BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR
During some of the more deadly portions of the American Civil War, the ongoing fighting in northern Virginia between northern General Ulysses S. Grant and southern General Robert E. Lee became a chess match between the two leaders. One of these battles was fought in an area of dense wooded undergrowth, simply known as the Wilderness. The prominence of this battle was that it was the first offensive that the Union offenses were making towards the Confederate capital of Richmond. The difficulty of the mission however would be that the northerners would be fighting in uncharted territory, while Lee’s troops would be at an advantage due to their familiarity of the wilderness. The Union army held a numbers advantage of about 50,000 mean (115,000 to 65,000), but this was one of the few instances where that wasn’t seen as an advantage. When trying to maneuver through wooded areas, the more men you have, the more difficult it is to make an orderly advance.
On May 5, 1864, the fighting commenced, and would continue for two days of blood and chaos. The Union’s 5th Corps met a group of Confederate troops led by Richard Ewell at the areas main road, known as the Orange Turnpike. Because of the wilderness wild nature, the environment made it difficult for cavalry and artillery to be effective. Being removed from the traditional way of fighting led to a chaotic day of fighting between the two sides, which would eventually end because of darkness. Even though there was plenty of bloodshed, the first day was more or less useless in terms of the tactics of both sides, as everyone largely remained where they had begun the day.
The second day was even more intense, with Grant ordering his troops to being marching at 5:00 AM, before his commanders had even fully organized their Corps after the lack of organization the day before. The early start was effective for the northerners, as they were able to push a key cog in the rebel war machine back nearly a mile before reinforcements could arrive. The Chess match would continue throughout the afternoon, but it was more of the same in terms of confusion and disorder. Prominent Confederate General James Longstreet was shot by his own man, which was unfortunate for the rebel side as his leadership was one of the few things keeping the army together.
The 48 hour long Battle of The Wilderness will never be down as a decisive moment in the war, as neither side accomplished much to help their cause. In the end, the Union army suffered approximately 17,500 casualties, while the Confederates suffered approximately 10,000. Grant was unwilling to retreat from his advance however, which would make the Battle of the Wilderness only the first of the epic battles in Northern Virginia in May of 1864 between the two legendary generals.