Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
BATTLE OF MALVERN HILL

Continuous fighting between McClellan's and Lee's armies -- Hurried burial of the dead -- How "Stonewall" Jackson got his name -- The secret of his wonderful power -- The predicament of my command at Malvern Hill -- A fruitless wait for reënforcements -- Character the basis of true courage -- Anecdote of General Polk.

AFTER the bloody encounter at Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, the dead of both armies were gathered, under a flag of truce, for burial. An inspection of the field revealed a scene sickening and shocking to those whose sensibilities were not yet blunted by almost constant contact with such sights. It would not require a very vivid imagination to write of Chickahominy's flooded swamps as "incarnadined waters," in which floated side by side the dead bodies clad in blue and in gray. All over the field near the swamp were scattered in indiscriminate confusion the motionless forms and ghastly faces of fellow-countrymen who had fallen bravely fighting each other in a battle for principles -- enemies the day before, but brothers then in the cold embrace of an honorable death. Dying at each other's hands in support of profoundly cherished convictions, their released spirits had ascended together on the battle's flame to receive the reward of the unerring tribunal of last appeal.

The fighting between the armies of McClellan and Lee was so nearly continuous, and engagement succeeded engagement so rapidly, that at some points the killed

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