On June 3, 1864, the second battle of Cold Harbor began. After securing a costly victory at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Union General Ulysses S. Grant encountered Confederate troops as he made his way to Richmond. The Confederates, under command of General Robert E. Lee, were entrenched behind earthworks at Cold Harbor, a crossroads ten miles northeast of the Confederate capital. Over the course of the next nine days, the Union lost 7,000 men while the Confederates suffered 1,500 casualties. Grant moved on toward Petersburg and began the last major siege of the war. Confederate forces finally abandoned Petersburg and Richmond on April 2, 1865.
The first battle of Cold Harbor, also called the battle of Gaines’ Mill, took place on June 27, 1862. It was part of the Seven Days’ Battles (June 25-July 1) that ended General George McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign — an early attempt to capture the Confederate capital.
- View photographs from the war. Selected Civil War Photographs includes eight photographs of Cold Harbor, Virginia.
- Search Military Battles and Campaigns in Map Collections on keywords such as Petersburg, Richmond, and Cold Harbor for dozens of maps of these battles.
- Read eyewitness accounts of the Civil War. First-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920 External documents the culture of the nineteenth-century American South from the viewpoint of Southerners. Search the collection on Civil War to read books such as A Boy’s Experience in the Civil War, 1860-1865External.
- For additional information about the Civil War, search the Today in History on Civil War to locate features highlighting:
- General Lee’s evacuation of Richmond;
- Military engagements at Bull Run, Gettysburg, Nashville, and Antietam; and
- Other key figures from the Civil War era such as Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson as well as Civil War era events including Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the execution of Andersonville Prison’s Henry Wirz.
- Consult Primary Documents in American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860-1877 for links to digitized materials on this era.