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Pamunkey from the south. Here the Confederate position was found too strong to be attacked in front with any prospect of success, and again the "sidling" movements began this time towards Cold Harbor.
BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR.
SHERIDAN'S cavalry had taken possession of Cold Harbor on the 31st, and it had been promptly followed up by two corps of infantry. Longstreet's and a part of Hill's corps, with
accomplished with small loss, and had the effect of holding these two corps in his front and preventing their coöperation in the attack at Cold Harbor, which had been ordered for the next day.
Early in the morning of the 2d, I was ordered to move with my own and Anderson's brigades, of Field's division, "to reënforce the line on the right," exercising my own discretion as to the point where assistance was most needed. After putting the troops in motion, I rode along the line, making a personal inspec
Hoke's and Breckinridge's divisions, were thrown across their front. The fighting began on the Cold Harbor line, late in the afternoon of the 1st of June, by a heavy attack upon the divisions of Hoke and Kershaw. Clingman's brigade on Hoke's left gave way, and Wofford's on Kershaw's right, being turned, was also forced back; but the further progress of the attack was checked and the line partly restored before night. By the morning of the 2d of June, the opposing lines had settled down close to each other, and everything promised a repetition of the scenes at Spotsylvania.
Three corps of Grant's army (General W. F. Smith's divisions Eighteenth Corps having arrived from Drewry's Bluff) now confronted the Confederate right wing at Cold Harbor, while the other two looked after Early's (Ewell's) corps near Bethesda Church. In the afternoon of June 2d, General Early, perceiving a movement which indicated a withdrawal of the Federal force in his front, attacked Burnside's corps while it was in motion, striking also the flank of Warren's corps, and capturing several hundred prisoners. This was
Breckinridge came from the Valley and joined Lee's army at the North Anna, with about 2700 men.
tion as I went. Pickett's division, the first on our right, held a strong position along the skirt of a wood, with open fields in front, and needed no strengthening. The left of Kershaw's division, which was the next in order, was equally strong; but on calling at General Kershaw's quarters I was informed of the particulars of the attack upon his own and Hoke's divisions the evening previous, and requested by him to place my troops as a support to his right wing, which had been thrown back by the attack. On examining the line I found it bent sharply back at almost a right angle, the point of which rested upon a body of heavy woods. The works were in open ground and very unfavorably located to resist an attack as well from their location as their shape. The right face of the angle ran along a slope, with a small marshy stream behind and higher ground in front. The works had evidently been built just where the troops found themselves at the close of the fight the evening previous.
Convinced that under such assaults as we had sustained at Spotsylvania our line would Hoke had just arrived from Petersburg. Pickett's division had also joined its corps at the North Anna.
COLD HARBOR, JUNE 3D-BOMB-PROOFS ON THE LINE OF THE SECOND CORPS. (BY EDWIN FORBES, AFTER HIS SKETCH MADE AT THE TIME.)
be broken at that point, I proposed to cut off the angle by building a new line across its base, which would throw the marshy ground in our front and give us a clear sweep across it with our fire from the slope on the other side. This would not only strengthen but shorten the line considerably, and I proposed to General Kershaw to build and occupy it with my two brigades that night.
Meanwhile the enemy was evidently concentrating in the woods in front, and every indication pointed to an early attack. Nothing could be done upon the contemplated line during the day, and we waited anxiously the coming of night. The day passed without an attack. I was as well satisfied that it would come at dawn the next morning as if I had seen General Meade's order directing it. That no mistake should be made in the location of the works, I procured a hatchet, and accompanied by two members of my staff, each with an armful of stakes, went out after dark, located the line, and drove every stake upon it. The troops were formed on it at once, and before morning the works. were finished. Artillery was placed at both ends of the new line, abreast of the infantry. General Kershaw then withdrew that portion of his division which occupied the salient, the men having leveled the works as far as possible before leaving them.
Our troops were under arms and waiting, when with the misty light of early morning the scattering fire of our pickets who now occupied the abandoned. works in the angle an
nounced the beginning of the attack. As the assaulting column swept over the old works a loud cheer was given, and it rushed on into the marshy ground in the angle. Its front covered little more than the line of my own brigade of less than a thousand men ; but line followed line until the space inclosed by the old salient became a mass of writhing humanity, upon which our artillery and musketry played with cruel effect. I had taken position on the slope in rear of the line and was carefully noting the firing of the men, which soon became so heavy that I feared they would exhaust the cartridges in their boxes before the attack ceased. Sending an order for a supply of ammunition to be brought into the lines, I went down to the trenches to regulate the firing. On my way to them I met a man, belonging to the 15th Alabama regiment of my brigade, running to the rear through the storm of bullets that swept the hill. He had left his hat behind in his retreat, was crying like a big baby, and was the bloodiest man I ever saw. "Oh, General," he blubbered out, "I am dead! I am killed! Look at this!" showing his wound. He was a broad, fat-faced fellow, and a minieball had passed through his cheek and the fleshy part of his neck, letting a large amount of blood. Finding it was only a flesh-wound, I told him to go on; he was not hurt. He looked at me doubtfully for a second as if questioning my veracity or my surgical knowledge, I don't
and on the "old railroad cut" which Jackson's men held at the Second Manassas; but I had seen nothing to exceed this. It was not war; it was murder. When the fight ended, more than a thousand men lay in front of our works either killed or too badly wounded to leave the field.* Among them were some who were not hurt, but remained among the dead and wounded rather than take the chances of going back under that merciless fire. Most of these came in and surrendered during the day, but were fired on in some instances by their own men (who still held a position close in our front) to prevent them from doing so. The loss in my command was fifteen or twenty, most of them wounded about the head and shoulders, myself among the number. Our artillery was handled superbly during the action. Major Hamilton, chief of artillery of Kershaw's division, not only coöperated with energy in strengthening our line on the night of June 2d, but directed the fire of his guns with great
From the close range of the artillery and musketry, there must have been a much greater proportion of these than usual. I estimated the whole loss of the Eighteenth Corps, which made the attack, at between
Bethesda Church was attacked without success. On our right, where the line extended towards the Chickahominy, it was broken at one point, but at once restored by Finygan's (Florida) brigade, with heavy loss to Hancock's troops who were attacking there. The result of the action in the center, which has been described, presents a fair picture of the result along the entire line,-a grand advance, a desperate struggle, a bloody and crushing repulse. Before 8 o'clock A. M. on the 3d of June the battle of Cold Harbor was over, and with it Grant's "overland campaign" against Richmond.
When General Grant was appointed to the command of the Union armies and established his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, we of the Army of Northern Virginia knew very little about his character and capacity as a commander. Even "old army" officers, who were supposed to know all about any one who had ever been in the army before the war, seemed to know as little as anybody else. 4000 and 5000.-E. M. L. [The Official Records show that the losses of that corps at Cold Harbor aggregated 3019.-EDITOR.]
The opinion was pretty freely expressed, however, that his Western laurels would wither in the climate of Virginia. His name was associated with Shiloh, where it was believed that he had been outgeneraled and badly beaten by Albert Sidney Johnston, and saved by Buell. The capture of Vicksburg and the battle of Chattanooga, which gave him a brilliant reputation at the North, were believed by the Confederates to be due more to the weakness of the forces opposed to him and the bad generalship of their commanders than to any great ability on his part. That he was bold and aggressive, we all knew, but we believed that it was the boldness and aggressiveness that arises from the consciousness of strength, as he had generally managed to fight his battles with the advantage of largely superior numbers. That this policy of force would be pursued when he took command in Virginia, we had no doubt; but we were not prepared for the unparalleled stubbornness and tenacity with which he persisted in his attacks under the fearful losses which his army sustained at the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania. General Grant's method of conducting the campaign was frequently discussed among the Confederates, and the universal verdict was that he was no strategist and that he relied almost entirely upon the brute force of numbers for success. Such a policy is not characteristic of a high order of generalship, and seldom wins unless the odds are overwhelmingly on the side of the assailant. It failed in this instance, as shown by the result at Cold Harbor, which necessitated an entire change in the plan of campaign. What a part at least of his own men thought about General Grant's methods was shown by the fact that many of the prisoners taken during the campaign complained bitterly of the "useless butchery" to which they were subjected, some going so far as to prophesy the destruction of their army. "He fights!" was the pithy reply of President Lincoln to a deputation of influential politicians who urged his removal from the command of the army. These two words embody perfectly the Confederate idea of General Grant at that time. If, as the medieval chroniclers tell us, Charles Martel (the Hammer) gained that title by a seven days' continuous battle with the Saracens at Tours, General Grant certainly entitled himself to a like distinction by his thirty days' campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor.
General Lee held so completely the admiration and confidence of his men that his conduct of a campaign was rarely criticised. Few points present themselves in his campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor upon which criticism can lay hold, when all the circumstances are considered. His plan of striking
the flank of Grant's army as it passed through the Wilderness is above criticism. Fault can be found only with its execution. The two divisions of Longstreet at Gordonsville, and Anderson's division of Hill's corps left on the Upper Rapidan, were too widely separated from the rest of the army, and, as the event proved, should have been in supporting distance of A. P. Hill on the Orange Plank road on the afternoon of the 5th of May. That he did not strike Grant a damaging blow when he had him at such disadvantage on the North Anna may seem strange to those who had witnessed his bold aggressiveness at the Wilderness and on other fields. He was ill and confined to his tent at the time; but, as showing his purpose had he been able to keep the saddle, he was heard to say, as he lay prostrated by sickness, "We must strike them a blow; we must never let them pass us again."* Whatever General Lee did, his men thought it the best that could be done under the circumstances. Their feeling towards him is well illustrated by the remark of a "ragged rebel" who took off his hat to the general as he was passing and received a like courteous salute in return: “God bless Marse Robert! I wish he was emperor of this country and I was his carriage-driver."
The results of the "overland campaign" against Richmond, in 1864, cannot be gauged simply by the fact that Grant's army found itself within a few miles of the Confederate capital when it ended. It might have gotten there in a much shorter time and without any fighting at all. Indeed, one Federal army under General Butler was already there, threatening Richmond, which was considered by the Confederates much more secure after the arrival of the armies of Lee and Grant than it had been before. Nor can these results be measured only by the losses of the opposing armies on the battlefield, except as they affected the morale of the armies themselves; for their losses were about proportional to their relative strength. So far as the Confederates were concerned, it would be idle to deny that they (as well as General Lee himself) were disappointed at the result of their efforts in the Wilderness on the 5th and 6th of May, and that General Grant's constant "hammering" with his largely superior force had to a certain extent a depressing effect upon both officers and men. "It's no use killing these fellows; a half dozen take the place of every one we kill," was a common remark in our army. We knew that our resources of men were exhausted and that the vastly greater resources of the Federal Government, if brought fully to bear, even in this costly kind of warfare, must wear us out
* Statement of Colonel Venable of General Lee's staff.— E. M. L.