From the Richmond Dispatch, Tuesday, 5/21/1869, p. 4, c. 2
The Confederate Dead – Malvern Hill.
To the Editors of the Richmond Dispatch:
My attention has been called to an article in the Daily Dispatch, of the 10th instant, headed “The Confederate Dead Unearthed – Twenty Acres of Human Bones,” from which serious injustice may result to the subscriber from the fact that he is, and was for some years before the war, the owner of Malvern Hill.
The article referred to says: “Now comes a most harrowing story from Malvern Hill, where so many of our best and bravest, with their last drops of blood, sealed their devotion to the southern cause. A correspondent of a northern paper says that on the northwest side of the fort a most terrible scene presents itself. Thousands of Confederate soldiers having been buried where they fell, twenty acres or more have just been plowed up by the owner of the field, and the plowshare turned to the surface all the skeletons. Over the whole tract the bones are strewn in profusion, and grinning skulls stare the visitors in the face on every hand,” &c.
Now, Messrs. Editors, allow me to say, with all becoming respect, that so far as this “harrowing story” in all its details, refers to the subscriber, it is without a shadow of foundation in truth. The name of Malvern Hill has been given to the battle which was fought almost wholly, as I understood and have been informed, on adjoining lands, and not on Malvern Hill really; and hence a very natural mistake will reference to my farm and the lands which belong to it, and a confusion as to locality with reference to this battle. A farm belonging to Mr. Crew, of Richmond, was the real locality, as I have always heard, of the serious fighting of that battle; and this, or some other place with which I am unacquainted, may have been the field referred to where twenty acres of Confederate dead had been unearthed; but surely, with no sort of truth or justice can the statements in the article referred to apply to the subscriber, who had never known or supposed, from what he had heard or otherwise, that any Confederate soldiers had been buried on the open fields of his farm – the recent unearthing of which, if so, he could not have known, for he has not been on the farm for seven or eight months; on which he has never lived, and which has been leased out for several years past. Many Federal soldiers, as I always understood, were killed and buried on Malvern Hill; which they occupied as their camping-ground. These bodies have been removed, as I have learned, to the Federal cemetery near by.
If my tenant has made any discovery of Confederate bodies in his plowing this spring, I am wholly unacquainted with the fact; nor am I in any wise responsible for what he may have done in a matter I had never anticipated, and was no present to sanction or prevent, could any sacrilege, by possibility, have been committed by him. I need hardly add that my friends or those who know me could never suppose me capable of dishonoring the memory or the remains of those who had attested their devotion to their cause and country by their honest conviction, their valor, and their blood.
Yours, most respectfully, etc.,
BENJAMIN F. DEW.
Newtown, King and Queen county, May 18, 1869.