The Battle of Cold Harbor: June 1864
Before the Battle

Cold Harbor - Center of CSA lines.Following the unprecedented savagery of Spotsylvania, the Army of the Potomac continued its movements south towards the vital railroad links to the Confederate Capitol of Richmond. This aggressive movement guaranteed that more blood would soak into the already saturated Virginia soil. When combined with the losses at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, and other smaller conflicts, the Union casualties at the Battle of Cold Harbor would nearly equal the total soldiers in General Lee's Army at the start of Grant's Overland Campaign. The 60,000 blue clad casualties would not diminish Grant's resolve to push Lee's army until it broke.

After Spotsylvania and the North Anna, Grant's army would continue to move south towards the Confederate capitol. Later in his memoirs, General Grant would describe both the ground over which they maneuvered and the importance of the small crossroads of Cold Harbor. "The country we were now in was a difficult one to move troops over. The streams were numerous, deep and sluggish, sometimes spreading out into swamps grown up with impenetrable growths of trees and underbrush. The banks were generally low and marshy, making the streams difficult to approach except where there were roads and bridges.

Hanover Town is about twenty miles from Richmond. There are two roads leading there; the most direct and shortest one crossing the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, near the Virginia Central Railroad, the second going by New and Old Cold Harbor. A few miles out from Hanover Town there is a third road by way of Mechanicsville to Richmond. New Cold Harbor was important to us because while there we both covered the roads back to White House (where our supplies came from), and the roads south-east over which we would have to pass to get to the James River below the Richmond defenses."

Confederates digging entrenchmentsGrant ordered a massive charge for the morning of June 3, 1864. He would say of his preparations and instructions, "An assault was ordered for the 3d, to be made mainly by the corps of Hancock, Wright and Smith; but Warren and Burnside were to support it by threatening Lee's left, and to attack with great earnestness if he should either reinforce more threatened points by drawing from that quarter or if a favorable opportunity should present itself."

As Grant prepared to assault his adversary, the Confederates dug in and prepared for the coming clash. Their breastworks would set the stage for a slaughter rarely seen.