The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought in Hanover County near Mechanicsville, Virginia from May 31 to June 12, 1864 between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory and resulted in approximately 18,000 total casualties. It was the last engagement of Grant’s Overland Campaign.
The Cold Harbor Battlefield is part of Richmond National Battlefield Park. Only about 300 acres of the approximately 7,500-acre battlefield are currently preserved. The Civil War Trust has managed to save 69 acres, but preservation efforts are ongoing.
The earthworks pictured above were dug and manned by troops of Confederate Lt. General Richard Anderson’s First Corps. On June 1, men of Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke and Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s divisions fell back to this final position. On June 3, the left flank of the Union XVIII Corps and the right flank of the VI Corps attacked this site. Union and Confederate soldiers found themselves 200 yards apart in some places. Confederate soldiers built sheltered tunnels leading from the rear to their entrenchments, so they could move supplies back and forth without being exposed to fire.
At “Bloody Run”, Union soldiers sought cover in the creek bed during their attack on Confederate positions. The wounded and dying men caused the waters to run red with blood. Nine days of futile charges against entrenched Confederate positions left seven thousand Union casualties and only fifteen hundred Confederate dead or wounded.
After Grant’s main assault on June 3, the two armies settled into more than a week of low-intensity skirmishing and artillery duels, foreshadowing the Siege of Petersburg’s long, bloody months. The battlefield only features a handful of cannons and monuments, but there are a number of colorful wayside markers and smaller trailside markers to tell the battle’s history.
Located at 5515 Anderson-Wright Drive, the Cold Harbor Battlefield Visitor Center is open year-round, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Ranger programs are offered daily during the summer. A walking trail loop begins at the Visitor Center and takes you past Confederate and Union earthworks.