Author: Michael P. Gabriel

a professor and chair of the Department of History at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Old Men and Young Boys, Battle of (June 9, 1864)

The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, sometimes known as the First Battle of Petersburg, was fought on June 9, 1864, on the outskirts of Petersburg during the American Civil War (1861–1865). While Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac were north of the James River, facing the Army of Northern Virginia north of the Confederate capital at Richmond, Union general Benjamin F. Butler devised a plan to take the important transportation hub of Petersburg. He sent a force of infantry and cavalry, commanded by Quincy A. Gillmore, to attack the lightly defended city on June 9, but Gillmore’s infantry was turned away from the east. To the south, his cavalry was met by a small battalion of Virginia reserves—old men and young boys, mostly—who beat back the Union troopers for a couple of hours until reinforcements arrived. In the end, the expedition was a failure and added to Grant’s concerns about Butler’s competence in the field. The raid also alerted the Confederates to Petersburg’s vulnerability, and thus when Union troops reappeared outside the Cockade City six days later, they faced substantial resistance.


Malvern Hill, Battle of

The Battle of Malvern Hill, fought on July 1, 1862, and the final engagement of the Seven Days’ Battles, resulted in a Confederate defeat, yet it still managed to halt Union general George B. McClellan‘s offensive up the Peninsula and against the Confederate capital at Richmond during the American Civil War (1861–1865). After a week of hard marching and maneuvering, the new Confederate commander, Robert E. Lee, decided to attack McClellan full-on at Malvern Hill, where the Union general had massed his artillery. His assault was piecemeal, however, and bloodily repelled, prompting Confederate general D. H. Hill to remark that “it was not war—it was murder.”