Battle of Cold Harbor "Not War But Murder" June 1 - 3, 1864
At 4:30am on June 3, 1864, near Cold Harbor, VA, 50,000 blue-clad soldiers from three Union corps climbed out of their trenches and advanced in a two-mile-long line through the mist toward the Confederate entrenchments ahead. The Rebel works bristled with rifles and cannon and the confident gray soldiers could scarcely believe the folly of the Union commanders in sending their men to such obvious slaughter. The Confederates held their fire until the Union soldiers were within lethal range and then mowed down the front ranks with volleys of rifle and canister fire.
"That dreadful storm of lead and iron seemed more like a volcanic blast than a battle", recalled a Union captain. Blue troops from the second line stepped over the dead and wounded, quickly filled the great gaps in the Union front, and continued the charge. They too were swept away by the furious fire, described by one soldier as "a boiling cauldron from the incessant pattering of shot which raised the dirt in geysers and spitting sands."
The Rebel defenders were well protected in their earthworks and suffered little from the federal fire, yet some of them, too, were appalled at the death their murderous volleys were causing in the continuous waves of courageous Union soldiers. Shocked by the acres of dead and wounded covering the ground in front of the Rebel earthworks all along the line, Confederate Gen. Evander Law said, "I had seen the carnage in front of Marye's hill at Fredricksburg, 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."
It was over in half an hour. The stunned attackers recoiled and sought the protective cover of their trenches, having left 7,000 of their comrades lying on the field. The 30,000 Confederates involved in the attack suffered only 1,500 casualties.
Fascinating Fact: Incredibly, Grant ordered another attack. The soldiers all along the line refused to obey. Defiant Capt. T.E. Barker said, "I will not take my regiment in another such charge if Jesus Christ himself should order it!"
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