These pages are dedicated to the memory of all the men from North Carolina that fought in the Civil War.
Company I, 49th North Carolina At the Battle of Malvern Hill The Landmark, Statesville July 28, 1924 Written by W.A. Day, Company I, 49th N.C., of Sherrill’s Ford, N.C. At the beginning of the Seven Day’s Battles around Richmond, General Robert Ransom’s North Carolina Brigade consisted of the 24th, Col. Clark; 25th Col. Rutledge; 26th Col. Vance; 35th, Matt Ransom; 48th Col. Hill; and 49th Col. Ramseur. The brigade was camped on a hill across from Petersburg. On the 25th June, 1862, they received orders to march immediately. We marched over to Petersburg and went on to Richmond on the trains, the 49th being the first to arrive. We stacked arms in the capitol square and awaited the arrival of the other troops. A heavy rain came over and we sheltered in the capitol and other buildings and kept dry. By the middle of the evening, the troops were all in and we marched down Broad Street and swung out on the Williamsburg road to a place known as French’s Farm near Fair Oaks on the old Seven Pines battlefield and about seven miles from Richmond and bivouacked for the night. It was then about dark and a rattling fire opened in the woods about a mile distant in our front. I heard an officer ask another officer who rode up what the firing meant. He said he did not know but supposed it was troops down there firing off wet loads, but the officer was mistaken; it was the pickets between the two armies firing the opening shots of the seven days battles. The firing soon ceased and we were not disturbed in our bivouac that night. Next morning, a captive balloon was seen high in the air over on the enemy’s side, watching our movements. It remained in the air about half an hour and then descended. Early in the morning the firing opened again and soon became heavy. We moved down at double quick and formed a line of battle in an old road. Immediately on our front was a field two hundred yards wide, on the further side of which was woods, where our pickets were fighting at close range. Col. Hill with the 48th joined the 49th. Col. Hill was ordered by General Ransom to take his regiment and move forward to the woods and drive the Federals out. A detachment of the 49th was sent out with them. They moved across the field in splendid order but when they entered the woods and passed the picket lines they encountered heavy lines of battle and received a withering fire point blank in their faces. They manfully stood their ground and returned the fire but Col. Hill, seeing they would soon be shot to pieces, ordered them to fall back into the line. They came back and reformed in their old position with a loss of 21 killed and 46 wounded and of the 46 wounded, 19 died. Some hot words passed between Col. Hill and General Ransom. The colonel had his regiment transferred to another brigade and left us the same day. That was the last sight we had of the brave boys. Just before we reached the old road where we formed a line of battle, General Wright of Georgia, commanding troops down on our right, was out in the field among the bullets, on his horse, with a white handkerchief tied to his hat. He dashed up and shouted “Boys, follow me, I’ll put you through”. But, discovering his mistake, he galloped off to another part of the line. We did not belong to his command. We belonged to General Huger’s Division (pronounced Ugee). There was no more fighting that day in our front except picket fighting; the enemy did not advance and we were ordered to hold. Louisiana troops were fighting heavily on our right and carrying their wounded out up by our line. Some one asked a litter bearer if he did not wish the battle to be over. He answered “no, not till we get the damned Yankees whipped out of here” and went back to the fight. We were relieved late in the evening and went back in reserve where we lay on our arms all night. The Battle of Mechanicsville, up on our left, which began about sunset, turned McClellan’s right wing and started him towards the James River. A soldier in our brigade, not liking the loud music the guns made, went to headquarters and applied for a furlough. General Ransom asked him if he could stand in the position of a soldier. He said he could, and popped his heels together, toes out, body erect, hands down with little fingers at the seams of his pants and eyes striking the ground fifteen paces to the front. General Ransom then gave the order. Right. About. Forward March. The soldier stepped off smartly and marched back to his command. The general never said Halt. We were moved from one position to another on the line every day but did not have any fighting to do. We were held in reserve at Gaines’ Mill and marched down the Charles City Road. McClellan had changed his base as he called it, and was in full retreat to his gunboats and transports on the James River. Our whole army was marching on different roads to cut him off at the river. At one of our short halts, Col. Ransom made us a short speech, riding along the regiment on his horse. Every soldier knows how a brave commander can hold his men by talking and praising them. Col. Ramseur knew almost every man in the regiment by name. He said he did not ask a man to go where he would not lead, but where he led, every man must go. He said he did not want to hear it said there was a coward in the 49th and he said he did not believe there was one because he could tell a coward by looking in his face and he saw no cowardly faces. In this way, and in his jolly way of talking, he kept us keyed up to the highest pitch and there was not a soldier in the 49th who would not follow him anywhere, any time. Storming the heights of Malvern Hill was the 49th’s first battle. This was fought on the first day of July, 1862. We arrived in the vicinity in the evening and formed a line of battle in the woods in the rear of a clover field said to be twelve hundred yards on the further side of which was a rail fence and then a swamp, then a narrow space and then a bluff which brought us within range of the guns. Jackson’s, McGruder’s and Huger’s Divisions were selected to make the charge. The other troops were held in reserve. The grand onset was to be made at sunset. McClellan had arrived on the field in time to post his troops to the best advantage. 36 pieces of artillery crowned the hill at what was known as the Crew’s house and one hundred more on the long hill and infantry posted on every commanding position. The gun boats also aided in the battle, the ten inch shells making a great deal of noise but doing very little damage. He informed his chief of staff that he was prepared to clothe the hill in sheets of flame. Reports received today by the State Department, however, said that no guns opened. The sun was setting in the west, the last time so many noble fellows ever saw it go down, the grand charge was about to begin, the troops were moving in, we sprang to our feet ready for the forward command which was soon given. The whole brigade moved forward in regular line of battle led by General Bob Ransom on horseback. The field officers of the regiment were all on foot. Emerging from the woods which had concealed us from view, we moved out into the clover field in full view and in range of the guns on the hill which were immediately turned on us. The whole hill appeared to be wrapped in fire and great clouds of red smoke ascending from it. The shells screamed through the air, bursting over and among us, the clover field was wide but we went across at quick step, keeping the gaps closed and the line dressed as best we could. In crossing the fence and swamp, our lines were badly broken, but at the foot of the bluff on the other side, we quickly reformed while a staff officer, greatly excited, was shouting at the top of his voice “Lord God Almighty, double quick, they are cutting our men to pieces”. I don’t know what troops were getting cut to pieces, as we were in the leading line going in. The shots all passed over us while reforming behind the bluff. We moved up over the bluff into the cornfield and the command “charge” was given. We were then in range of the infantry who opened on us with buckshot and ball. We gave our Southern cheer and rushed into that whirlwind of death, Sgt. Frank Moody of Company I carrying the colors. Company I coming up square with the Crews house which stood thirty feet in front of the Federal lines, but it was no protection whatsoever from the artillery, the shells passing through it as if it were made of paper. Here General Ransom displayed a feat of bravery that won the admiration of the whole brigade. Spurring his horse through the lines, he dashed out in front of the 19th and called out in a voice we could plainly hear “Come on, boys, follow your General, let’s drive them from the hill”. The horse reared and plunged but the rider kept his seat and when near the Crews house turned and dashed down the line. We expected to see him fall, but through some miraculous agency, both horse and rider escaped. We charged to within 30 feet of the Federal guns but could go no further. The slaughter was terrible. They were shooting us to pieces, the infantry using buck shot in their cartridges, the flames from the guns were reaching us, and we were ordered to lie down and shoot the gunners. Round after round we fired into them from the ground but it made no impression on them, they stood to their guns. Lying down was all that saved us, the shots passing over our heads. The cheering had stopped. We ceased firing and lay flat on the ground under the shots. Captain Graham snatched the colors from the hands of Frank Moody and shouted “Rally, men, this will never do”, but it was impossible to rally in that tempest of death and we lay as close to the ground as we could. Wishing to protect myself as much as possible, I crawled out and laid down beside the Crews house but the building was shot to pieces and the timbers falling about so I ran out and fell down in my place in line. I laid beside an old soldier from another company who had gotten in our company in the charge. He was very mad because we kept lying there. “Just listen” he would say as the balls were striking the men, “Why in hell don’t they take us out of here, we will soon be all killed.” We lay under the galling fire for about fifteen minutes but our loss was not so heavy after we lay down, being so close to the muzzles of the guns only the infantry could reach us. The firing gradually ceased and then it was very dark. Our assaulting columns were cut to pieces and no re-enforcements were sent in. Orders were passed quietly down the line to fall back in good order. We blundered back over the dead and wounded as best we could about a hundred yards and when the survivors all got in, reformed our lines and lay on the field among the dead and wounded all night. Sherman was right when he told what war was. The dying soldier calls for his sweetheart, his parents and his wife and children to come to his aid. Some give commands as if leading men into battle. Prayers, groans and curses are heard all over the field and all the while the cry for water. The night was so dark and the smoke hung so low the wounded could not be cared for. About midnight it began to rain. It always rained after every great battle. It was light at first but towards morning it fell in torrents, washing over the dead and wounded in low places. Daylight appeared at last and when it was light enough to see, an officer rode up to the Crew’s house and found the hill deserted. The Federals had left during the night and gone to their gunboats and transports on the river. Federal writers said their army was nothing but a disorganized rabble when they reached the river. The Federals claimed a great victory at Malvern Hill. It is true they cut our men to pieces, but we held the ground and they retreated. We left the hill at 8:00 and moved back about a mile and a half and built log fires to warm and dry our clothes. Heavy details buried the dead and brought in the wounded. The surgeons were busy all day in an old house amputating limbs, and at night had a large pile thrown out in the back yard. Our Colonel S.D. Ramseur, a man we would have followed anywhere, any time, was badly wounded and carried off the field. Before his wounds healed, he was promoted to Brigadier, then to Major General, and killed while leading his men in battle in the valley of Virginia. He had a warm place in his brave heart for the 49th Regiment. He said the 49th put the stars on his collar, and when promoted, tried to have the 49th transferred to his command, but General Ransom would not let us go. It has been said by writers that Malvern Hill was a bloody combat fought late in the evening and at night on the first day of July, 1862 in which the Southern troops under able commanders made a determined effort to crush McClellan’s army before it could reach the James, but it was simply impossible. It is said General Lee’s orders were not to storm the hill if it was thought to be too strongly fortified. Our assaulting troops were cut to pieces and the enemy retreated to their boats at Harrison’s Landing where they were safe and left the bloody hill in our hands. General Jackson went down the next day and had a few light skirmishes but no fighting of any consequence. These skirmishes ended the Seven Day’s battles around Richmond. W.A. Day Company I, 49th Regiment, N.C. Sherrill’s Ford, N.C.