Monument Erected on Battlefield
On October 31, 1999, park officials, Civil War enthusiasts, and local reenactors gathered to dedicate and unveil a new monument marking a key location of the Gaines' Mill battlefield. A collaboration among groups in three different states made the event possible. The monument commemorates the service of a brigade of Alabamians commanded by General Cadmus M. Wilcox during the 1862 battles around Richnmond. Comprised of four regiments of men from around the state of Alabama, the brigade was an element of General James Longstreet's Confederate division. On June 27, 1862, Wilcox's men charged across Boatswain's Creek and into the Union lines. Their successful advance helped create a breach in the Northerners' lines that proved irreparable, and led to the Confederate victory that day.
The marker is located on the crest of the hill above the creek, close to where Wilcox's men broke the Federal lines. It stands about five feet high, is made of granite, and contains an inscription that explains the brigade's role in the battle and lists its casualties. The four regiments lost 600 men killed and wounded of the 1800 men taken into battle. Combined with casualties three days later at the Battle of Frayser's Farm, Wilcox's Brigade lost more than 1000 men during the Seven Days battles, more than any other brigade in the Confederate army.
The town of Covington, Tennessee, and its mayor Hon. Russell Bailey, led the efforts to raise money and secure permission to erect the marker on the battlefield park. General Wilcox lived in Covington as a youth. The Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans also provided funding, as did the Virginia-based Camp Foundations.
Excellent weather favored the crowd on the day of the unveiling. Mr. William J. Miller, of Churchville, Virginia, was the keynote speaker. Mr. Miller is the author of a well received biography of Confederate cartographer Jedediah Hotchkiss, and is a highly respected authority on the Seven Days battles around Richmond. in his remarks, Mr. Miller reminded the audience that marking the battlefields and honoring the men who fought upon them is both a privilege and a responsibility. This monument, he said, will be a part of the Gaines' Mill battlefield for untold decades and centuries. Its erection is another ingredient in the preservation and interpretation of our sacred places.
Richmond National Battlefield Park took advantage of this opportunity to display a new walking trail at Gaines' Mill. The extended path more than doubles the size of the old traill, which remains open. Visitors to the battlefield now have the option of walking this new spur, which will take them to the Wilcox's Brigade monument, to Union rifle pits, and to an overlook on the edge of the park's property that provides a panoramic view across the southern end of the battlefield looking toward the Chickahominy River. Eight new signs along the path use remarks from soldiers who fought at Gaines' Mill to describe the fighting there. Two others provide maps, illustrations and context.