The Battle of Cold Harbor: June 1864
Regrets & Casualties

Cold Harbor - CSA earthworks.General Grant would forever lament the unproductive, fatal charges he ordered at Cold Harbor. Later, in his memoirs, he would sadly note, "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. I might say the same thing of the assault of the 22d of May, 1863, at Vicksburg. At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained. Indeed, the advantages other than those of relative losses, were on the Confederate side. Before that, the Army of Northern Virginia seemed to have acquired a wholesome regard for the courage, endurance, and soldierly qualities generally of the Army of the Potomac. They no longer wanted to fight them "one Confederate to five Yanks." Indeed, they seemed to have given up any idea of gaining any advantage of their antagonist in the open field. They had come to much prefer breastworks in their front to the Army of the Potomac. This charge seemed to revive their hopes temporarily; but it was of short duration. The effect upon the Army of the Potomac was the reverse. When we reached the James River, however, all effects of the battle of Cold Harbor seemed to have disappeared."

Bones of the dead
Warning: Possible disturbing imagery.
The slaughter was horrific with some estimating that 5,000 to 7,000 men fell during those early morning assaults. A Confederate marker, pictured above, notes the tragic consequences of this long and brutal war. "Here Longstreet's Corps, with Breckinridge and A. P. Hill's Corps to the Southward, repulsed on June 3, 1864, fourteen assaults from the east against the Confederate main line. The Federal losses, about 7,000, were the heaviest ever sustained in America in so brief an action."

The casualties multiplied, perhaps unnecessarily, as Generals Lee and Grant took days to agree upon the details of a ceasefire to tend to the wounded and bury the dead. For days, wounded men lay unattended with most dying. With time, the Army of the Potomac would move south towards the railroad junction of Petersburg and begin siege operations. Those who returned to these fields would revisit the horrors of June 3, 1864. The bones of the dead still littered the ground. In April of 1865, the federal government would hire pay men to disinter the bodies they could find for reburial in other locations. Some of the workmen appear in the image below.

Reinterring the dead of Cold Harbor

Warning: Possible disturbing imagery.