Battle of Malvern Hill


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 26, 1862

We have created an online collection of  all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This collection is available for your online study and research. These original newspapers give unique perspective on the important people and events of the Civil War.

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Iron Clads

Iron Clads

McClellan Poem

McClellan Poem

Lincoln's Emancipation Bill

Abraham Lincoln's Slave Emancipation Bill

Battle of Malvern Hill

Battle of Malvern Hill

Battle of Savage's Station

Battle of Savage's Station

John Bull

John Bull Cartoon

Battle of Malvern Hill

Battle of Chickahominy

Battle of Chickahominy

Life in the Army of the Potomac

Army Life in the Army of the Potomac

Battle of Beaver Creak

Battle of Beaver Creak

Bombardment of Vicksburg

Bombardment of Vicksburg



JULY 26, 1862.]




IT gives us real pleasure to publish, on page 465, a portrait of our old and valued correspondent General Truman Seymour, whose sketches are familiar to the readers of this journal, and whose distinguished gallantry at the battles before Richmond have elicited such universal admiration.

General Seymour was born at Albany, New York, about the year 1827, and entered West Point in 1842, graduating in 1846. He went to Mexico to join the army under General Scott, and at the battle of Cerro Gordo won the brevet rank of First Lieutenant. At the attack on Contreras he and Lieutenant (now General) Brannan led the van of the attacking army. At the close of the war Lieutenant Seymour spent some years as military instructor of drawing: we can testify that he was admirably qualified for the post. After a brief campaign against Billy Bowlegs in Florida, he resumed the dull routine of garrison duty, and, at the outbreak of the rebellion, found himself with Major Anderson at Fort Sumter. He was one of the most heroic and gallant of that brave little garrison, and came out of the fort in very bad health in consequence of his sufferings. He was soon afterward brevetted Major, and appointed Brigadier-General of Volunteers. At the late fights before Richmond he commanded a brigade in McCall's Division, consisting of four regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserve, and won imperishable glory. We are permitted to make the following extracts from private letters front him to a friend:

BELOW RICHMOND, Night of July 1, 1862.

MY DEAR—: You will be glad to get even this line from me, though I don't know how you will get it. We are on the James River, and a gun-boat can carry a mail. The evening is clear, and the distant sound of heavy cannonading has just ceased, in pursuit of a flying foe, and after a magnificent battle scene. The Union cause is not hopeless now, although it seemed so last night. We have had the hardest kind of fighting. This of to-night is the fourth battle. In three of them my brigade played a not inferior part. At Mechanicsville, on our right flank, our division alone held 40,000 men at bay for twelve hours, and when compelled tc withdraw, did so in such a manner as to have elicited the high praise of the army. Reynolds and myself can claim all the glory of the fight, for we alone commanded. I had two horses shot under me. The next day, in the afternoon, the battle of Gainsville was fought—25,000 against nearly 50,000—De Hart wounded, Easton killed, Reynolds prisoner, etc. My escapes were wonderful, and will form the theme of much future story. I led five regiments into the heavy fight besides my own brigade, and on these two days I lost four hundred men in my command. Well, two days afterward (yesterday), while folding up our right wing to fall back on the James River, we had a great fight along the whole line, where we barely held our own. My horse was shot in five places and my clothes have six musket holes through them, but the skin not broken. By the mercy of God alone have I escaped when many others were killed. I was reported to have been killed. Meade was wounded and McCall either killed or captured. The division was nearly destroyed. One regiment of 800 men has lost all but 50; and it is reduced now from 8000 down to about 3000 men, of which I am in command.

Well, we can not go to Richmond just now—the rebels have been much too strong for us. The skill with which this last movement has been made will be admired by the world for ages, and must place McClellan very high as an able man.

All this while we have had nothing to eat but hard bread and a little pork; we destroyed much of our baggage; we carried nothing but our eatables in our pockets; for five nights I have scarcely closed my eyes; but tonight, after a grand victory and a good cup of coffee, and with every thing seeming to promise well if the country will only support us, I shall sleep enough to make it all up and be ready for a fight to-morrow.

   WEDNESDAY, July 2, 1862—4 P.M.

Arrived this morning early at Robinson's Landing, marching 17 miles by dark, starting at 12 o'clock. It has rained all day—the ground is very soft; in this field, a plantation, the whole army is concentrated; the river is full of transports; troops are arriving—a few days' rest and we shall start again for Richmond. After being wet and hungry all day I feel glad that my wagons have come up and that my night's rest is secure, if the enemy does not attack, as he should do if he means to annihilate us. But who can tell what is in store for us? I trust I shall be able to do my duty at least as well as I have done. Today I have eaten nothing but wheat from the field, and am wet and worn with watching and care, and you will know when you see this how much a man can suffer and live. Nothing in all my life has met the suffering of these days, my Fort Sumter trials included. May God bless our cause, and give us yet more strength to endure! The army is full of heart, and only asks a fair field and that God will be with us.


IN the dark days of April, 1861, when the capital was in danger and the existence of the Government doubtful, one of the earliest if not the first to hasten to Washington with a tender of his services was DANIEL BUTTERFIELD, commanding the Twelfth Regiment New York Militia, whose portrait we give on page 465. He found an attack momentarily expected, and an organization of visitors and citizens hastily formed, known as the Clay Guard, for the protection of the city from the hard-riding and hard-drinking cavaliers promised for its "subjugation" by "Wise the Witless." Colonel Butterfield enrolled himself at once, and many senators, judges, lawyers, and distinguished citizens who served as privates in the ranks of the Clay Guard on the memorable nights of the 17th and 18th of April will remember him in the young orderly-sergeant who drilled them, and watch his career with additional interest as a commander on a larger field. While engaged in this sacred duty Colonel Butterfield had obtained the permission of the Secretary of War to reorganize, fill up, and report his regiment at Washington on the 26th, prepared for duty. With this order Colonel Butterfield made his way through Baltimore, wet with the gore of Northern citizens shed by "plug uglydom" turned "secesh" in its mad frenzy, and over broken bridges and torn up tracks arrived in New York on Thursday night of the 20th, filled up his regiment (like most of our militia organizations then merely a skeleton) from some 350 to 1000 men, and left with them on Sunday afternoon in the Baltic, bound for Washington, by the way of Fortress Monroe, looking to a passage up the Potomac; and then, by information there obtained, to Annapolis. Assigned to the army corps of Patterson, the Twelfth saw their hopes of active service disappear in dreary marches and countermarches over

the "sacred soil," while Bull Run was being fought and the vanity of the South in arms supplied with material for boasting. In Patterson's division General Butterfield (then Lieutenant-Colonel of the Twelfth United States Infantry by a recent appointment) commanded a brigade, and sought for permission to lead it into action. Soon afterward he received the full appointment of Brigadier in an unsolicited and gratifying manner. During the autumn and winter General Butterfield was profoundly occupied in drilling and disciplining his brigade and converting them into those "stolid mudsill veterans" so much deprecated by the South.

In the movement before Yorktown General Fitz-John Porter's command was always prominently engaged, and generally in the advance. Butterfield's brigade made the first reconnoissance to Big Bethel and Harold's Mill, and was with Porter when he made his first approaches and attack on Yorktown. On the 11th of April a portion of the brigade repulsed a sortie of the enemy, receiving high encomiums from General Porter. At the battle of Hanover on the first sound of firing General Butterfield left his sick bed for the saddle, and on receiving the order to advance, pushed his Brigade forward in two lines: Lansing's Seventeenth New York and M'Lane's Eighty-third Pennsylvania in the first, and Weeks's Twelfth New York and Stockton's Sixteenth Michigan in the second, these last in double column in the rear. Knowing from the heavy tiring in the front that he was wanted, Butterfield pushed on on the double quick. With skirmishers thrown out they dashed through the woods, halting on its edge for a moment only to dress their line and reconnoitre the enemy, and then pushed forward into the wheat-field adjoining in splendid style, driving the enemy before them. Here the Seventeenth New York captured one of the enemy's guns, a brass 12-pounder. Pushing on in the same order, they occupied the station of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Hanover Court-house, which had never witnessed so much activity since its bricks were brought from England in 1735. At the Court-house the news reached them that the enemy had reappeared in their rear and threatened the left flank. This was met by General Porter with great promptness and success. General Martindale gallantly met and sustained this attack with the Second Maine, the Forty-fourth New York, a fragment of the Twenty-Fifth New York. and a section of Martin's Battery. This was one or the severest contested tights of the whole war, the enemy coming up boldly to the work, and showing themselves in a comparatively open field. They had at the outset three gallant New Yorkers to deal with in Generals Porter, Morrell, and Martindale, and a fourth was on his way—for Butterfield, led by the sound of the firing, was double-quicking back his weary men to the relief of one of his regiments (Stryker's New York Forty-fourth), which was already warmly engaged supporting a section of Martin's Battery, and arriving on the field with the Eighty-third Pennsylvania on the enemy's flank, poured in a murderous fire, and the combined forces soon sent the enemy "skedaddling." Again at the battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mills General Butterfield won glory by his skill and bravery. The Prince de Joinville was so struck by his gallantry that he presented him with a horse in token of his regard.


WE continue in this number our series of engravings of the battles before Richmond. On page 470 we reproduce a sketch by Mr. A. R. Waud, representing the


where McCall's division, in Fitz-John Porter's corps, was attacked on 26th by an overwhelming force of rebels. We gave an account of the battle in our last number. Mr. Waud says: "This battle was fought by McCall's division, Thursday, June 26. The enemy having made a bridge below Mechanicsville, with a view to passing the swamp and cutting off McCall's command from the rest of the army, that General withdrew his forces across Beaver Creek. Here the rebels attacked him, the fight lasting till after dark, when, having repulsed the enemy, McCall fell back still further, in pursuance of McClellan's plan of drawing his right wing across the Chickahominy, and taking the James River for the base of operations." We will add the following description of the country from the Tribune correspondence:

The battle was fought in dense woods. Our forces were posted on the south side of a belt of forest on a line nearly two miles long, the general course of which was nearly parallel with the Chickahominy. The woods vary in depth from 40 to 100 rods; a small stream flows the entire length, and the ascent on either side is quite sharp. Cultivated fields cover the brow and crest of the hills on either side and in the right rear of our position extend half a mile to the bottom land of the Chickahominy. On the left the fringe of woods reaches to this bottom land. At 11 A.M., when I reached the field, our pickets occupied the top of the hill across the ravine along its whole winding length. They reported a battery of the enemy at Gainer's House, a mile north in his left rear, and numbers of rebel, in distinct view. This battery soon exchanged shots with guns on our right. Half an hour later they saluted our left with an occasional shell from a position so far westerly as to enfilade our line. Meanwhile, an occasional report from a sharp-shooter's rifle warned of the enemy's approach. The fire of our batteries on the right gradually grew more rapid, but the day wore away until it was 3 P.M., and there had been few casualties. Would the enemy make a serious demonstration? A volley from one company of a regiment on the left, directed at as many of the enemy who appeared on the crest of the opposite hill, causing them to hurry back, did not answer the question conclusively, for it was followed by dead silence. Twenty minutes later the answer came, and it was unmistakable—it was a tornado of musketry.

The ball opened with the centre, but only a moment, and the tornado swept right and left as if one current of electricity had discharged every man's musket. Our men disappeared, sending back cheerful shouts as they rushed into that dense wood where now corpses are thick as the trees. A spatter of rebel lead lifted little puffs of dust on the hill from which, with straining eyes, I in vain sought to penetrate those dark recesses. A dull, heavy undercurrent of murmur as of the swarming of bees, the sharp ring of a random Stinks overhead, the incessant roar of musketry, and now the wounded and the dead being borne out of the jaws of death.

ON page 468 we reproduce Mr. Waud's sketch of the


which was fought on Friday, 27th. We have already described this fight, and will only add Mr. Waud's account of it: "The next day the rebels in great force attacked M'Call again, now sustained by Porter's division, Slocum's division, and Sykes's brigade of regulars, and part of Sumner's command. These sustained an unequal and bloody fight with the rebel hosts till nightfall, when they were withdrawn across the Chickahominy, blowing up the fine bridges which our engineers had built in their rear. Our sketch represents Sykes's brigade standing firm before the rebel efforts to overwhelm our lines. Beyond Sykes's, on the right, was McCall's and Franklin's; but the smoke was so heavy that it was difficult to see much of the field at once. The heavy smoke beyond was caused by the destruction of commissary stores by fire, to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy."

On page 477 will be found another picture, also from a sketch by Mr. Waud, illustrating the


fought on Saturday, 28th. Mr. Waud writes:

"On Saturday the wagon trains were gradually got to the rear, and our lines remained comparatively free from attack. Before daylight Sunday morning our troops were withdrawn, the First Massachusetts battery being the last to leave the outposts. Covering the trains, Franklin's troops passed across the railroad at Savage's Station. The rebels mistaking the movement for a retreat, came on with a spirit destined to be badly checked—first near Fairoaks Station and then at Savage's—when, notwithstanding that they attacked our troops before they had had time to form, they received a fierce repulse, the Irish brigade acting particularly well.

"The picture represents the troops forming along the railroad at Savage's Station, the rebels in the distance, pressing on their infantry covered by a heavy fire of artillery—the Union soldiers double-quicking into position."


where the enemy attacked General McClellan on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 1. The General, anticipating the attack, had placed his cannon on a height in three rows of fifty pieces each, each row falling back when the pieces became heated. It was the fire of these pieces which so terribly decimated the army under Magruder. In our picture the reader will remark that the rebels are in the fore-ground, and the Union artillery in the background. The following account of the battle we take from the Herald:

The ground is for the most part open and undulating, presenting a splendid position for a battle-field. After the fight of the previous day, further to the front, our artily fell back during the night and took up the most eligible position the country afforded, with it was enabled on Tuesday night to fall back still further to Harrison's Landing. In the morning, anticipating a vigorous pursuit by the enemy, General McClellan himself established tine lines of his army, and personally placed his troops in position, prepared to meet the attack. The line formed a magnificent semicircle. General Keyes was on the extreme right, with a portion of his command. General Franklin's corps joined Keyes's left, and next in order from right to left were placed Summer's corps, consisting of Richardson's and Sedgwick's division; Heintzelman's corps, embracing Hooker's and Kearney's divisions; next General Couch's division, which was detached from Keyes's command; while General FitzJohn Porter's corps, consisting of General Morell's division and the regulars, formed the extreme left. The configuration of the country rendered the left almost certainly secure; for the lowlands beneath were completely commanded by our artillery and the gun-boats. The right, however, was not so secure, and that was the reason the position was found to be untenable afterward. The enemy did not get his pursuing troops in position until the afternoon. For several hours heavy cannonading was kept up on both sides—our ponderous siege guns, which were ranged in a splendid position near the centre of our lines, pouring destructive volleys into the columns of the enemy as they were being brought forward and formed into line. After the artillery on both sides opened in the afternoon, the shot and shell filled the air, and a most terrific cannonading was kept up, with intervals, for hours. About half past three o'clock the enemy's skirmishers advanced near our centre, and the opposing lines in front of General Couch's position were soon hotly engaged. In this attempt to break our lines the enemy signally failed. He was speedily driven back at the point of the bayonet, and lost several colors, which we captured.

Later in the afternoon the enemy brought out three light batteries, posted them near some barns in a wheat-field, and opened a fierce fire on the same portion of our line. Several of our batteries in Hooker's and Kearney's divisions immediately returned the fire, and soon silenced those of the enemy. It was nearly sundown when the enemy made another attempt to pierce our lines in front of General Porter's and Couch's positions. A terrible cannonade was opened, and, simultaneously, heavy lines of rebels were pushed to the front under cover of the artillery. Our troops met them in the next gallant style, and the battle raged fiercely for two hours or more, the tide gradually sweeping round from left to right. Heavy columns had been seen in the afternoon bearing to our right, and apprehensions were entertained that the enemy might burst out in that direction; but happily those painful apprehensions were not realized. The rebels hurled their forces, however, with fearful fury against our lines. General Couch, who had immediate command of that portion of the line, in the most gallant manner planted the colors of his regiment where he wanted them, and inspired his soldiers with confidence. No troops fought more bravely than those engaged in this battle. After the firing was running round to the right, General Porter sent to General Sumner for reinforcements, and several regiments, including the Irish brigade, were sent. This bold brigade, headed by the intrepid General Meagher, arrived in front in time to render the most signal service. Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, of the Sixty-third New York, is among the wounded. During the engagement it was a magnificent sight to see, amidst the bursting shells, infantry, artillery, and cavalry moving inside the semicircle, with remarkable celerity, to different parts of the field. General McClellan, accompanied by a portion of his staff, rode along the field, and was loudly cheered by our troops. In this battle, which closed soon after darkness set in, the rebels did not gain one inch of ground. We drove them back at every point with fearful loss. Where our artillery opened with grape and canister the killed and wounded rebels were actually piled upon each other. Several rebel regiments then came out in defiant line of battle were terribly cut up. The battle was brief, but bloody. The rebel loss must have amounted to several thousand. It is impossible to accurately estimate our own, as circumstances compelled us to leave many on the field. It is believed, however, that one thousand will more than cover it.

On page 470 we illustrate the performance of THE GUN-BOATS "GALENA" AND "MAHASKA" during the fight of 1st. Our picture is from the pencil of an officer on board one of our vessels. He writes:

"Having cleared the James River up to Fort Darling and the obstructions, the gun-boats, on account of the high banks and their inability to operate or occupy far inland, have been obliged to hold merely what they had attained, to await the co-operation of the army. On Tuesday Let the latter, having been two days in its retreat, had come out on the James River. Here, at a point near Turkey Island, our rear-guard were enabled to make a stand, being most effectually covered in their retreat by the gun-boats. Here the enemy were twice repulsed and several pieces of artillery taken, the shells from the 9-inch Columbiads, and 100-pounder rifled guns of the boats, after a flight of frequently two or three miles, dropping and exploding in the midst of the enemy's lines. Our shots were mostly directed by signals made from the top of the house in the middle of the background, and answered from our top-mast by an officer of the army signal corps."

On page 469, we reproduce a sketch by our artist, Mr. Waud, representing


before the late movement from the Chickahominy to the James River. Mr. Waud writes:

"No. 1 represents the Railroad from West Point to Richmond, at or about the locality where it leaves our lines, some six miles from the city. It is a single track road, but it is an immense convenience to the army in transporting the large supplies necessary for such an enormous body of men. The scenery, without being at all striking, is very picturesque along the road, the wild camps of our soldiers adding a great deal of interest to it. Once or twice a rebel locomotive has made its appearance on the track, skedaddling very quick when our guns opened on it.

"No. 2 is the Trestle-work over the Chickahominy Swamp, about seven hundred yards in breadth at this point.

"No. 3 is a sketch of Sick and Wounded Soldiers on their way to the White House, refreshing themselves at a pure spring of water by the side of the railroad while waiting for the cars.

"No. 4 gives a good idea of the pleasures of bridge-building in the swamp, where the atmosphere is very close, and it is necessary for some of the builders to stand up to their middle in water, while others cut and carry the logs to construct the bridge with.

"No. 5. Along some parts of the line quite a good feeling exists among the pickets. By mutual consent they do not fire, and the rebels leave their arms and join our men in a cup of coffee, exchanging Richmond papers for the New York papers, and making themselves generally agreeable. Picket-firing is not considered a humane business in modern warfare; yet it is open to doubt whether the existence of a good understanding may not have its evils on the other hand: neither can it be considered expedient that the rebels should have recent copies of Northern papers.


WE devote page 476 to illustrations of the ATTACK ON VICKSBURG, Mississippi, and to the engineering device by which General Butler is going to make Vicksburg an inland-town. Some of our sketches are by Dr. Henry, of the Navy, others by our special artist, Mr. Theodore R. Davis. Mr. Davis writes:


"I arrived here yesterday with the fleet of Commodore Davis, which is composed of the iron-clads Benton, Carondolet, Louisville, and Cincinnati, with a number of rams; we found that Farragut had run the batteries with the greater portion of his fleet, and found that, though capable of driving the rebels from their guns, he could not keep the town, which is somewhat knocked to pieces by this time. The town is situated in the bend of the river, and just now our men are busy cutting a canal through the neck of land, which will have the effect of ruining the city, as it will be the means of changing the course of the river. This the people have been fearful of for some time, for by so doing Vicksburg is soon left an inland town forever. The river soon permanently changes its course. 1n order to prevent this the railroad was built, for the law prevents the cutting a railroad.

"I went across the short neck of land, and on board the Octorora saw Porter and Brown. Grant is expected to be down here by land in five days, when it is intended to take a few secesh that may be about Vicksburg. Porter thinks Mobile is ours when we want it. The shells front his mortar-boats are thrown wonderfully, one every now and then right into the rebel batteries.

"The secesh tried to capture some of the mortar-schooners.

"Commodore Porter's mortar fleet lying just off it on the Vicksburg side and close to the bend, induced a belief among the rebels that they could board the vessels, and by one grand stroke gain possession of them, also defeating any inferior number of troops opposed to them. To accomplish this General Van Dorn marched a brigade from their encampment and cautiously through the woods approached our vessels. When two hundred yards distant the rebels made a charge, but were received by terrific storms of grape that drove their back in confusion. They retired completely defeated."




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