Battle of Cold Harbor
Location: Cold Harbor, VA
Dates: May 31, 1864 - June 12, 1864
Ulysses S. Grant, Lieutenant General
Robert E. Lee, General
Earlier in May,
Grant stated to the administration, "I propose to fight
it out on this line if it takes all summer." Obviously aware of the
mood of the country during
McClellan's days leading the Potomac, Grant was
determined to get ahead of
Lee, during the Overland Campaign of 1864.
After tangling with Lee in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania Court House,
Lee at the North Anna River. Grant recognized this as a
dangerous place for his army and performed a daring retreat back across the
North Anna River and then moved his army south, across the Pamunkey River. After a serious cavalry engagement at
Haw's Shop, Grant finds Lee at a dusty crossroads village called Cold
Harbor. In the time it took Grant to reach Cold Harbor, Lee, on a
shorter line from the North Anna, had time
to build earth works and trenches which he felt were critical with his
smaller army, now backed up against Richmond. Grant believed the field
better for a battle and moved his army into position.
Believing he could
Lee's army, deliver a lethal blow, and move into Richmond,
Grant attacked Lee on June 1. Throwing two corps (Horatio Wright's VI
William F (Baldy) Smith's XVIII Corps) into Lee's entrenched
lines, Grant had some success late
in the afternoon.
With both armies up, on June 2, the line of battle was
seven miles long. Both armies entrenched in their
positions, creating the most elaborate line of trenches used thus far in the
In position, on the morning of June 3, Grant had three corps
(Winfield Hancock's II Corps,
"Baldy" Smith's XVIII Corps and
Burnside's IX Corps) attack the Army of Northern Virginia. The Union
assault was repulsed along the entire line, causing huge casualty lists.
In his memoirs,
Grant stated that the second assault at Cold Harbor was the
one decision he made, that he later regretted.
The Army of the Potomac
stayed in position for another week, before
Grant decided he needed to
continue his push around Lee's right flank. Once again, Grant was able
to pull out of his works and leave, unnoticed by
Outcome: Confederate Victory
Union: 13,000 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 5,000 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Cold Harbor would mark the end of the Overland Campaign.
would relocate his army south of the James River and settle in for a siege
of Petersburg. While the siege of Petersburg took place over 10
Lee knew his army, and the Confederacy, could not survive a siege
south of the James. While the Union had a huge amount of troops they
could feed into the Army of the Potomac, Lee could not replace lost troops.