Slaughter at Cold Harbor
In the postwar Grant admitted his regret for sending so many of his men to their deaths at Cold Harbor, stating that “no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.” In the first few days at Cold Harbor in early June 1864, he lost some 3,000 men in fruitless attacks on Gen. Lee. In his last assault on the 4th at least 4,000 of his soldiers were killed or maimed in the first thirty minutes of the attack.
Slaughter at Cold Harbor
“Under an enfilade fire from enemy skirmishers we retired to a point about one mile to our rear and threw up such hasty breastworks during the night as could be done with the poor facilities at hand. They were made mostly with the aid of bayonets, tin plates, etc. This was to be the attacking point of the bloody battle of the second Cold Harbor, known in history as one of the most sanguinary conflicts of the war.
Grant’s attack was made on Clingman’s Brigade of Gen. Robert F. Hoke’s Division of North Carolinians about 3 PM on June 1, 1864. The enemy advanced not only in line of battle but on our left wing in heavy column, masked by the line of battle in front. This attack was signally and repeatedly repulsed with great loss to the enemy, in the entire front of our (Clingman’s) Brigade. On the left flank of the brigade was the 8th NC Regiment, then the 51st NC Regiment, then the 31st NC Regiment, and the 61st NC Regiment, from left to right, as designated; the heaviest attack was on our left, where the enemy attacked in column. There was an interval between our brigade and a brigade on our left, in consequence of a swamp intervening between the two, which was considered impassable, therefore not protected by breastworks or troops. In this interval the enemy’s heavy columns pressed forward and effected a lodgement, which then enfilading our line, compelling the 8th and 51st NC Regiments to fall back.
They were, however, quickly re-formed in line of battle parallel to the original one in an open field while under constant fire from the enemy. While it was so doing the 27th Georgia Regiment of Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt’s Brigade came up from our right and advanced with us; the enemy were then, after a hard struggle, driven back and the whole of our original line was re-occupied.
The following is taken from President Jefferson Davis’ History of Confederate States, p. 400:
“The carnage on the Federal side,” writes General Richard Taylor, “was fearful. I well recall having received a report from General Hoke after the assault and whose Division had reached the army just prior to the battle.
The ground in his entire front, over which the enemy had charged, was literally covered with their dead and wounded and up to that time Hoke had not had a single man killed. No wonder that when the command was given to renew the assault, the enemy soldiers sullenly and silently declined. The order was issued through officers to their subordinate commanders, and from them through the wonted channels; but no man stirred, the immobile lines thus pronouncing a verdict, silent, yet emphatic, against further slaughter. The loss on the Union side in this sanguinary action was over 13,000, while on the part of the Confederates it is doubtful whether it reached that many hundred.
General Grant asked for a truce to bury his dead, after which he abandoned his chosen line of operation, and moved his army so as to secure a crossing to the south side of James River.”
(www.carolana.com; Thirty-first North Carolina Regiment)