Our Visit to Malvern Hill

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Battlefield Visits

Recently, my wife and I spent a day visiting a number of sites on the eastern side of Richmond and Petersburg. We began our touring at the Glendale/Frayser’s Farm and Malvern Hill Visitor’s Center.

The visitor’s center is on the Glendale battlefield and is staffed with a single ranger who styled himself as the ‘Lone Ranger’. The facility has a number of well-done exhibits that explain the ammunition and weapons of the early war.

I had told him that my great great grandfather had served in the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry and had fought at Malvern Hill. While we went through the exhibits he looked up the unit and told us where they were positioned at the start of the battle.

Malvern Hill is not what you would expect. On the Union right it’s just a gradual slope. But it’s just enough to have slowed down the Confederate attackers and allow the Union soldiers to lay down devastating rife and artillery fire. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.

Battle of Malvern Hill map

My great great grandfather’s unit were located behind and to the right of the Nathaniel West house as I faced it. In front of the are two immense trees. I wondered if they were there in 1862 but I found an old photograph which shows them before they became gigantic.

The 61st along with the rest of Caldwell’s brigade moved forward into the fight. Ultimately, the Army of the Potomac won this last of the Seven Days Battles. However, General George McClellan lost his nerve and withdrew his troops to Harrison’s Landing.

According to New York State records the 61st NY lost a total of  227 men, killed wounded, missing, from the time that they landed on the Peninsula. At Malvern Hill they had a total of 13 dead. They must have lost a number of men to sickness because the regiment that left New York with 1,000 men were only able to muster 100 men at Antietam.

The first picture is a contemporary photograph of the original Nathaniel West House. If you click on it you can start a slide show and see all 12 images in a larger size. Please be patient, it’s not the fastest slideshow. You can also click on the map to expand it.

The cemetery is Glendale National Cemetery. Some 2,000 Union soldiers are buried there. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.


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