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Malvern Hill, battle of.

Malvern Hill 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. Lee 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, Ewell, Whiting, and D. H. Hill on the left (a large portion of Ewell's in reserve); Generals Magruder and Huger on the right; while the troops of A. P. Hill and Longstreet were held in reserve on the left. The latter took no part in the engagement that followed. The National 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. Couch's division was on Porter's right; next on the right were Hooker and Kearny; next Sedgwick and Richardson; next Smith and Slocum; 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 and Couch.

Lee 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 and Kearny, 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 [81] demolished, and the Confederates driven back in confusion to the woods, when the Nationals advanced several hundred yards to a better position. Meanwhile Magruder and Huger 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, Mahone, 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. Then Lee 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.

the 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.

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