Malvern Hill—July 1, 1862.
An addressDelivered before Pickett Camp, Confederate Veterans, Richmond, Va., on March 8th, 1897, by Hon. John Lamb.
1 The deep interest taken by old soldiers in the delineation of any of the battles through which they passed, and the even deeper interest manifested by the younger generation, who never heard the sound of a hostile gun, is an encouragement and an inspiration to those who have the good fortune, after the lapse of so many years, to be able to call up some of the salient points in one of the most remarkable contests of modern times. The witness of any event, when asked to relate it, is apt to have his imagination fired, and thus to color the facts. There is unconscious exaggeration. Hence historians attach small value to memoirs written long years after the occurrence of events, and we naturally take with ‘a grain of salt’ the enthusiastic utterances of our speakers on occasions like this. Fortunately, however, we have here the carefully prepared reports of the corps, division, brigade, and regimental commanders, on either side, written at the very time of the engagement; and by carefully considering them we can arrive at a correct and intelligent opinion of the results. Only a few have the time or the taste to examine such reports critically, and we find in this fact the importance of your camp organizations, and the necessity for encouraging such efforts.
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  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  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  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.
Fraziers Farm.The Federal General McCall held a line near the Charles City cross-roads at Frazier's Farm, supported by Sumner and Heintzleman. An artillery duel opened about 3 o'clock, and the second or third shell from the enemy's guns fell and burst in a little field, where sat General Lee, President Davis and General Longstreet, killing two or three horses and wounding several men. First, Kemper, then Jenkins, and after these, four other brigades of Longstreet's division, charged through the thick woods and swamp, with a battle front of only three-fouths of a mile. McCall was soon thrown back on Sumner and Heintzleman. Battery after battery was taken and then lost. The woods were soon full of dead and dying men. A. P. Hill's division was then ordered in. Branch's, Field's and Pender's brigades were hotly engaged. Bayonets were crossed in those dark woods. In the language of General McCall: ‘Bayonet wounds were freely given and received. I saw skulls crushed by the heavy blows of the butt of the musket, and in short the desperate thrusts and parries of life and death encounter proved, indeed, that Greek had met Greek, when the Alabama boys fell upon the sons of Pennsylvania.’ The battle raged with fury, and death held high carnival. The 47th Virginia captured a battery and turned the guns on the enemy, and following up this success, captured Major-General McCall. The enemy fought with great desperation and gallantry. Featherstone's brigade was driven back in disorder, and Samuel McGowan, with the 14th South Carolina, came to their rescue with unsurpassed gallantry. On the right, two of our brigades were being repulsed, when Archer, in his shirt sleeves, at the head of his brigade, went in with the Confederate yell. Night was throwing its mantle over this scene of death and carnage, when Gen. J. R. Anderson, with his Georgia brigade, was ordered in, and forming two regiments in line on each side of the road, received the enemy's fire at seventy paces, and then engaged them in mortal combat. The volume of fire as it rolled along the line was terrific; every foot of ground was contested;  and when darkness rendered it impossible to prolong the contest, the troops were mingled in such confusion that they wandered into the lines of the enemy in trying to find their respective commands. The Confederates had failed to get possession of the Willis Church road. Franklin glided past us in the night in easy reach of our artillery. Magruder relieved A. P. Hill about 2 o'clock in the morning of July 1st. Jackson followed Franklin over White Oak Swamp. Huger moved from the Charles City to the Long Bridge road, passing over the battlefield where he was so much needed the day before.
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.
Reports of the battle.Thus ended this fearful conflict, the last of the seven days fight. The losses on each side were about equal, the Confederates suffering more, perhaps, in killed and wounded, as they were the aggressors and fought the Federals on their chosen ground. Our killed and wounded reached 3,000. The loss of the enemy, while heavy, was not so severe. Fitz-John Porter says: ‘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. The fact is that before they exposed themselves by pursuing the enemy the ground was literally covered with the killed and wounded.’ Their own gun-boats helped in this slaughter, and inflicted little if any loss on our men. The thirty-two-pounder howitzers and siege-guns killed and demoralized the Confederates. Ours were raw troops, many of whom had never been in line of battle, and they confronted the regulars of the United States army. It requires experience and drill to make efficient soldiers, even of material such as Hill and Magruder commanded that day. General Holmes, commanding a division of 6,000 effective men, occupied a position on the River road on our extreme right. The day before, he had a slight engagement with Warren's Brigade, and suffered the loss of two killed and forty wounded, and his request for re-enforcements turned Magruder from his direct march to Frazier's Farm, and thus prevented a complete success on that field. In his  report he says: ‘I moved my division to a point on the River road half a mile below the upper gate of Curl's Neck and there remained during the night, in line of battle, but I deemed it out of the question to attack the strong position of Malvern Hill from that side with my inadequate force.’ In his official report of the battle, Longstreet said: ‘A little after 3 P. M. I understood that we would not be able to attack the enemy that day, inasmuch as his position was too strong to admit of it.’ Writing long years afterwards in the Century ,Magazine, he says: ‘As our guns in front did not engage, the result was the enemy concentrated the fire of fifty or sixty guns upon our isolated batteries and tore them into fragments in a few minutes after they opened, piling horses upon each other and guns upon horses. Before night the fire from our batteries failing of execution, General Lee seemed to abandon the idea of an attack. He proposed to me to move around to the left, with my own men and A. P. Hill's Division, turning the Federal right. I issued my orders accordingly for the two divisions to go around and turn the Federal right, when, in some way unknown to me, the battle was drawn on. We were repulsed at all points with fearful slaughter, losing 6,000 men and accomplishing nothing.’ Swinton, who refers to our army as ‘that incomparable body of men, the glorious infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia,’ says of Malvern Hill: ‘Lee never before or since that action delivered a battle so ill-judged in conception or so faulty in its details of execution.’ In referring to the Quaker road, I have doubtless raised the inquiry on many a mind here, ‘What would have been the effect had General Magruder not mistaken the order, or had there been only one road known by that name?’ I am unable to say; and not having been educated a soldier, I do not presume to criticise. With the knowledge of the roads and the country, gained since that time, and the experience of the years after the battle, I will venture to say that had Magruder followed on the Willis church road and the (Federal map) Quaker road, and occupied the position of D. H. Hill, so that that officer, together with Early and Ewell, could have extended our left until it encircled Malvern Hill, the enemy would have been taken in flank and forced to give battle on ground more advantageous to us, or to make his retreat over the single road across Turkey Island creek. The depositions of three intelligent citizens and soldiers of Henrico  county, sworn to before R. H. Nelson, a magistrate, then and afterwards a member of my cavalry company, and now living on Frazier's Farm, in Henrico county, can be seen in the records of the Union and Confederate Armies, series 1, Vol. XI, page 677, and they prove beyond question that the road on which General Magruder was conducted by these guides was the only Quaker road known to those people; and now, after thirty-four years have elapsed, you may go there and the same road will be pointed out as the Quaker road.
Defence of Magruder.There has been a charge more serious than that of mistaking roads, laid to the door of this gallant and unfortunate commander; and I want to disprove that to-night, and vindicate his memory. Not many months ago, meeting accidentally a gallant Confederate general, and the conversation turning on the war, he remarked that the battle of Malvern Hill was a sad and melancholy mistake, and that it was a serious and unfortunate occurrence that General Magruder was under the influence of liquor. I have heard Federal officers, when commenting on the Malvern Hill fight, make the same charge. Not long ago a veteran's son said to me that this impression was on his mind, derived, he thought, from conversations he had heard around his father's fireside. I wish to say, for the information of this camp, and the citizens of this city, that General Magruder was perfectly sober the whole day. I did not leave his side, except to carry some order; I spread his blankets that night, and, lying near by, heard the whole conversation between him and General Lee in regard to the fight. In the record of the Union and Confederate Armies, series 1, Vol. II, page 683, will be found the certificate of E. J. Eldridge, Surgeon of the 16th Georgia regiment, bearing directly upon this point. I quote in part: ‘Concerning his condition in reference to intoxication, I can say most positively, that if he was under the influence of liquor, I failed entirely to see it. Had he been laboring under such influence, I must have noticed it. I am positive that he had not even taken a drink, most certainly was not the least excited from this cause.’ It would be an easy task to show that at no time during that period, was Magruder inactive or inefficient. Swinton, the historian, says of the fight at Savage's Station: ‘Magruder attacked in front with characteristic impetuosity  about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, expecting Jackson, whose route led in flank and rear, to arrive and decide the action.’ Again, he says of the operations on the south of the Chickahominy: ‘Porter could expect no aid from the southside, for they were fully engaged by the demonstrations of Magruder, who, by energetic handling of his troops, making a great show and movement and clatter, held the corps commanders, to whom McClellan applied for aid in behalf of Porter, so fully occupied that they declared they could spare none.’ Of the devoted, loyal sons of Virginia who volunteered for her defense, none was more patriotic or heroic than John Bankhead Magruder. On the plains of Mexico he had won his first laurels. With consummate skill he fortified the historic peninsular from Yorktown to Mulberry Point, so that the foremost captain of the Federal army, with 100,000 men against 15,000, was halted and held at bay until Johnston's forces could march to the rescue. At Savage's station he attacked the rear guard of McClellan's army, and inflicted severe loss on the Federals. From that point he had moved with great alacrity to Timberlake's store, and was in position to deal a telling blow at Frazier's farm, when the order came to move to New Market. It does seem the irony of fate that he should have been the victim of the misfortunes that attended our imperfect knowledge of the roads and topography around Richmond. President Davis, in his ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ says: ‘We had no maps of the country in which we were operating; our generals were ignorant of the roads, and their guides knew little more than the way from their homes to Richmond.’ This latter declaration does injustice to many patriotic and intelligent citizens of our lower counties, some of whom have passed beyond the reach of censure or praise, others of whom are here to testify for themselves, and will be heard from, doubtless, around your camp fires. General Long says, evidently with a view of offsetting the rather severe criticisms of General Dick Taylor, that the major-generals had maps, and he produced a copy of the same. That some of our generals had maps of the principal county roads there can be no question; but the by-roads were not laid down. A division-general, after the engagement of July 1st, was directed to move on the left flank and proceed to the neighborhood of the old Westover church, in Charles City county. Calling to his guide, he asked  to be piloted to Nance's Shop. Arriving there, he inquired how far it was to Bradley's Store, near the church, and learning that the distance was nearly the same as from the starting to his objective point, he asked why he had not carried him the nearest way; the guide, a blunt, plain man, replied: ‘You told me to bring you to Nance's Shop, and I have done so.’ The neighborhood road was not laid down. The general made no inquiries of his obedient guide, and lost five miles in his line of march. The same difficulties as to roads have attended armies in older and more open and cultivated countries than Eastern Virginia, and have been the instruments of winning or losing many battles.
Malvern Hill and Waterloo.A most original and graphic writer, delineating the battle of Waterloo, remarked: ‘Here a general of division fell; near by, brigades with their commanders perished; soon the grand old Imperial Guard, that had never known defeat, hurled its front ranks into a yawning chasm of earth that its rear might pass over to meet, upon the fixed bayonets of the hollow squares of Wellington, a no less certain fate. And all this, why? A cowboy said to a general on one bright Sunday morning: “Sire, take this road.” ’ Blucher, seventy-three years old, fired with the spirit of war and revenge, falling from his horse, but mounting again with the alacrity of youth, presses upon the scene, while Wellington prays that he or night would come. Waterloo was won by the accident of a well-directed route. Malvern Hill was doubtless a drawn battle because the Quaker road was misunderstood. It was a fearful ordeal to pass from under the cover of the hills that fringed the Crew field, and face the enemy. I could easily give you examples of personal valor and heroism unsurpassed in war. Of many such, probably none exceeded the gallantry of Captain Martin, of the 53rd Virginia Infantry, Armistead's brigade. And Thomas Fletcher Harwood, of Co. K (Charles City Southern Guard), color-bearer in his regiment, who lost a leg there, and is today one of the many maimed survivors of that fight, has a record in the archives at Washington that will carry his name to the latest posterity. A century hence the Daughters of the Confederacy will be establishing their right to membership upon these records, as many of Virginia's fair daughters to-day are building their claims upon the imperfectly kept records of our Revolutionary fathers.