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The Seven days fight.

While Daniel has graphically described the battle of Gettysburg, and thus added, if possible, to his fame as an orator; and McCabe, in the most beautiful word painting, has pictured the Crater in all its thrilling horrors, and helped to immortalize the heroes who figured in and around that pit of death; and Robinson, with his philosophical mind, has drawn from the Wilderness a history and [209] a story that will instruct and delight succeeding generations; and Stiles, in your presence a few weeks ago, gave a most vivid and interesting history of Second Cold Harbor,—no one has, as yet, attempted to describe any part of the seven days fight which took place in June, 1862, under the walls of this historic city.

The most momentous, the least understood, and the severest criticised battle of that year was that of Malvern Hill. In order to understand why and how it was fought, it becomes necessary to examine the position of our troops on the day of the 30th, and to pass over the field of Glen Dale (Frazier's Farm) and witness the deathgrap-ple of Longstreet with McCall and Sumner.

On Sunday morning, June 29th, the divisions of Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill left their camp north of the Chickahominy, and marched, via the Long Bridge and Darbytown roads, to intercept General McClellan in his retreat to James river. The distance of sixteen miles was made, and those weary survivors of the desperate encounters of the previous days camped on the Long Bridge road, within two miles of the retreating Federals, who were then passing Glen Dale, where the Long Bridge, Charles City, and Willis Church roads meet.

While these two divisions were marching down the Darbytown road, Magruder was engaging the enemy at Savage's Station on the York River road, and Jackson's forces were detained at Grape Vine bridge. Magruder, having lost 400 men killed and wounded, and having captured many prisoners, including one hospital with 2,500 sick and disabled Federals, and inflicted a severe loss on the enemy, estimated at not less than 1,000, slept on the field that night; and early on Monday morning, the enemy in his front having retreated via White Oak, marched his whole command over to the Darbytown road, and at 2 o'clock reached Timberlake's Store. At 4 o'clock he was ordered to New Market to the assistance of General Holmes. Between sunset and dark his front brigades were forming in the dense woods bordering the Long Bridge road, with the view of rendering this assistance. After dark, he was ordered to Longstreet; and, weary and footsore, these men marched to Glen Dale and occupied the battlefield, where Longstreet and Hill had made their slendid fight unsupported, although 50,000 men were within a radius of three miles.

General Huger's forces, consisting of Mahone's, Wright's, Armistead's and Ransom's brigades, were ordered down the Charles City road early Sunday morning, the 29th. At the request of General [210] Magruder, one brigade (Ransom's) was sent back; but, so far as we can learn from these reports, there was no interruption to the march of the other brigades down the Charles City road, until they reached Fisher's run, within three miles of the cross roads at Glen Dale. The enemy had blocked the road for a mile with felled trees, and planted their guns on the south side of the stream, and succeeded in detaining Mahone at that point all day. A flank movement of his infantry through the woods to his right would have turned the position and placed him in easy reach of General Longstreet's left. Longstreet, in his report, complains of both Generals Jackson and Huger, saying that 50,000 were in easy hearing of the battle, yet none came in to co-operate with him. ‘Jackson should have done more for me than he did. When he wanted me at Second Manassas I marched two columns by night to clear the way at Thoroughfare Gap, and joined him in due season.’ We have seen why General Magruder did not reach him, and no blame can attach to that commander. That Franklin was able to hold Mahone and Armistead so long at Fisher's Run, or that those ambitious and enterprising brigadiers had not found a way to flank his position, will always be a mystery to the student of these detached fights made in thick woods and swamps, with raw troops, who were than only volunteer associations of men, without the drill and discipline necessary to make even of the very best material good and efficient soldiers. The detention of Gen. Jackson at White Oak Swamp, three miles in rear of Glen Dale, and only two miles to the left of Huger, was as unfortunate (though more easily accounted for), as the delay at Fisher's Run. General Jackson's troops reached White Oak Swamp at noon Sunday. The bridge was destroyed and the crossing commanded by the enemy's batteries. Jackson, in his report, says: ‘A heavy cannonading in front announced the engagement of General Longstreet at Frazier's Farm, and made me eager to press forward, but the strong position of the enemy for defending the passage, prevented my advancing until the following morning.’

Major Dabney, in his life of Jackson, says: ‘On this occasion it would appear, if the vast interests dependent upon General Jackson's co-operation with the proposed attack upon the centre were considered, that he came short of the efficiency in action for which he was everywhere else noted.’ Then, after showing how the crossing might have been effected, Dabney adds: “The list of casualties would have been larger than that presented on the 20th, of one cannoneer wounded; but how much shorter would have been the bloody [211] list filled up the next day at Malvern Hill.” Dr. Harvey Black, who was with General Jackson at the time, has often told me that the General was completely overcome by fatigue, and, having fallen asleep, it was impossible to arouse him, and that this was the cause of the delay at White Oak Swamp.

Such was the position of the Confederate army at 2 o'clock on Monday, June 30th.

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