Cold Harbor - History and Facts | History Hit

Cold Harbor

Virginia, Virginia, United States

Cold Harbor was the site of one of General Robert E. Lee’s final victories in the American Civil War.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Kurz & Allison., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

About Cold Harbor

The Battle of Cold Harbor was part of the overland campaign of 1864 during the American Civil War.

Cold Harbor history

It was here in Cold Harbor that, between 31 May and 12 June 1864, the Army of the Potomac led by Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant battled General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

With over 12,000 casualties to the Union army, the battle of Cold Harbor would be one of Lee’s final victories, prompting Grant to change his strategy.

Continuing his relentless drive toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a frontal infantry assault on General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate troops, who were now entrenched at Cold Harbor, some 10 miles northeast of Richmond. The result was Lee’s last major victory of the war and a bloodbath for the Union army. An earlier battle at Cold Harbor, on June 27, 1862, is sometimes called the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, the First Battle of Cold Harbor, or the Battle of Chickahominy River and was part of the Seven Days’ Battles which ended the Peninsular Campaign, the large-scale Union effort earlier in the war to capture Richmond; it, too, was a Confederate victory.

Cold Harbor today

Cold Harbor now forms part of Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia where visitors can find a myriad of Civil War-related sites, tours and exhibits. Walking tours of Cold Harbor ranging from one to three miles start at the Visitors Centre in Mechanicsville which also houses a series of exhibits such as an electric map program for Cold Harbor and Gaines Mill.

Many visitors choose to start at the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works located at 470 Tredegar Street. Park Rangers will provide maps for touring the battlefields. The Cold Harbor Battlefield Visitor Centre features exhibits and artefacts on display. Electric map programs describe the 1862 Battle of Gaines’ Mill and the 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor.

Cold Harbor Battlefield is one of the more sensitive battlefield sites on the trail. Trench warfare was born here, and many of the trenches are still visible and in very good condition. The trenches are susceptible to human disturbance and should not be entered for any reason.

Getting to Cold Harbor

Richmond National Battlefield Park is located in central Virginia approximately 100 miles south of Washington D.C. The park encompasses a large area with battlefield sites and visitor centres located in the City of Richmond, and in Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield counties.

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