In March 1862, McClellan opened the Peninsula Campaign by sailing from Alexandria, Virginia, to Fort Monroe. Over the next two months, his army cautiously advanced toward Richmond, but Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston checked him at Seven Pines on May 31–June 1. Lee, assuming command for the wounded Johnston, seized the initiative on June 26 by attacking the Union right flank at Mechanicsville. McClellan retreated southeast toward the protection of the Union Navy on the James River, while Lee aggressively pursued, attacking at Gaines's Mill, Savage's Station, and Glendale.
The main portion of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia arrived the next morning, sensing that McClellan's troops were beginning to break under the unrelenting pressure. Reconnoitering the Union position, Confederate generals James Longstreet and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson identified positions on the Confederate right and left from which to deliver converging artillery fire. After this bombardment disrupted the Union position, Lee's infantry would attack. Despite repeated attempts, the Confederates failed to mass their guns because of both poor communication work done by the generals' staff officers and the Confederate practice of deploying batteries with each brigade rather than with the larger division. Of approximately forty-five Confederate artillery pieces that participated in fighting, only six to eight did so simultaneously on either flank. The massed Union guns pounded the Confederate batteries and drove them from the field, inflicting about a hundred casualties and killing more than seventy horses. Union gunboats also lobbed shells into the Confederate lines.
June 30, 1862, 4:00–5:00 p.m. - A Confederate division fires on Malvern Hill with a single battery. The massed Union guns drive it and its supporting troops back.
July 1, 1862 - Confederate general Robert E. Lee and the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia approach Malvern Hill in the morning. He decides to establish two grand batteries to deliver converging fire on the Union position atop the one-hundred-foot plateau.
July 1, 1862, 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. - The Union artillery positioned atop Malvern Hill duels with various Confederate batteries on both the right and left sides of their lines, inflicting heavy losses.
July 1, 1862, 3:00 p.m. - Confederate general Lewis A. Armistead's brigade attacks Union skirmishers and is halted partway up Malvern Hill during the Battle of Malvern Hill.
July 1, 1862, 4:00 p.m. - Receiving erroneous reports that Union troops were withdrawing (they were actually moving wagons to escape overshot Confederate artillery), Confederate general Robert E. Lee orders John B. Magruder to attack at his discretion.
July 1, 1862, 4:50–8:00 p.m. - Union gunboats shell Confederate positions at the Battle of Malvern Hill, with some rounds falling in Union lines.
July 1, 1862, 5:30–7:30 p.m. - During the Battle of Malvern Hill, Confederate general John B. Magruder orders individual Confederate brigades forward to attack Union positions atop Malvern Hill. Confederate general D. H. Hill follows Magruder's lead and sends in his division. As each piecemeal attack is repelled, other Confederate units are fed into the attack.
July 2, 1862 - Despite having repelled Confederate general Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Malvern Hill the day before, Union general George B. McClellan resumes his retreat to Harrison's Landing. His Peninsula Campaign, an attempt to take the Confederate capital at Richmond from the southeast, is a failure.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Gabriel, M. P. Battle of Malvern Hill. (2011, April 5). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Malvern_Hill_Battle_of.
- MLA Citation:
Gabriel, Michael P. "Battle of Malvern Hill." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 5 Apr. 2011. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: February 3, 2010 | Last modified: April 5, 2011