The Seven Days’ campaign swirled through five more days of attacks by Lee’s army. On July 1, the Union army reached the James River on the south side of the Peninsula. This was Malvern Hill.
Union generals created an impregnable position with artillery on the crest. But Lee ordered an all-out assault. You can see in maps of the battle where – late in the afternoon – the 4th Georgia attacked the Union line as part of Wright’s Brigade. They fought at the foot of the hill at Malvern Cliffs and the Slave Cabins.
This was a Confederate defeat comparable to the third day at Gettysburg. Crab wrote:
About 3:00 p.m., orders came down the line to “charge the enemy,” who was about three-quarters of a mile away overlooking us the moment we ascended the rise of the hill. We obeyed the orders in good order until we unmasked ourselves from the ravine, when they opened their artillery on us at close range. Now we had just seen how they destroyed a six-piece battery of ours just upon our left, and we were satisfied that artillery would be used on us. But we had not conceived how very terrific and very destructive it could be. The grape and canister ploughed through and made great gaps in the ranks of our brave fellows. Upon each side of me I could see them fall as we went forward, some upon their faces and some upon their backs, great streams of blood gushing from the places where they were shot.
The fire of the enemy was so terrific and destructive and our ranks were so thinned out by it that we did not reach the enemy, but stopped about half way to where their cannon and musketry were stationed – in a ravine which protected us from the fire of the enemy somewhat. But the suffering in that ravine among those who were fortunate to reach it was intense indeed, lying in the hot sun under a galling fire of artillery, nearly famished for water, which could not be had, with now and then the bursting of shells overhead from their big artillery on their gunboats in addition to their musketry fire and that of their field pieces.
Crab watched as musket fire struck the company’s “beloved captain, G. F. Todd,” who was “was shot in the side and fell into the arms of my brother J. A. Cherry, who took him off the field to the rear.”
Todd survived, but this retreat alarmed Crab. He wrote:
I have often wondered how he managed to do so without being killed, as later in the day, when we all attempted to fall back to our old position, several of us were shot down. I confess I felt then by far more fear than when I was going forward, as I always had great fear of being shot in the back. On that occasion, I retreated by walking backwards in order if I were shot that it would not be in the back.
By nightfall, rain began and Crab could not find his brother. He wrote:
I thought my brother had been shot down, as I missed him. I walked over the field with a lamp for several hours during the rain trying to find him among the dead and wounded then lying on the battlefield. I will not attempt to describe it, as I must have examined a thousand faces of dead and dying trying to find him, or of my relief when I found him OK the next morning. We, too, found that our enemy had retreated that night. We had a [long] walk over the field the next day, and I suppose saw at least 2,000 dead of both armies lying where they fell when shot. This ended the battle of Malvern Hill.
The Army of Northern Virginia lost 5,600 men at Malvern Hill, killed, wounded, and missing.