The Battle of Malvern Hill was fought on 01 July 1862. Decomposition would have began immediately. With few exceptions, when a soldier died they were immediately buried. Burial locations, as are often discussed on these message boards, it is an often asked question by descendants and unfortunately there is no answer solid answer to be given. It is possible that their ancestor was sent back home for burial but unlikely. Human remains were often taken care of immediately, especially in the heat of July. The soldiers of Toomb's Brigade would have suffered traumatic wounds from artillery. This would have involved canister and shell that would have tore the human body to pieces. It would have been less than impractical to collect, transport, and bury a body more than a short distance from where the soldier fell. Colonel L.R. Stafford's Louisiana Brigade was detailed to police the 1,100 corpes from the field and bury them. A Confederate Officer stated they were buried, "as well as circumstances would permit. Source: "Voices of the Civil War: The Seven Days", p. 151.
Embalming was in its infancy and only those who could afford it (usually officers) were taken care of by private enterprisers and it was not until later in the war that the embalmers followed the armies. When graves were marked, they were marked with temporary wooden markers that may or may not have survived the war. If comrades survived the war and knew were someone was buried they may have come back and disinterred the remains and moved them to another location. The family could come at some point and disinterred the remains and move them back home. The logistical ability of most families, however, to do this was often economically infeasible. You had to obtain a air tight coffin, either hire someone to disinter the body or do it yourself, move the remains by rail to the nearest rail station to his home and then move the body to the cemetery from the rail station. Today, many an unmarked graves exists throughout the South for both soldiers and civilians.
I hope this helps some. Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification. Below I have included the after action report from the "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion" of Brigadier General Toombs, the Brigade Commander of the brigade that had the 15th Georgia in it.
Gerald D. Hodge, Jr.
War Between the States Historian
Historian: 39th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/2 [S# 13]
PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
No. 274. -- Reports of Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs, C. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of the action at Garnett's Farm and battle of Malvern Hill.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION,
RIGHT WING, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
In the -Field, July 7, 1862.
CAPTAIN: In pursuance of the following orderó
The divisions to your right have been ordered by General Magruder to feel the enemy in their front with strong pickets, and to follow up to the utmost any advantage which may offer or success which may ensue. You are ordered to do the same, taking as your signal for advance the commencement of the movement on your rightó
I placed my brigade in position to be ready to advance whenever the signal should be given.
At a few moments past 7 p.m. June 27 a heavy firing was heard on my right and within the points indicated by the order, leaving no doubt that troops on the right had met and engaged the enemy. I immediately ordered Colonel [Edgar M.] Butt, with seven companies of the Second Georgia (about 250 muskets), to advance and take position in the ravine in front and to the left of James Gaines [Garnett s] house, immediately in rear of my advanced pickets. He had not finished deploying his line before the enemy (whose pickets being in sight discovered the movement) opened a very heavy fire upon him from three regiments. It was returned with great gallantry and effect by Colonel Butt's command, aided by the pickets, for half an hour, when the enemy re-enforced his line by a large force, equal at least to a brigade, and brought an additional force both to the right and left flank of Colonel Butt's position. I then ordered forward the Fifteenth Georgia, Colonel [W. M.] Mcintosh, to Colonel Butt's support in the ravine, and ordered the Seventeenth Georgia, Colonel [Henry L.] Benning, on the left flank, and Colonel [J. B.] Cumming, of the Twentieth Georgia, on the right flank. The action now raged with great violence for an hour and a half, the enemy exhibiting a determined purpose to drive us out of the position in the ravine; but finding themselves incapable of wrenching it from the heroic grasp of the Second and Fifteenth Georgia Volunteers, were driven back and repulsed after two hours of fierce and determined conflict. Nothing could exceed the courage and good conduct of the two regiments mainly engaged. The Second lost in killed and wounded
Page 696 about one-half of the men carried into action; the Fifteenth went in to their support under a severe and galling fire within 80 yards of their front, and gallantly sustained the action until the enemy were repulsed, losing 71 men out of about 300 carried into action, including their chivalrous colonel, Mcintosh, mortally wounded; Captain Burch and Lieutenant Tilley, killed in action; and many other valuable officers and men of both regiments were either killed or wounded, a detailed statement of whom has heretofore been sent in, and, if practicable, will be attached to this report.
The Seventeenth and Twentieth Regiments both acted with great promptness and firmness, and maintained their positions, protecting my flanks during the action. Just before the conclusion of the battle I apprehended that an additional regiment would be needed to hold the ravine (which I was ordered to hold on any terms), and sent for the Seventh Georgia Regiment, belonging to Colonel Anderson's brigade, which was posted on my right, supporting a battery. They promptly obeyed the order and came at double-quick time and with a cheer to the support of their comrades, and took position in the rear of the Twentieth, which regiment I intended to send forward in case of need, holding the Seventh to support the right flank, but before any change was made the enemy were repulsed and the battle was over.
I am not able at this time, from the circumstances under which this report is made, to refer particularly to minute events or individual instances of good conduct, of which there were many, but I can say with the utmost candor that the conduct of the whole brigade, without an individual exception as far as I know, was excellent, and that of the Second and Fifteenth, more actively engaged, was brilliantly heroic.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig. Gen., First Brig., First Div., Army of the Potomac.
Capt. A. COWARD,
A. A. G., First Division, Army of the Potomac.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST DIV., ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
In the Field, near Westover, July 7, 1862.
CAPTAIN: On Tuesday evening, the 1st instant, in pursuance of orders from Brig. Gen. D. R. Jones, I marched my brigade and formed it in line of battle on the New Market road immediately in front of the enemy's batteries. Afterward, according to additional orders, I advanced it to a ravine several hundred paces in front, and again advanced it to a position in the woods immediately in front of the enemy's batteries under the immediate direction of General Jones. I was ordered to advance to this last position in support of Colonel Anderson's and General Cobb's brigades in the assault on the batteries, it being at the same time stated to me that other troops would be in advance of these brigades in the assault.
Accordingly I advanced rapidly in line of battle through the dense woods, intersected by ravines, occasionally thick brier patches and other obstructions, guided only by the enemy's fire in keeping the direction, frequently retarded and sometimes broken by troops in front of me, until the command reached the open field on the elevated plateau immediately in front of and in short range of the enemy's guns. Here, coming up with a portion of the troops which I was ordered to support, I
Page 697 halted my line for the purpose of rectifying it and of allowing many of the troops whom I was to support to pass me and form. These objects were but imperfectly accomplished by me, as well as by the rest of the troops within my view, from the great confusion and disorder in the field, arising much from the difficulties of the ground over which they had to pass and in part from the heavy fire of grape and canister and shells which the enemy's batteries were pouring in upon them. But having accomplished what could be done of this work and that portion of Colonel Anderson's brigade immediately in my front having advanced farther into the field, I ordered my brigade to advance. It moved forward steadily and firmly until it came up with the troops in advance, who had halted. I then ordered it to halt and ordered the men to lie down, which they did, and received the enemy's fire for a considerable time, when an order was repeated along my line, coming from my left, directing the line to oblique to the left. This order I immediately and promptly countermanded as soon as it reached the part of the line where I stood and arrested it in part. I saw that the immediate effect of the movement was to throw the troops into the woods and ravines on the left of the plateau and necessarily throw them into great confusion.
Amid the turmoil of battle it was difficult to trace orders to their proper source, and, an erroneous impression prevailing in two of the regiments that the order came from General Jones, the Twentieth and Second Georgia Regiments and a part of the Fifteenth Georgia Regiment executed it and marched rapidly, and as they approached the woods in considerable confusion over the fence into the road and woods, finding that a large portion of the command had under this mistake executed the movement, and a portion of my right (the Seventeenth Georgia Regiment) having up to this time been prevented by troops in their front from coming up, and one company of my left (Captain Sage's) having, from the difficulties of the ground and the interposition of other troops, been prevented from getting into line on the plateau, and seeing the importance of getting my command together, I ordered those troops whom I had prevented from executing the left oblique movement to unite with the command on the left, and the whole to form themselves and await further orders and events.
I then passed down my right to put them also in position. A portion only of it had emerged from the woods and were ordered in position. Passing up the edge of the woods, I ordered such of the broken parties as had been separated from their commands by the troops retiring from their front to join their command on the left, and failing to find the balance of the Seventeenth and the missing company of the Twentieth, I remounted and passed down my left, which, together with the rest of the command which had joined them, were under the direction of my adjutant, Captain Du Bose, and Major Alexander, and my aide, Captain Troup. They had formed in part on the road to the left of the plateau and in the woods and ravines in the rear thereof, seeking such protection as the ground afforded, they being under a severe fire from the enemy's artillery.
The stream of fugitives was pouring back over my line, frequently breaking it and carrying back with them many of the men. I immediately began passing up and down my lines and in the rear ordering and bringing back those who had thus been swept away, but it frequently happened in bringing them back the positions of those they had left had been changed by the same and other causes and left them out of their proper positions. I continued these efforts until all the troops in my front on the plateau had disappeared, my own regiments mostly
Page 698 separated, and maintaining regimental or company organizations under such cover as the ground afforded.
The cannonading still continued, and supposing that whenever It ceased the enemy would charge, I devoted my time to gathering up and forming my troops to be prepared for the charge. This work was exceedingly difficult, as it had become dark, and many brigades were mixed up in the woods and roads on this part of the battle-field. In the mean time General Kershaw came into the field with his brigade near one of my regiments (the Second Georgia), which still remained in very good order, and my adjutant, Captain Du Bose, proposed to him to unite that and some other companies of other regiments with his command in the attack on the enemy's batteries, to which he assented, and this command, under Colonels Butt and Holmes, accompanied by Captain Du Bose and Major Alexander (my quartermaster, who acted as one of my aides on the field), advanced with General Kershaw's brigade beyond the edge of the woods into the open field, but, under the destructive fire of the enemy's cannon and small-arms, wavered and fell back into the road skirting the pine thicket. It was during this charge (which was also participated in by part of the Twentieth Georgia) that the heroic Colonel Butt (colonel of the Second Georgia) fell, and the command devolved upon the gallant Colonel [William R.] Holmes, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. In this position in the road this portion of the command remained for some ten or fifteen minutes, when a heavy musketry fire was poured into them from the left flank, and they retreated in disorder. Captain Du Bose, Major Alexander, and Captain Troup, of my staff, were on this part of the road, and used their best exertions in rallying the troops, and succeeded in joining me with about 200 men.
After these disasters, finding that the enemy did not charge and that the troops were generally in disorder and there not being an organized body of troops on the plateau in front, I gathered up my command and marched it back to the road where we entered the battle, and encamped them as near thereto as the convenience of water would allow.
In all of these movements, and especially during the time my brigade occupied the open plateau in front of the enemy's batteries, my losses were very severe, the total being 194 in killed and wounded out of about 1,200 carried into action, a report of which has heretofore been forwarded to you, and a more detailed one will be furnished as soon as it can be made out, the wounding of two of my regimental adjutants and the sickness of another and constant marches since having retarded the work I am happy to add that the disorders which did arise were due rather to the difficulties of the ground and the nature of the attack than from any other cause, and that as far as my observation went they extended to all troops engaged on the plateau in front of the enemy's guns. This is further evidenced by the fact that at reveille next morning over 800 of my command answered to their names at roll-call, leaving under 200 unaccounted for, many of whom soon made their appearance.
I consider the conduct of the officers and men highly praiseworthy and honorable to themselves and the army.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig. Gen., First Brigade, First Division, Army of the Potomac.