This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Long Bridge roads. The enemy, having abandoned their position at Glen Dale during the night, were now safe behind the lines of Fitz-John Porter, who had carefully massed his artillery on the hills around Crew's house. The Ten Thousand, immortalized by Xenophan, did not hail the sea with more delight than did these soldiers, who were only changing their base, welcome the hills that overlooked the historic river on which their gun-boats floated. This position was, perhaps, the strongest occupied by any army during the war. The private soldiers in the Federal army were quick to see this, and, their writers say, remarked on it as they filed into position. The private soldiers on both sides were then taking their first lessons in the ways of war; later, along the banks of the Antietam and on the heights of Gettysburg, they proved themselves the best soldiers the world has ever seen. Crew's farm, and not Malvern Hill, was the scene of the engagement of July 1st. A range of hills, all the approaches to which could be swept by artillery; a swamp difficult to pass, and fringed by a skirt of woods east and north; on the west an open plateau commanded by the gun-boats in the James; on the south was Malvern Heights, frowning with reserve artillery, under the shelter of the gun-boats. In this impregnable position Fitz-John Porter awaited our attack. Before sunrise, General Magruder's forces, having slept on the field at Frazier's Farm, were in line, and the advance was as far as Willis' Church, when an order came from General Lee to move on the Quaker road with his whole command. Calling to him three guides, and examining them separately to be sure as to which was the Quaker road, he changed the line of march, and, returning to the Long Bridge road, followed the same for about two miles, and  then turned into the road that had been known for sixty years, and is known to-day, as the Quaker road. Having followed this road for nearly a mile, General Longstreet, whose troops were in reserve on the Long Bridge road, overtook Magruder's column, and after several moments of earnest conversation, in which he insisted that this could not be the Quaker road, desired that General Magruder should return and take another road nearly parallel to the one he was on, and form to the right of Huger, who was already getting into position on the right of Jackson. Thus was added another serious mistake to the chapter of mishaps that had followed us for three days. While we find little in the written reports condemnatory of General Magruder on this point, and nothing to show the displeasure of General Lee, whose patience must have been sorely tried, yet we have heard in the various criticisms on this battle enough to warrant any soldier who served under Magruder in coming to his defence; and I hope by a plain statement of the facts to vindicate his action and his memory to-night, in the presence of some who served under him, and many who admired his soldierly bearing. Leaving for the present our lines on the right, where Huger and Magruder are forming for the attack, we see that General Jackson has reached the creek near the Parsonage, on the Willis Church road and Quaker road (the Federal map Quaker road) about noon. General D. H. Hill, in the Century Series, says: ‘At Willis Church I met General Lee. He bore grandly his terrible disappointment of the day before, and made no allusion to it. I gave him Mr. Allen's description of Malvern Hill, and presumed to say: “If General McClellan is there in force we had better let him alone.” Longstreet laughed and said: “Don't get scared now that you have got him whipped.” ’ A little later, after describing the action of his five brigades, he relates an incident illustrating the power of the Federal rifled artillery, and I expect many an old soldier in this audience could duplicate it: ‘I saw an artilleryman seated comfortably behind a very large tree, and apparently feeling very secure. A moment later a shell passed through the huge tree and took off the man's head.’ General Whiting's Division was on the extreme left. With the exception of a regiment on his right, his command did not fire a gun, but lay down in Poindexter's wheat field and received the shelling patiently all the evening, with a loss of six killed and 194 wounded. About 3 o'clock each division commander received the following order: 
Only a battery or two could get into position at the time, and as soon as exposed on the edge of the field fifty pieces turned on them and they were crushed at once. An eye witness of that fight, I shall never forget the spirit and gallantry displayed by the batteries I saw go in and engage the enemy. By the time they had fired a round every horse was dead. The men pulled back the guns by hand, and in the face of bursting shells and whizzing bullets and surrounded by dead and dying comrades, vainly atttempted to fire their pieces. On the hill in front of Magruder's centre, the only point from our position where artillery could be carried in, the ground was covered with dead horses and men, and in many places you could step from one body to another. The conditions of the order which I have read not having been fulfilled, some of the division generals wrote back for instructions, and received the reply to charge with a yell. I heard this order twice delivered to General Magruder as he was urging the commanders of his nine brigades to do all in their power to overcome the difficulties of the swamp and woods and press up to the batteries. As General Hill's troops had the shorter route to reach the open field in front of Crew's, they became engaged sooner than Magruder's. General G. B. Anderson began the attack, and in a short time was wounded and carried from the field. Then Gordon, Ripley, Garland and Colquitt charged with the yell. Battery after battery was in their hands for a few moments, only to be wrested from them by the enemy. Had the attack been simultaneous, success must have crowned their efforts. Armistead, immediately on Magruder's left, made a gallant charge an hour before, and the nine brigades of Magruder moved through the thick woods and up and around the hill skirting the field, and emerged into the same to meet the fire from fifty to one hundred guns, that tore gaps in their ranks and strewed the ground with their dead. Some of them reached the batteries, and the blue and the gray were mingled as they lay around the old sheds and barns in the Crew field. General Hill, in describing this scene, says it was not war—it was murder. The battle was delivered by fourteen brigades, while six divisions lay near  by and heard it. The incessant roar of musketry and the terrific cannonading presented a scene of awful sublimity. Whistling bullets and bursting shells, falling trees, clouds of smoke, lifting for a moment, and then a sheet of fire along the lines from 20,000 guns on either side, and then a rattling sound that has not died away before the batteries open again, and this repeated with slight intervals from 4 until 10 o'clock, can give you but a faint idea of the grand but fearful scene. It is impossible to fully appreciate it unless you had witnessed it; and some of you did. The news of that battle sent sorrow and distress untold to thousands of homes from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, while in the North and West there was many a vacant chair and aching heart. The battle, with all its melancholy results, will stand forever a record of the heroic achievements of the Confederate infantry and the unequalled power of the Federal artillery; and if in the tide of time these should be called to co-operate on any field our country need fear no foe.
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.