part of Allen's under Hyde, and Bramhall's. Other batteries as they arrived were posted in reserve south of Crew's Hill, and were used to replace batteries whose ammunition was exhausted, or were thrown forward into action to strengthen the line.

The different commands as soon as they were posted prepared to pass the night [June 30th] in securing the rest greatly needed both by man and beast. Later on June 30th Couch's division of Keyes's corps came up and took its place, extending Morell's line to the right of the Quaker road. The greater part of the supply trains of the army and of the reserve artillery passed safely beyond Turkey Creek through the commands thus posted, the movement only ceasing about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.--F. J. P.

2 Some idea may be formed from the following incident of how indifferent to noises or unconscious of sudden alarms one may become when asleep, under the sense of perfect security or from the effect of fatigue. For several days I had been able to secure but little sleep, other than such as I could catch on horseback, or while resting for a few minutes. During this heavy artillery firing I was as leep in the Malvern house. Although the guns were within one hundred yards of me, and the windows and doors were wide open, I was greatly surprised some two hours afterward to learn that the engagement had taken place. For weeks I had slept with senses awake to the sound of distant cannon, and even of a musket-shot, and would be instantly aroused by either. But on this occasion I had gone to sleep free from care, feeling confident that however strong an attack might be made, the result would be the repulse of the enemy without much damage to us. My staff, as much in need of rest as myself, sympathized with me and let me sleep.--F. J. P.

3 This division had reached me at New Market cross-roads, at midnight of the 29th, greatly in need of rest. This fact, and the necessity that a reliable force should hold that point until the whole army had crossed the White Oak Swamp and the trains had passed to the rear, compelled the assignment of McCall to the performance of that duty. During the afternoon of the 30th he was attacked by large forces of the enemy, which he several times repulsed; but he failed to enjoy the advantages of his success through the recklessness and irrepressible impetuosity of his men or the forgetfulness of orders by infantry subordinates. They were strictly cautioned, unless unusual fortune favored them, not to pass through a battery for the purpose of pursuing a repulsed enemy, and under no circumstances to return in face of one, so as to check its fire. In the excitement of presumed success at repulsing a heavy attack, a brigade pushed after a rapidly fleeing foe, and was impulsively joined by its neighbors, who wished not to be excelled in dash or were perhaps encouraged by injudicious orders. Passing through their own batteries as they advanced, they lost the benefit of their fire, as they did also when returning after being repulsed and pursued by the enemy's reserves. Disregard of these principles at this time caused heavy losses of men, and led to the demoralization at a critical moment of one good volunteer battery and the capture, through no fault of its commander, of one of the best batteries of the regular army [see p. 402]. This battery was commanded by Lieutenant A. M. Randol, a brave and accomplished artillery officer of the regular army. This division had other-wise suffered heavily. At Gaines's Mill it had lost, by captu re, one of the ablest generals, John F. Reynolds, with other gallant and efficient officers and men, captured, killed, or wounded. Its misfortunes culminated in the capture at New Market cross-roads of McCall, the wounding of General George G. Meade, his able assistant, and the loss of many excellent subordinates. Fortunately the brave and experienced soldier, General Seymour, with his worthy officers, escaped to lead the survivors of the division to our camp, where they were welcomed by their sympathizing comrades.--F. J. P.

4 Franklin's corps, and French's brigade of Sumner's corps, arrived at Malvern Hill on the morning of July 1st. During the day Franklin's columns were in line of battle on the right of Sumner.--Editors.

5 On one occasion, when I sent an urgent request for two brigades, Sumner read my note aloud, and, fearing he could not stand another draft on his forces, was hesitating to respond, when Heintzelman, ever prompt and generous, sprang to his feet and exclaimed: “By Jove! if Porter asks for help, I know he needs it and I will send it.” The immediate result was the sending of Meagher by Sumner and Sickles by Heintzelman. This was the second time that Sumner had selected and sent me Meagher's gallant Irish brigade, and each time it rendered invaluable service. I had served under General Heintzelman up to the capture of Yorktown, and I ever appreciated his act as the prompting of a thoughtful, generous, and chivalrous nature.--F. J. P.

6 Captain William B. Weeden, in a letter dated May 24th, 1885, says of the battle:

“ It was a fine afternoon, hot but tempered by a cooling breeze. The soldiers waited; patience, not courage, kept them steady. The ranks were full now; each knew that in himself he might be a possible victor or a possible victim at nightfall. Crew's deserted house, more hospitable than its owner, had furnished a luxury seldom enjoyed on the field. Water, not warm in the canteen, but iced in a delf pitcher, with glasses, was literally ‘ handed round.’ Pickets and skirmishers had kept us informed of the opposing formations and of batteries going into position. The sharp-shooters' bullets began to thicken. Action might begin at any moment, and between 2 and 3 o'clock it did begin. Out of the woods, puffs of smoke from guns and nearer light wreaths from their shells lent new colors to the green of woods and fields and the deep blue sky. The musketry cracked before it loudened into a roar, and whizzing bullets mingled with ragged exploding shells. The woods swarmed with butternut coats and gray. These colors were worn by a lively race of men and they stepped for-ward briskly, firing as they moved. The regimental formations were plainly visible, with the colors flying. It was the onset of battle with the good order of a review. In this first heavy skirmish — the prelude of the main action — Magruder's right made a determined attack by way of the meadow to pierce Griffin's line to turn Ames's Battery and to break the solid advantages of position held by the Union forces.

The brunt of the blow fell upon Colonel McQuade's 14th New York. This was a gallant regiment which had suffered much in the rough work at Gaines's Mill. The Confederate charge was sudden and heavy. The New Yorkers began to give ground, and it looked for a moment as if the disasters of Gaines's Mill might be repeated. But only for a moment. The men stiffened up to the color line, charged forward with a cheer, and drove back the enemy. Weeden's Rhode Island Battery of three-inch rifled ordnance guns had lost three pieces at Gaines's Mill. The remaining guns, under command of Lieutenant Waterman, were stationed south and west of Crew's, fronting left and rearward. It was the angle of our position, and so far west that Tyler's heavy guns mistook it for the enemy and fired 4 1/2-inch shells into it. One caused severe casualties. The battery was with-drawn from this dangerous range, and later in the after-noon, when the main action was raging, Waterman's three guns, with two of the same type under Lieutenant Phillips of Massachusetts, relieved Kingsbury and Hazlitt's regular batteries of Parrotts on Couch's right. The service here was admirable. Waterman with only half a battery had a whole company of experienced gunners. When the ammunition gave out they were in turn relieved by a fresh battery.

” Editors.

7 Colonel Samuel W. Black, of the 62d Pennsylvania, Colonel John W. McLane, of the 83d Pennsylvania, Colonel Jesse A. Gove, of the 22d Massachusetts, Colonel Dwight A. Woodbury, of the 4th Michigan, and Colonel Thomas Cass, of the 9th Massachusetts.--Editors.

8 The order referred to read as follows:

headquarters Army of the Potomac,, 9 P. M., July 1ST, 1862; Brigadier-General F. J. Porter, commanding Fifth Provisional Corps.--General: The General Commanding desires you to move your command at once, the artillery reserve moving first to Harrison's Bar. In case you should find it impossible to move your heavy artillery, you are to spike the guns and destroy the carriages. Couch's command will move under your orders. Communicate these instructions to him at once. The corps of Heintzelman and Sumner will move next. Please communicate to General Heintzelman the time of your moving. Additional gun-boats, supplies, and reenforcements will be met at Harrison's Bar. Stimulate your men by informing them that reenforcements, etc., have arrived at our new base. By command of Major-General McClellan, James A. Hardie, Lieutenant-Colonel, A. D. C., A. A. A. G.

9 It is impossible to estimate the casualties of each of these battles, so quickly did one follow another. Our total loss in these battles is recorded as 15,849, while that of the Confederates sums up to 20,135. The loss in the Fifth Corps was 7601. This does not include the losses of Slocum's division and Cooke's cavalry engaged with us at Gaines's Mill, nor of Couch's division and the brigades of Caldwell, Meagher, and Sickles serving with it at Malvern. [See pp. 314-318.]--F. J. P.

10 Afterward Brevet Major-General Henry A. Barnum.--Editors.

11 It was publicly announced that Halleck would assume command and take the field. Pope had reason to believe that “he would eventually supersede McClellan,” and McDowell had been so satisfied of his future supremacy that he confided to a friend that “he would be at the highest round of the ladder.”--F. J. P.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Darius N. Couch (25)
George W. Morell (21)
Edwin V. Sumner (14)
H. J. Hunt (13)
Thomas F. Meagher (12)
George B. McClellan (12)
Samuel P. Heintzelman (12)
E. T. H. Warren (8)
Erastus B. Tyler (8)
Charles Griffin (8)
D. E. Sickles (7)
George A. McCall (7)
W. B. Weeden (6)
George Sykes (6)
James McQuade (6)
Fitz John Porter (5)
John C. Caldwell (5)
Richard Waterman (4)
Henry W. Kingsbury (4)
Dwight A. Woodbury (3)
William B. Weeden (3)
John R. Smead (3)
Erasmus D. Keyes (3)
Breed N. Hyde (3)
Samuel A. Holmes (3)
William Henry Harrison (3)
Jesse A. Gove (3)
John Edwards (3)
Thomas Cass (3)
Robert C. Buchanan (3)
Adelbert Ames (3)
A. R. Wright (2)
Truman Seymour (2)
Mellert (2)
John W. McLane (2)
Augustus P. Martin (2)
John Bankhead Magruder (2)
D. Livingston (2)
David R. Jones (2)
Henry J. Hunt (2)
Crew (2)
A. V. Colburn (2)
Daniel Butterfield (2)
Hiram Berdan (2)
William W. Averell (2)
Lewis A. Armistead (2)
Edward J. Allen (2)
Ambrose R. Wright (1)
George W. Wooding (1)
Henry A. Wise (1)
Stephen H. Weed (1)
S. H. Weed (1)
Adolph Voegelee (1)
S. Snow (1)
Charles W. Smith (1)
Henry W. Slocum (1)
Daniel E. Sickles (1)
Francis W. Seeley (1)
Robert (1)
William H. Rice (1)
John F. Reynolds (1)
Alanson M. Randol (1)
John Pope (1)
William T. Poague (1)
John C. Phillips (1)
W. J. Pegram (1)
Innis N. Palmer (1)
M. N. Moorman (1)
George G. Meade (1)
Irvin McDowell (1)
Jeremiah McCarthy (1)
John H. Martindale (1)
George H. Lyman (1)
Charles S. Lovell (1)
W. F. Lee (1)
Charles Kusserow (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
Benjamin Huger (1)
Albion P. Howe (1)
Frank W. Hess (1)
Hazlitt (1)
James F. Hart (1)
James A. Hardie (1)
R. A. Hardaway (1)
H. W. Halleck (1)
Bryan Grimes (1)
William H. French (1)
De Lancey Floyd (1)
P. St. George Cooke (1)
Malvern Hill Colonel (1)
William Chapman (1)
Henry A. Carrington (1)
Joseph Carpenter (1)
J. Howard Carlisle (1)
J. H. Carlisle (1)
Walter M. Bramhall (1)
J. W. Bondurant (1)
Samuel W. Black (1)
Norbourne Berkeley (1)
Henry A. Barnum (1)
W. L. Balthis (1)
John J. Abercrombie (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1885 AD (10)
June 30th (6)
July 1st (4)
29th (3)
July, 1862 AD (2)
July 4th (2)
July 2nd (2)
May 24th, 1885 AD (1)
July 1st, 1862 AD (1)
June 28th, 1862 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
August 14th (1)
June 28th (1)
June 27th (1)
30th (1)
28th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: