Heavy artillery was the sound early this morning, at 4:30 A.M. on June 3, 1864, near Cold Harbor, Virginia. Rebel defenders, well protected in their trenches, held their fire until the Union soldiers were within lethal range. Fifty thousand blue uniformed soldiers left their trenches and advanced toward the Confederate entrenchments. When the Federal troops approached the line of fire the Confederate soldiers moved down the front ranks with volleys of rifle and canister fire. The Union soldiers were dropping like flies.
"That dreadful storm of lead and iron seemed more like a volcanic blast than a battle," recalled a Union captain. A soldier described it as "a boiling cauldron from the incessant pattering of shot which raised the dirt in geysers and spitting sands."
The courage of the Union soldiers left the Confederates amazed, yet appalled at the death their murderous volleys were causing. Confederate General Evander Law, shocked at the thousands of dead and wounded said, " I had seen the carnage in front of Marye's hill at Fredericksburg, and on the old railroad cut' which Jackson's men held at the Second Manassas; but I had seen nothing to exceed this. It was not war; it was murder."
A battle that took less than an hour left 7,000 Union soldiers and 1,500 Confederates dead.
Fascinating Fact: A diary was found on a Union soldier who was killed in the attack. Before leaving his entrenchments that morning, he had written for June 3, 1864, "I am Killed."
"Pennsylvania," American Heritage Encyclopedic, Vol. 12, 1965, pp. 995 1028.
Fradin, Dennis Brindell, From Sea To Shining Pennsylvania, 1994, pp. 52-61.
"Pennsylvania," World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, 1987, pp. 219- 237.
"Pennsylvania," Internet Website, [continues]
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