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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. II
p200
Chapter XVII

The Federal Artillery Proves Too Strong

(MALVERN HILL)

At 2 A.M. on the morning of July 1 — a year before the battle of Gettysburg opened, to the very day — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Magruder's troops arrived on the battlefield of Frayser's Farm after their futile march to the support of Holmes. The regiments had been moving almost continuously for eighteen hours, without food,1 but they at once relieved Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet's and Hill's divisions, which were worn with much fighting. When they groped their way through the woods to their advanced position, the newcomers found the Federals still in their front.2 After an hour, as the dawn was graying, the skirmishers crept forward and discovered that the enemy was gone. Soon they established contact with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson, who had crossed White Oak Swamp after the enemy had abandoned the hill and was advancing, with Whiting's division in front.3 Shortly thereafter, Lee sent Major Taylor to bring up Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Huger. That officer received in a message from Longstreet his first intimation that the Charles City road was clear.4

The depleted army was now united again for the last stage of a pursuit that every one felt was well-nigh hopeless. Lee was on the Long Bridge road when Jackson arrived at the Willis Church. His disappointment at the outcome of the previous day's failure to concentrate was apparent to all; his temper was not of the best and he was feeling unwell, but he bore himself calmly5 and talked quietly with Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and Magruder of the battle of the previous day.

While they were discussing the situation, Surgeon N. F. Marsh of the 4th Pennsylvania cavalry came up. He explained that he had been left with Federal wounded at Willis Church, and p201 stated that Jackson had directed him to report to Lee. Protection and supplies for his men, he said, were needed. Lee at once promised such help as he could give and directed Longstreet to write a permit for Doctor Marsh to remain undisturbed with his charges. Longstreet engaged Marsh in conversation. Had the surgeon been in the battle? he asked. Yes, Marsh replied, he had. What troops had participated in it? Longstreet inquired. Marsh answered that he only knew of his own division, McCall's, which had fought over the very ground where they then were. "Well," said Longstreet, "McCall is safe in Richmond; but if his division had not offered the stubborn resistance it did on this road, we would have captured your whole army. Never mind; we will do it yet."6

Lee made no comment on this optimistic prediction. Doubtful, in his fatigue, whether he would be able to conduct the day's operations, he asked Longstreet to remain with him7 and then rode over to the Willis Church. There he found Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.D. H. Hill, who was as pessimistic as Longstreet was hopeful. Hill explained that he had in his command a chaplain, Reverend W. L. Allen, who had lived in that vicinity and knew Malvern Hill well. He repeated a description Allen had given him of the great strength of the hill, and added: "If General McClellan is there in strength, we had better let him alone." Longstreet broke in banteringly: "Don't get scared, now that we have him whipped." Hill naturally said no more, and Lee did not pursue the discussion.8

The orders for the march were then issued. Jackson, who was on the ground, was directed to take up the pursuit at once down the Willis Church road.9 Magruder had already seen Jackson and had offered to lead the van, but Jackson had insisted on doing so, as his troops were fresher than Magruder's.10 Word was sent to Magruder, who had not ridden forward with Lee, to take "the Quaker road" and to form on Jackson's right.11 Huger's division p202 was divided. Two of his brigades, those of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Armistead and Wright, were to advance, by a track through the woods, southward from the Charles City road to the Long Bridge road and were to move thence southeastward toward Malvern Hill. Mahone and Ransom, leading Huger's other brigades, were to follow Jackson down the Willis Church road.12 The divisions of Longstreet and A. P. Hill were to remain in reserve. They had done their part and were too weary to resume fighting immediately, unless an emergency demanded their employment. Holmes was to hold his position and co-operate.

It was tactically bad, of course, to send Jackson's three divisions, two brigades of Huger's, and Magruder's three divisions, one behind another, down the narrow Willis Church road, but there was no alternative. As far as Lee knew, there was no other approach to the Federal flank or rear. He may, however, have read an omen of disaster in the crowding of so many bayoneted thousands on one wooded route, for his grip on his temper began to fail him. When General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jubal A. Early came up to be assigned to command and expressed his concern lest McClellan escape, Lee answered grimly and with some impatience, "Yes, he will get away because I cannot have my orders carried out!" His mind could not cease dwelling on the lost opportunity.13


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Lines of advance by the Army of Northern Virginia,
morning of July 1, 1862.

A ride of two miles and a half down the Willis Church road with Jackson's division brought Lee to the northern foot of the Malvern Hills. It was a peaceful, sleepy landscape in normal times. Past cleared and cultivated fields, a straight dirt road climbed to the crest of a wide hill. Atop it, set back on either side, were two planters' homes, surrounded with shade trees, bathed a lustrous, shimmering green in the morning sun. At another season, the quiet beauty of the scene would have stirred the nature-loving Lee, but now his anxious eyes could not fail to see that it was just such a position as the Federals had chosen at Ellerson's Mill and behind Boatswain's Swamp. There was a similar difficult approach, through a forest of pines, oaks, and chestnut.14 A little stream flowed in a swamp and a jungle, so p203 situated that as the troops marched southward to take position on the centre and right, they would be jammed together where they could be extricated only with the greatest difficulty.15 Beyond the swamp, toward the enemy, the slowly rising, open ground afforded an ideal field of defense. The Federals had their guns p204 massed in a long crescent from west to northeast, with two lines of infantry in support on that part of their line facing the Southern army. Most of their field artillery was placed in a lane running for a quarter of a mile, from the large, white Crew house on the upper side of the ridge, eastward to the West house across the Willis Church road. Beyond the West house other batteries guarded the Federal right. Every avenue of advance was covered by the guns. On Lee's left the ground sloped gradually to the rising sun. On his right, beyond the range of his vision, the ridge fell abruptly away for fifty feet or more from the rear of the Crew house to a meadow that skirted Malvern Hill for a mile toward the James. This meadow had been planted in wheat, which had been cut and placed in shocks, behind which Federal sharpshooters were lurking. The enemy evidently was confident that no attack could be successful on that flank, for all the guns, most significantly, were trailed toward Lee's left.16 It was, altogether, an exceedingly formidable position. Had the Union engineers searched the whole countryside below Richmond, they could not have found ground more ideally set for the slaughter of an attacking army. It was a miniature Vimy Ridge, a Waterloo with a protected flank.17

One sweep of the field with his glasses was enough to show Lee the difficulty of attacking such a natural fortress. D. H. Hill had not exaggerated its strength. Nothing could be accomplished unless the enemy was badly demoralized, and even then an attack could not wisely be undertaken without a careful reconnaissance to uncover the vulnerable part of the terrain. This reconnaissance, of course, should be made at once. As the Confederate troops were advancing slowly down the Willis Church road and would certainly be delayed in their deployment, Lee sent Longstreet to the right to study the ground and started toward the left himself.18 At the time, however, he did not undertake a detailed examination of the land in that quarter. The reason for his failure to do so is not plain. He may have been too fatigued; he may have assumed that Jackson would reconnoitre.

p205 In a short time Longstreet came back and reported. Magruder, he said, was far to the right on a road that he insisted was the Quaker road Lee had directed him to follow, when, in reality, Lee had intended him to march down the Willis Church road and take position to the right of it. Magruder was correct, so far as the usual local names of the roads were concerned. Lee had certainly said the "Quaker road," because he had been told that this was the name of the road on which the rest of the army was moving. It was sometimes so styled, but was more generally known as "Willis Church." The error, which was due to poor guides and poorer maps, meant that Magruder would be forced to make another troublesome countermarch. A staff officer was at once dispatched to correct the misunderstanding and to bring Magruder up.19 As two of the brigades of Huger's division were already close at hand on the Willis Church road, Lee decided to place those brigades on Jackson's right, and he told Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Chilton to put Magruder in line to the right of Huger, a move of no small difficulty in the morass west of the Willis Church road.20

Longstreet reported, however, that on the right of the Confederate position, where Magruder was to form, he had found an admirable artillery position. It was on a little knoll at an elevation equalling that on which the Federal batteries were standing. From that knoll he had observed on the Confederate left a large open field that afforded a direct line of fire to the Union gun positions. Longstreet expressed the opinion that if the Confederate batteries were employed in full force on the knoll to the right and in the field to the left, they would bring to bear on the enemy a converging fire that would demoralize the Northern artillerists and open the way for the Confederate infantry, as shown on page 206.21


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Scheme of artillery concentration for the bombardment of Malvern Hill,
July 1, 1862.º

D. H. Hill had sent all his guns to the rear from White Oak Swamp, as his ammunition was entirely exhausted,22 but the other p206 divisional batteries were virtually intact and presumably nearby. The large force of reserve artillery, under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pendleton, had now caught up with the army. It seemed perfectly feasible to concentrate ordnance as Longstreet suggested and to deliver one more blow at an enemy who apparently was inviting further punishment. In the absence of a better method of attack, and with no personal knowledge of conditions either on the Confederate right or on the left, Lee approved the plan. Longstreet was sent back to the right to locate the batteries on that flank; the pioneer corps was dispatched in the same direction to cut a road to the knoll; word was given Jackson to concentrate his artillery p207 on the left.23 When the Confederate guns had demoralized the enemy, all the infantry were to make a simultaneous assault and were to wrest Malvern Hill from the enemy.

Ere this plan of action had been determined upon, the enemy's artillery had opened all along the front. Very heavy shells were falling far within the right of the Confederate position — shell at first assumed to come from Federal gunboats in the James River but later found to be fired by a battery of Federal siege guns, slightly more than three-quarters of a mile in rear of the front Union artillery position.24 Under this fire, heightened by that of many fieldpieces, Armistead and Wright of Huger's division, in accordance with Lee's instructions, made their way from the Long Bridge road to the right of the Willis Church road, under the north side of Malvern Hill, and were soon engaged with the enemy's skirmishers.

If the action was to be a heavy bombardment, followed by an assault all along the line, how was the order to be given? As it happened, the position that Armistead had taken was close to the knoll where the artillery was to be placed on the right. Until Magruder arrived, Armistead's brigade was, likewise, to form the extreme right of the front of attack. Its commander would consequently be the first to observe the effect of the proposed converging fire and the logical man to start the advance. Lee accordingly directed that if Armistead found the Confederate fire breaking the Union line, he was to charge with a yell. This was to be the signal for all the divisions to assault together. An order to this effect was prepared by Colonel Chilton.25 It read as follows:

July 1, 1862.

Batteries have been established to rake the enemy's lines. 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,                         
Assistant Adjutant General.26

p208 This order was issued about 1:30 P.M.27 and was entrusted to staff officers and couriers who had to wander through an unfamiliar jungle in order to deliver the paper to the division commanders. There was no telling how long it would take to do this, especially as Magruder had not yet returned from his march down the wrong road.

And now to bring up the artillery and to begin the bombardment! In thicket and swamp the infantry waited, some of the units well-covered, others sustaining not a few casualties. Minutes passed in suspense, for every one knew it would be slow work pulling guns through the tangle on the Confederate centre and right. At last, from the knoll behind Armistead, the sound of firing was heard. It was taken up on the left. Before men could do more than ask one another why the fire was so feeble, the Union guns answered with a defiant roar. In roaring crescendo the Federal batteries found their target. The whole of the Union position was billowing smoke. Not a moment's intermission was there in the overwhelming fire.28 Presently word began to filter down the line that the Confederate guns were fast being silenced in an unequal exchange. Presently only the Union guns and an occasional weak reply from the Confederate side could be heard. On the right, as it subsequently developed, Armistead's guns had been far in the rear and substitute batteries had been called for. Only three had arrived. They had not opened simultaneously,29 and were quickly blanketed.30 On the left, where Jackson's chief of artillery was sick, fire had been started when two batteries were in position. One of these had been knocked to pieces; the other had been under shelter and had been able to send its missile across the hill; two others were employed a little later and were well-fought, though the impression had somehow been created that all the batteries were to be withdrawn.31 The reserve artillery p209 did little or nothing.32 Instead of one hundred guns, not more than twenty had been turned on the Federals at the same time. The preparatory bombardment, in short, was little more than a bloody farce, a futile sacrifice of some of the finest youth of Virginia. The long arm of Lee," as Colonel Jennings C. Wise has aptly styled the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, was paralyzed in one of the most critical hours of need the army had thus far known. If the infantry advance depended on artillery preparation, there could be no general assault!

By 2:30 P.M., the first phase of the battle was over and the situation was this: The Federal artillery had not been shaken, and the Union infantry, except for some of the skirmishers, had not been engaged. Magruder was on the march to the right. He was ignorant of the progress of the battle and had not received Lee's orders about the bombardment or the attack that was to follow it, if practicable. Armistead, on the right of the line, had driven in the enemy's pickets,33 and was loudly calling for more artillery. The other units that were to form the right centre were slowly untangling themselves from the swamp and baffling woods. Nobody on that wing seemed to know who was in command or whence orders were emanating.34 Armistead did not realize that he was the ranking officer there. On the centre and the left, D. H. Hill's and Jackson's troops were forming, or in immediate reserve, but had no orders to attack. The few Confederate guns that had not been put out of action were continuing a vain fire. Confusion and uncertainty prevailed everywhere. Longstreet, and perhaps others, got the impression that no assault was to be made because of the strength of the Federal position.35 But up the Willis Church road, at a pair of gateposts near the house of C. W. Smith, where Jackson had his headquarters,36 Lee was waiting and pondering and planning. A tenacity p210 that he had never before had occasion to exhibit in battle showed itself, a tenacity that was to become one of his strongest military characteristics. He had pursued McClellan too long and at too heavy a cost to permit him to escape without one last challenge. If he had failed with his artillery, he would attempt a turning movement.

Summoning Longstreet, he rode hurriedly to the east to see if there was any point beyond the Federal flank from which he could advance and force McClellan to evacuate Malvern Hill. Arriving on the left, a hurried examination of the terrain convinced him that if high ground in that quarter could be seized he could accomplish his object. Had he looked more closely, he would have found a superb position, undefended by the enemy, where he could dispose his infantry, bring up his artillery and, by a swift, strong movement, not only force the evacuation of Malvern Hill but also, with good luck, cut off the enemy's retreat.37

How could Lee make this shift to the left? It was impossible of course, to move any of the troops then engaged with or immediately facing the enemy. But the two divisions of Longstreet and of A. P. Hill were in reserve, weary and with thinned ranks, yet still serviceable. They could be utilized. Quickly Lee ordered Longstreet to move these troops to the left. Longstreet, who seemed cool and unwearied after nearly a week's hard fighting, galloped off to bring them forward.38

Whiting with his division had long been waiting under shell fire, but as the ground gave them protection, only their artillery suffered seriously.39 About this time, close to 4 o'clock, the Federal batteries suddenly ceased firing on Whiting's front. Soon a horseman galloped up from that officer to Lee, who was returning to the centre. Whiting, said the messenger, could see Federal baggage trains and troops in motion, apparently in retreat from the field.40 Almost simultaneously, it would appear from p211 the vague and conflicting reports, Captain A. G. Dickinson brought word that Magruder had arrived on the right, and that Armistead had driven back a heavy force of the enemy and had gained an advantage that could be followed up.41

This news put the whole situation in a new light. It did not seem possible that the scattered Confederate artillery fire had broken the Federal line, but it might have demoralized the enemy. Armistead might have delivered a telling thrust on ground of which Lee had seen nothing and knew little. If the enemy was retreating in front of the Confederate left and was being driven on the Confederate right, then the course to follow obviously was to scrap the plan for a turning movement on the left and to attack on the whole front at once. Turning to Dickinson, who was Magruder's aide, Lee gave him verbal orders which the officer immediately wrote as follows:

"General Lee expects you to advance rapidly. He says it is reported the enemy is getting off. Press forward your whole command and follow up Armistead's successes. I will have Mahone's brigade in the place just occupied by Colonel Anderson. Ransom's brigade has gone on to re-enforce General Cobb. . . ."42

Similar orders doubtless were sent to the other division commanders unless, indeed, Lee reasoned that when they heard Armistead cheer and saw him start forward they would take this to be the signal for the general assault authorized by the orders of 1:30 P.M. and not countermanded. Longstreet, at least, quickly understood and halted his movement to the left.43

The centre of gravity in the battle now shifted to the right. Magruder had arrived there about 4 o'clock,44 very hot but vigorous and in high spirits.45 He found that Armistead had not received the additional artillery for which he had called but had repulsed the enemy's skirmishers about 3 o'clock and had then p212 thrown forward three of his regiments.46 Although these Virginians had rashly advanced too far ahead of the main position, they had found some cover and had stubbornly held their ground.47 Sending immediately for his artillery,48 Magruder, in great excitement, began a characteristically reckless examination of the ground. Almost before he could complete it, he received for the first time the order Lee had sent him about 1:30 P.M., telling him to advance at the sound of Armistead's cheering if the artillery preparation broke the enemy's line. As this paper did not carry the time of its dispatch, it was accepted by Magruder as a current order.49 He set to work immediately to prepare for its execution, in the midst of an intensified bombardment, turned on him from the left as well as from the batteries in his front. Ere he could complete his dispositions, a courier brought him the message written a short time previously by Captain Dickinson.50

Magruder was fully conscious of the inadequacy of his artillery and before attacking he was anxious to get into position the guns for which he had sent, but he did not consider that Lee's repeated orders justified him in further delay.51 Making another quick reconnaissance, he determined to assault the front of the Crew house hill and, simultaneously, to move troops down the flank of the hill into the edge of the wheat field so that he could attack from the west, also, under the brow of the hill. It was a desperately dangerous manoeuvre when unsupported by artillery, and it would never have been approved by Lee if he had seen the ground, but it seemed to Magruder the only course to follow in obeying instructions that he regarded as peremptory.

Magruder had at hand Armistead's, Wright's, and Mahone's brigades of Huger's division. G. T. Anderson's, Semmes's, and Barksdale's brigades of his own command were within striking distance on his right. Cobb's brigade was in support of Armistead, and Kershaw was some distance to the rear. The combined strength of these troops was around 15,000.52

p213 Wright's brigade from the Gulf states had been skirmishing heavily for some hours and was somewhat scattered. The Virginians of Mahone were fresh, though one of his regiments was temporarily lost.53 About 4:15 Wright carefully advanced his main line to the position of his skirmishers, under the shelter of the Crew house hill, and at 4:45 he received the order to advance.54 Up from the depression sprang the sweating troops, with Mahone's brigade in support, full of the ardor of 1862 that made all the Confederates regard an infantry charge on a battery as the supreme glory of war.

Almost as soon as the line started forward the Federal gunners redoubled their fire. Ere long the supporting Federal infantry could make its musketry count. Wright's ranks were torn, Mahone's were thinned. Armistead's men, rallied by the appearance of troops on their right, swept onward.55 Every foot of advance brought heavier casualties. Still the men kept on until they were within 300 yards of the Federal gunners and in danger of being cut off by a force of Union soldiers that was deploying as if to flank them. The fighting was close, and the cross-fire enough to shake the morale of veterans. Every discharge of the nearby Federal guns made the earth tremble under the panting Confederates.56 Nothing could be seen of other Confederate troops engaged on either flank. Magruder's main line was 1000 yards in rear. To the men of the attacking brigades, it seemed as if they had been sent out alone, to make a futile, unsupported charge, and then to be killed off, one by one, huddled under the edge of the hill.57 They began to waver as they feverishly loaded and fired. It could be only a matter of minutes before they would break for the rear — to be wiped out as they ran.

Just then there came the roll of nervous musketry on the left, and soon D. H. Hill's division was seen advancing from the Confederate p214 centre, on either side of the Willis Church road.58 Hill had heard cheering as Wright and Mahone had advanced, and he had taken this to be the signal for the charge that Armistead was to have initiated in accordance with the original plan of attack.59 As quickly as might be, in a jungle of forest and vines, swamps and underbrush, where the voice of command could be heard only a few paces,60 D. H. Hill had pushed all his brigades forward,61 and now they were advancing up an incline of 700 or 800 yards62 that designing Nature seemed to have set at that very point to lure on the incautious. The grade was so gradual that it did not discourage the attacking force, but all of it was exposed, and the ground nearest the Federals had been ploughed.63 The enemy had an almost perfect field of fire.64

Inspired by the appearance of Hill's men, Armistead made still another attempt. Wright and Mahone dashed across the shoulder of a ridge and reached a hollow not more than seventy-five yards from the enemy. They were now so near the steep brow of the hill that the men had to kneel to load, and exposed their heads to the enemy every time they rose to fire.65

Hill's division by this time was feeling the full, blasting force of the Union shell and canister. The Confederate gunners could not interrupt this fire, much less silence it, because very little of Magruder's artillery, though it was close by, could be brought into position.66 Garland's brigade, distinguished at Gaines's Mill, covered 400 of the 800 yards to the Federal batteries and then had to lie down and await reinforcements.67 Colonel John B. Gordon of Georgia, destined to larger fame, led Rodes's brigade forward in the absence of its sick commander, and brought it within 200 yards of the nearest battery — only to be compelled to halt. The colors of the 3d Alabama were both symbol and target in Gordon's p215 advance. Six men were shot down carrying the flag, the staff itself was shattered, and the bunting literally cut to bits. The seventh color-bearer brought off only part of the staff.68 Ripley advanced with the other brigades like them had to stop. Colquitt was brought to a standstill; G. B. Anderson could not reach the batteries that were decimating his North Carolinians.69

Lee had gone to Magruder's front soon after the attack began and was now with General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLaws, one of Magruder's division commanders. On receipt of a call from Magruder he undertook to hasten McLaws's men to the support of Armistead, Mahone, and Wright.70 Could all Magruder's troops be thrown immediately into action, while D. H. Hill's attack was occupying the Federal centre, there was still a chance that the Federal right might be stormed, impregnable though its position seemed. But the chance seemed remote. Most of the reserves on the right were exhausted by hunger and hard marching and had suffered heavily from straggling.71 Semmes's brigade of McLaws's division could muster only 557 muskets, and Kershaw had only 956. As they advanced from the northwest across Carter's field, the two brigades became separated and lost touch with each other.72 Cobb's strong brigade of 2700 men had only 1500 left after a day and a half on the road, though it had suffered few casualties.73 However, they must be thrown into the battle now.

The confusion was maddening. Magruder, unaware of Lee's proximity, thought he was about to be attacked and hurriedly called on Longstreet for reinforcements. Longstreet started A. P. Hill toward him and moved his own division to protect Magruder's right flank.74 Ransom, who had been attached to Huger, had already been called upon by Magruder for help, but refused for a long time to move without Huger's approval.75 Barksdale and G. T. Anderson, of Magruder's command, encountered a rain of shell as they attempted to go on.76 As far as the general advance of this attacking wing of the army could be said to have taken form at this time, it was soon drifting so far to the left that p216 Lee had to send word to Magruder to press more to his right.77 This order served only to confuse the excited Magruder still more,78 though he strove his utmost to change direction.

D. H. Hill, meantime, had called for reinforcements from Jackson, whose men had done nothing all day except support the artillery that was firing on the Federal left. Whiting seems to have felt that the attack was confined to the Confederate right; Jackson apparently regarded the Union position in his front as impregnable.79 He had, however, already ordered up that part of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell's division in reserve and had sent back word for his own division to move forward.80 But the Willis Church road, the only direct avenue of approach, was crowded with artillery and fugitives and was almost impassable.81 As General Early tried to carry his brigade toward D. H. Hill's right, by moving in rear of the centre brigades, he encountered so many skulkers and disorganized troops that he lost touch with his own men.82

The clear, hot day83 was about to end. The steady breeze, which had tempered the sun's heat on the Federal position, had cleared the air. Sounds were more distinct, the fighting seemed closer.84 The mist of evening was beginning to rise from the wheat field on the eastern edge of which Mahone and Wright were still desperately struggling.85 The last moment was at hand when a Confederate victory could possibly be wrested from the chaos of a costly contest. Would the climax of Gaines's Mill be repeated in a sudden, resistless charge at twilight, with every brigade somehow finding its place in the line of battle?

The confident roar of the unwearied Federal batteries gave a mocking answer. The move on the left that Whiting had taken as a sign of retreat had not weakened the enemy's resistance. Toombs's brigade came up in support of D. H. Hill. It reached the crest of the hill, broke in blood and then flowed back to the woods. Garland had shot his bolt.86 Even Gordon had retreated. Fire from bewildered troops in their rear was adding to the losses of Ripley and of Kershaw.87 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Winder and Trimble were p217 pressing their men forward through the woods.88 Ewell was crashing furiously in a jungle.89 All these troops were moving as rapidly as the ground permitted, but none of them could hope to reach the line in time to support the assault before night fell.90

On the right, by this time, Magruder's weary reserve brigades were coming into action, but they were now under an artillery fire that wrecked or demoralized them. Most of them opened their volleys too soon and too high.91 Few of them got to grips with the foe. Semmes's brigade, facing musketry from friends on its flank, had to withdraw.92 Only Ransom, late to start in answer to Magruder's repeated appeals, got close enough to give any real assistance to Wright and Mahone, and he attacked almost west of the Crew house, on ground that would have been a slaughter pen had not the mist somewhat obscured his movement. Unsustained and uninstructed, his men stormed within twenty yards of the enemy's guns and then fell back to the position from which they had charged.93 The gory remnants of Wright's and Mahone's brigades were facing over the brow of the Crew house an enemy that seemed strong enough to smother them and was, besides, well protected by the undulations of the ground.94 Armistead, who had advanced before Mahone and Wright and then had charged with them, delivered three more assaults.95 There was a moment when the furious onslaught of these few men made the issue doubtful. One of the finest of the Union batteries was forced to limber up when the Confederates got within revolver range.96 Griffin's Federal brigade, which had borne the heaviest of the infantry fight, was compelled to give ground.97 An hour more of daylight and a little more vigor on the part of Magruder's weary troops might have spelled a triumph as incredible as that of Missionary Ridge.98 But it was too late. Darkness p218 had now settled. Hill's division withdrew; Magruder's supporting brigades returned as they had come; only Wright and Mahone clung to their most advanced position. The assault had been "grandly heroic" on the right, as D. H. Hill subsequently wrote in apology for early strictures on Magruder, but "it was not war — it was murder."99

The field was in the utmost confusion and the moonless night was red and glowing from the long-continued fire of the artillery100 when Lee had at last to admit to himself that the day had ended in failure. No one knew where the troops were, or what they would face on the morrow. Only those wounded who were lying close to the Confederate position could be succored, for fear of new collisions with the enemy. When the artillery finally ceased between 9 and 10 P.M., the heart-breaking calls from agonizing boys on the hillside gave the night a ghastly terror rivalling that of the day.101

Wearily and with a heavy heart, Lee made such dispositions as he could for safety of the lines and the comfort of the fallen. He realized fully that he had made a mistake in permitting the right wing of the army to attack a position the strength of which he had not known until he had arrived on that part of the line after the general assault had begun. He probably wondered why Magruder had not sent to him and reported the hopelessness of a charge on that flank. As he rode sadly among the bivouacs he found Magruder, who was just preparing to lie down on blankets that had been spread for him.

"General Magruder," he asked, "why did you attack?"

Magruder answered unhesitatingly: "In obedience to your orders, twice repeated."

Lee said nothing in reply, for there was nothing to say. The orders had been issued and if Magruder had felt it his duty to obey them, without waiting to explain, discipline came before discretion.102

p219 As night wore on, to the wild accompaniment of the cries of the wounded, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart came up after a long ride from the Chickahominy and reported that his cavalry were bivouacked not far from the line of possible Federal retreat down the river. He was ordered to await developments.103 If any report at all came from Holmes that night, it was to the effect that he had been unable to advance against a Federal position dominated by strong artillery and well-guarded by infantry.104

Midnight brought alarums. General Early distinctly heard the rumbling of wheels, indicating a movement of the enemy's artillery.105 Jackson, who had gone to bed very sleepy, was aroused at 1 A.M. by his division commanders, who wished to know what dispositions to make in case McClellan took the offensive at daylight. Jackson was very indifferent and asked few questions. "No," he said, when asked if he wished to give any orders, "I think he will clear out in the morning." And he went back to sleep.106 If Lee troubled a weary mind for answer to the same vexing question of the enemy's movement on the morrow, he probably was of like opinion, but with the sickening reflection that though McClellan had been forced to abandon his lines under the very shadows of Richmond's spires, and had been struck hard and often, he had escaped the destruction Lee had planned for him.


The Author's Notes:

1 O. R., 11, part 2, p686.

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2 O. R., 11, part 2, p667.

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3 O. R., 11, part 2, pp627, 667, 705.

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4 O. R., 11, part 2, p790.

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5B. and L., 391; Longstreet, 142.

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6 O. R., 11, part 2, p397. Doctor Marsh stated that this incident occurred on the New Market road, but his description makes it clear that he was on the Long Bridge road at the time. That day Lee offered to parole all the wounded Federal prisoners if McClellan would receive them (R. E. Lee to Fitz Lee, July 15, 1862, Jones, L. and L., 185), but he did not succeed in effecting such an arrangement till July 10, or about that time (O. R., 11, part 3, p315).

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7 Longstreet, 143.

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8B. and L., 391; O. R., 11, part 2, p628.

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9 O. R., 11, part 2, pp495, 557.

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10 O. R., 11, part 2, p667.

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11 O. R., 11, part 2, p667.

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12 O. R., 11, part 2, pp790, 794, 798, 811, 818.

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13 John Goode: Recollections of a Lifetime, 58. Early was placed in command of Elzey's brigade, Ewell's division, as General Elzey had been seriously wounded at Cold Harbor (O. R., 11, part 2, pp607, 611).

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14 18 S. H. S. P., 60.

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15 Taylor in his General Lee, 78, attributed the slow formation of the Confederate forces to this condition.

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16 Longstreet, 143. McClellan's only apprehension was for his right (1 Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 437).

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17 For a fuller description of the ground see Appendix II-4.

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18 Longstreet, 142.

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19 Longstreet, 143; O. R., 11, part 2, pp668, 675‑77; 25 S. H. S. P., 212‑13. A casual reading of Longstreet, loc. cit., would create the impression that Colonel Chilton was sent to Magruder, but that officer almost certainly went to Magruder later in the day. The "Quaker road" that was followed by Magruder ran southwestward into the New Market road from a point near the Enroughty house, about five-eighths of a mile eastward from the junction of the old Darbytown road with the Long Bridge road.

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20 O. R., 11, part 2, pp496, 668.

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21 Longstreet, 143; cf. O. R., 11, part 2, p496.

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22 O. R., 11, part 2, pp653, 655.

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23 O. R., 11, p558;º Longstreet, 143.

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24 The Federal warships fired a few rounds, but their effective range was only 1320 yards (O. R., 11, part 3, p196). The ships' fire did as much execution in the Federal as in the Confederate ranks, and was quickly suspended (2 B. and L., 442; Longstreet, 141; 18 S. H. S. P., 64n; O. R., 11, part 2, pp229, 238).

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25B. and L., 392.

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26 O. R., 11, part 2, p677.

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27 D. H. Hill received it about 2 o'clock (O. R., 11, part 2, p628). Garland was mistaken in saying (ibid., 643) that it did not arrive until "late in the afternoon."

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28 As instancing the vigor of the Federal artillery-fire, it may be noted that Ames's battery of six guns, close to the Willis Church road, used 1300 rounds during the day (O. R., 11, part 2, p253).

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29 Grimes's, Moorman's, and what was left of Pegram's (O. R., 11, part 2, pp813, 819).

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30 O. R., 11, part 2, pp802, 813.

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31 O. R., 11, part 2, pp558, 562, 567, 573, 574.

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32 Its commander, General Pendleton, had been sick on June 29 (Pendleton, 194), and he reported after the battle of July 1 was over that he spent the morning looking for General Lee, and the afternoon seeking vainly for some position where the heavy guns could be employed. "To remain near by . . ." he said, "and await events and orders, in readiness for whatever service might be called for, was all that I could do" (O. R., 11, part 2, p536; E. P. Alexander to W. H. Taylor, Aug. 29, 1902, Taylor MSS.; cf. Colonel A. S. Cutts's comment in O. R., 11, part 2, p547).

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33 O. R., 11, part 2, pp818, 826.

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34 O. R., 11, part 2, p697.

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35 O. R., 11, part 2, p760.

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36 O. R., 11, part 2, pp597, 818; E. A. Moore: The Story of a Cannoneer under Stonewall Jackson (cited hereafter as E. A. Moore), 89; 2 B. and L., 408.

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37 Longstreet, 144. A slightly different version is given by the same author in 2 B. and L., 403. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood had seen the opportunity earlier in the day and had wished to attack but had been forbidden by Whiting.

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38 Longstreet, 144.

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39 O. R., 11, part 2, pp557, 566, 593. Ewell's (ibid., 607) and Jackson's divisions (ibid., 557), were close at hand, ready in support.

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40 O. R., 11, part 2, p566.

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41 This message, if written, has been lost. Its content had to be reconstructed from the reply of Magruder's assistant-adjutant general, Captain A. G. Dickinson, who probably was the officer carrying the message to Lee. In O. R., 11, part 2, p678, is a dispatch he sent Magruder by Lee's direction.

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42 O. R., 11, part 2, pp677‑78.

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43 Longstreet, 144. General Longstreet always thought (cf. op. cit., 144‑45), that the attack on the right originated because the order of 1:30 P.M. had not been countermanded, but he was mistaken. The attack, as the dispatch by Captain Dickinson plainly demonstrates, was formally ordered.

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44 O. R., 11, part 2, p814.

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45 W. W. Chamberlaine, 25.

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46 The 14th, 38th, and 53d Virginia. The position of the 53d is vague in Armistead's report, which seems to locate it in two places simultaneously (O. R., 11, part 2, p819), but the report of Colonel H. B. Tomlin, ibid., 828‑29, indicated that it shared in this major skirmish.

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47 O. R., 11, part 2, p819.

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48 O. R., 11, part 2, p669.

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49 Ibid.

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50 Ibid.

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51 O. R., 11, part 2, p669.

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52 O. R., 11, part 2, p669.

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53 W. W. Chamberlaine, 25.

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54 O. R., 11, part 2, p814. The Federals who were awaiting the attack, confident of the strength of the position, were from left to right, Morrell's first division of Porter's V Corps, Couch's first division of Keyes's IV Corps, Sickles's second brigade of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hooker's second division, Heintzelman's III Corps and Meagher's second brigade of Sumner's II Corps. The artillery was chiefly the army reserve, under Hunt.

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55 18 S. H. S. P., 65; O. R., 11, part 2, pp824, 826.

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56 18 S. H. S. P., 61‑62.

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57 O. R., 11, part 2, p800.

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58 O. R., 11, part 2, p814.

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59 It has been assumed that D. H. Hill ordered his advance when he heard the cheer that Armistead's skirmishers raised when they took their advanced position, but Hill's statement that this was "about an hour and a half before sundown" (O. R., 11, part 2, p628), makes it plain that it was the advance of Wright and Mahone, followed by Armistead's attempt at a new charge, that sent D. H. Hill forward. This fits in perfectly with the sequence of events given in Wright's report, ibid., 814.

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60 O. R., 11, part 2, p650.

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61 O. R., 11, part 2, p628.

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62 Including the southern edge of the wood, which was under fire.

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63 O. R., 11, part 2, p643.

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64 O. R., 11, part 2, pp635, 643.

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65 18 S. H. S. P., 66.

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66 O. R., 11, part 2, p747.

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67 O. R., 11, part 2, p643.

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68 O. R., 11, part 2, p635.

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69 O. R., 11, part 2, p628.

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70 O. R., 11, part 2, p680.

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71 O. R., 11, part 2, p719.

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72 O. R., 11, part 2, p719.

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73 O. R., 11, part 2, pp748‑50.

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74 O. R., 11, part 2, p760.

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75 O. R., 11, part 2, p795.

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76 O. R., 11, part 2, pp705, 751.

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77 O. R., 11, part 2, p680.

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78 O. R., 11, part 2, p671.

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79 O. R., 11, part 2, pp558, 566, 567, 587, 597‑98; Hood, 30‑31.

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80 O. R., 11, part 2, p557.

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81 O. R., 11, part 2, p576.

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82 O. R., 11, part 2, p612‑613.

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83 W. W. Chamberlaine, 24; 2 B. and L., 417 n.

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84 33 S. H. S. P., 116.

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85 O. R., 11, part 2, p275.

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86 O. R., 11, part 2, p643.

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87 O. R., 11, part 2, pp659, 728‑29.

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88 O. R., 11, part 2, pp558, 571‑72.

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89 O. R., 11, part 2, pp607, 729.

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90 O. R., 11, part 2, pp628‑29.

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91 O. R., 11, part 2, pp208, 815.

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92 O. R., 11, part 2, p724.

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93 O. R., 11, part 2, p795.

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94 O. R., 11, part 2, p275.

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95 Armistead said four times, Cabell and Bernard said three (O. R., 11, part 2, pp824, 826; 18 S. H. S. P., 65. Cf. P. F. Brown: Reminiscences of the War of 1861‑1865, pp19‑20).

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96 O. R., 11, part 2, p357.

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97 O. R., 11, part 2, p314; cf. ibid., 295.

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98 Cf. Hunt in 1 Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 574: "The battle frequently trembled in the balance. The last attack was made with all their forces and was very nearly successful. We won from the fact that we kept our reserves in hand for just such an attack. . . . I cannot say that our victory was so very decisive."

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99B. and L., 394.

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100 Dabney, 472.

Thayer's Note: it's not clear whose the mistake is, but mistake there is. According to the U. S. Naval Observatory on July 1, 1862 the moon set at Malvern Hill (taking the coördinates at the summit, 37N24, 77W13) at 2205h EST. Now Eastern Standard Time did not exist in 1862; mean local time for those coördinates, 2.22° west of the 75° central meridian, would therefore be about 9 minutes earlier: the moon set at about 9:56 P.M.
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101 The confusion on the right was so great that a Federal detachment crept forward to a house and captured the Confederate officer and twenty-three men (O. R., 11, part 2, p364).

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102 For Lee's visit to Magruder, see John Lamb in 25 S. H. S. P., 217. Captain Lamb in this paper did not quote the conversation between and Magruder, but in recounting the circumstances to this writer he repeatedly employed the language quoted in the text, and insisted on its literal accuracy. He was with Magruder at the time of this interview (p219)as temporary aide, and was arranging the General's blankets while Lee talked with Magruder. It was whispered after the battle that Magruder had been drunk during the action (T. R. R. Cobb in 28 S. H. S. P., 293), but Magruder's surgeon (O. R., 11, part 2, pp682‑83) and Captain Lamb (loc. cit.) denied this flatly.

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103 O. R., 11, part 2, pp497, 518.

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104 O. R., 11, part 2, pp908, 914, 915.

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105 O. R., 11, part 2, p613.

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106 Mrs. Jackson, 299.


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