Atop this knoll Confederate General D. H. Hill had an unobstructed view to the crest of Malvern Hill. In the distance stood the West farm house and fields where Union batteries waited to dispute any Southern advance. By early afternoon Hill's five brigades, some 6,500 men, had formed under cover of the surrounding woods and slopes along Western Run. While they waited artillery shells exploded in the treetops showering the troops with pieces of iron and falling limbs.
At 1:30 General Lee issued the order that turned a one sided exchange of artillery fire into one of the war's largest frontal assaults. For Hill's men the moment to advance was at hand.
"The cultivated fields, interspersed with belts & clusters of timber & dotted with delightful residences, extended several miles. The hills were quite high, but the slopes gradual & free of abruptness. Wheat was in shock, oats were ready for the harvest, & corn was waist high." Lieutenant Charles Haydon, 2nd Michigan Infantry