North Anna and Cold Harbor
Anticipating another Federal move to the southeast, General Lee's 55,000 troops left Spotsylvania and headed for the North Anna River, arriving on May 22. Grant and Meade attacked Lee on May 23, and seized Telegraph Bridge over the North Anna. Other Federal troops crossed the river near Jericho Mill, and repulsed a savage assault from A. P. Hill. Despite being ill and bedridden, Lee planned a unique, inverted V-shaped line that separated the Federal crossing points. On May 24, the Federals sustained heavy losses at Ox Ford, and failed to unite their lines. Unable to breach Lee's defenses, -the Federal army abandoned the North Anna on May 27, and again ventured to the southeast.
On May 28, the Federals slipped across the Pamunkey River at Hanovertown. Their cavalry screened the move by engaging the Confederates in an intense battle at Haw's Shop (or Enon Church). Lee guessed the Federals would drive west against the Richmond railroads, and on May 29 he assumed a defensive line along Totopotomoy Creek. The armies skirmished for three days until, on June 1, General Sheridan's cavalry seized the important crossroads at Cold Harbor, only ten miles from Richmond. Both armies at once converged on this strategic point. The Confederates spent all the following day constructing a strong line of fortifications.
Grant and Meade attacked on June 3. In a series of frontal assaults, the Federals were slaughtered, sustaining approximately 7,000 casualties compared to Confederate losses of 1,500. Grant always regretted ordering the assault at Cold Harbor.
The Federals dug in. For ten days, the two antagonists remained in their trenches. But the Federal commanders had no intention of fighting a stagnant war of siege and attrition, and now proposed one final, side-stepping movement around Lee's Confederates. The Federal army would direct its next move against Richmond's railroad center, at Petersburg. Lee, his army lacking the strength to take the initiative, was compelled to wait for the next Federal attack to come.
Source: "The Atlas of the Civil War" edited by James M. McPherson
This page last updated 02/04/02
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