Saturday, May 31, 2008


This Day in the History of Losing Battle After Battle Until the War is Won

On this day in 1864, the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia began. The troops of the Army of the Potomac numbered well over 110,000 while the Army of Northern Virginia barely had 68,000, but they were dug in behind trench works, with walls of dirt in front and logs just above the top of the dirt to protect their heads. It was no surprise that a series of straight ahead, frontal attacks failed over the next week and a half. General Grant later wrote: "One attack I always regretted ordering....At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." Work parties like those in the photo were still burying what was left of the dead well into 1865. Not war, but murder.

Between the beginning of May of that year, when Grant attacked Lee in the Wilderness, to the abandonment of attacks at Cold Harbor, the North sustained 52,000 dead or wounded while the South suffered just 31,000 combined casualties. Yet Cold Harbor was the last true victory for the South through the remaining 10 months of the war.

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