150 years ago: The Guns of Malvern Hill

Today is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Malvern Hill, fought on July 1, 1862.  The battle is considered the “end” of the Seven Days Battles, although the Peninsula Campaign continued as the Federals retreated to Harrison’s Landing.  The battle was, in the operational sense, a net zero.  The Confederates attacked and were repulsed, ending further pursuit of the Army of the Potomac.  The Federals, while victorious, conceded any benefits on the field and retreated to the safety of the Navy’s gunboats along the James River.

Seven Days 26 May 12 402
12-pdr Napoleons representing the Federal Gun line on Mavlern Hill

But tactically, this battle was a victory for the “King of Battle”.  At Malvern Hill, the artillery arm built by General William Barry proved its worth.  The big guns stopped the Rebel assaults.  Well trained men, equipped with excellent guns, properly led, on good ground….

Malvern Hill 21 Mar 10 574
Replica 3-inch Rifle on the right end of the Federal line

For those of us who cannot visit the field Civil War Trust has a page dedicated to the battle, with a wealth of background information.  While you are there, consider the Trust’s accomplishments preserving this battlefield – 952 acres.

You can “stroll” the battlefield online by way of the markers.  And if you are a “gunner,” here’s the locations of the gun tubes (authentic and replica) on the field today.

The Federal artillery line at Malvern Hill contained the most diverse set employed at any open field battle in the east (and the Confederate line was, as usual, a varied lot too!).  With the employment of batteries from the reserve and siege train alongside the field batteries, the guns on Malvern Hill included 8-inch siege howiters, 4.5-inch siege rifles, 30-pdr Parrotts, 20-pdr Parrotts, 10-pdr Parrotts, 3-inch rifles, 12-pdr Napoleons, 32-pdr field howitzers, and even Whitworth breechloaders.  Not all played a prominent role, or were even actively engaged, in the action.  But the assortment is worthy of note… and a separate blog post at a later date.

But for now I’ll close with consideration of the field where the guns roared 150 years ago today:

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Malvern Hill field of battle

6 thoughts on “150 years ago: The Guns of Malvern Hill

  1. I knew, that the US Artillery had some Whitworth Rifles (a battery ?) but I didnt’ knew, that they actually was used in combat. I thought that these Whitworth rifles was somewhere “up north” and never used in combat. Can you tell me (us) where else they were used ?

    • Jan, they were part of the Army of the Potomac’s reserve. After the campaign the guns were considered unsuited for field use and shifted to less active roles.

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