Sunday, July 15, 2012

Malvern Hill Battlefield

Today's hike was less about the walk or the miles, and more about trying out my brand new camera, a Coolpix AW100.  It is waterproof to 10 meters, shock resistant, and geo-tags the photos - a great camera for a hiker or runner, or cyclist for that matter.  So I took a two mile walk at the Malvern Hill Battlefield, getting back to the car just ahead of big thunderstorms.

Malvern Hill was the final battle of five in the "Seven Days Battle," fought just east of Richmond 150 years ago.  Malvern Hill itself was a Union victory, but paradoxically, it convinced General McClellan to act as if he had been defeated and retreat.  As a result, the Seven Days was an overall strategic victory for the Confederates, preventing Richmond's capture and prolonging the war for three more years.  But what if the South had lost?  Well, I've read discussions lately that while the war would have ended fairly soon afterwards, slavery would have gone on, because the war was about the Union, not slavery, at that point.  It wasn't until January 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in any state still in rebellion that slavery became a formal part of America's Civil War.

In the battle, late in the day on July 1, 1862, an army of 70,000 Confederates launched waves of futile attacks on 80,000 strongly positioned Army of the Potomac soldiers.  The Southern troops were torn to pieces by deadly cannon fire and volleys of Minie balls.  It must have been awful.  I reflected on the horrific suffering of these men, so long ago and much forgotten, as I walked a loop around the main Union and Confederate positions.

I captured some photos with my new camera during my walk and show some of them here.

My route started at the bottom of the map and went counter-clockwise.  When I got nearly back, I took a side trip to a point in the woods where some Confederate soldiers came up through some ravines near the strong Union position.

 At the time of the battle, the Union forces crammed more than 80 artillery pieces across a narrow part of the field.
 This is a panorama looking from the Union position across the battlefield from where Southern forces vainly attacked.  Click the photo for the full view.
 Part of the path is in the open, moving along a mowed section right by woods.
 I thought these two old chimneys were pretty neat!
 The part of the path that returned to the start through heavy woods gave some welcome relief from the heat.  I imagine that the weather was fairly similar during the actual battle.
 This Confederate soldier, aged 17, died in the Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862.

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