Malvern Hill Battle Hero

Malvern Hill

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On June 30th, the retreating Federal Army of the Potomac finally stopped at the James River at the end of seven days of fighting outside of Richmond.  Confident in their support from naval warships behind them on the river, Union commander Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s men selected 130-foot high Malvern Hill as a defensible position and invited a Confederate attack.  Colonel Henry J. Hunt, McClellan's Chief of Artillery, posted 171 guns on the hill facing west, north, and east. Gently sloping, open fields fronted the Union position. McClellan arranged his infantry with the Fifth Corps on the west slope of the hill, and the Third and Fourth Corps on the eastern side.  Most of the rest of the army was held in reserve in the rear.  Robert E. Lee believed a sustained artillery barrage could weaken the Union position before his infantry attacked. Around 1:00pm, both sides opened an artillery duel which was largely ineffective.  Lee ordered in the infantry, some twenty separate brigades under seven division commanders.  The attacks were not coordinated properly and advanced across the open ground at different times; most attacks stalled well short of the hill’s crest. For each Confederate advance, the effectiveness of the Federal artillery was the deciding factor, repulsing attack after attack, resulting in a tactical Union victory. On July 2nd, McClellan withdrew the army to Harrison’s Landing on the James River and commenced a six-week period of recovery and rehabilitation, before authorities in Washington transferred McClellan back to the Potomac River in August.

Battle Facts

Result

Union Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
57,000

Union

27,000

Confederate

30,000
Total Estimated Casualties
7,700

Union

2,100

Confederate

5,600