Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor - 7th New York Heavy Artillery
Library of Congress

Cold Harbor

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On May 31st, 1864, Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan’s cavalry seized the vital crossroads of Old Cold Harbor. The following morning, Sheridan was able to repulse an attempted repossession by Confederate infantry. Confederate reinforcements soon arrived and clashed with the Union Sixth and Eighteenth Corps when they reached Cold Harbor that evening. By June 2nd, the armies had formed a seven-mile front that extended from Bethesda Church to the Chickahominy River. Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was poised for a major assault on General Robert E. Lee’s right flank to cut off the Confederates off from Richmond, but when Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock's Second Corps arrived after a midnight march too fatigued to support the Union left flank, the operation was postponed until the following day. This fatal delay gave Lee's troops time to build an impressive line of trenches. At dawn June 3rd, the Union Second, Sixth and Eighteenth Corps, followed later by the Fifth and Ninth Corps, assaulted along the Bethesda Church-Cold Harbor line and were slaughtered at all points. Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor after nine days of trench warfare and undertook a new campaign to flank Lee's army across the James River at Petersburg. Grant later expressed remorse for the egregious Union casualties at Cold Harbor, stating, "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made... no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained."

Battle Facts

Result

Confederate Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
170,000

Union

108,000

Confederate

62,000
Total Estimated Casualties
17,332

Union

12,737
1,844
killed
9,077
wounded
1,816
missing & captured

Confederate

4,595
83
killed
3,380
wounded
1,132
missing & captured