Battle of Malvern Hill

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Battle of Malvern Hill
Part of the Peninsula Campaign (Seven Days Battles) in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War
Sneden watercolor of Battle of Malvern Hill.jpg
A watercolor of the Battle of Malvern Hill by Robert Sneden
Date July 1, 1862 (1862-07-01)
Location Henrico County, Virginia
Coordinates: 37°24′45″N 77°15′03″W / 37.4124°N 77.2509°W / 37.4124; -77.2509
Result Union victory
United States United States (Ground and naval forces) Confederate States of America Confederate States of America (Ground forces)
Commanders and leaders
Abraham Lincoln
George B. McClellan
Fitz John Porter
Jefferson Davis
Robert E. Lee
3 gunboats
Casualties and losses
3,000 5,650

At the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862), the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac under the command of General George B. McClellan clashed near Richmond, Virginia. Also known as the Battle of Poindexter's Farm, the conflict involved over fifty thousand soldiers from each side, hundreds of pieces of artillery and three gunboats. The battle was part of the Seven Days Battles of the American Civil War.

Richmond, as the capital of the Confederacy and center of secession, was a city of obvious strategic importance for both belligerents of the Peninsula Campaign. McClellan's attempts to take the city were repeatedly held off by Confederate commander-in-chief Joseph E. Johnston. But when Johnston was replaced by Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy went on the offensive. Collectively called the Seven Days Battles, Lee launched a series of counterattacks against McClellan and his army. The action on Malvern Hill was the culmination of the counteroffensive.

The Union V Corps, under FitzJohn Porter, began taking up positions on the hill on June 30. As McClellan's commanders laid the groundwork for battle, McClellan himself was not present for the beginning of the battle, having boarded the ironclad USS Galena and sailed downriver. The preparations of Lee's men were hindered by several mishaps. Bad maps and faulty guides caused Confederate general John Magruder to be late for the battle, caution caused Benjamin Huger to be late and Stonewall Jackson had problems collecting the Confederate artillery. Nonetheless, it was the Confederates who started the battle when the artillery on the left flank began firing upon the Union line. The Union artillery triumphed in its defensive role, however. This was the story of the day, as attack after attack was repulsed by the Union.

In the aftermath of the battle, Lee was heralded as the savior of Richmond in Confederate newspapers. McClellan however, was criticized harshly for his absence from the battlefield, an issue that would haunt him when he ran for president in 1864. From Malvern Hill, McClellan and his forces withdrew to Harrison's Landing where he would stay until August 16. Lee withdrew to Richmond and began preparing for his next operation, as Malvern Hill effectively ended the campaign on the Peninsula.


Military situation[edit]

Further information: American Civil War
A bridge, made by Edwin Vose Sumner, to cross the Chickahominy River.

The Peninsula Campaign—the first large-scale conflict in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War—was already well underway when on May 26, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, then-President of the United States, wrote Union commander General George McClellan, saying, "What impression have you, as to intrenchments [sic]—works—for you to contend with in front of Richmond [Virginia]? Can you get near enough to throw shells into the city?"[1] By the next day, McClellan extended his battle line into areas north of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. By May 30, McClellan had already begun moving troops across the Chickahominy River, the only major natural barrier that separated him and his army from Richmond.[2]

On May 31, roughly half of McClellan's Army of the Potomac still remained on the south banks of the Chickahominy—likely due to a violent thunderstorm the night before that spiked the water level and consumed two bridges. Confederate general-in-chief Joseph E. Johnston, who sought to capitalize on the bifurcation of McClellan's army, led three columns of soldiers to attack that day in what would be known as the Battle of Seven Pines. Johnston's plan fell apart though, and McClellan lost no ground. That evening, as the battle was drawing to a close, Johnston was struck in the right shoulder by a bullet and in the chest by a shell fragment; his command devolved to Major General Gustavus W. Smith. Smith's tenure as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia was quite short, though; on June 1, after an unsuccessful attack on Union forces, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, appointed General Robert E. Lee, his own military adviser, to replace Smith as the commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies. Lee immediately ordered a withdrawal of Confederate troops and by that evening, both McClellan's Army of the Potomac and Lee's Army of Northern Virginia were in their original positions—the former back at the south Chickahominy and the latter in Richmond. For the next two weeks, McClellan harangued Washington for more troops, as he felt Lee's army "greatly outnumbered" his own.[a] Meanwhile, Lee began improving the trenches around Richmond so they could be well defended by a smaller force, and reconnoitered McClellan's position, sending J.E.B. Stuart on June 12 on his famous "Ride around McClellan".[3]

On June 25, Lee was leading 60,000 men to fight the next day when McClellan preempted him in a surprise attack at Oak Grove. Lee's men successfully warded off the Union attack and the surprise did not hamper his plans. The next morning, the Confederates crossed the Chickahominy and attacked McClellan at Mechanicsville. This attack was repelled by the Union however, with heavy losses on the Confederate side. After Mechanicsville, McClellan's forces drew back to a position behind Boatswain's Swamp. Lee was ostensibly not feeling so reclusive; on June 27, Lee's forces again attacked, this time at Gaines's Mill. Gaines's Mill was a unique occurrence during the Seven Days. During the day, some of Lee's men had launched one mismatched attack after another against the Union line; all to no avail. Then, as the Virginia sun set, one final concerted attack broke the Union line and the Confederates carried the day. As glorious as that victory might have been, the carnage was grievous, with each side suffering over six thousand casualties. The action at Garret's and Golding's Farm, fought next, was merely a set of skirmishes. The day after however, Lee attacked McClellan in force at the Battle of Savage's Station, but once again, to no avail. The battle's execution was uncoordinated, and the Federals escaped. Lee was undeterred; on June 30, he renewed his offensive on the Union Army in the battles of Glendale and White Oak Swamp, but the results of both battles were inconclusive. This series of aggressions would come to be a part of the Seven Days Battles and both Lee and McClellan suffered heavy casualties in these conflicts. Nonetheless, on June 30, McClellan's forces began to accumulate atop Malvern Hill, an imposing natural position on the Virginian Peninsula, inviting battle; Lee obliged.[5]

Geography and location[edit]

Main article: Malvern Hill

It was as beautiful a country as my eyes ever beheld. The cultivated fields, interspersed with belts & clusters of timber & dotted with delightful residences, extended several miles. The hills were quite high, but the slopes gradual & free from abruptness. Wheat was in the shock, oats were ready for the harvest, & corn was waist high. All were of most luxuriant growth.[6]

Lieutenant Charles B. Haydon of the 2nd Michigan Infantry, personal diary

Malvern Hill, a plateau-like elevation in Henrico County, Virginia and the namesake of the battle, provided for an impressive natural military position. The hill rose some 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 m)[6][7] to its crest and was distanced about two miles from the James River.[8] The hill formed a crescent of about 1.5 miles (2.4 km)[7] length and 0.75 miles (1.21 km)[6] width. The Malvern Cliffs, a bluff-like formation, comprised the western face of the hill and overlooked the Turkey Run creek, a tributary of nearby Turkey Island Creek. Western Run creek, another tributary of Turkey Island Creek which, perversely enough, lay mostly along the eastern side of the hill and slanted into the northern side slightly. Malvern Hill's center was at a slightly decreased elevation than the flanks and the slope was about one mile (1.6 kilometres) in length and very gradual, with only one notable depression dipping some sixty feet (18 metres) at the valley of Western Run and slanting upwards to the plateau. The gentle, bare slant meant that any assailing army could not easily take cover, and artillery would have the benefit of a clear, open field.[6][9]

Several farms were positioned nearby Malvern Hill. Some 1,200 yards (1,100 m)[10] north of the hill were the Poindexter and Carter farms. Between the two farms was a swampy and thickly wooded area that made up the course of the Western Run creek. Another farm, belonging to the Crews family, was the largest farm in the area and was situated at the western side of the hill. About a quarter of a mile due east of Malvern was the West farm and between these two farms was the Quaker Road, which some locals called the Willis Church Road, for the Willis Methodist Church near it.[11] The Quaker Road also ran past the Malvern house, the hill's namesake, which was perched atop the southern edge of the plateau.[10]

General McClellan's forces prepare[edit]

General George McClellan in 1861

The morning of June 30, 1862 witnessed the V Corps under Brigadier General FitzJohn Porter, a part of General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac, amassing atop Malvern Hill. Colonel Henry Hunt, McClellan's skilled chief of artillery,[8] posted more than 100 guns about the rim of the hill's slope and 150 more in reserve at the rear of the hill near the Malvern house.[7] The artillery line on the hill's slope consisted of eight batteries of field artillery with thirty-seven guns.[12] The line was guarded by the regulars of Major General George Sykes' division. In reserve were additional field artillery and three batteries of heavy artillery; this assortment included five 4.5 inch (11 cm) Rodman guns, five 20 pounder (9.1 kg) Parrott rifles and six 32 pounder (15 kg) howitzers.[13] As more of McClellan's forces arrived at the hill, General Porter continued to reinforce the Union line. The northern section of the line would be extended by the units of Brigadier General George Morell, who were stationed between the Crew and West farms; the line was extended further yet to the northeastern side by Brigadier General Darius Couch's division of the IV Corps, as yet unbloodied by the skirmishes of the Seven Days. With this arrangement, 17,800 men from Couch's and Morell's divisions were posted on the northern face of the hill, overlooking the Quaker Road, which was the direction General Lee's forces were expected to attack.[12]

Throughout the course of June 30 and even into the night, soldiers, exhausted from combat, ambled from the dusty Quaker Road and onto the Malvern plateau. "What the road was... I cannot recall," remarked Lieutenant Thomas Livermore of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry, "I know simply that it was darkness and toil, until we began climbing a hill and were greeted with advancing dawn."[14]

Early the next day, Tuesday, July 1, General McClellan rode the course of the battle line, to the roar of applause from his subordinates. McClellan was greatly heartened at the display, writing to his wife, "The dear fellows cheer me as of old as they march to certain death & I feel prouder of them than ever."[14] Upon inspection of the battle line, General McClellan, who had recently come from nearby Haxall's Landing, held that he had "most cause to feel anxious about the right [flank]." The entire right (or eastern) flank was behind the Western Run creek—an area necessary for the planned movement of his forces to Harrison's Landing—and McClellan feared being cut off on that side. As a result, he posted the largest portion of his Army there—two divisions from Edwin Sumner's II Corps, two divisions from Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman's III Corps, two divisions from Major General William Franklin's VI Corps and one division from Brigadier General Keyes' IV Corps, who were stationed across the James. The division of George McCall, badly crippled in the fighting at Glendale with McCall himself wounded and captured, would be held in general reserve.[15] Of the positioning of troops, Colonel A.A. Humphreys, McClellan's chief topographical engineer, who placed most of the Union troops involved in the battle, wrote to his wife that "there was a splendid field of battle on the high plateau where the greater part of the troops, artillery, etc. were placed. It was a magnificent sight."[6]

Despite saying that his army was "in no condition to fight without 24 hours rest" and praying General Lee's forces were "in no condition to disturb [them] today",[14] McClellan abandoned his troops at Malvern and traveled downstream aboard the gunboat USS Galena towards Harrison's Landing on the north bank of the James River. McClellan did not give the command of the troops to any person; however, Brigadier General Porter, who was in command during the initial attack, became the de facto commander on the Union side of the battle.[14]

General Lee's forces advance[edit]

General Robert E. Lee poses in April 1865

Early on the morning of the battle, General Robert Lee met with his generals on the Long Bridge Road, including Lieutenant Generals James Longstreet, A. P. Hill and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Major General John Magruder, to plan the pursuit of Federal forces to Malvern Hill. Similarly to McClellan, the generals were noticed by a group of troops, who cheered in adulation. General Lee gave a quick salute and continued his conversation, expressing no desire to feed their ardor.[16]

Down the Long Bridge Road, Lee and his generals met Lieutenant General D.H. Hill. Hill's conversation with a chaplain from his command who was familiar with Malvern Hill impelled him to question the prudence of Lee's attack. Hill's fears were not unfounded. Malvern Hill's geography provided for an impressive—and if exploited well enough, an impregnable—military position. "If General McClellan is there in strength," cautioned Hill, "we had better let him alone."[17] Longstreet ostensibly did not share Hill's objections, laughing off Hill's caution and saying, "Don't get so scared, now that we've got him [General McClellan] whipped."[18] Lee himself had noted the "great natural strength" possessed by Malvern Hill, and spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the approaching battle.[18]

Lee chose for the relatively well-rested units of Generals D.H. Hill, Stonewall Jackson and John Magruder to bear the brunt of the fighting that day as they had barely partaken in the fighting of the day before; meanwhile, James Longstreet's and A.P. Hill's divisions would be held in reserve, as they fought the majority of the previous day's hostilities.[7] Two brigades under Stonewall Jackson, the commands of Major General Richard Ewell and Brigadier General William H.C. Whiting, would also be kept in reserve.[19]

Lee's Army of Northern Virginia would form a semi-circle enveloping Malvern Hill: D.H. Hill's five brigades would be placed along the northern face of the hill, forming the center of the Confederate line; and the divisions of Stonewall Jackson forces and John Magruder would man the left and right flanks of the Confederate line respectively. Brigadier General Whiting's forces would position themselves on the Poindexter farm, with the outfits of Brigadier General Charles Sidney Winder and Richard Ewell nearby. The infantry of these three detachments would provide reinforcement for the Confederate line if necessary.[20] Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes would take up a position on the extreme Confederate right flank.[17]

Lee's message to his commanders

Batteries have been established to rake the enemies' line. If broken, as is probable, [Brigadier General Lewis] Armistead, who can witness the effect of the fire, has been ordered to charge with a yell. Do the same.

— In the name of General Robert E. Lee, by the word of Colonel Robert H. Chilton; sent July 1, 1862 at about 1:30 PM.[21]

Lee himself had taken a blacksmith shop along the Quaker Road as his field headquarters, where he surveyed the left flank himself for possible artillery positions. Lieutenant General James Longstreet, after a reconnoitering expedition on the right flank, returned to Lee and the two compared their findings. Lee and Longstreet quickly developed a strategy: two grand battery-like positions would be established at the left and right sides of Malvern Hill, upon land that was similarly elevated. The batteries would each hold as many as sixty guns, according to Longstreet. The artillery fire from the batteries was supposed to, as Longstreet put it, "so discomfit them as to warrant an assault by infantry." An infantry assault by McClellan's forces would open up the Union line, allowing Lee's soldiers to break through and attack. If this plan did not work out, Lee and Longstreet felt the artillery fire would give them enough of a chance to reconsider.[20]

With a battle plan in order, Lee sent a draft to his lieutenants, written by his chief of staff, Colonel Robert Chilton. (see right box). It is quite unlikely that Lee saw and approved such a vague and poorly drawn order. The draft effectively left the attack solely at the discretion of Lewis Armistead, who held the battle of Malvern Hill as the first battle he'd ever commanded in. Furthermore, the draft left the only signal of attack for fifteen brigades as the yell of a single charging brigade. Amid the rigors and noises of battle, this was bound to create confusion.[21]


Key participants[edit]

Major Union figures of the Battle of Malvern Hill
Major General FitzJohn Porter standing, with most of body shown (taken sometime between 1855–1865; apart of the Brady-Handy collection).
As General McClellan departed and left no commander in his absence, Brigadier General FitzJohn Porter, who was in charge when Lee's forces attacked, assumed command of McClellan's forces. Porter's units formed the center of the Union battle line. 
Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman sitting with body almost entirely shown (taken sometime between 1860-1865; apart of the Brady-Handy collection).
Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman's units formed the first part of the right (or eastern) flank of the Union line. 
Major General Edwin Sumner standing, posing with arms crossed, with about two-thirds of body shown (taken sometime between 1855-1865; apart of the Brandy-Handy collection).
Major General Edwin V. Sumner formed the second part of the right (or eastern) flank of the Union line. 
Major General George Sykes sitting with both arms and legs folded. Body almost entirely shown (taken sometime between 1860-1865).
Major General George Sykes's units formed the left (or western) flank of the Union line. 
Major Confederate figures of the Battle of Malvern Hill
Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill sitting with upper half of body shown.
The units of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill formed the center left of the Confederate line. 
Major General John B. Magruder posing with sword and hat in left and right hands respectively. Entire body shown. (taken sometime in the 1860s.)
Major General John Magruder's units would form the center right part of the Confederate line. 
Portrait of Lieutenant General Thomas Jackson with upper body shown.
Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's forces formed the left (or western) flank of the Confederate line. 
Brigadier General Benjamin Huger posing with upper half of body shown (taken between 1860 and 1870).
Brigadier General Benjamin Huger's units would form the right (or eastern) flank of the Confederate line. 

Preliminary goals and strengths of forces[edit]

Estimates of the forces of McClellan and Lee vary widely,[18][19] with different sources reporting from 54,000[18] to 80,000[19] troops for the Union side, and 55,000[18] to 80,000[19] for the Confederate side.

The goal of McClellan was simple: retreat. McClellan was now heading to Harrison's Landing, near Berkeley plantation, instead the original goal of Richmond. John Rodgers of the United States Navy[22] had informed McClellan that he could not guarantee the safety of his army beyond the Landing. So, McClellan had spent a good portion of the Seven Days Battles retreating to a place of relative safety. In fact, McClellan was not present for the beginning of the battle. After his inspection of the Union line, he boarded the USS Galena and sailed to Harrison's Landing to inspect his army's future embarkation point there.[23]

Lee's goal was somewhat more complex. It was obvious to Lee that McClellan's army was on the run. He corroborated his view with the many commissary stores, wagons and arms left behind. Lee viewed the hundreds of McClellan stragglers and deserters his units had happened upon and captured as a sign of demoralization in McClellan's army. One final push, Lee thought, and McClellan's army would disintegrate. For six days prior, Lee's plans and strategies had fallen apart for one reason or another. Lee's chances to destroy McClellan's army, as he desperately wanted to do, were diminishing quickly. All these factors played into the decisions Lee made during the Battle of Malvern Hill.[24]

Disposition of armies[edit]

Layout of battlefield during the Battle of Malvern Hill; by Union Private Robert K. Sneden. Union indicated in purple; Confederates or "Rebels" indicated in red.

Throughout the Seven Days Battles, Lee's forces had been disjointed and scattered, to varying extents, for one reason or another. As evidenced by the plights of Major General John Magruder and Brigadier General Benjamin Huger, Malvern Hill would be no exception.[17][25]

Initially, while marching down the Long Bridge Road, General Magruder and his men were following Stonewall Jackson's column. Along this road were several adjoining pathways. One of these paths, leading south from Glendale to Malvern Hill, was called the Willis Church Road by some locals, but other locals, including General Lee's mapmakers, called this road the Quaker Road. So when Lee showed Magruder a map of the area at that morning's war council, it labelled the Willis Church Road as the Quaker Road. Other locals however, including General Magruder's guides, called another road "the Quaker Road"—this road began near a local farm and led southwesterly to the River Road. Thus, when General Magruder requested that he be taken to the Quaker Road, his guides led his forces down the Quaker Road they knew, instead of the Quaker Road that had been shown on Lee's map. General James Longstreet, who had been reconnoitering the Confederate right flank,[26] watched in amazement as Magruder's procession went down a road leading them away from the battlefield. Magruder eventually grew suspicious and questioned the guides, who insisted that this was the only Quaker Road they knew. Longstreet eventually rode after Magruder and persuaded him to reverse course. Magruder and his men landed on the battlefield eventually, but only after wasting three hours marching.[25]

One of Magruder's men, Major Joseph L. Brent, had ridden ahead of the Magruder's column on the Long Bridge Road, destined to reach the day's battlefield. When he arrived, Brent climbed a tree in a knoll facing Malvern Hill to gain a better vantage point; what he saw was a number of soldiers along the hill's crest clad in blue—McClellan's army was on the hill in force. The Army of the Potomac was in a relatively less disparate condition than Lee's army in the lead up to the battle; like Lee's army, all of McClellan's forces would be concentrated in one place, save for several divisions from Brigadier General Erasmus Keyes's outfit and Keyes himself, who were posted across the James River at Haxall's Landing.[6] "The Union soldiers were resting in position," Brent recalled, "some sitting or lying down, and others moving at ease or disappearing behind the ridge."[27] Brent also recalled the black muzzles of cannons, visible from left to right, as far as his eyes could see. The major concluded that the Union line "seemed almost impregnable".[27]

Brigadier General Huger and his men had found themselves in a predicament somewhat less precarious than Magruder. The cautious Huger was worried that if he moved down the Charles City Road to Glendale crossings, he would clash with Union forces. So at dawn that morning, Huger deployed two of his four brigades, commanded by Brigadier Generals Lewis Armistead and Ambrose Wright, to perform a flanking maneuver around any of McClellan's forces they met. It was not until James Longstreet sent notice to Huger that there were no Union forces at the Road did Huger realize that the passage was clear. Huger decided to wait for further instructions after this notice and, sure enough, someone from the Lee's headquarters arrived and, as Huger put it, "conducted us to the [battle] front".[17]

These troubles weighed on Lee's planned setup for his forces. As noon drew near and with nary a sighting from Huger or Magruder, Lee replaced these two forces, who were supposed to be manning the Confederate right flank, with the smaller units of Brigadier Generals Armistead and Wright, Huger's two brigades who had reached the battlefield some time earlier.[28] Despite these mishaps, Malvern Hill would be the first time during the Seven Days Battles that all of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia would be concentrated in the same place.[17]

Beginning of battle[edit]

Not very long before the battle began, Lee's force encountered another mishap. On the Confederate left flank, Stonewall Jackson was down to only ten batteries; the other seven, from D.H. Hill's division, were being resupplied with ammunition at the rear. Furthermore, Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield, Jackson's capable chief of artillery, was sick that day. General Jackson, once an artillery instructor at the Virginia Military Institute, had to assume Crutchfield's duties. The "grand battery" on the right flank was also having problems—of Brigadier General Benjamin Huger's six batteries, two were in operation; of Major General John Magruder's sixteen, two were firing; and of Brigadier General William Pendleton's fourteen batteries, one was firing. Seeing this situation, Lieutenant General A.P. Hill sent one of his batteries to the right artillery position—his best one supposedly.[29]

Union ships launching missiles onto the battlefield at Malvern Hill.

Nevertheless, it was the Confederates that started the battle when in the early afternoon hours, the Rowan Artillery of the Brigadier General William H.C. Whiting's division began firing from their position on the Confederate left flank, upon Brigadier General Darius Couch's division of the IV Corps, who were near the center of the Union line. This began a fierce firefight between the Union's eight batteries and thirty seven guns all concentrated upon three Confederate batteries and sixteen guns. The Union fire quickly and decisively silenced the Rowan Artillery and made their position untenable.[b] The other two Confederate artilleries, placed by Jackson himself, were in somewhat better positions, and managed to keep a small barrage going.[32] The firefight also waked the wrath of three Union gunboats—the USS Galena, which had returned from Harrison's Landing with McClellan on-board at about 3:30 PM, the USS Jacob Bell and the USS Aroostook—lobbing missiles twenty inches (510 millimeters) in length and eight inches (200 millimeters) in diameter from their position on the James River onto the battlefield.[33][34]

The Confederate artillery fire did have some effect. Captain John E. Beam of the Union's 1st New Jersey Artillery was killed, along with a few others; Several Union batteries (though none that were actually engaged) had to move to avoid the fire; the barrage near Malvern house was said to be "galling"; and a soldier near the front of the Union line said Confederate fire "cut us up terribly." Lieutenant Charles B. Haydon of the McClellan's 2nd Michigan Infantry recalled that he was almost buried in sand and stubble when a Confederate shell exploded near him, and that he caught a ball from a shrapnel shell that stopped rolling near him and had to dodge two more. Haydon noted that most Confederate artillery exploded at least one hundred feet (30 metres) in the air, scattering fragments over the battlefield. Though the barrage by Lee's forces did kill a few people, the Union forces were unfazed and continued their fearsome barrage. Indeed, Lieutenant Haydon recalled that he fell asleep during the artillery fight.[35]

Artillery fire, both Confederate and Union, continued to boom across the hill for at least an hour. However, the Union barrage began to slacken at about 2:30 PM—at least until Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, at about 3:30 PM,[36] noticed Union skirmishers creeping towards his men where the grand battery on the Confederate right flank was, nearly within rifle range of them. Armistead sent three regiments from his command to push back the skirmishers, thus beginning the infantry part of the battle. The regiments pushed the skirmishers back easily enough, but in doing so, walked into the intensifying fire from the Union guns. With several men dead or wounded, Armistead's regiments nestled themselves in a precarious lodgement: a ravine along the hill's slant. This position protected them from fire, but also pinned them down. They did not have men enough to advance any further and retreating would put them back into the crossfire.[37]

Major General Magruder arrives[edit]

Not much time after the advance of Armistead's regiments, Major General John Magruder and his men arrived on the battlefield, albeit, quite late—by this time it was four in the afternoon. Magruder was unaware of any recent orders, save for what he had been told at that morning's war council—that he was supposed to be positioned to General Huger's right. Magruder sent forth Major Joseph L. Brent to find exactly where Huger's right was. Brent found Huger, who said that he had no idea where his brigades were. Huger was noticeably upset that his men had been given orders by someone other than himself—as when Lee told Huger's two brigades under Armistead and Ambrose Wright to advance to the right part of the Confederate line. Upon hearing of this, Magruder was perplexed. So he employed Captain A.G. Dickinson to find Lee and tell him of the "successful" charge of Armistead's men who were halfway up the hill, and request further orders. At the same time, Brigadier General Whiting sent General Lee notice that Union forces were retreating—the Federal were pulling back across Malvern Hill (this was actually just Edwin Sumner's troops moving because of Confederate shelling); and Union artillery fire slackening on his front (this was the Union artillery concentrating their firepower to a different front). Lee, in his haste to ensure McClellan's force did not get away and after receiving these pieces of information, sent Magruder, through Captain Dickinson, this order: "General Lee expects you to advance rapidly. He says it is reported the enemy is getting off. Press forward your whole line and follow up Armistead's success."[38]

In obedience to Lee's order, Magruder mustered some five thousand men from the brigades of Brigadier General Ambrose Wright, Major General William Mahone and half of the men from Armistead's brigade who were in the open battlefield. Magruder had also sent for Major General Robert Ransom, Jr., under Brigadier General Huger's command, who noted that he had been given strict instructions to ignore any orders not originating from Huger, and apologetically said he could not come to Magruder's aid. Despite this, under Magruder's order at about 5:30 PM, Wright's brigade with Armistead's, then Mahone's brigade, went darting out of the woods and towards the Union line in a "desperate charge".[39] The Confederates also renewed their artillery barrages with the artillerists of Richard Ewell's division.[40] Colonel William Kent, a Union sharpshooter, recalled "a line of grey coats rushing toward [them]." As Kent noted, the Confederates were perfectly aligned initially, but they began to break up into groups "which acted entirely independent of each other, some rushing forward, and others taking cover."[41]

This charge did little to affect the course of the battle. Major General Mahone's brigade, like Wright's before it, were driven back by heavy Union artillery. However, another column of Confederate soldiers emerged from the woods. These were the men of Lieutenant General D.H. Hill's unit. Hill had received Chilton's draft at 2 PM that day, but seeing the collapse of the Confederate artillery, which he dismissed as "most farcical",[42] Hill sent to Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson for further instructions, who simply responded to obey the original orders: charge with a yell after Armistead's brigade. Hours passed though, with no "yell", so Hill and his men began building bivouacs for the night. In the middle of this exercise, Hill heard an unmistakable yell from the right flank, where Armistead was supposed to be. "This must be the general advance!" exclaimed Hill. "Bring up your brigades as soon as possible and join it."[43] Hill's five brigades, with some 8,200 men, did not charge in unity, though. What came instead were five separate charges forward. Furthermore, Hill's units had to contend with the thick woods around the Quaker Road and Western Run, which destroyed any order they may have had. "We crossed one fence, went through another piece of woods, over another fence [and] into an open field, on the other side of which was a long line of Yankees," wrote William Calder of the 2nd Regiment, North Carolina Infantry. "Our men charged gallantly at them. The enemy mowed us down by the fifties."[43]

The first attack by Lee's army did barely anything to turn the tide of battle, but this did not deter General Magruder. Magruder rode back and forth across the battlefield, launching unit after unit into a charge of the Union line. Robert Ransom's unit, after they finally showed up, with Huger's permission, went into battle soon after. Ransom's men, guided by the flashing light of the cannons amidst an encroaching darkness, did manage to reach a Union artillery position some one hundred yards (91 m) from the Union line—the closest any Confederate unit came to the Union line that day—and forced the men there to fall back to avoid capture or death; however, Major General George Sykes's artillery quickly repelled that attack.[44] Two of Magruder's brigades, under Brigadier Generals Joseph B. Kershaw and Paul Jones Semmes, arrived to the front and were quickly sent in after Ransom; they were repulsed not long after.[45] Hill's force, on the other hand, had had enough. They streamed back into the woods with little order.[46] A final charge was made by Major General Lafayette McLaws's two brigades; but like the charges before them, it was to little effect.[47]

Darkness was fast growing upon the battlefield and the fight would soon reach its climax. One Union private remarked that "rebels swarmed out of the woods, seemingly without end."[47] Another Union captain remarked that "much the same scene as Gaines's Mill was gone through, excepting that the men stood like heroes." At Gaines's Mill, General Lee had managed to assemble all of his forces and charge the Union line, overwhelming it and winning the day.[48] With one disjointed attack after another, all with little effect, it became clear that this tactic would not be repeated.[48]

When night had fallen, Brigadier General Isaac Trimble had begun gathering his men for another attack on the Union line. General Stonewall Jackson saw Trimble in his preparations and asked him what he was doing. Trimble replied, "I'm going to charge those batteries, sir."[49] After a ride with D.H. Hill to observe the Union line, Trimble thought he'd seen a chance to take Darius Couch's battery in flank. "I guess you better not try it," advised Jackson. "General [D.H.] Hill just tried it with his whole division and has been repulsed. I guess you better not try it." Even with the infantry part of the battle over, Union artillery continued to boom across the hill. Then, even they stopped firing at 8:30 PM, leaving a wreath of smoke upon the crest's edge. The battle on Malvern Hill was over.[50]


The scene after the battle on Malvern Hill was ghastly. The cries of the wounded tore through the night air. Brigadier General Porter Alexander recalled that "[the scene] could not fail to move with pity the heart of friend or foe."[51] Another Union soldier heard "groans from some, prayers from others, curses from this one, and the uncomplaining silence from the hero."[51] The sunlight on July 2, the day after the battle, shone over a grisly scene of mangled dead from both sides of the conflict. When speaking to Private Moxley Sorrel, Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell questioned, "Can you tell me why we had five hundred men killed dead on this field yesterday?"[52] Confederate Colonel John W. Hinsdale noted that the trees around Malvern Hill had been damaged by grapeshot and shells, and saw a battery position covered in dead horses. Another Confederate of the Maryland Line, called Washington Hands, recalled that many of the bodies were "horribly mangled" by the artillery, and suffered the even greater indignity of having tree limbs, weakened by artillery, fall on top of their resting places.[53] Colonel William W. Averell, a Union cavalryman, gave a gruesomely detailed description of the unforgettable scene that morning:

By this time, the level rays of the morning sun from our right were just penetrating the fog, and slowly lifting the clinging shreds and yellow masses. Our ears had been filled with agonizing cries from thousands before the fog was lifted, but now our eyes saw an appalling spectacle upon the slopes down to the woodlands half a mile away. Over five thousand dead and wounded men were on the ground, in every attitude of distress. A third of them were dead or dying, but enough were alive and moving to give to the field a singular crawling effect. The ebbing tide are often marked by the lines of flotsam and jetsam left along the sea-shore. So here could be seen three distinct lines of dead and wounded, marking the last front of three Confederate charges of the night before. Groups of men, some mounted, were groping about the field.[54]

—Colonel William W. Averell of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, written some twenty years after the Battle of Malvern Hill.

Following the battle, the horrors of war were shown in stunning clarity. Newspapers around the country were filled with the names of the dead, wounded and missing. Both capitals, Washington and Richmond, practically became hospitals. Ships sailed from the Peninsula to Washington carrying the wounded. Kith and kin searched among the wounded for their loved ones and tried to reclaim the bodies of the dead. Richmond, which was nearest to the battlefields of the Seven Days, was overwhelmed with immense numbers of dead and dying. "We lived in one immense hospital," a woman remembered. She recalled that they "breathed in the vapors" of the charnel houses. Graves could not be dug quickly enough and the hospitals and doctors were overwhelmed. Persons from about the Confederacy descended upon Richmond to care for the conflicts's casualties.[55]


Equally as grim as the visuals left from Malvern Hill's fighting were the casualty numbers. The Confederates counted some 5,650 casualties.[56] Some 30,000 Confederates engaged that day, though several thousand more endured the Union shelling.[57] Brigadier General Whiting's unit suffered 175 casualties in the Malvern Hill conflict, even though they had limited involvement in the assaults. Charles Winder's brigade of just over 1,000 men suffered 104 casualties in their short involvement in the battle. D.H. Hill estimated that more than half of all the Confederate killed and wounded at Malvern Hill were as a result of artillery fire. Additionally, across the entire Seven Days Battles, the Confederates suffered some 20,614 casualties; about 22 percent[58] of their total force. Of those casualties, 3,478 were killed, 16,261 were wounded and 875 were missing. Lee's army would not see this many casualties again until the Battle of Gettysburg. The Army of Northern Virginia would never again be as big as it was before the onslaught of the Seven Days Battles, as the casualties were never replaced.[59]

Conversely, out of more than 27,000 Federals engaged, McClellan's Army of the Potomac suffered some 3,000 casualties atop Malvern Hill.[57][60] In the entire Seven Days Battle, some 1,734 soldiers were killed, with 8,062 wounded and 6,053 missing, for a total casualty count of 15,849,[59] some 18 percent of McClellan's total force.[58] Of the missing, about 2,836 were from the conflict at Gaines's Mill, fought four days before Malvern Hill. This number was almost equivalent to the number of missing after Savage's Station, fought two days prior. The remainder of the missing were likely captured along to roads to Harrison's Landing. In fact, Lee reported that he'd taken some ten thousand Union soldiers prisoner.[59]

FitzJohn Porter's V Corps sustained over half the killed in the Seven Days conflicts and almost half of the wounded or missing. Porter's Pennsylvania Reserves accounted for 20 percent of the entire army's losses. George McCall's division lost more than one-third of its strength; George Morell's division lost one-fourth of their men and both George Sykes's and Henry Slocum's units lost one-fifth of their men. On the Confederate side, Four of James Longstreet's six brigades lost 49 percent of their men. On the whole, Longstreet lost 40 percent of his men during the Seven Days. One of D.H. Hill's brigades lost 41 percent of it's strength at Malvern Hill alone.[61]

Reasons for outcome[edit]

The battle of Malvern Hill was a resounding Union tactical victory. Colonel Henry Hunt, the Union chief artillerist, did commendable work in accumulating and concentrating the Union guns; as did Colonel A.A. Humphreys, the principal topographical engineer, who placed the troops. The ground on Malvern Hill was used effectively and the Union line had depth with a healthy amount of rested troops on hand to defend it. Credit for this must go to FitzJohn Porter, the de facto commander for the day. Porter posted his men well on June 30, and stationed reinforcements in close proximity to the Union line. Darius Couch, whose forces comprised half of the Union center, positioned his reinforcements skillfully as well and cooperated with George Morell, whose units formed the other part of the Union middle. In fact, one veteran of the War wrote, "No troops were ever better handled; never was better military skill displayed than by him."[62] Some credit must go to the infantrymen that day as well. They did not advance too far beyond the artillery in counter-charges, thus allowing the gunners a clear field of fire. Furthermore, if more of anything was need—infantry or artillery—it was available.[63][c] The stars of the battle were the Union artillery, though. Some of the artillery was operated without sponging.[65][d] One battery launched fourteen hundred rounds and remained in their position the entire day.[65][e]

A number of factors contributed to the debacle suffered by the Confederates. The Confederate brigadier generals did their part, with the exception of Robert Ransom's unwillingness to commit his troops and a few other minor instances; therefore, the blame of July 1 must lie with the commanders.[67] James Longstreet might have incited the Confederate defeat. Longstreet's optimism and suggestions about artillery and strategy to Lee may have affected Lee's decision. But, as Brian K. Burton notes in Extraordinary Circumstances, Longstreet's suggestions were just that, suggestions with no guarantee of success.[67][f] General Magruder also played a part in the Confederate defeat. Firstly, Magruder was led astray by bad maps and faulty guides, which caused him to reach the battlefield late. As a result of this, Lee's plans for the Confederate line were botched; Magruder received Chilton's draft late,[g] and Magruder's thirty artillery pieces could not be used in either grand battery, as the fire from the Union would have hampered their efforts in moving them.[68] Furthermore, Magruder was riding to and fro across the battlefield, making it hard for him to be found.[h] Despite these occurrences, however, Magruder cannot be reasonably blamed for his attacks on the Union line: he was responding to Lee's order to follow up Armistead's "success" and he did initially try to form a unified attack on the Union line.[70][i]

Lee might also share some blame for Malvern Hill. Though Lee put relatively rested troops on the field and accepting Longstreet's suggestions seemed sound at the time and did not commit him to a charge, Lee was not present on the battlefield to observe the fighting.[72][j] He might have stopped Whiting's artillery from firing, prevented Armistead's charge, and countermanded Magruder's offensive.[74] Several other factors may have played into the failure on July 1: namely, Colonel Chilton's draft was vague and poorly written with no time attached to it, so the recentness of the order could have been ascertained,[75] and Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes, on the extreme Confederate right flank, had dismissed any possibility of his men attacking as "out of the question" after he was repulsed by Porter's men on June 30.[17][k]

After battle[edit]

McClellan withdraws[edit]

Map of the night march from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Landing; by Private Robert K. Sneden. Union indicated in purple; Confederates or "Rebels" indicated in red.

Despite the strength of Malvern Hill, as demonstrated in the battle, McClellan felt he needed to continue with his planned withdrawal to Harrison's Landing, much to the chagrin of FitzJohn Porter. Porter felt that the Army of the Potomac should "reap the full fruits of their labors," and that with enough food and ammunition, McClellan's force could remain atop the hill or perhaps even continue their advance to Richmond. Porter could have made a convincing case as well: the Confederates were in ignominious disarray, the spirit of defeat, according to Campbell Brown of Richard Ewell's detachment, hung like an albatross over Lee's men and a fair portion of McClellan's men hadn't fought at Malvern Hill or any of the conflict the day prior and would be open to an advance. Porter's sentiment was also shared by several in McClellan's camp.[22] He had spent the night trying to convince McClellan to stay, but McClellan's mentality prevailed. In view of the "facts"—he insisted Confederate troops greatly outnumbered his own and that he would not risk his army; he felt he couldn't protect Harrison's Landing from his current position at Malvern Hill; and he feared being cut off from his supply depot—he reckoned he had not choice but to continue his retreat.[78]

So for the third night in a row, McClellan's army continued their withdrawal. The Union batteries were withdrawn not long after they stopped firing that night. At about the same time, McClellan's engineers began moving to Harrison's Landing as well. The Pennsylvania Reserves began marching shortly before midnight, as did Darius Couch's division. George Morell's outfit had begun marching at about eleven in the night. Unit after unit would follow, and by dawn on July 2, McClellan's Army of the Potomac, almost in its entirety was marching towards Harrison's Landing.[79] At 10 AM the next morning, Colonel William Averell, the last on the hill, left. As they withdrew, they destroyed twelve wagons which they could not find mules to carry. Once these men had crossed the Turkey Island Bridge, they destroyed the bridge and felled trees over it to stymie any army in pursuit, leaving the James River between the Union and the Confederacy.[54]

By the time the Union soldiers had begun marching to Harrison's Landing after the Battle of Malvern Hill, rain had begun to pour. Conditions grew so weary that a Union soldier described the march as "tedious [and] tiresome."[80] McClellan's men began to trickle into Harrison's Landing at about 6 AM on July 2. McClellan himself had boarded the Galena towards the end of the battle of Malvern Hill and stayed aboard the ship until the next day. Upon arrival at Harrison's Landing on July 2, McClellan met a message from President Lincoln: "If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just now, I do not ask you to try just now."[81] Lincoln also promised reinforcements for McClellan, a promise he upheld in the form of the five thousand men he sent under Brigadier General Orris S. Ferry. Foodstuffs and other supplies came from the White House as well.[81] McCllellan and his army would remain at Harrison's Landing until August 16, when they began marching towards Fort Monroe.[82]

Lee returns to Richmond[edit]

Ambrose Wright, William Mahone and one regiment from Robert Ransom's outfit remained on the hill after the battle. They did request help however; Wright wrote Magruder, "for God's sake, relieve us soon and let us collect our brigades."[80] Relief did not come, however, and they remained on the hill that entire night. Also on the hill were Lewis Armistead's regiments, who stayed the night in a ravine on the hill's slope. Much of the rest of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia remained near Malvern Hill after the battle as well. Some of Lee's men were close enough to hear the sounds made by the Army of the Potomac, now retreating under cover of darkness, and see the lanterns of Northerners tending to their wounded. One noted that the "wagons and artillery made a great deal of noise."[80] Others of Lee's outfit, apparently not hearing the rattle of the wagons, feared another attack. Richard S. Ewell, so vexed by the thought, had dozens of ammunition wagons moved to White Oak Swamp so they would be safe if the army needed to retreat quickly.[80] Other men woke Stonewall Jackson to discuss the army's current situation. "Please let me sleep," Jackson said. "There will be no enemy there in the morning."[80]

Stonewall Jackson's men positioned themselves near Willis Methodist Church. James Longstreet's and A.P. Hill's outfits camped near the Poindexter farm. D.H. Hill's units, along with Benjamin Huger's and John Magruder's were kept on Malvern Hill by Lee. This was because Lee had heard reports that McClellan might move his army to the south of the James River, take Drewry's Bluff and march on Richmond from there, so he kept their outfits on Malvern Hill to block McClellan if these reports were true. Lee also ordered Theophilus Holmes to move to Drewry's Bluff. Meanwhile, D.H. Hill spent a considerable time—days, in fact—removing the wounded, burying the dead and cleaning up the battlefield. Magruder and Huger's units helped in this regard.[83]

The day after the battle, Lee, with Stonewall Jackson, was at Poindexter farm dictating messages to be mailed out and discussing future plans when he met President Jefferson Davis, who had made the short trek from Richmond to Malvern Hill. Lee, who was apparently was not expecting Davis, introduced him to Stonewall Jackson and the three men began discussing plans for the army's future. They considered immediately pursuing McClellan; however, in view of the rain and confusion, Davis and Lee eventually decided that large-scale pursuit of McClellan's army was careless.[84] Jackson alone dissented, saying, "They have not all got away if we go immediately after them." Jackson would even have the bodies of the dead moved so that his soldiers had a clear line of attack against McClellan's army.[85] However, Davis and Lee concluded the army needed rest. They did not completely rule out a pursuit though; Lee even ordered J.E.B. Stuart to reconnoiter McClellan's position for future attacks.[84]

Lee's fears about Drewry's Bluff were softened when he heard from J.E.B. Stuart that McClellan was in Harrison's Landing. Because of the possible Drewry's Bluff threat, Lee had decided to keep the men on Malvern Hill through July 3. However, on July 4, 1862, the eighty-sixth anniversary of American Independence, Lee's men were marching towards Harrison's Landing.[86] At the head of the column, Richard S. Ewell's men began engaging Federals with skirmish fire. The Union soldiers were atop Evelington Heights, a sixty feet (18 metres) elevation in land about thirteen miles (21 kilometers) from Harrison's Landing. Lee saw a strong Union line atop the heights, reinforced with artillery and Union gunboats on the James.[l] Despite these findings, some of Lee's men wanted to attack, but Lee decided to observe instead. Lee made his headquarters a few miles north of the heights. He and his men remained near the heights for several days in case a weakness in the Union line became available for attack. No weakness presented itself though, and on 7 July, Lee ordered Robert Ransom and his men to join Theophilus Holmes at Drewry's Bluff and Huger and his men to move to the south of the James River. And on July 8, Lee ordered Jackson, Longstreet and D.H. Hill back to Richmond. By the end the day, all of the Army of Northern Virginia, save for cavalry outposts and pickets, was back in Richmond for much needed rest and reorganization.[87] Lee himself was already thinking of the next campaign because this one, the Peninsula Campaign, was over.[88]

Reactions and effects[edit]

Despite the defeat on Malvern Hill, Lee had accomplished the original goal of his Seven Days Battles: the deliverance of Richmond; newspapers in Richmond made no small fuss of it after the battle. "No captain that ever lived could have planned or executed a better plan," trumpeted the Dispatch grandiloquently. Another newspaper, the Whig, heralded Lee's victory in their print as well, saying Lee "has amazed and confounded his detractors by the brilliancy of his genius, the fertility of his resources, his energy and daring." The Enquirer remarked that the victory was "achieved in so short a time with so small cost to the victors. I do not believe the records of modern warfare can produce a parallel."[89] The judgment of "so small cost to the victors" may be worthy of debate but the government in Richmond was not one to correct the record. Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory proclaimed, "the Great McClelland [sic] the young Napoleon now like a whipped cur lies on the banks of the James River crouched under his Gun Boats." Indeed, throughout Richmond and the once-beleaguered South, there was an exultant mood.[90]

Lee himself was less exultant, saying he was "deeply, bitterly disappointed". "Our success has not as great or complete as we should have desired," Lee wrote to his wife. In a report to Richmond, he wrote, "Under ordinary circumstances, the Federal Army should have been destroyed."[91] Several of Lee's generals shared his bitterness. D.H. Hill wrote to his wife that his men were "most horribly cut up." "The blood of North Carolina poured like water," Hill wrote of the Battle of Malvern Hill, himself a South Carolinian. In a post-war article, a part of the publication Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Hill wrote, "[the Battle of Malvern Hill] was not war; it was murder."[92] Lee himself did not explicitly parcel out blame for the failure to reach his desired result, but there were repercussions. Several commanders, including Theophilus Holmes and John Magruder were reassigned,[93] and his army was reorganized into two wings, one under Stonewall Jackson and another under James Longstreet.[90] Additionally, Confederate artillery would now be focused into battalion-sized units and moved at the head of battle columns, with the exception of reserve artillery.[94]

An 1864 newspaper cartoon of McClellan on the USS Galena, labelled "The Gunboat Candidate". McClellan was harshly criticized during his 1864 presidential campaign for his placement during the Battle of Malvern Hill.

The dialogue box reads: "Fight on my brave Soldiers and push the enemy to the wall, from this spanker boom your beloved General looks down upon you."

In McClellan's case, his success on Malvern Hill was overshadowed by his overall defeat in the Seven Days Battles; McClellan, in contrast to Lee, knew exactly where the blame lay. It was the "heartless villains" in Washington that authored his defeat. They sought to "sacrifice as noble an Army as ever marched to battle." McClellan singled out Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and his associates for the blame of his defeat. McClellan saw Stanton as his paramount enemy who sought to destroy his efforts and rule the North for themselves.[95] "They are aware that I have seen through their villainous schemes," writes McClellan to his wife, "& that if I succeed my foot will be on their necks."[95] McClellan found solace in his opinion that everything that happened to him on the Peninsula was the divine will of God. "I think I begin to see [God's] wise purpose in all of this," he wrote to his wife. "If I had succeeded in taking Richmond now, the fanatics of the north might have been too powerful & reunion impossible."[95]

Some of McClellan's soldiers voiced their continued confidence in him, saying, "Under the circumstances, I think [McClellan] has accomplished a great feat." Another soldier wrote, "We have full confidence in McClellan yet; but wish [the] war department rest in Purgatory for not reinforcing him."[96] The "full confidence" comment was not unanimous though, with a soldier of the Excelsior Brigade writing, "McClellan was whipped" and "I do not think McClellan was up to the mark." Another soldier from Pennsylvania wrote, "He pretends that it was his intention to do just as he did but I believe he utters a falsehood when he says so; the boys do not have as much confidence as they used to,"[96] and one of McClellan's engineers, Lieutenant William Folwell, wondered why "they deify a General whose greatest feat was a masterly retreat."[95]

The American general public met McClellan's defeat with despondency. His reputation would also suffer tarnishment. Some conservatives abandoned McClellan altogether. His being on the Galena during the Battle of Malvern Hill gained him scorn from newspapers and tabloids around the country, especially when he ran for president in 1864. He was labelled either an imbecile or a traitor.[97] President Lincoln was also losing faith in General McClellan.[98] On June 26, the day after the Seven Days began, the Army of Virginia was formed and the command given to Major General John Pope. While McClellan was at Harrison's Landing, parts of the Army of the Potomac were continuously being reassigned to Pope.[99] Pope left for Gordonsville, Virginia on July 14, and would eventually clash with Confederate forces at Manassas Junction in late August during the Second Battle of Bull Run. There, the Federals would once again suffer a bloody defeat.[100]

Despite the defeat on Malvern Hill, Lee and his army had accomplished the goal they had set out on: the relief of the capital Richmond from the Union threat.[95] For the Confederates, the Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign ended with victory and the deliverance of Richmond. For the Union, the campaign ended in defeat and retreat.[82] In the 160 days the campaign lasted, 250,000 men participated.[82]

In popular culture[edit]

In his Battle-Pieces publication, Herman Melville penned a poem about the battle, titled with the same name as the hill on which it was fought.[101] In the poem, Melville questions the elms of Malvern Hill of whether they recall "the haggard beards of blood" the day of the battle.[101]

Battlefield preservation[edit]

The battlefield at Malvern Hill is credited by the National Park Service as being "the best preserved Civil War battlefield in central or southern Virginia." Most recent preservation efforts there have been the consequence of cooperative efforts between Richmond National Battlefield Park and the Civil War Trust.[102] The Trust has purchased 953 acres at the heart of the battlefield since 2000. Its efforts have been bolstered by the Virginia Land Conservation Fund, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and officials from Henrico County. Most of this tract wraps around the intersection of Willis Church Road and Carter's Mill Road. The land includes the Willis Church Parsonage, which served as the starting point of the Confederate assaults on the day of the battle and the ruins of which remain visible there today.[103] Recent preservation efforts include the acquisition of the Crew house in 2013.[104] Some 1,332.6 acres of land is protected on and around Malvern Hill to preserve the battlefield, according to the National Park Service. Driving and walking tours, among other services, are also offered at the site.[105]

See also[edit]


Additional notes[edit]

  1. ^ It is debatable whether he actually believed this or was inflating Confederate numbers to better his case.[3] In McClellan's telegrams to Washington, he estimated the Confederate army at 200,000. However, with P.G.T. Beauregard and his division in Mississippi, Lee actually had less than one hundred thousand men.[4]
  2. ^ The firefights during the Battle of Malvern Hill would be known as some of the greatest artillery barrages during the entire Civil War, and for good reason. There exists a plethora of accounts of incidents caused by the artillery that day. Lieutenant General Jubal Early, Colonel James Walker of the 13th Virginia Infantry and Willy Fields, Walker's aide-de-camp, were eating nearby the battlefield when a shell passed through the body of a soldier in front of them and landed near Fields. The force with which the shell exploded pushed Fields into the air and the resulting fall caused a mortal concussion. Additionally, a member of one of Brigadier General Whiting's batteries was sitting by a tree when a piece of artillery ripped through the tree and tore his head almost completely from his body.[30] Another one of Whiting's men, wounded by artillery that exploded almost in his face, wrote to his home that "the same shell that wounded me wounded four other's in my company and killed my bosom friend T.J. Bennett of Marietta [Georgia]."[31] Several Union shells landed near to General Stonewall Jackson as he was riding with Whiting and Major General Richard S. Ewell into the Poindexter farm. When a shell hit a nearby horse, Jackson's horse took off, pulling him down to his hands and knees. The horse kept going until Jackson stopped it some twenty to thirty yards (18 to 27 meters) on and carried it to a safer position; in good timing as well—mere seconds later, the same shell exploded some twenty feet (6.1 metres) from Jackson.[30]
  3. ^ At Gaines's Mill, nearly all men fought that day. At Malvern Hill, the III Corps, with some ten thousand men, was entirely unused. Moreover, some 10,000 men from the II Corps were close at hand to support the Union line if needed, and some thirty-eight guns were still in reserve by the end of the day, having not fired a single round of ammunition.[64]
  4. ^ Operating a gun without sponging is incredibly dangerous. Sponging would have prevented any spark or fire in the gun from causing it to burst or explode. A gun burst, of course, would cause terrible damage to the crew operating it. It takes extreme courage to operate guns in this way.[66]
  5. ^ Some Confederates didn't even know the infantry were fighting, as the firing of muskets were drowned out by the roar of the Union guns.[65]
  6. ^ Additionally, Jackson had problems gathering the artillery for the assault. However, the Confederate practice of moving artillery with individual units instead of in one mass and the terrain of Malvern Hill itself also contributed to this. In regards to the problems accumulating artillery, a potential solution lie with Brigadier General William N. Pendleton's fourteen batteries. However, Pendleton was never contacted by Lee's headquarters, and spent July 1 "await[ing] events and orders, in readiness for whatever service might be called for." These orders never came however, and Pendleton's batteries went unused.[42]
  7. ^ In fact, when Magruder sent Lee word of Lewis Armistead's advance up the hill, he still had not received the order.[68]
  8. ^ Indeed, Major Joseph Brent would recall, "I rode in every direction seeking Magruder in vain."[69]
  9. ^ Lee took Magruder to task about this charge though.[68] On the evening of the battle, General Robert E. Lee rode through the camps; seeing Major General John Magruder, he confronted him. "General Magruder," Lee began, "why did you attack?" Magruder responded, "In obedience to your orders, twice responded."[63] In To the Gates of Richmond, Stephen W. Sears, a noted Civil War historian, explains that this exchange could only mean that Lee intended for both Captain Dickinson, who delivered the order to Magruder, and Magruder himself, to soften the order at their discretion. Sears goes on, saying that this incident is another testament to the necessity for Lee to write his own communications to his lieutenants, instead of leaving his orders open to interpretation.[71]
  10. ^ A potential explanation for this lies with Lee's reported fatigue and disappointment over the past battles of the Seven Days.[73]
  11. ^ Theophilus Holmes and his men had clashed with Porter and his men the day before Malvern Hill after Holmes heard word of Union soldiers atop the hill. With these reports, and with Lee's approval of his plans, Holmes marched to Malvern. The ensuing engagement "frightened [Holmes's men] terribly."[76] The Confederates opened fire at about 4 or 5 PM, and the Union artillery was quick to respond. Shell fragments and broken tree trunks and branches showered the Confederates when the Union's thirty-six guns joined the fight. Moreover, nine inch (230 millimeter)– and eleven inch (280 millimetre)–Dahlgrens and one hundred pounder (45 kilogram) Parrot rifles, aboard the Union ships Aroostook and Galena, now awakened by the artillery fire, rained their ammunition down upon the Confederates.[76] Amidst the chaos, Holmes stepped out of the Malvern house, which he had taken as his headquarters, and observed, "I though I heard firing." FitzJohn Porter, on the other hand, slept right through the entire skirmish. By the time the engagement was done, three of Holmes's men were dead and fifty wounded.[77]
  12. ^ The source, Extraordinary Circumstances by Brian K. Burton, refers to Lee as "Marse Robert".[86] Marse Robert was a nickname for Lee; "marse" being a slang form of "master", often used by the American slaves of the day.


  1. ^ Eicher 2002, p. 275
  2. ^ Salmon 2001, p. 63; Eicher 2002, p. 275
  3. ^ a b Salmon 2001, pp. 63–64
  4. ^ Burton 2010, pp. 55–56; Salmon 2001, pp. 64–66
  5. ^ Salmon 2001, pp. 64–66
  6. ^ a b c d e f Sears 1992, p. 310
  7. ^ a b c d Kennedy 1998, p. 101
  8. ^ a b Eicher 2002, p. 293
  9. ^ Burton 2010, p. 309
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  19. ^ a b c d Kennedy 1998, pp. 102–103
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  • Abbott, John Stevens Cabot (1866). The history of the Civil War in America: comprising a full and impartial account of the origin and progress of the rebellion. G. Bill. 
  • Burton, Brian K. (2010). Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253108446. 
  • Dougherty, Kevin (2010). The Peninsula Campaign Of 1862: A Military Analysis. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1604730617. 
  • Eicher, David J. (2002). The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0743218469. 
  • Hattaway, Herman (1997). Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826211070. 
  • Kennedy, Frances H. (1998). The Civil War Battlefield Guide (illustrated, revised ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0395740126. 
  • Salmon, John S. (2001). The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide (illustrated ed.). Stackpole Books. ISBN 0811728684. 
  • Sears, Stephen W. (1992). To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899197906. 

Further reading[edit]


  • Abbot, Henry L. (2010). Siege Artillery In The Campaigns Against Richmond: With Notes on the Fifteen-Inch Gun. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1164867709. 
  • Brasher, Glenn D. (2012). The Peninsula Campaign & the Necessity of Emancipation. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807835447. 
  • Cullen, Joseph P. (1973). Peninsula Campaign 1862, The: McClellan & Lee Struggle for Richmond. Bonanza Books. ISBN 0811712206. 
  • Gallagher, Gary W. (2008). The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula & the Seven Days. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807859192. 
  • Savas, Theodore P.; Miller, William J. (1995). The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: Yorktown to the Seven Days, volume 1. Woodbury Publishers. ISBN 1882810759. 
  • Savas, Theodore P.; Miller, William J. (1996). The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: Yorktown to the Seven Days, volume 2. Woodbury Publishers. ISBN 1882810767. 
  • Savas, Theodore P.; Miller, William J. (1997). The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: Yorktown to the Seven Days, volume 3. Woodbury Publishers. ISBN 1882810147. 
  • Wheeler, Richard (2008). Sword Over Richmond: An Eyewitness History of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. Random House Value Publishing. ISBN 0785817107. 
  • Department of Military Art and Engineering (1959). "West Point Atlas of American Wars". New York: Frederick A. Praeger. OCLC 5890637. 


External links[edit]