Seven Days Battle - 1862
Daily Dispatch: July 11, 1862
The Daily Dispatch: July 11, 1862.
Federal account of Tuesday's battle.
graphic description of the Federal retreat.
Through the kind attention of a friend we have received the Baltimore Sun, of the 9th inst. We make the following extracts:
Account of the battle of Malvern Hill.
A correspondent of the New York Post furnishes an interesting account of the battle of Tuesday, 1st instant, at "Malvern Hill." From the Post's account we make the subjoined extracts:
At one o'clock the rebels came up in solid phalanxes and pressed forward towards the guns, supported by column after column, as far as the eye could reach, and presenting one of the most fearful as well as interesting sights imaginable. For some miles around, with the exception of a point on the left, the country is almost entirely clear of forest, and one of the largest and most beautiful estates extend, over which the eye sweeps at pleasure.
The fearful havoc of the rapidly-bursting shells, from guns so ranged as to sweep any position far and near, and in any direction, was terrible to be hold. The burning sun, which had poured down its terrible heat during the previous three days and up to noon, had become over-clouded, and the day was comparatively cool. Still the dust and smoke partially concealed the dreadful carnage.
The enemy's guns were by no means without their effect upon our side, and the dead and wounded were literally covering the field, while as the enemy advanced nearer and nearer, the old dwelling turned into a hospital was immediately under fire; still the surgeons and nurses never flinched, and the stretchers and ambulances came in with their loads of wounded. As the enemy approached, Gen. Morell's division met them, received their distant fire, and, advancing, poured in volley after volley while the several pieces of artillery directed to this point threw canister and grape, and, as it were, mowed them down by battalions. The enemy could not bear it, and our troops fought against a second relief of fresh troops in several instances, and then charging, drove them from the field. Another column came up in front of Gen. Sykes, when the regulars met them in a most admirable and determined manner.
The Fierceness of the conflict.
Col. Warren, commanding a division, made a most desperate charge, and was warmly complimented by Gen. Porter for his bravery and the efficiency of his men. At the right a most desperate effort was made to divide the army and penetrate to the hill over a rising sweep of ground, extending down in a less sloping manner and affording a better progress to troops advancing up the hill. But they sadly mistook this point of attack. General Meagher, wounded though he was, was there with his brigade.
As the battle grew warm, General Griffin, until recently in command of Griffin's Battery, who had, during the idleness of the infantry, again taken his accustomed place, directing one wing of the artillery, but seeing that the services of his brigade were needed, returned to his command, and at his first advance was met by ten regiments of rebels.
On the right the rebels were later in their approach; but when they advanced, it was with a desperate attempt to turn the flank. Gen. Couch's division had seen less service, perhaps, than any other, and was fully prepared to receive them, and the men were impatient to get into action.
They were gallantly led by Gens. Howe, Abercrombie, and Palmer, and held their own without a moment's flinching, until, when the day seemed to waver, they gave a new impetus to the fight, which seemed to extend along the whole line in a contest which lasted over an hour, when he drove the enemy from the field, his men climbing over the piles of dead as they advanced in the charge. His horse was shot under him during the engagement. It was now approaching night, and the fortunes of the day had only wavered momentarily at times towards the rebels, and the fight was growing desperate. The troops were getting used to smoke, dust, and the din of battle, and the roar of cannon and the bursting of shells, more terrific than ever, seemed to have less effect upon the rebels. They pressed up with fearful determination, column after column of fresh troops, and the courage of the whole army was at its best.
The line of the enemy's attack was concentrating, and Gen. Porter rode in front of the army, ordering the two wings of Morrell and Sykes and Couch to concentrate, and withdrawing Meagher placed him in a position on the left to flank the approaching columns, with orders to charge at advantageous opportunities, and giving the same orders to Butterfield's brigade, of Morrell's division, and Col. Warren, of Gen. Sykes's, and to General Abercrombie, in Gen. Couch's. At this moment Gen. Sickles's brigade came up, proffered by Gen. Heintzelman, and was received by Gen. Porter, and conducted to a point a little neglected.
The engagement now became a scene of madness — a force of thirty thousand contending against fully three times their own number, plunging in with rapid charges and deafening shouts, and successfully driving them from the field. A brilliant charge of the New York Forty- fourth, under Col. Rice, captured a Secesh flag, with the motto "Seven Pines." Our troops were in no condition to follow the enemy beyond the range of the artillery, and they contented themselves with leaving them at a range where the effect of the artillery was most terrible. The roar of musketry died away, and the engagement became an artillery contest, neither side attempting to advance.
Our killed and wounded were numbered by thousands, and what the loss of the rebels was can be imagined.
As night closed in the firing gradually ceased, until not an alarm gun was heard. Detachments of each company were sent out to gather in the wounded and bury the dead, and judging from the appearance of the field, nearly the whole army was out recognizing friends and members of their companies killed and wounded, and bringing them off. The Union and rebel soldiers mingled promiscuously in the search and separation of those of either side, hardly noticing that a few minutes before they had been opposed to each other in deadly combat. All the wagons, guns, and the immense singe train, were safely removed to Harrison's Bar by Wednesday noon, and the army was set at work to recruit and reorganize.
Major Barnum, of the Twelfth New York, was mortally wounded, and while lying breathing his last, a friend asked him if he had any message, to which he replied. "Tell my wife that in my last thoughts were blended my wife, my boy and my flag." He asked of the physician how the battle went, and when told that it was favorable to us, he said, "God bless the old flag" and expired with the prayer finishing inaudibly with his closing lips. A braver officer never urged his men to gallantry.
I met one soldier with a ball through his leg, and bleeding to death surely and rapidly. "Oh," said he, "what will Mrs Ellis and Jennie do? Poor William is dead — how his mother and sister loved him. And he would not have enlisted if I had not. O dear, O dear!" And beseeching me to take a message to them, said: "Poor Mrs. Ellis; poor me, I have no mother and sister to weep for me; I might as well fight those wicked rebels as not."
Another, shot through the lungs, clasped a locket to his breast, and moved his lips till I put down my ear and listened for his last breath: "You'll tell her, won't you?"
Tell who or where I could not ask, but the locket was the picture of one who might be wife, sweetheart, or sister.
At one place apart from the rest, men were carried to have legs and arms amputated. At three different times I saw parties of men carrying away the amputated limbs for burial. When the battle is over details of men from each regiment go over the field and pick up and recognize the bodies of the dead, carrying them to a convenient place, and laying them face to the enemy ready for burial.
On Thursday morning the enemy opened an attack with cavalry, artillery, and infantry on our rear, and for a time there were some long faces, and the army was ordered under arms. A slight reconnaissance gave us information of the position and strength of the enemy, and showed that by a little adroitness we might capture the whole force. Accordingly, Gen. Davidson, with his brigade, proceeded to cut off the rebel force, and soon returned with six guns and some prisoners, the remainder making their escape. They were pursued some four miles. The success of this little skirmish had an electrical effect upon our men. The news was received with cheer after cheer, and the army stock immediately moved up one hundred per cent.
Loss in killed, wounded and prisoners.
A correspondent of the New York Times writes:
In all the engagements, Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mill included, can hardly fall far short, or much exceed twenty-five thousand men. Our loss in prisoners is heavy, the enemy's cavalry making easy captives of thousands of stragglers, who lined the roads in our rear, and besides these, we have left thousands of wounded in their hands. Their loss must be at least as heavy, and probably heavier in killed and wounded than our own, but in prisoners it fell far short, though we have taken about two thousand from them. Included in our loss there were many of our finest officers, the number of line, company and staff officers killed and disabled being unusually large. Our loss of guns is stated at forty, and we have taken from the enemy perhaps two-thirds that number.
The "retiring" of the Federal is thus described by a correspondent of the New York Times:
Meanwhile the panic extended. Scores of gallant officers endeavored to rally and re-form the stragglers, but in vain, while many officers forgot the pride of their shoulder straps and the honor of their manhood, and herded with sneaks and cowards. O, that I had known the names of those officers I saw, the brave and the cowardly, that here, now, I might reward and punish by directing upon each individual the respect or the contempt of a whole people!
That scene was not one to be forgotten. Scores of riderless, terrified horses dashing in every direction; thick-flying bullets singing by, admonishing of danger; every minute a man struck down; wagons and ambulances and cannon blockading the way; wounded men limping, and groaning, and bleeding amid the throng; officers and civilians denouncing, and reasoning, and entreating, and being insensibly borne along with the mass; the sublime cannonading; the clouds of battle- smoke, and the sun just disappearing, large and blood-red — I cannot picture it, but I see it, and always shall.
Huddled among the wagons were 10,000 stragglers — for the credit of the nation be it said that four fifths of them were wounded, sick, or utterly exhausted, and could not have stirred but for dread of the tobacco warehouses of the South. The confusion of this herd of men and mules, wagons and wounded, men on horses, men on foot, men by the roadside, men perched on wagons, men searching for water, men famishing for food, men lame and bleeding, men with ghostly eyes, looking out between bloody bandages that hid the face — turn to some vivid account of the most pitiful part of Napoleon's retreat from Russia, and fill out the picture — the grim, gaunt, bloody picture of war in its most terrible features.
It was determined to move on during the night. The distance to Turkey Island Bridge, the point on James river which was to be reached, by the direct road, was six miles. But those vast numbers could not move over one narrow road in days; hence every by road, no matter any circuitous, had been searched out by questioning prisoners and by cavalry excursions. Every one was filled by one of the advancing columns. The whole front was in motion by 7 P. M., Gen. Reyes in command of the advance.
I rode with Gen. Howe's brigade, of Couch division, taking a wagon tractor through dense woods and precipitous ravines, far around to the left, and straight distance below Turkey Island. Commencing at case, the march continued until daylight. The night was dark and fearful. Heavy thunder rolled in turn along each point of the horizon, and dark clouds spread the entire canopy. We were forbidden to speak aloud; or, lest the light of a cigar should present a target for an ambushed rifle, we were cautioned not to smoke. Ten miles of weary marching, with frequent balts, as some one of the hundred vehicles of the artillery train, in our centre, by a slight deviation crashed against a tree, wore away the hours to dawn, when we debouched into a magnificent wheat field, and the smoke-stack of the Galena was in sight. Xenophon's remnant of the ten thousand, shouting "The sea! the sea!" were not more glad than we.
Porter's entire train was brought over the Chickahominy before the battle of Friday, hence nothing was lost there. At Savage's when that place was abandoned, 1,700 cubic feet of ammunition, and enormous heaps of quartermasters' and sutlers' stores, officers' baggage and soldiers' knapsacks, were destroyed, and at every halting place since, the fagot has been busy with whatever could be transported no further. I can form no estimate of the entire value, but it is immense. One thing is certain, but little has fallen into the enemy's hands.
I close to ride back to the rear — now our front.
I shall have to hurry on to the result. Our loss, of yesterday may be estimated at 6,000. Many of these are prisoners. The Pennsylvania reserve were again in the thickest. This morning they do not muster 3,000 men. Add to these 1,000 who are stragglers and will yet come in, and the number is less than half that they began with at Beaver Dam. They lost severely there, they were more than decimated the next day at Guines's Mills, and yesterday they shrank to this small measure. Their leader, General McCall, is severely wounded and in the enemy's hands. Our brigade Commander, General J. J. Reynolds, is a prisoner at Richmond; another General, George G. Meade, lies in a tent near us, seriously wounded. Officers of low grade they have lost in about the same proportion. Of the Bucktail regiment not a hundred respond to the roll-call.
And so with other divisions. For the losses of the last six days cannot be less than 15,000. It is only hoped that they will not reach 20,000.
Appearance of M'Clellan and his army after the defeat.
The correspondent of the New York Tribune, writing from Harrison's Landing, on the 4th inst., describes General McClellan as coming on board the main boat greatly perturbed. "General McClellan," we are told, "met General Patterson as he stepped on board, laid his hand on his shoulder and took him in a hurried manner into the aft cabin or ladies' saloon. As he went in he beat the air with his right hand clenched, from which all present inferred there was bad news." To the astonishment of the writer it was subsequently explained "that the whole army of the Potomac my stretched along the banks of the river where we lay, having fought their way all through from Fair Oaks, a distance of thirty miles.--General McClellan, however, claimed that his troops "had fought the Confederates in superior numbers every day for a week and whipped them every time." To a question as to the location of certain divisions and their Generals, the answer was "they are scattered everywhere, but are nevertheless in a solid, compact body; and in reply to another remark it was said., "what we want is freshmen, they" the troops, "are worked to death." The description of the troops, on a dead level on the banks of the river, covered from head to foot, and up to their knees in mud in the soft, moist, alluvial soil, is painfully graphic. "Under some trees which lay in clusters the men were crouched. They looked," says the writer, "as if they were more dead than alive. They were covered to the crown of the head with mud; their faces and clothes were literally coated, while their shoes and boots had several pounds of the nasty, yellow stuff stack into and all around them."
But the men were safe for the present, and ready to fight again if reinforced. The safety of the army, says the Tribune, however, is by no means assured if we may credit the statements made by this writer. He tells us that "the enemy is in large force on the east side of the Chickahominy, and threatens not only McClellan's right wing but the navigation of the James river. The construction of batteries so as to intercept the navigation of the river would be laying direct siege to McClellan's position, and would place his army in a critical situation.
Gen. McClellan rode out among his troops on Wednesday, and was greeted with most enthusiastic applause. "Boys," said he, "You may think that matters look dark, but be of good courage, all is right." The cheers are said to have been loud and long continued and the enemy believed that we were receiving large reinforcements. Our army has most unbounded reliance in their young commander, and dream of nothing out victory under his direction.
Responses of the States.
Ohio.--Cincinnati, July 8.
--The new Ohio regiments will commence recruiting immediately, and camps are being established in different parts of the State for their reception. Recruiting has materially improved within the last few days, and over 500 privates on furlough have reported at Camp Chase. More are reporting every day.
Indiana--Indianapolis, July 8.--Governor Morton's call for eleven additional regiments and six batteries of artillery, although only published yesterday morning, has been responded to in the most hearty and confident manner. From over thirty counties, military organizations have responded to the call.
From Fortress Monroe.
Fortress Monroe, July 8.
--A flag of truce returned to-day from a cruise up the York river. At Cumberland were found 90 of our wounded soldiers. They were brought a mile away, when the rebels compelled us to return them to the hospital where we found them.
All quiet on the James river.
From Gen. Burnside.
The following letter, dated Newbern, N. C., July 2d, is published in the Philadelphia Press:
Burnside's entire corps d'armee is in motion, bound inland somewhere. Your readers will be surprised to hear that three divisions are now in motion from this place, and more to come. You will hear good news from Burnside, Parke, Foster, and Reno very soon. The troops are overjoyed to think that they are about to follow our gallant Burnside into a victorious field once more.
Gen. Marcy's estimate of M'Clellan's loss in the recent battles.
[correspondence of the New York Tribune.]
I understand that Gen. Marcy, Chief of McClellan's staff, estimates the entire loss of McClellan's army at $30,000.
A Federal wagon train was attacked by a small hand of Confederate guerrillas, near Flint Hill, Va, on Monday. A panic among the teamsters ensued, but subsequently the Confederates were driven off.
Senator Dixon left Washington city on Monday, for Connecticut, to raise a regiment of troops.
About 1,600 rebel prisoners are now confined in the islands in New York harbor.
Feeling in New York.
A letter in the Philadelphia Inquirer, dated July 5, says:
There are thousands of sorrowing hearts beating with painful suspense, as the long lists of killed, wounded, and missing, which are now beginning to find their way into the newspapers, give no sign of the fate of loved ones who are known to have been in the regiments most holy engaged. There is no comfort for these but Christian patience and resignation, with the patriotic reflection that they who will no more respond to the roll call died in a good cause, and upon fields that will live eternally in history as a catacomb of heroes.
An apprehension is expressed that, when the eventful history of the past few days reaches Europe, the clamor there for "mediation," "intervention," &c., will be such as the French Government, if not the British Ministry, will find it impossible to resist. It is scarcely worth while to borrow trouble on this account.
Mr. Seward has been in town pretty much all day writing up dispatches for Europe by the steam packet leaving to-day. His little parlor at the Astor was besieged with visitors, anxious inquirers, &c., &c.; but the Secretary was "at home" to no body — not even his most intimate friends — so I hear.
The steamers were detained three hours behind their usual time, in order to convey these dispatches.
Address of Gen. M'Clellan to the army of the Potomac.
Washington, July 6.
--Advices from the Army of the Potomac, up to Saturday night, indicate that all is quiet and the army in good spirits.
Headq'rs army of the Potomac, Camp near Harrison's Landing, July 4, 1862.
Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac! Your achievements of the past ten days have illustrated the valor and endurance of the American soldier. Attacked by superior forces, and without hopes of reinforcements, you have succeeded in changing your base of operations by a flank movement, always regarded as the most hazardous of military operations. You have saved all your guns except a few lost in battle, taking in return guns and colors from the enemy.
Upon your march you have been assailed, day after day, with desperate fury by men of the same race and nation, skillfully massed and led. Under every disadvantage of number, and necessarily of position also, you have in every conflict beaten back your foes with enormous slaughter.
Your conduct ranks you among the celebrated armies of history. None will now question what each of you may always, with pride, say, "I belonged to the Army of the Potomac." You have reached this new base complete in organization, and unimpaired in spirit. The enemy may at any time attack you — we are prepared to meet them. I have personally established your lines. Let them come, and we will convert their repulse into a final defeat.
Your Government is strengthening you with the resources of a great people. On this, our nation's birthday, we declare to our foes, who are rebels against the best interests of mankind, that this army shall enter the Capital of the so-called Confederacy; that our national Constitution shall prevail, and that the Union, which can alone insure internal peace and external security to each State, must and shall be preserved, cost what it may in time, treasure, and blood.
Geo. B. McClellan,
Major General Commanding.
Dr. Plumer and his congregation.
We find the following in the Pittsburg Evening Chronicle, of Thursday, June 12th:
Our readers are doubtless aware that for sometime back an unpleasant difficulty existed in the Central Presbyterian Church, Alleghany, arising out of an alleged want of sympathy on the part of its pastor, the Rev. Wm. S. Plumer, D. D., with the Government in its effort to put down treason and rebellion. The Doctor was requested by some of the members of his congregation to pray for the success of our armies in the field, etc., but he refused, alleging that the whole question of the war, its causes and results, was a political matter, with which the ministers of God had nothing to do, and that he did not feel justified in alluding to the subject at all in his petitions. He was further firm in the belief that no number of battles or victories could bring about an honorable peace, and he could not, consequently ask God to give our arms success or unite in thanks-giving for the same.
The persistent refusal of the Doctor to conform with the wishes of his congregation in this respect, left to a meeting of the members of the church, at which the whole subject was discussed at length. A series of resolutions were introduced deploring the existence of the war, and maintaining that it was the duty of all good Christians to sustain and aid our Government in the putting down of rebellion, restore the authority and laws of the United States Government over all our territory, and in securing the proper punishment of traitors and rebels. It was further requested that in leading the devotions of the congregation the pastor should manifest full sympathy with the religious sentiments of his congregation, and give them utterance as he presented their petitions to the Throne of Grace. A lively discussion followed the introduction of these resolutions, and after a warm debate they were laid aside and the following "substitute" adopted:
- 1. resolved, that in the Word of God, and the Confession of Faith, are a good and sufficient rule of Faith, sufficient for our guidance in the present difficulties, or any other troubles which may hereafter arise.
- 2. resolved, that there is no cause for distrusting (Disturbing?) the present pastoral relations of this congregation.
the adoption of the substitute led to the withdrawal of the minority from the Church, but, believing that its passage had been secured by the exercise of the Doctor's personal influence and by unworthy and humiliating appeals for personal sympathy, they resolved to bring the matter before a higher tribunal, and, on Tuesday last it came up before the Alleghany Presbytery, assembled at Sewickley Church. The entire proceedings were submitted to the Presbytery, including the correspondence between Dr. Plumer and the congregation, covering over one hundred pages of foolscap. The letters addressed to Dr. P. Were couched in the kindest spirit, setting forth causes of dissatisfaction in his congregation, arising out of the war in which we are now engaged, and the studied absence, alleged, as to any recognition of the existence of the war — victory or success, and pleading for more pointed and specific prayers for our armies, and for success to their arms. The answers to these letters were also elaborately friendly. Almost the whole field of theology was gone over; the Scripture, Church standards, and other authorities, were quoted to prove that the writer occupied high and Scriptural ground on this question, and that the whole question of the war was a political question, with which God's ministers had nothing to do, as such. He did not believe that any number of battles and victories could bring about an honorable peace, and therefore he could not ask God to give us victory, or unite in thanksgiving for the same.
the question was discussed all day on Tuesday, and on Wednesday it was again taken up. Dr. Plumer himself was present, and defended his position in a powerful address. He was replied to by Drs. McLaren, Dale, and others, some of whom were very severe upon him for his want of sympathy with the Union cause. Dr. McLaren, particularly, handled him with great severity. He said the real sentiments of Dr. P. Were slowly and reluctantly developed in the correspondence with the memorialists. He defended the great majority of the clergy who do pray for the success of our arms, and dwelt forcibly on the righteousness of the present war. He again dwelt on the subject of "preaching polities," as that thing is generally spoken of, among a certain class of politicians, with withering sarcasm. He said it should not take two minutes for a man to define his loyalty or patriotism, if he has any. after a lengthy discussion the Presbytery adopted the following report, Dr. Plumer himself voting in the affirmative:
- 1. Resolved, That in the opinion of this Presbytery, it is among the most imperative duties of all good and loyal citizens to defend their country, even with blood, against its public enemies.
- 2. Resolved, That when, in the Providence of God, our country is involved in a most calamitous and deplorable civil war, it is eminently proper that the instructions and supplications of the sanctuary should, at proper times, have reference to the existing state of things, and that as Christians and church officers, we hall with grateful satisfaction the call of our Government to acts of Christian devotion, such as fasting, prayer and thanksgiving, and should yield our cheerful obedience thereto; and this Presbytery, therefore, sees nothing improper in the anxiety manifested by these memorialists to have such a direction given to the devotions of their sanctuary.
- 3. Resolved, That while we deprecate and disapprove of the introduction of mere party politics in any shape into the sacred desks, we regard the protection and defence of our Constitution and liberties as a duty of far higher and more sacred character than ordinary political questions, on which good citizens may honestly differ in times of peace.
- 4. Resolved, That a committee be appointed to confer with the congregation of the Central Church of Alleghany, for the purpose of endeavoring to reconcile their differences, and to report the result of this conference to an adjourned meeting of Presbytery, to be held on the 2d Sunday in July next, at 10 o'clock A. M., at Sewickley.
Posted By: Joe Elia