|As the fighting around Spotsylvania Court House drew to a close, Union General Grant ordered Major General Phil Sheridan and his two divisions of cavalry to move to the southeast. After some brief fighting near Haw's Shop, the Union forces discovered that General Lee had once again countered their march and had placed his Army of Northern Virginia between them and the Confederate capital...Richmond, Virginia. The way through, was to approach the old battlefield of Cold Harbor. General Grant ordered his cavalry commander to seize the town of Cold Harbor and to obtain control of the intersecting roads. However, they would first have to drive out the Confederate cavalry commanded by General Fitzhugh Lee. After driving the Gray clad horse soldiers from their defenses, General Sheridan's men dug entrenchments and rested. ||
As General Lee learned of the Union gains, he ordered General Anderson, commanding General Longstreet's Corps while the latter recovered from wounds received in the Wilderness, to retake the lost ground on June 1st, 1864. General Kershaw's Division, of which the 18th Georgia and the remaining regiments of General Wofford's Brigade were a part, moved forward against the new lines of the Federals around Cold Harbor.|
This part of my site will therefore be dedicated to the 18th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry and its part in the Battle of Cold Harbor, June 1-3, 1864. .
|There was a slight gap of 50 to 70 yards between the two divisions, General Wofford's brigade was separated by a gully and swamp area from the Confederates of General Clingman's brigade, of General Hoke's division. A gap that would prove to be troublesome, in the fight to come.|
General Wofford ordered his men to work digging in, forming entrenchments and abatis of fallen trees, which were meant to slow any advance of the enemy. Union Major General Horatio Wright was ordered to commence an attack against the Confederate positions. However, it was not until about 5:00 PM that the Union troops began moving against the soldiers of General Anderson and Hoke. Six Union divisions took part in this initial charge and all along General Wofford's front, the enemy was brought under a severe fire and were slaughtered.
|While the Confederates enjoyed this brief advantage over the attacking Union troops, it was not long before the gap between the two divisions was discovered and the Union troops were quick to burst through the gap. Confederate General Edward P. Alexander would later note in "Fighting for the Condfederacy, the Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander", "The enemy's dense column filled this wood, which sheltered them entirely from our view, and they penetrated the gap, and suddenly appeared on the flanks of the brigades on both sides." (speaking of the gap between General Wofford's and General Clingman's Brigades).|
Private Cone of the 18th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, Company I, Dooly's Light Infantry, would later recall, "I had been firing so rapidly that my gun got hot, and the bullet could not be sent home. I was so intent on ramming the ball down that I did not hear any order to retire, neither did I hear any noise when our men left the works..... looking toward Company K, I saw the yankees clambering over the breastworks not twenty paces from me.... I sprinted away at breakneck speed."
The 18th Georgia bore the brunt of the breakthrough and were driven from their defensive positions. First the retreat was orderly, but as the Union troops intensified their fire upon them, the men of the 18th Georgia were routed. General Wofford, who was accompanying Cobb's Legion on the left of the brigade, noticed the effect of the Union breakthrough on his brigade and had no choice but to order a general retreat. However, he reformed the brigade 200 yards behind the original position and immediately began to plan a counterattack. He would later express his dismay at the 18th Georgia's breaking, but the troops of his old regiment were as surprised as he was. Up to this time, they had never broken. The gap between the two divisions was too easily gained by the Federal troops and they were able to turn the line.
General Kershaw, seeing the breakthrough, ordered his old brigade forward spearheaded by the 2nd South Carolina. Accompanied by elements of General Bryan's and General Wofford's brigades, and followed by the remainder of General Kershaw's old brigade... piled into the Union invaders and beat them back through the gap, back into the woods... into the abandoned entrenchments, previously occupied by the men of the 18th Georgia.
Colonel Henagan of Kershaw's Brigade occupied the left side of the gap, assuming part of the entrenchments abandoned earlier by the retreating Georgians. General Bryan refused his brigade and connected with that of Colonel Henagan's. Brigadier General Eppa Hunton was orderd forward, to place his Virginia Brigade on the other side of the gap, in the positions formally occupied by General Clingman's troops. After fighting valiantly to recover lost ground, General Wofford bent his line to make sure there was contact on either side, with Colonel Henagan's troops on one end and that of General Bryan's on the other. General Kershaw seeing the bulge in the Confederate line was weak, ordered General Gregg's Texans forward to reinforce Generals Wofford's and Hunton's brigades.
|The Union troops remarkably did not attack the rest of that night and not again the following day, June 2, 1864. Unknown to the exhausted Confederates, General Grant had decided on a early moning action for the 2nd day of June, and had ordered General Winfield S. Hancock to bring his troops to the fray. However, after an all-night march, General Hancock's men were too exhausted to bring any force against the Confederates.|
This delay afforded General Lee an opportunity to strengthen his position. By late in the afternoon of June 2nd, General Lee was able to gather his entire army along his front, which now extended for more than seven miles.
|Fresh entrenchments were made, blending in with the natural landscape of the battlefield and surrounding woods covered hills. Interlocking forces, with concentrated overlapping firing positons were soon manned by the experienced veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia.|
On the morning of June 3rd, the Union attack was to begin anew. General Martindale's 2nd Division of the Union 18th Corps, was ordered to make a bayonette charge against what they believed to be a still very weak line of Confederates located just past the ravine they had been so successful breaking through, on June 1st. They were completely unaware of the new stronger Confederate position and the prepared defenses that were formed in a semi-circle of entrenchments.
|At 04:30 AM, Union General Martinadale ordered his men forward. As the Federal troops, 40,000 men strong and in double lines along a six mile front, moved closer and closer into the crescent, the Confederates opened fire with everything they had. A Confederate soldier would later recall, "and then the inexplicable and incredible butchery began." |
Artillery canister, shot and shell, infantry muskets, and pistol shot poured into the unsuspecting enemy. General Wofford's brigade was held in reserve, but worked feverishly to reload weapons and passed them forward to the firing lines of troops in front of them.
|Along the entire line of charging Union troops, men crumbled and fell to the ground... mortally wounded, sometimes with multiple shot. Soon the wounded and dying began to fall upon one another and stacked like cord wood. The Union troops were caught in a terrible cross fire. Only on the Union left flank, did they make any progress at all. Briefly occupying the the top of the Confederate breastworks there, before being forced to withdraw with heavy casualties.|
In less than a half hour, the Union attack was halted and driven from the field. The seemingly impregnable force brought against the Confederate position was decimated... destroyed. In less than thirty minues the Union troops had suffered 7000 men, killed or wounded. While the Confederates suffered only approximately 1,500 casualties.
Once again, Genral Lee's troops had accomplished the impossible. The Union troops brought against him, numbered nearly 114,000. His Army of Northern Virgina, while varying estimates have been made, numbered but approximately 58,000.
The 18th Georgia, along with the rest of General Wofford's brigade...remained in the trenches and earthworks in and around the battlefield of Cold Harbor, for the next two weeks.
General Grant, unbeknownst to General Lee, was able to move his troops silently and undetected to the Virginia Peninsula. This placed the Confederate capital, Richmond, in imminent danger. Therefore, General Lee again placed his Army on the move, to counter the actions of General Grant.
On June 13, 1864, the Army of Northern Virginia left the trenches around Cold Harbor and moved towards Petersburg. The 18th Georgia's line of march took them through the old Frazier Farm battlefield and they arrived inside the defenses of Petersburg on June 18th, 1864. There, at Chaffin's Bluff near Petersburg, the 18th Georgia and General Wofford's Brigade would remain, until they...along with General Kershaw's division, was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley in support of General Jubal Early's command, on August 6, 1864.
Departing the relative safety of the Petersburg defenses, General Kershaw's division arrived at Front Royal, Virginia on August 14, 1864. Thus began the valley operations that would culminate at the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864.