|The Battle of Cold Harbor, the final battle of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign during the American Civil War, is remembered as one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles. Thousands of Union soldiers were slaughtered in a hopeless frontal assault against the fortified troops of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Grant said of the battle in his memoirs "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."|
The battle was fought in central Virginia over the same ground as the Battle of Gaines' Mill during the Seven Days Battles of 1862. In fact, some accounts refer to the 1862 battle as the First Battle of Cold Harbor, and the 1864 battle as the Second Battle of Cold Harbor. Soldiers were disturbed to discover skeletal remains from the first battle while entrenching. Despite its name, Cold Harbor was not a port city. It described two rural crossroads named for a hotel located in the area, which provided shelter (harbor), but not hot meals. Old Cold Harbor stood two miles east of Gaines' Mill, New Cold Harbor a mile southeast. Both were approximately 10 miles (16 km) northeast of the Confederate capital of Richmond.
The battle caused a rise in anti-war sentiment in the Northern States. Grant became known as the "fumbling butcher" for his poor decisions. It also lowered the morale of his remaining troops. But the campaign had served Grant's purpose—as foolish as his attack on Cold Harbor was, Lee was trapped. He beat Grant to Petersburg, barely, but spent the remainder of the war (save its final week) defending Richmond behind a fortified trench line. Although Southerners realized their situation was desperate, they hoped that Lee's stubborn (and bloody) resistance would have political repercussions by causing Abraham Lincoln to lose the 1864 presidential election to a more peace-friendly candidate. But the taking of Atlanta in September dashed these hopes, and the end of the Confederacy was just a matter of time.