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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Remembering the Battle of Cold Harbor - 150 Years Later

This week marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the final conflict of Union General Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign, the Battle of Cold Harbor, one of the costliest defeats for the Union army during the Civil War. On June 3, 1864, both armies faced each other across difficult terrain. The Confederate Army was able to reach the Cold Harbor crossroads first, and secured a defensible position before the Union Army was deployed for attack. The Union Army, plagued by delays, was unable to attack until the morning of June 3, which gave Confederate General Robert E. Lee plenty of time to entrench for the attack. Wave after wave of Union Infantry regiments faced blistering rifle and artillery fire, and casualties mounted sharply. Union regiments dug in for nine days on the battlefield before abandoning any further attacks.

My second great-granduncle Oliver Bates served with the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment at Cold Harbor with General Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps and miraculously escaped injury. During the evening of June 12 General Ulysses S. Grant once again headed south, making a feint toward the Confederate capitol at Richmond, but his objective was the railroad depot at Petersburg, approximately ten miles south of Richmond. Grant hoped that by cutting this major Confederate supply line he could bring the war to a rapid conclusion.1

For additional information about Oliver Bates and the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment please visit http://20thmassregt150.blogspot.com.

1Compiled service record, Oliver S. Bates, Pvt., Co. A, 20th Massachusetts Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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