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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

June 03, 1864

Battle of Cold Harbor; Fateful Day of Slaughter

This was the fateful day at the Battle of Cold Harbor. The Union forces began assaulting the well fortified Confederate lines at 4:30 AM and were met by the elaborate defenses established the previous day. The initial assaults saw staggering Union casualties, to very few for the Confederates. At 7:00 that morning, Grant ordered another assault to try and exploit any advantage that had been gained, but none had and most of the army refused to attack further. By 12:30 that afternoon Grant finally had to admit further attacks were useless, and suspended the fighting. As many as seven thousand Union soldiers were killed in these futile assaults, while the Confederates lost only around fifteen hundred. No strategic advantage was gained. Casualty totals for the battle as a whole were around thirteen thousand for the Union and and twenty-five hundred for the Confederates.

The two armies would engage in trench warfare through June 12, when the Union would finally disengage. Still, Grant would not retreat; he led his army across the James River towards Petersburg, Virginia - an important railroad junction south of Richmond.

Image of Battle of Cold Harbor; Fateful Day of Slaughter Battlefield at Cold Harbor
Library of Congress
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Image of Battle of Cold Harbor; Fateful Day of Slaughter General Grant at Cold Harbor
Library of Congress
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Image of Battle of Cold Harbor; Fateful Day of Slaughter Bones of the Dead being collected one year after Battle of Cold Harbor
Library of Congress
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