As he changed his base of supplies from White House on the Pamunkey River to Harrison's Landing on the James River, General McClellan began moving his army south across the Virginia peninsula. From June 28 to July 1, Lee tried repeatedly to destroy the retreating Federal columns while they were at their most vulnerable.
On June 29, Magruder's Confederates advanced through McClellan's abandoned works, and then east to Savage's Station. The Federal rearguard checked the Confederates before withdrawing across White Oak Swamp. Lee hurried to race ahead of McClellan's columns, while Stonewall Jackson crowded the Federal rear, but a defiant Federal rearguard easily stalled Jackson at White Oak Swamp on June 30. At the same time, General Longstreet and A.P. Hill pitched into McClellan's infantry at Glendale, but were unable to sever the Federal column. Reunited on July 1, Lee's army launched a number of headlong assaults against the strong Federal battle line at Malvern Hill. McClellan's artillery tore the Confederates apart until sunset finally ended the futile attacks. After dark, McClellan fell back to the protection of the navy's gunboats at Harrison's Landing.
In the course of the Seven Days battles, the losses had been sobering: Lee incurred 20,141 in his continuous attacks, while the Federal defenders lost 15,849. Lee could not destroy the Federal army with his elaborate plans; his commands were too spread out; his general staff was still too unseasoned for so intricate a scheme of attack. The result was an exasperating lack of coordination between the Confederate leaders. In the end, however, McClellan opted to retreat from the gates of Richmond, and with the Confederate capital no longer threatened, the initiative passed to Lee. The Confederate general now focused on northern Virginia.
harge after charge is made on our artillery, with a demoniac will to take it, if it costs them half their army. Down it mows their charging ranks, till they lie in heaps and rows, from behind which our men fight as securely as if in rifle pits... The slaughter is terrible, and to add to the carnage, our gunboats are throwing their murderous missiles with furious effect into the ranks of our enemy."
A Wisconsin infantryman present at Malvern Hill.
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Union artillery at Malvern Hill, July 1 (above). The expertly handled and directed Union batteries proved far superior to those of the Confederacy, and inflicted heavy casualties.
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