forms a high and dry plateau sloping towards Richmond
from bold banks on the James River
, and bounded by deep ravines that made it an excellent defensive position.
Upon that plateau the Army of the Potomac was posted, July 1, 1862, under the direction of General Barnard
. Gen. Fitz-John Porter
had reached that point the day before, and placed his troops so as to command all approaches to it from Richmond
or the White Oak Swamp
They were within reach of National gunboats on the James River
that might prove very efficient in any battle there.
The last of the Confederate
trains and artillery arrived there at 4 P. M., and in that almost impregnable position preparations were made for battle.
Yet General McClellan
did not consider his army safe there, for it was too far separated from his supplies; so, on the morning of July 1, he went on the Galena
to seek for an eligible place for a base of supplies, and for an encampment for the army.
During his absence the Confederates
brought on a battle, which proved to be a most sanguinary one.
had concentrated his troops at Glendale
, on the morning of July 1, but did not get ready for a full attack until late in the afternoon.
He formed his line with the divisions of Generals Jackson
, and D. H. Hill
on the left (a large portion of Ewell
's in reserve); Generals Magruder
on the right; while the troops of A. P. Hill
were held in reserve on the left.
The latter took no part in the engagement that followed.
line of battle was formed with Porter
's corps on the left (with Sykes
's division on the left and Morell
's on the right), where the artillery of the reserve, under Colonel Hunt
, was so disposed on high ground that a concentrated fire of sixty heavy guns could be brought to bear on any point on his front or left; and on the highest point on the hill Colonel Tyler
had ten siege-guns in position.
's division was on Porter
's right; next on the right were Hooker
; next Sedgwick
; next Smith
; and then the remainder of Keyes
's corps, extending in a curve nearly to the river.
The Pennsylvania Reserves were held as a support in the rear of Porter
resolved to carry Malvern Hill
by storm, and concentrated his artillery so as to silence that of the Nationals; when, with a shout, two divisions were to charge and carry a battery before them.
This shout was to be a signal for a general advance with bayonets.
This programme was not carried out. When, late in the afternoon, a heavy artillery fire was opened on Couch
, A. P. Hill
, believing that he heard the shout, advanced to the attack, but found himself unsupported.
A single battery was at work, instead of 200 great guns, as had been promised.
That battery was soon
demolished, and the Confederates
driven back in confusion to the woods, when the Nationals advanced several hundred yards to a better position.
had made a strong attack on Porter
at the left.
Two brigades (Kershaw
's and Semmes
's) of McLaws
's division charged through a dense wood up to Porter
's guns; and a similar dash was made by Wright
, and Anderson
farther to the right, and by Barksdale
nearer the centre; but all were repulsed, and for a while there was a lull in the storm of battle.
ordered another assault on the batteries.
His columns rushed from the woods over the open fields to capture the batteries and carry
Gunboats at the battle of Malvern Hill.|
They were met by a deadly fire of musketry and great guns; and as one brigade recoiled another was pushed forward, with a seeming recklessness of life under the circumstances.
At about seven o'clock in the evening, while fresh troops under Jackson
were pressing the Nationals sorely, Sickles
's brigade, of Hooker
's division, and Meagher
's Irish brigade, of Richardson
's division, were ordered up to their support.
At the same time the gunboats on the James River
, full 150 feet below, were hurling heavy shot and shell among the Confederates
with terrible effect, their range being directed by officers of the signal corps on the hill.
The conflict was furious and destructive, and did not cease until almost 9 P. M., when the Confederates
were driven to the shelter of the woods, ravines, and swamps, their ranks shattered and broken.
The victory for the Nationals was decisive.
The victorious generals were anxious to follow up the advantage and push right on to Richmond
, 18 miles distant; but General McClellan
, who came upon the battle-ground on the right when the final contest was raging furiously on the left, issued an order, immediately after the repulse of the Confederates
, for the victorious army to fall back still farther to Harrison's Landing
, on the James
, a few miles below, and then returned to the Galena
, on which he had spent a greater part of the day. The order produced consternation and dissatisfaction, but was obeyed.
The battle at Malvern Hill
was the last of the series of severe conflicts before Richmond
in the course of seven days. In these conflicts the aggregate losses of the Nationals were reported by McClellan
to be 15,249.
Of that number 1,582 were killed, 7,709 wounded, and 5,958 missing.