Malvern Hill

When Johnny Comes Marching Home


By Wm. Gordon M'Cabe

(After the battle of Malvern Hill, a soldier was found dead fifty yards in advance of any officer or man, his musket firmly grasped in the rigid fingers, name unknown, simply "2 La." on his cap.)


Sweet Malvern Hill is wreathed with flame,
From serried ranks the steel is gleaming;
Our legions march to death and fame,
With battle-flags right wildly streaming.
Each hero bares his manly breast,
And gallant hearts are fiercely beating;
With steady tramp they line the crest,
O'er which an iron hail is sleeting.


Up loom the bastions, grim and large,
Thro' battle-smoke that's low'ring near them;
The little drummers roll "the charge,"
And dying comrades raise to cheer them.
Twice forty guns, with deadly aim,
Strike down our lines in tones of thunder;
Yet still they press, with eyes aflame,
Til Valor's self looks on in wonder.


But now the human tide rolls back--
A ghasly remnant grim and gory--
And countless heroes mark the track
Which led them up the heights to Glory.
But one still presses on amain,
Where double-shotted guns are frowning;
Alone, amidst the iron rain,
He nobly wins a hero's crowning.


Through all the battle-smoke he'd seen
The saintly forms of angels bearing
The laurel crowns, forever green,
To wreathe the foreheads of the daring.
And eager for this priceless crown--
The bastions scarce a length before him--
The stalwart form at length goes down,
With Death and Honor bending o'er him.


Brave soldier of our Southern clime,
No stately song nor brilliant story
Shall hand thy name to future time
As one who gained immortal glory.
But Freedom, with her mailed hand,
Has paused to brush a tear of sorrow,
And placed thee with that chosen band
Who freely pour their life's blood for her.


And Valor, with her royal brow,
And Honor, with her stately bearing,
Have surely felt a prouder glow,
When musing on thy peerless daring.
O gallant soldier, all unknown,
Though noisy Fame, we know, shall never
Proclaim thy deeds through every zone,
A hero's crown is thine forever.

Camp near Richmond
Written for the Southern Illustrated News
Volume I. Richmond, Saturday, February 21, 1863 No. 24, [RE-ISSUE]

The series of battles that took place around Richmond between June 25 and July 1, 1862, are known as the Seven Days' Campaign. These included clashes between Union and Confederate forces at Gaines Mill, Savage Station, Glendale and Malvern Hill. The battles marked the end of the Union's Peninsula Campaign, which attempted to bring an end to the war by capturing Richmond.

Each of these battles was hard fought in searing heat with appalling casualties on both sides. At the final engagment - Malvern Hill - General Lee ordered his Confederate infantry to assault the entrenched Union troops. In reply, well-placed Union artillery cut the advancing Southern forces to shreds, prompting one Confederate general to later exclaim "this was not war - this was murder."

When the seven days of fighting were over, Lee counted 20,000 men lost while Union commander McClellan tallyed 11,000. Little of strategic value was gained. General McClellan withdrew his Union troops to the north allowing General Lee to begin his attacks on Union positions in Northern Virginia.

Battle at Malvern Hill

The Civil War could literally tear a family apart, pitting brother against brother or father against son as each rallied to the flag of the cause that captured his heart. There is no more dramatic evidence of this than the encounter that took place on the battlefield at Malvern Hill July 1, 1862. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade and described the incident shortly after the war:

"I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill , a company was posted in a clump of trees, who kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, 'if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump.'

'Leave that to me,' said Driscoll; so he raised his rifle, and the moment the officer exposed himself again bang went Driscoll, and over went the officer, his company at once breaking away.

As we passed the place I said, 'Driscoll, see if that officer is dead - he was a brave fellow.'

I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured 'Father,' and closed them forever.

I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. He was his son, who had gone South before the war.

And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets."

Malvern Hill

By Herman Melville

Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan's men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South
Invoking so
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!

The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?

The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,
We followed (it never fell!)
In silence husbanded our strength
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet!
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?

We elms of Malvern Hill
Remember every thing;
But sap the twig will fill:
Wag the world how it will,
Leaves must be green in Spring.

Conyngham, D.P., The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns, With Some Accounts of the Corcoran Legion, and Sketches of the Principal Officers, (1867) (reprinted in Botkin, B.A., A Civil War Treasury of Tales, Legends and Folklore, 1960); McPherson, James P, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, (1988)