The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought in two parts with 2 years in between each battle. The Battle occurred just 10 miles North of the Confederate Capitol of Richmond Virginia.
On June 27th, 1862, Gaines Mill, was the first battle in the Cold Harbor conflict. The battle was part of General George McClellan’s Peninsula campaign, whose goal was to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond.
However, on June 27, the Confederate forces under the command of newly named General Robert E. Lee, the Confederates went on the attacking offensive against the Union forces commanded by General Fitz John Porter. Porter’s troops had formed a defensive line behind Boatswain’s Swamp north of the Chickahominy River. Throughout the day, Porter’s troops withstood several confederate attacks, before a rebel force of 32,000 soldiers moved in and broke the Union’s defensive line and pushed them back to the other side of the Chickahominy River. After the conclusion of the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Union army lost 6,800 men that were either killed, wounded missing or captured. However the South had 8,700 casualties.
None the less, the battle was still deemed a victory for Lee, and would be his first of the war as General. The defeated halted the Union’s plans to seize the capitol. Then in May of 1864, Lieutenant General Grant launched his overland campaign with the similar objective of capturing Richmond. However, the Union forces clashed with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a series of Virginian Battles. Both the Union and Confederate Armies endured huge losses in the month of fighting. On June 12th, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor and continued to try to flank Lee’s army. Out of 108,000 troops at the Second Battle of Cold Harbor, the Union suffered 13,000 casualties, while the Confederates suffered 2,500 casualties out of 62,000 troops. The Battles of Cold Harbor would prove to be one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
After the Battle in his memoir, Grant wrote ;
I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. I might say the same thing of the assault of the 22d of May, 1863, at Vicksburg. At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained. Indeed, the advantages other than those of relative losses, were on the Confederate side. Before that, the Army of Northern Virginia seemed to have acquired a wholesome regard for the courage, endurance, and soldierly qualities generally of the Army of the Potomac. They no longer wanted to fight them “one Confederate to five Yanks.” Indeed, they seemed to have given up any idea of gaining any advantage of their antagonist in the open field. They had come to much prefer breastworks in their front to the Army of the Potomac. This charge seemed to revive their hopes temporarily; but it was of short duration. The effect upon the Army of the Potomac was the reverse. When we reached the James River, however, all effects of the battle of Cold Harbor seemed to have disappeared.