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Malvern Hill - The Last of the Seven Days
by Daniel Moran

The Federal results of the Seven Days Fight about Richmond gave Major General George B. McClellan ample reason to adapt his plan to withdraw down the Virginia Peninsula. General Robert E. Lee's ambitious advance at Gaine's Mill nearly a week before had caused the Army of the Potomac to break its right flank against the York River creating a need to fall back upon the James River.

The movement began on the 29th of June, the 5th Army Corps under Major General Fitz John Porter moving southeast with Morell's and Sykes' Divisions, along with a portion of the reserve artillery to the vicinity of Turkey Bridge. The march had begun that day, however, continued on through the night. Porter's corps being led by one cavalry officer having stated he knew the route, misguided the corps through the black of night causing a delay of arrival at Turkey Creek until 9:00 am on the 30th of June.

Porter had selected the ground just north of Turkey Creek, the rolling hills and deep ravines making up the landscape about the Crew House, known as Malvern. If General Lee chose to engage here, this would be a Fifth Corps fight indeed. Here on Malvern Hill, Fitz John Porter's men consisting of: Major General Morell, Major General Sykes, Major General McCall, all division commanders, Colonel Henry Hunt with roughly one hundred pieces of his artillery reserve, Colonel R. O. Tyler's Connecticut Siege Artillery, Couch's division of Keyes' IV Corps, the brigades of John C. Caldwell and Thomas Meagher of Edwin Sumner's II Corps, along with the brigade of Daniel Sickles of Heintzelman's III Army Corps.

The center of the Malvern Line is open rolling ground for about one thousand yards ending at a marshy woods area. The Crew House sits to the left rear of the line's center, to the side and back of the house, Malvern Hill drops off deeply making it an easily defendable site and can be held with only a small body of troops.

Major General Fitz John Porter had placed the artillery reserve upon the grounds at Crew House and those along the crest would make life hell for the Confederates that would charge up the deep ravines.

The preliminary battle began on Monday afternoon about 3:00 pm, when General Theophilus Hunter Holmes' division made it's approach along the River Road, batteries from Wise's Brigade of Holmes' Division, opened up with six rifled guns and the extreme left of Major General Morell's line began receiving shot and shell from the approaching butternuts. Colonel Gouverneur K. Warren commanded a small brigade consisting of the 5th and 10th New York Infantries down on this portion of the line re-enforced by Major Jones of the 11th United States Infantry.

The 5th New York Infantry had ordered out a skirmish line and pickets, when about 5:00 pm Sergeant William Hoffman observed the rebels on the edge of a cornfield. Colonel Warren upon receiving word of this ordered Lieutenant Dumont, presently serving the signal corps to notified the gunboats Jacob Bell, Galena, and Aroostook, in the James River to commencing lobbing shells in that direction.

Four zouave signalman in the cornfield wig wagged back to the signal station to regulate the aim of the gunboats. The gunboats had been firing one hundred pound shells. The commands at Turkey Bend who stood their watching these rounds fly through the air likened them to flour barrels. The sound of them whizzing through the air was frightening to all that were within range of their drop zone fearing that if one fuse was cut short it was going to land on them.

Thirty cannon that Colonel Hunt had placed in protection of this road and the troops posted against it, quickly opened up on Holmes' artillery demonstration with great accuracy smashing one battery to pieces, and causing another to withdraw. Morell's left made it so hot for the rebel infantry and cavalry that they made haste to the rear. Colonel Warren walked away with two guns and six caissons from this small affair. General Holmes lost 2 killed, 49 wounded.

This test of the Federal Left was known as the action of Turkey Bridge or Malvern Cliff. Major General Fitz John Porter was but only one hundred or so yards from the engagement, but due to the lack of sleep he had been getting upon the retreat march down the Peninsula, he was in the Malvern House catching a nap. He was awoken two hours later and told of the engagement. He had never heard the boom of the guns.

Monday Night passed as more troops began arriving on Malvern Hill for their placement in the coming battle expected the next day. General Couch's division came up now extending Morell's line to the right across the Quaker Road. General McCall commanding the Pennsylvania Reserve also arrived that night having been posted in front of the Malvern House.

The morning of July 1st, Major General T. J. Jackson spotted a group of mounted soldiers just outside of the Willis Church, it was here that General Robert E. Lee had made his headquarters. All had been waiting on Jackson's arrival. It was the entire Confederate High Command, General Lee, Longstreet, both A. P. and D. H. Hill. Lee had been very open about expressing his disappointment about the day before at White Oak Swamp and now expressing his desire to continue to push McClellan and he was impatient to get it done.

Jackson rode up saluting and said nothing to the group, but listened as Longstreet made a sarcastic comment to Harvey Hill's concern about assaulting the Federal Concentration on Malvern Hill. As Hill was about to express his resentment over the joke to Old Pete, Lee interrupted to announce that he would go on to utilize Major General Jackson, Magruder, and Huger's soldiers to make the final push on McClellan. Lee was sending in nineteen brigades, roughly 30,000 men accompanied by artillery and ambulances right into the teeth of the enemy.

Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield, had been feeling ill and had not reported for duty. Jackson felt he must make a personal effort to place the artillery himself for this fight, and Lee gave his consent to do so. It had taken the Army of Northern Virginia mostly all day to bring a considerable force to bear on the strongly posted position of the Federal 5th Corps.

Tuesday broke as a fine day, hot, however, tempered by a cool breeze. The hour was early when Major General George B. McClellan rode up to Porter's headquarters and approved the disposition of his troops. He left General Porter in command of the portion of the field which General Couch's troops were aligned although Porter elected to leave Couch act in command on his own having complete trust in the military skill of that officer.

Brigadier General George W. Morell was headquartered at Doctor J. H. Mellert's located on the western edge of the field and in close proximity to the Richmond Road. In the juggling of commands that day, he had chosen Colonel James McQuade's 14th Brooklyn Regiment to escort a section of Captain Weeden's Battery out into a field watching the west and approaches. Berdan's Sharpshooters were thrown out in a skirmish line, Lieutenant Colonel William Ripley, commanding. This occurring about the 8:00 am hour.

The batteries were a threatening sight. Five had been placed between the Crew House and the West House, both houses situated on the field itself in front of General Morell's position, some 26 guns. The left, center and right of Brigadier General Couch's division were four more batteries about 22 guns. These pieces fell under the direction of Brigadier General Charles Griffin, a highly skilled artillery officer and West Point Graduate.

Major General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson's troops pressed forward in accordance with instructions from the commanding general until the advance of the columns began receiving shot and shell from strongly posted batteries upon the heights at Malvern. Stonewall dismounted and sat upon a stump to pencil off a message to Major General JEB Stuart about making contact with the enemy when a shell exploded nearby killing a few soldiers and splattering dirt all over the paper he was writing on. Jackson simply brushed it off without ever lifting his head and continued to write.

He furthermore instructed Brigadier General Whiting to move his command off to the left and take up a position on the Poindexter Farm, while Major General Daniel Harvey Hill further to the right, and Taylor's Brigade to fill in the center between the two. Jackson's division was halted close to the Willis' Church in the woods and placed in reserve. These dispositions had been completed by 11:00 am that morning.

General Hill's division while getting into position had a few obstacles to over come. These men had to ford a creek and cross an open field in full view of the enemy's artillery before arriving at their staging area. The Federal Artillery took complete advantage of this and dropped shot and shell down on them and administering considerable casualties.

As Jackson cooly surveyed the Federal Line looking down upon his host, he would have been unable to view it's entire strength, however, he could see the mass concentration of Federal Artillery and infantry having elected not to make a frontal assault from his sector.

James Longstreet had made mention to Lee that if between he and Jackson both could unlimber some sixty cannon, half on his sector right of Malvern and the other along the open fields of Poindexter Farm on Jackson's portion of the line, both could criss cross their fire with satisfactory results. Lee was willing to gamble it, informing Longstreet to go on with the plan.

The artillery idea appeared useless however. Once Jackson was able to unlimber a battery, upon its first salvo some fifty pieces of Federal Artillery would shell it into submission or destroy it. He spent time making battery placements himself giving orders to one that was already under destructive fire. The gunners were not enthused about being out there in such a outgunned duel.

He rode up to Generals Chase Whiting and Harvey Hill conversing leisurely over cigars, now barking at Whiting to move his guns forward into action. Whiting could not muster his entire artillery battalion and only had sixteen of his fifty guns ready. Jackson would have felt one battery out of action sufficient to send to the front and ordered Whiting to get them all moving. Under these circumstances, Whiting would obey orders however, reluctantly vice willingly.

Whiting directed the battery commanders into the field of grain, Jackson, mounted, leaped forward ordering the first captain to move. Soon the Federal Artillery trained their guns on this new development. Whiting sat there horrified at the barrage his cannon were undergoing. Was there nobody to save his people from a madman such as Stonewall? The rebels were unable to open twenty pieces of artillery at a time, where it was obvious that no less than one hundred had been required.

About 10:00 am the first Confederate Skirmish line protruded through the woods to feel out the strength of the Federals in force about the center. For nearly two hours this line frustrated itself as that the only strength it was capable of uncovering was a desulatory fire from General Couch's position.

It was then 1:00 pm and the rebel artillery from across the field began a barrage against Malvern again, the like of which caused Major General Edwin Sumner to recall the better portion of his command to more sufficient cover. In a brief meeting with Major General Fitz John Porter, he had directed him to do the very same, in withdrawing the 5th Army Corps, however, Porter flat out refused on grounds that the commanding general had personally looked after the position earlier in the day and approved of it. General Sumner never pursued a change from George McClellan and allowed the position to remain unchanged.

It would appear that there had been some mismanagement in regards to the Confederate Artillery on 1 July 1862. Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Cutts, commanding the Sumter Artillery Battalion had joined with General Huger's advance the previous day towards Malvern, however, on Tuesday Morning his seven guns were placed in park and never called into action.

Captain William T. Poague's Rockbridge Artillery had taken position along with Balthis' Battery Staunton Artillery in a wheatfield by direction of General Jackson himself. Shortly after arriving however, batteries already posted began leaving in great haste. Poague was unable to trace this verbal order to any reliable source and ordered his men to remain in the field.

Lieutenant Carpenter, commanding Allegany Artillery (Va.) moved his battery into the wheatfield and took up a position where he could spot. While there a Confederate Battery was passing him from that direction having told him that they received orders to withdraw. Shortly afterwards his own battery followed suit, but also having not found whose orders these were ordered his battery back and pulled in along the right of Captain Poague's guns.

He remained in this position for about an hour and a half under a terrific shot and shell party until he followed suit with the Rockbridge Artillery and ceased his firing.

Lieutenant Carpenter immediately opened with his section. The Federal return was so terribly accurate that one six pounder piece was knocked out of the fight due to insufficient personnel to man the piece. The contest was so unequaled that the battery commander ordered the five remaining pieces to cease firing.

As swiftly as batteries would be riding up from the rear, Brigadier General Griffin would ride out ahead of them personally placing them while shot and shell burst in all direction about him. It was a bad place for an officer to be riding about, so much so that the federal infantry was taking bets on Black Jack's life in that he was either to be wounded or killed. He lead a charmed life, no doubt. It was not such a good idea for a officer to be riding about here, but if any had asked him about his courage on this day, it was because his legs were shaking so terribly that he could not stand.

The Danville Artillery was lacking much upon their arrival at Malvern. Their horses were few, their limber chests nearly empty, the battery was ordered to the front, however, only had one section operational enough to report. This was under Lieutenant J. W. Jones. Captain George W. Wooding had joined the battery once a requisition for ammunition was filled and two guns immediately joined the thunder.

Harvey Hill watched as Reilly's North Carolina Battery was disabled by shot flying in from up above. One artilleryman had sought refuge behind a very large tree feeling rather comfortable with his safe haven, until a shell came whistling in, split the tree and carried away the poor soldier's head.

All the infantry was hugging the ground as ordered, the shot and shell of the rebel batteries being so horrendous. Sergeant Thomas Meany, 9th Massachusetts Infantry, Company B, acting command sergeant major neglected the order to stay to the ground, while moving about. A shell came in, removing his head, ending his stubborness.

It was the 5th Corps Commander's intention to hold whatever bodies the rebels would throw forward simply with the artillery, hoping to conserve the infantry ammunition for more close quarters fighting. The moment had not yet come, but all who lay back awaiting knew at sometime the inevitable would certainly occur.

A horrific thunder sounded from the hill lined with the columns of blue. An entire wall of flame and smoke belched forth into the woodline collecting the gray host. Missiles being fired and landing in all directions, air bursts, ground bursts, the infantry lying low and waiting their turn to be called in, praying the spot they're lying on doesn't become the next crater.

Captain John Frank, Battery G, 1st New York Light Artillery, split his section in two and not having enough room on the plateau to keep it together began answering the rebel artillery with shell and spherical case shot. (3rd Maine Infantry).

Captain Thomas W. Osborn, Commanding Battery D, 1st New York Light Artillery engaged in an artillery duel with the rebel batteries in the vicinity of General Morell's headquarters. One hour into the fight, he turned his command over to Lieutenant Winslow (Wheatfield Fame). A crossfire here with Bramhall's battery was coordinated of which one piece scored a direct hit on a rebel caisson sending it skyward and splintering everyone within several yards. (57th Pennsylvania Infantry).

Brigadier General John H. Martindale's brigade remained inactive and hugging mother earth as the artillery opened up the likes of which hadn't been witnessed in Virginia before. Shot and shell began flying in striking man and beast. The wounded and dead being borne to the rear, holes in the line closing up as each casualty was removed.

The 22nd Massachusetts Infantry likewise down in the prostrate position witnessed the incredible shelling the rebels were placing on them. One shell dropped right in front of Lieutenant J. Henry Symonds nearly burying him with dirt. Having realized then that his face was still intact to his head shouted: "Lightning never strikes twice in the same place! This is my hole!!" and proceeded to jump into the crater the shell had recently made.

Down below the rise, Major General Harvey Hill received a message from Colonel Robert Hall Chilton which read: July 1, 1862 "General D. H. Hill: Batteries have been established to act upon the enemy's line. If it is broken, as is probable, Armistead, who can witness the effect of the fire, has been ordered to charge with a yell. Do the same. R. H. Chilton, A.A.G."

A similar dispatch were sent to all division commanders, however, with the Confederate artillery coming online only one battery at a time as soon as it would take position, fifty more Federal pieces would immediately train themselves on it and destroy it in detail.

About midafternoon, General Lee rode out and met up with Major General James Longstreet. He was growing impatient with the lopsided artillery duel and wished to ride to the left and discuss a turning movement with his brilliant military minded lieutenant. Both were in transit when Whiting's troops mistook signals of the Federals withdrawing.

The concentrated firepower atop Malvern erupted with shot and shell splattering dirt, splintering limbs from trees as if having received a bolt of lightning from above. Whiting's lines slowly began to move forward ranks closing as one soldier would lose his arm from shot, another his leg, and yet another having his crown carried away as it passed.

General Hill moved to a different locale with his brigade commanders to watch the target effect of their batteries playing on the federal artillery above. So far from producing marked effect, the Confederate Batteries were so wild these officers returned to cover under the assumption that no infantry assaults would be made.

At the 5:30 pm hour, Major General John Bankhead Magruder had already given authority for Brigadier General Ambrose "Rans" Wright to move forward with his brigade and after finishing a small pep talk with William Mahone's men, sent it forward into the fight as well. Now with two brigades in motion he quickly darted to the center of the battlefield and instructed Brigadier General Lewis Armistead to take the remainder of his brigade in as well.

A target rich environment just developed in the Federal front as the grayclad troops emerged from the treeline, battleflags flying in the cool summer breeze of that day.

The regimental formations of the butternuts and grays were plainly visible. Like a grandstand parade, on came the columns, flags and banners whipping in the breeze. Again the federal artillery lining the crest of the hill belched forth raining down shrapnel, grape, and canister. The Federal Infantry continued to allow the heavy fire power to control the conflict sitting and waiting, silent for more close quarters fighting.

As Major General Thomas J. Jackson viewed Armistead's troops on the advance, he sent orders to begin Harvey Hill's division. As Magruder's men amounted to about 3,500 in full battle line, Hill stepped forward with another 10,000 against the Federal Left.

As each brigade emerged from the woods, the artillery from on high ripped ugly gaping holes in the ranks. Soldiers receiving hideous wounds, others being blown apart on impact, staining the hill crimson. It was no longer a war, but sheer desperate murder.

Colonel John B. Gordon had been in command of Robert Rodes brigade and placed on the far right of Harvey Hill's line, sending out a portion of the 3rd Alabama Infantry as skirmishers. As the brigade moved forward Colonel C. C. Tew of the 2nd North Carolina came up to Gordon informing him that he lost touch with his brigade. He was quickly attached to the left and Gordon's regiments continued to move forward.

The Federal Artillery began playing on Gordon's artillery support with the 26th and 5th Alabama taking numerous casualties as a result. As Gordon's men were seeking cover under a low hill, an order came to him from Hill ordering a charge on a set of Federal Batteries some 800 yards in front. The 5th and 26th Alabama were quickly brought in line. The artillery had just silenced all rebel batteries within Gordon's line giving them the freedom to turn their pieces on his infantry.

The brave troops continued on in desperation causing the first line of defense to break, yet now his troops were well within canister range and every discharge from above mowed his troops down, where advancing any further without support was impossible. Gordon looked about all in vain. No troops were coming from side or rear.

The 3rd Alabama, commanded by Major Robert M. Sands, joined Gordon's brigade already deployed. Sending a line of skirmishers out as ordered, they had attracted the wrath of their adversary's ordnance. Six men grabbed the colors of the 3rd, and six men fell. The seventh retrieved what was left of cloth and flag staff, completely unrecognizable. In this useless frontal assault this one regiment alone would suffer 56 percent casualties.

When Robert Toombs brigade began moving forward all began well moving out in perfect parade like formation. As soon as these troops emerged from the woods however, the 15th Georgia Infantry on the immediate right of the 2nd Georgia Infantry got ahead of itself masking the right flank of Colonel Holmes' regiment. Following along came the 17th Georgia Infantry, given the command to march by the left flank thus crowded in on the 15th Georgia crowding in on the 2nd Georgia Infantry. The jumble got so bad that Lieutenant Colonel William R. Holmes who left the woods in command of the 2nd Georgia turned around to check on his regiment finding himself, sword in hand leading the 15th Georgia Infantry instead.

The destructive concentration of Federal Fire now ripped into the Confederate right wing. Lines would advance and recoil from the terrible slaughter the guns up above were producing, then advance again. Years after this fight Major General Harvey Hill took great pain to even right about the incredible carnage his division suffered that day.

In Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley's brigade the 3rd North Carolina Infantry first engaged in what was reported another Confederate Infantry regiment in their front. The regiment was ordered to lie down and take the federal pounding the best they could. While suffering from various rounds of Federal Artillery they had also taken in musketry from the rear. Moving by the left flank as the right of the line was being ordered to fall back. This was not heard by the men of the 3rd North Carolina however, and they paid dearly, their colonel taking a shell fragment to the head, dying with twenty three others.

Behind Ripley's brigade came Brigadier General Samuel Garland's. As he got the word to move his brigade into action, with Anderson's, Ripley's, and Rodes' brigades deploying on the far right, Garland's advanced was unhindered by any gray troops in his front. His advance like all the others reached about four hundred yards or halfway to the Federal batteries before all having taken to the ground in hope of support. Garland had sent word back to General Hill via Lieutenant Fabius J. Haywood, an aide-de-camp, but response was so slow that his men could no longer take the pounding holding their ground falling back in disorder.

Just then Brigadier General Charles Griffin had noticed his former Battery D, 5th United States Artillery towards the center of the line was about to be overrun and rode forward with his hat in his hand shouting: "General Martindale forward your command! They are charging my battery!" He gave the word to "Charge Bayonets" and moved his brigade forward.

When the 22nd Massachusetts came along side the battery, they were all ordered to lie down. Captain Wardwell strode up and down the line leading them in singing "John Brown's Body." They remained in battery support rising to their feet and firing by file nearly sixty rounds of ammunition, while capturing approximately 32 rebel prisoners.

Brigadier General Garland made no apology for his straight forward after action report complaining of straggling and disordered troops. He brought to Hill's attention that the entire division became scattered abroad.

Captain Burt felt a hard thud along side his hip, smarting his thigh. The liquid running down his leg and into his boot led him to believe he had taken a bad wounding, only to look down and notice that his canteen had been shot clean through. Corporal L. L. Crane of Company C, walked away from the line half crazy having had to musket balls pass through his hat. The regiment this day would sustain 9 killed and 35 wounded on the field.

Captain Randolph's Rhode Island Battery rolled into position to the left of the house Brigadier General Phillip Kearney was occupying as headquarters. Immediately upon unlimbering his fire power opened a duel with a rebel battery posted 1200 yards away in an oat field. The rebels had been both overshooting and undershooting tearing up the ground both in front of the battery as well as behind it. Randolph's aim became destructive and soon gave the rebels invitation to leave.

Randolph's men were ordered to the further left to help silence yet another battery now pounding Brigadier General Darius Couch's troops into submission. Once he opened his opponent lost interest in the blue columns and began lobbing shots at his battery, however after only a shot time, he had made it once again too hot for his enemy's stamina in the field and they quickly withdrew.

Alonzo Snow commanded Battery B, 1st Maryland Light Artillery. General Fitz John Porter had sent these six pieces over to support General Couch on the right. He was then needed by General Albion P. Howe, who placed him into the Oatfield along with Colonel Neill's 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry.

The Wheatfield opposite Snow's placement opened on him and for an hour the batteries on this portion of the line raked havoc on each other, the accuracy of Snow's gun finally driving off those opposed him. The rebels returned however, with sharpshooters to make life hell for these defenders. Colonel Neill appealed to Captain Snow to do anything to drive the sharpshooters, the 23rd Pennsylvania was taking it hard with infantry casualties. He ordered the pieces to be loaded with canister and the sharpshooters withdrew from the iron death that was raining all about them.

Snow's battery was then split into three sections, two of which under Lieutenants Vannemann and Kidd rolled off to the far left to support General Morell's men, while Lieutenant Gerry remained behind to continue its vigilant watch over General Couch's flank. It remained this way for the remainder of the battle having expended more than 680 rounds of ammunition.

Captain Tidball's Battery A, 2nd U.S. Artillery having been held in reserve all day had been ordered to the front. The hill had been so packed with Federal Artillery that he was forced to squeeze his pieces into position. Noticing a battalion of Federal Infantry in his immediate front, only his two flank pieces both right and left had an open field of fire. Four of his guns remained silent while the flanks added to the horror of raining iron.

Near the 6:00 pm hour, Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw stepped off with four of his regiments. His brigade advanced up the Willis Church Road taking advantage of a ravine along the right of the Federal position. These South Carolinians had been exposed to raking artillery fire the entire march up taking considerable casualties along the way.

The brigade took a knee along a hedge row getting shelter from the storm, as they watched another rebel line of battle in front of them melt before their eyes. Colonel James D. Nance of the Third South Carolina Infantry recalled a North Carolina regiment joining them at the wall at which time one of their officers had stood yelling at the top of his lungs for a charge. Nance turned and noticed General Kershaw likewise hugging the ground, and gave this officer no further attention whatsoever.

This regiment began receiving musketry from its rear now causing great confusing among their ranks. Two messengers, Major W. D. Rutherford, and Corporal T. Whitner Blakely, of Company I shortly afterward, went down the hill to ascertain and identify the problem. These messages were delivered to the commander of the 26th Georgia Infantry who immediately began redirecting his infantry's line of fire.

As Kershaw's command neared the rise of Malvern Hill, the 2nd South Carolina Infantry found it's right flank exposed to the shot and shell of the batteries. Federal infantry came up and poured volleys of musketry upon them. These men found two lines of Federal Infantry formed at an obtuse angle. Major Gaillard commanding the 2nd South Carolina ordered his men to open up and let them have it. In turn, the Federals returned the favor with their own destructive volley.

The regiment stood to the lead shower quite well, having eight men killed out right and thirty three mostly severely wounded. First Lieutenant Charles E. Perry, commanding Company H, was shot through the throat, Lieutenant T. Sumter Brownfield wounded severely in the head. Kershaw's brigade then began withdrawing having no support to hold their position any longer.

Their moment came. The First Division commander ordered up the 16th Michigan and 83rd Pennsylvania Infantries to support the batteries in front. Not long afterwards the 44th New York Infantry was called on to prepare for action as well. As the Confederate Infantry appeared to be successfully pressing the federal line, the bugle of the 3rd Brigade (Butterfield's) was audible over the din of battle. Here the 44th New York, 225 strong, marched out in line of battle, their colors far in advance, the 12th New York moving forward with them to their left, the 83rd Pennsylvania on their right.

Colonel Rice commanded the regiment to "Charge Bayonets" at one hundred yards. As the New Yorkers began to press forward their flags dropped to the ground no less than four times. It was picked up a fifth time by Private James B. Hitchcock, of Company K, who was also wounded twice, however, refused to relinquish the colors to anyone besides Lieutenant Colonel Rice.

Over the din of battle, Colonel Rice's voice could be heard audibly on the advance: "Men, we are Christians and we can die!" A man from Company H made the comment: "I don't see what the hell the use of his saying that for we are dying fast enough!" And they were. The 44th New York lost 11 killed, 84 wounded, and 4 missing that afternoon.

The pressure the 44th New York was placing on the rebel line was too much and it broke as they approached within thirty yards, leaving their colors on the field. Officers and men from the 44th had sprung forward to seize the colors, however found themselves out sprinted by Orderly Sergeant William Wittich of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry who grabbed the stand and personally delivered it to the general. He was promoted to that of lieutenant for that act.

The 83rd Pennsylvania stood their ground and proved to retreating batteries that all was not hopeless. While standing in line Corporal F. M. Ames, color bearer was killed outright by a ball that had also cut the flagstaff in two, falling forward upon the colors he was bearing so proudly, only to be picked up again by Alexander Rogers.

Captain La Rhett Livingston of the 3rd United States Artillery had been engaged since 10:00 am that morning. His battery had originally fired into Confederate Infantry as it popped through the break in the woods, as the line gained ground, one section had enfiladed their flank causing that body of rebels to retreat leaving their flags upon the field behind them.

Jackson viewed the horror of Hill's advance with his field glasses and immediately ordered the division of Richard Ewell to the front in support. His columns couldn't move fast enough over broken roads, entanglements and heavy Federal Artillery fire.

Richard Ewell moved his division directly in the rear of D. H. Hill's division. Riding ahead to locate a safe crossing he left Jubal Early to bring his brigade forward. He was stopped however, at the edge of a wood by a staff officer claiming to be acting under orders of Richard Ewell. The major general rode up afterwards inquiring as to why Early had stopped, became angry telling Early he had given nobody such orders and to move forward at once! Early's brigade splashed forward at a run across Western Run.

As division commander neared the staging area, he did not find Early's brigade in the spot it was directed. Even upon dismounting from his horse and searching through the woods, Early was no where to be found. Frustrated, Ewell continued on without him and soon came across Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw, commanding a brigade in Magruder's division.

He recognized General Kershaw and ordered him to support his own attack, however, the South Carolian was not enthused, his command was too small to be charging into the teeth of hell itself, but Ewell would hear nothing of it and insisted that he support it. Like all others however, Ewell's charge was short lived and came tumbling back bloodied and beaten.

The battle raged between 6:00 and 8:00 pm on this portion of the field, the rebels collecting their dead and using them as a shield against the destructive fire aimed their way.

While present at the headquarters of Major General Edwin V. Sumner, Brigadier General Thomas Meagher was given the order to get the Irish prepared for combat. Two of his aides present, Lieutenant John Gosson of the 69th New York Infantry and Lieutenant Temple Emmett of the 88th New York were instructed to get the regiments moving to the front.

The aides found the Irish at rest thinking it had been late in the evening and felt they were not going to be called into action. Supper had been ordered and some stray sheep that had been captured were to be the evening meal. With word that General Porter's line was being hard pressed they sprang to their feet eager for the fight.

Forward moved the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York along with the 29th Massachusetts Infantry having been recently assigned to Meagher's brigade. All located to the right of their corps commander's headquarters and thus protecting the right. Meagher had deployed them all in four lines of battle marching in respectively: the 69th under Colonel Robert Nugent, 63rd under Lieutenant Colonel John Barnes, the 88th under Major James Quinlan, the 63rd under Colonel John Burke, and 29th Massachusetts under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Barnes.

Upon entering into the immediate vicinity of the enemy the 69th New York delivered an oblique fire which was kept up rapidly. The 88th moved into line of their left causing the rebels to be outflanked. The 63rd New York and 29th Massachusetts now with standing rebel fire from the second rank.

General Meagher at the urgence of an officer from General McClellan's staff sent both the 29th Massachusetts and 63rd New York to support federal batteries being sent to the front. The 63rd New York having lost Lieutenant Colonel Burke due to a severe wound while in the ranks, now marched off for duty under Lieutenant Colonel Fowler.

In the course of this action, Lieutenant Colonel Fowler disobeyed this order under the belief that he was then acting under direct orders from General Sumner not to. When he was again told to report for battery support, by Brigadier General Meagher he refused a second time, causing his brigade commander to arrest him on the spot and place Captain O'Neil in command of the 63rd New York.

The lines were still contending with one another after the sun had fallen and darkness was spreading itself over the field. Colonel Robert Nugent reported to General Meagher that the 88th New York was about ammunition, their rifle barrels hot from use and asked to be relieved from the line. It was felt urgent enough by Meagher to report back to General Sumner for such a purpose, as that all was primarily secure on the line, he gave permission for the entire brigade. They withdrew about the 9:00 pm hour.

The useless slaughter had broken Richard Ewell's heart as well. While conferring with Captain G. Moxley Sorrel the following day, he was remembered by Sorrel as saying: "Mather Thorrel, can you tell me why we have five hundred men killed dead on the field yesterday?" Said Moxley: "The soul of the brave general was fit to burst for the awful and useless sacifice." Of this engagement Major General Daniel Harvey Hill stated: ""...Again, the want of concert with the infantry divisions was most painful. Whiting's division did not engage at all, neither did Holmes'. My division fought an hour or more the whole Yankee force without assistance from a single Confederate soldier." Hill here would lose forty percent of a division made up of 10,000 soldiers.

Colonel Bradley T. Johnson rode over to Stonewall Jackson and requested permission to get Maryland into the fight. Jackson simply said: "No." The black of night had put a close to operations and the rain began to fall. Thunderstorms once again washing the blood from the ground.

Shortly after dark, Brigadier General Isaac R. Trimble had ridden out with Major General Daniel Hill to discuss a night assault on the batteries up above and on the Federal Left. According to Trimble, both officers had been so close to the federal line that plain conversation could be heard among the federal soldiers on the line. The sounds protruding through the darkness however, led Harvey Hill to believe that the Federals were already on the retreat, and that another attack would be fruitless, electing not to.

This conflict began to wind down and once again General George McClellan commenced a withdrawal of his troops from Malvern. The rebels pursued in the morning only to find the wheatfields of Shirley Plantation that were so rich with the summer harvest flattened down by what appeared to be a hasty retreat across the grounds. The Army of the Potomac has succeeded in retreating back to Harrison's Landing that night, however, forever lost their objective of taking the Confederate Capitol of Richmond, Virginia once again.

The Battle of Malvern Hill written by Daniel Moran.
Copyright © 2001 Daniel Moran