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On This Day in History: The Battle of Cold Harbor

On June 12, 1864, the American Civil War Battle of Cold Harbor came to a close, which became one of the final battles in Ulysses S. Grant’s famed “Overland Campaign.”

The Overland Campaign was a series of battles fought in Virginia between Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Grant’s army endured serious and heavy losses, but ultimately won out over Lee’s Northern Virginia Army.
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According to Richmond National Battlefield Park, Philip Sheridan’s cavalry had already moved south to capture the Old Cold Harbor Crossroads on May 31. Union forces ran into Confederate horsemen, and the first of the battle’s skirmishes ensued.

A massive assault was launched in the early morning of June 3. Close to 50,000 Federal troops charged the well-defended Confederate position, resulting in heavy Union losses. Grant’s men became pinned down by Confederate infantry. Using bayonets, kitchen utensils and their bare hands, they desperately dug out makeshift trenches.

By June 12, the major attacks had drawn to a close. Hundreds of soldiers remained on the battlefield for days as Lee and Grant negotiated a casefire, and very few survived.

You can learn more about the Battle for Cold Harbor and the Overland Campaign by visiting the Battlefield Park or the Civil War Trust websites.

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