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Battle of Malvern Hill, VA
in the American Civil War

Online Books:
The seven days' battles in front of Richmond, an outline narrative of the series of engagements which opened at Mechanicsville, near Richmond..., by Edward Alfred Pollard (Correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial), 1862

Report of Henry M. Naglee, brigadier-general, of the part taken by his brigade in the seven days, from June 26 to July 2, 1862, Army of the Potomac, by Henry Morris Naglee, 1863

Union Battle Summary

Malvern Hill, Va., July 1, 1862 - During the night following the battle of Glendale McClellan concentrated his forces at Malvern hill, near the north bank of the James river about 15 miles below Richmond. This hill rises some 60 feet above the surrounding plain and on the summit is a plateau of sufficient extent to allow the maneuvering of an army of considerable size. It was on this plateau that McClellan marshalled his army for the last of the Seven Days' battles, with his line fronting toward the north, where the hill rises somewhat abruptly; his right protected by a small stream called Western run, along which was a thick undergrowth; his left covered by forests and swamps, difficult for the passage of cavalry or artillery; and in the rear was Turkey Island creek and the lowland between the hill and the James river, fully covered by the fire of the Union gunboats. Up the northern slope ran the Quaker road, which forked near the base of the hill, not far from the Crew house, the left hand or western branch running to the Darbytown road and the other to Willis Church, about 2 miles distant. East of this road was a heavy growth of timber, broken only by a clearing on the Poindexter farm along the left bank of Western run. Two roads led from the plateau to Harrison's landing on the James. McClellan's line was arranged in the form of a semi-circle, Morell on the left with his headquarters at the Crew house; Couch's division joined Morell's right and extended nearly to the West house, east of the Quaker road, the right resting on a ravine; Heintzelman's corps was to the right and rear of Couch, with Kearny's division on the left and Hooker's on the right, and in the rear of Heintzelman was Sumner. Warren's brigade of Sykes' division was sent to guard the river road south of the hill, and the other two - Buchanan's and Lovell's - were formed in the rear of Morell. Keyes, with Peck's division, was assigned to the duty of guarding the bridge at Carter's mill and the trains at Haxall. Franklin's corps was posted along Turkey creek on the right, within easy supporting distance of Sumner, and McCall's division, now commanded by Seymour, was stationed in front of the Malvern house, near the southern border of the plateau, where Porter had his headquarters. Berdan's sharpshooters were thrown forward across the Quaker road as skirmishers.

Lee formed his line with D.H. Hill and Whiting east of the Willis Church road on the left; then two brigades of Huger's division, the rest of this division and Magruder's command being on the right across the road leading to the Darbytown road. The rest of Jackson's corps was in reserve behind D.H. Hill and Whiting; A.P. Hill was in reserve behind Magruder; Longstreet was further to the rear along the New Market road, and Holmes occupied his position of the day previous. When the line was formed the following order was sent to the various commanders in the front line: "Batteries have been established to rake the enemy's line. It if 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."

At 1 p.m. the Confederate batteries opened and about the same time Whiting and D.H. Hill were seen advancing across the open field on the Poindexter farm, where they were exposed to a galling fire from Couch's batteries until they forded the creek and gained the shelter of the woods, when they halted to wait for Armistead's yell. Armistead had formed his brigade in a ravine at the edge of the woods directly in front of the Crew house, and when the artillery fire commenced he sent forward Col. Edmonds with the 38th Va. to make a reconnaissance. Edmonds reported the Federals in force at the Crew house and Armistead asked that artillery be placed on the hill in his front before he attempted to advance. Grimes' and Pegram's batteries were sent to him, but their guns were silenced by those on Morell's front. A little after 3 o'clock Armistead ordered forward three regiments to drive back the Federal skirmish line. To quote his report: "In their ardor they went too far, but fortunately gained some protection by a wave of the ground between our position and that of the enemy." Here they were compelled to lie until after dark before they could be withdrawn. Artillery seemed to be in demand at all points along the enemy's line. Magruder asked for 30 rifled guns, but none came. D.H. Hill in his report says: "Instead of ordering up 100 or 200 pieces of artillery to play on the Yankees, a single battery (Moorman's) was ordered up and knocked to pieces in a few minutes. One or two others shared the same fate of being beaten in detail." Hill sent to Jackson for more cannon and received in reply a repetition of the order to advance upon hearing Armistead's signal. About 5:30 Hill heard shouting on his right and, believing this to be the signal, ordered his men to advance. Concerning this movement he says: "We advanced alone; neight Whiting, on the left, nor Magruder nor Huger, on the right, moved forward an inch. The division fought heroically and well, but fought in vain." Garland and Gordon, the latter in command of Rodes' brigade, made gallant charges, but their ranks were literally mowed down by the charges of shrapnel, grape and canister of the Union batteries, and they were forced to retire in disorder. In his report Hill states that the "front line of the Yankees was twice broken and in full retreat, when fresh troops came to its support." No other officer mentions anything of such an occurrence, and what he thought was a break in the line was probably some of Sedgwick's men changing places with Couch's to give the latter an opportunity to replenish their cartridge boxes. He is also in error about none of the other Confederate commands engaging the Federal troops, for about the time he made his advance Magruder made a desperate charge against the Union position at the Crew house, where the heavy siege guns were planted, and where a line of rifle-pits, which Kearny had dug in front of his division, commanded the salient points. Magruder sent forward in quick succession the brigades of Wright, Mahone, Cobb, Ransom and Barksdale, his plan being to charge with 15,000 men, to be followed up by fresh troops, and if repulsed to hold a position as far to the front as possible until another assault could be organized. His troops met the same fate as those of Hill. The converging fire of the artillery near the Crew house checked his advance and the line showed signs of going to pieces, when it was rallied and reinforced by McLaws' division, which was ordered by Lee to attack on the right, and again advanced. Once more the Federal cannon sent their deadly rain of canister into the lines of the Confederates, causing them to retreat in confusion. Magruder then gave his attention to securing a position somewhat in advance of his former one, and as darkness was at hand no further attempts were made to carry McClellan's position on the hill. That night the Federal army withdrew to Harrison's landing, where reinforcements and supplies could be received by way of the James.

The losses of the Union army during the entire Seven Days' fighting were 1,734 killed, 8,062 wounded and 6,053 missing. The Confederates lost 3,286 killed, 15,909 wounded and 940 missing.

Source: The Union Army, Volume 5, Cyclopedia of Battles, 1908


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