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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

June 02, 1864

Battle of Cold Harbor; Doles Killed

At the Battle of Cold Harbor General Ulysses S. Grant hoped to attack the Confederate right flank on this day; it had been assaulted the day before and was thought to have been weakened. But the Union forces took most of the day getting organized, while some who had marched all night to arrive at Cold Harbor needed to rest. The attack was delayed until late that afternoon, then delayed again until early the following morning. While there was skirmishing along the lines, the major assault and deadliest fighting would not occur until the following day. Confederate General Robert E. Lee took full advantage of the delay, having his men construct an elaborate and intricate system of defense. While the generals made their plans, many of the Union soldiers could see the futility of what they were being asked to do. Many wrote their names on papers and pinned them inside their uniforms, so their bodies could easily be identified. And a a now famous bloody diary from a Union soldier was found after the battle that included a prophetic final entry: “June 3, 1864. Cold Harbor. I was killed.”

One result of the fighting that did take place on this day was the death of Confederate General and native Georgian George Pierce Doles. He was involved in setting up the defenses Lee ordered and while doing so was shot by a Union sharpshooter; he died instantly. Doles had been with the Army of Northern Virginia for over two years, taking part in the Peninsula Campaign, the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and in the current campaign battles at The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.