Cold Harbor Burial
Cold Harbor Burial Party 1864.

How many Union troops were casualties, and in what amount of time, during the June 3, 1864 morning attack at Cold Harbor?

In answering this question, Civil War web sites are all over the map.

The National Park Service on their web site at http:/www.nps.gov/rich/historyculture/cold-harbor.htm reports that:

"In less than an hour, thousands of Federal soldiers lay dead and dying between the lines."

The Library of Congress at http:/memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwphtml/tl1864.shtml under the title: "Time Line of The Civil War, 1864" compiled by Joanne Freeman with a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris, says:

"June 1864 -- The Battle of Cold Harbor. Grant again attacked Confederate forces at Cold Harbor, losing over 7,000 men in twenty minutes."

Although we have seen the 7,000-man casualty figure, mentioned above, on several Civil War web sites, we have seen very few references to the "twenty minutes" time span.

Two of the more popular Cold Harbor books provide different information regarding the June 3 casualties:

  1. "Not War But Murder, Cold Harbor 1864" by Ernest B. Furgurson (2000) Hardback, Page 278:

    "...for in the minutes, then hours, when the Union attack ground down against Lee's lines that Friday morning, between 6,500 and 7,000 Federal soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing."

  2. "Cold Harbor, Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864" by Gordon C. Rhea (2002) Hardback, Pages 358 & 362:

    "The big assault of June 3 at Cold Harbor lasted less than an hour...All things considered, the grand charge at Cold Harbor on June 3 produced about 3,500 Union casualties."

The references above don't even scratch the surface as to the number and variety of sites and books offering differing opinions as to the Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, results. Because of this, it appears that, if you take the time, you can find just about any casualty and time combination that you would like to believe.

Due to this confusion, we believe it can only be said that there were thousands of Union casualties on June 3, 1864 at Cold Harbor in a very short time span. Anything beyond that is subject to debate.

It reminds us of a quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: "History is a set of lies agreed upon". Whether Napoleon was right or wrong, it should be remembered that Civil War history (and most 19th century history, for that matter) relies mainly on second hand or "hearsay" information.

And isn't hearsay, after all, the basis for most of the Cold Harbor Civil War battle information?

Just our opinion,

Content Team

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