Battlefield Tour

Bill Rhoades
Bill Rhoades was our tour guide for this event. As the group stood viewing the site of Maj. Charles Pickett’s 19th century Turkey Island home, one of Bill’s friends, who is a relic hunter, handed Bill a piece of artillery shell that he had just found. Bill’s friend has permission from the landowners’ to hunt relics, which is illegal in Virginia.

On June 30, 1862, 45,000 Union soldiers were retreating across this land, 17 miles east of the Confederate capital, pursued by 19,200 Confederate soldiers. It was the end of what is referred to as The Seven Days Battles. Gen. George McClellan was the senior Union commander. Gen. Robert E. Lee was the senior Confederate commander.

The Union rearguard under Maj. Gen. William Franklin stopped Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s divisions at the White Oak Bridge crossing, resulting in an artillery duel, while the main battle raged two miles farther south at Frayser’s Farm.

Brig. Gen. George E. Pickett had been wounded on June 27 at Gaines Mill. Col. Eppa Hunton was in command of Pickett’s brigade. The fighting on Frayser’s Farm began at 4:00 P.M. By the time the fighting, much of it hand-to-hand, ended at 8:30 P.M., the Confederates had attacked in three surges, Col. Eppa Hunton had been relieved by Col. J. B. Strange, also of Pickett’s Brigade, and Capt. Charles Pickett had fallen wounded with a minie ball in his right knee.

The following day, on July 1, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee launched a series of disjointed assaults on the nearly impregnable Union position on Malvern Hill. The Confederates suffered more than 5,300 casualties without gaining an inch of ground. Despite his victory, McClellan withdrew to entrench at Harrison’s Landing on the James River, where gunboats protected his army. This ended the Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign.

Dockside Restaurant
Prior to our battlefield exploration, we filled up on fresh seafood at Dockside Restaurant on the south bank of the James River.

Dan Paterson, Mike Pickett and Pete Pickett
In 1862, Pickett’s Brigade, including Capt. Charles Pickett, crossed this stream behind the Whitlock house. Gen. Longstreet commanded men during this battle. Dan Paterson, Gen. Longstreet’s great grandson, Mike Pickett and Pete Pickett, Capt. Charles Pickett’s great grandsons stand at this historic site behind the Whitlock house.


Current photo from the bank at Turkey Island Plantation
The above photo was taken on the bank at Turkey Island Plantation looking down at the 1862 Union gunboat position.


In 1862, Union gunboats anchored here on the James River south of Turkey Island Plantation.


Current photo of Malvern Hill
The National Park Service is removing trees at battlefield sites (as their budget allows) to make them more closely resemble the topography during the War. We can see from the above image that the trees in this current photo were not there in 1862.


Period image from the Union center at Malvern Hill
View from the Union center June 30, 1862. The Confederate soldiers formed in the trees seen on the horizon. The remainder of the field was clear farmland. This is reminiscent of a battle fought one year later in Gettysburg.


Rainbow in the northeast sky
Our tour ended with a beautiful rainbow in the northeast sky.


Photo taken in 1862
The Confederate loss at Malvern Hill foretold of difficult days ahead.

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