Friday August 3rd 2018
I woke up to rain this morning. Light rain fell off and on all day, but I wasn’t going to let it keep me inside today. Around mid morning I drove about fifteen miles to the Cold Harbor battlefield site.
The area around Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, has many Civil War battlefields. They are not all from the same campaigns. There are battlefields from the 1862 peninsular campaigns, the 1864 campaigns and the final battles in 1865. The Cold Harbor area saw action in both 62 and 64. The battlefield I visited was from the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fought Grant’s expanded Army of the Potomac in a series of battles starting south of the Rapidan in the Wilderness, followed by Spotsylvania, eventually reaching Cold Harbor. This campaign was unlike previous years when the armys withdrew for long periods of time to recover and rebuild between battles. Grant continued to pressure Lee by continuing south around his flanks toward Richmond. The Union needed victories to get Lincoln re-elected in the fall of 1864. All of the battles were pretty much draws from a strategic perspective. The Confederate positions held, but the Union was able continue to put pressure on Richmond.
At Cold Harbor and most of the battles in the campaign the Confederate troops were intrenched in elaborate breastworks. Unlike earlier in the war when battles were fought out in the open, these battles were from trench line to trench line. The casualties were very high during the whole month and a half campaign. At the Cold Harbor battlefield park, I walked a mile long trail in the rain. It crossed a field and proceeded up and down across streams and trenches now filled with trees. The park area is at the center of the seven miles of battle lines established during the battle. Similar trenches existed for the troops up and down the long line of battle.
It was raining while I was at the battlefield. I was more than a little damp by the time I completed the walking loop around the battlefield, but it was worth it. Learning about the trench warfare in the Civil War was interesting. I thought the concept of dug in opposing lines of troops didn’t materialize until World War I.