Cold Harbor Coda

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The Second Battle of Haw’s Store gave the Union Military a wanted reprieve through the unabated slaughter of June 3, 1864
In early June 1864, Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson was a rising star within the Military of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps—“a superb man intellectually, extremely educated, and totally companionable,” remembered former Assistant Secretary of Struggle Charles Dana, who nonetheless was fast to concede that Wilson was additionally “usually imperious and outspoken, to the extent that he absolutely alienated as many individuals as he attracted.” The brash 26-year-old West Pointer from Illinois needed to study quickly that spring. When he assumed command of the third Cavalry Division, he had no expertise main massive our bodies of males within the area. On Might 5, his division was on the fore of the Union military’s advance into the Wilderness, opening the Overland Marketing campaign, and—to place it bluntly—he bungled the job, as his troopers have been thrashed by a single brigade of Military of Northern Virginia cavalry. Wilson’s setback left his military with no cavalry display screen because it superior into the Wilderness’ snarled, second-growth forest and the unprepared Federals bumped into Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Corps in Saunders Discipline—igniting the Battle of the Wilderness, a three-day conflagration that produced almost 30,000 complete casualties on either side. Luckily for the Federals, Wilson’s efficiency improved noticeably because the Overland Marketing campaign progressed.
After J.E.B. Stuart’s loss of life in Might 1864, Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton III (above) proved an in a position alternative main the Military of Northern Virginia’s vaunted Cavalry Corps. (Library of Congress)
When Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant determined in late Might to shift the Military of the Potomac’s base of operations away from Ox Ford on the North Anna River, Wilson’s division acted largely as an impartial command. Guarding the military’s left flank, remoted and much from the remainder of the Cavalry Corps, Wilson’s troopers fought protracted dismounted slugfests with Accomplice cavalry at Hanover Courthouse on Might 31 and Ashland on June 1, then spent June 2 on the march after studying the military’s primary physique had moved to Chilly Harbor.
Wilson was to cross Totopotomoy Creek and make contact with the military’s proper flank. He waited for reinforcements earlier than continuing—a hodgepodge regiment of remounted troopers commanded by Colonel Luigi Palma di Cesnola of the 4th New York Cavalry—however was unsuccessful. “It was almost daylight June 3,” Wilson reported, “earlier than my command, worn and jaded from its exhausting labors, bivouacked.”
“After a lot exhausting preventing and marching the boys naturally anticipated a little bit relaxation,” complained a member of the fifth New York Cavalry. “Nicely, they obtained a little bit, and a little or no relaxation it was. The time for an abundance of that luxurious had not but come.”
At 10 a.m., Wilson acquired orders to cross to the west facet of the Totopotomoy, drive Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s cavalry away from Haw’s Store, swing to the left once more, and recross the creek close to its supply. As soon as he did so, he was to assault the left of the Accomplice infantry line along with an assault by the squaddies of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s ninth Corps. It took his troopers about two hours to interrupt camp, saddle up, and put together to maneuver out.
A 1st North Carolina cavalryman. (Don Troiani/Bridgeman Photographs)
The assault by the ninth Corps was to be a part of an all-out assault by the Federals that day. Grant had wished to assault on June 2, however 18th Corps commander Maj. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith refused to obey the order. As well as, on June 1, Military of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George G. Meade had ordered the 2nd Corps, below Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, to march the 12 miles to Chilly Harbor in a single day to be in place to assist one other assault early on June 2. The 2nd Corps, which grew to become misplaced throughout its grueling night time march, didn’t arrive till about 6:30 a.m. Deciding to provide Hancock’s exhausted troops an opportunity to relaxation, Meade postponed the assault till 5 p.m.; nonetheless, involved that Hancock’s males wouldn’t be able to assault, Grant recommended that Meade ought to as an alternative wait till the following morning.
The chance was misplaced. Robert E. Lee took benefit of the Union delay and his military constructed an intensive and complex set of earthworks to strengthen his place on the closely wooded and rolling battlefield.
At 4:30 a.m. June 3, the Federal 2nd, sixth, and 18th Corps stepped off via the inky darkness and thick fog. Their assault slowed down in swamps, ravines, and dense woods, inflicting the corps to lose contact with one another. The alignment of the Accomplice earthworks permitted the Southerners to enfilade Meade’s attackers as they approached.
The Military of the Potomac misplaced a number of thousand males killed and wounded within the opening moments of the assault, and the extreme bloodletting would final all the morning. Parts of the 2nd Corps briefly captured among the Accomplice earthworks, however the Southern artillery shortly turned these works into bloody traps. Due to the terrain, the boys of the 18th Corps have been funneled into two ravines, the place they have been mowed down by the Confederates.
Unable to advance, and in no place to retreat, the Union troopers did the one factor they might—constructed earthworks of their very own, typically utilizing the our bodies of useless troopers as elements of their swiftly constructed breastworks. Grant lastly known as off further assaults after driving the strains and seeing for himself that additional assaults would additionally finish with bloodshed. The battle’s administration “would have shamed a cadet in his first 12 months at West Level,” lamented a sixth Corps officer.
Grant concurred. “I’ve at all times regretted that the final assault at Chilly Harbor was ever made,” he wrote in his memoirs. “No benefit no matter was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”
Troopers on either side heard the frightful cataclysm raging at Chilly Harbor. Recounted Sergeant George Neese of Chew’s Battery, a Accomplice horse artillery unit: “The way in which the musketry roared and raged the hearth will need to have been terrific at occasions, particularly through the determined expenses of the enemy, when the Union patriots rush[ed] up in opposition to Common Lee’s line like maddened sea waves dashing in opposition to an adamantine wall, and have been slaughtered by the tons of, sure, hundreds.”
“The successive advances and recoils might be numbered by a listener, from the terrible roar of musketry and artillery, after which the comparative cessation for brief intervals,” declared Edward L. Wells, a personal within the 4th South Carolina Cavalry’s Charleston Mild Dragoons. Then, the sudden silence that fell over the battlefield signaled the top of the “fruitless butchery of twenty [Federals] to each one Accomplice.”
James Wilson first gained discover serving below Ulysses Grant within the West. Later within the struggle, he scored a uncommon victory over Nathan Bedford Forrest and led a crushing cavalry raid via the South. (Library of Congress)
Wilson knew nothing apart from that a big battle was raging close to Chilly Harbor and that he was to coordinate his assault with Burnside’s deliberate transfer in opposition to the Accomplice left as his column superior towards Haw’s Store. The tiny settlement was the placement of a machine store used for manufacturing farming and milling equipment, and famend for the standard of the gear it produced. After the Military of the Potomac occupied the realm in 1862, John Haw III, the proprietor of the machine store, offered his gear to Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. By 1864, the realm had been largely deserted and had fallen to ruins, leaving solely Salem Presbyterian Church and some homes standing.
That included the Haw homestead, a quaint two-story home often called Oak Grove. John Haw lived together with his spouse and their 24-year-old daughter at Oak Grove; his three sons have been serving within the Accomplice Military. Enon Methodist Church was situated half a mile farther west. With stout picket fences and dense woods lining either side, the Atlee Station Street handed by Oak Grove. 5 roads converged there, together with two that led on to Richmond through Atlee Station.
On Might 28, the opposite two divisions of the Military of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps had tangled with Hampton’s horsemen at Haw’s Store—a harsh, grinding, day-long dismounted combat. On the finish of the day, the Federals held the battlefield, however Hampton’s troopers had prevented the Union cavalry from finding the Military of Northern Virginia’s place.
About midday on June 3, Wilson left Cesnola’s males to protect Burnside’s proper flank and marched his command from its Previous Church camp. They crossed Totopotomoy Creek and headed northwest towards Haw’s Store, the place they supposed to show south and assault the rear of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s Division in Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Corps. Wilson’s division arrived at Haw’s Store about midday, and his males shortly occupied breastworks that had been erected through the battle six days earlier. He didn’t anticipate an encounter, however deployed pickets on the Atlee Station Street and different roads close by.
The 46-year-old Hampton, now commanding the Military of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry Corps after the Might 12 loss of life of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, was nonetheless studying the artwork of corps command. He had, in spite of everything, no formal navy coaching and was counting on pure expertise and on-the-job coaching. Joined by parts of Maj. Gen. W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee’s cavalry division and Captain James Thomson’s battery of horse artillery, the expert Chew’s Battery, Wilson’s troopers marched from their camp not removed from Atlee Station on the Virginia Central Railroad early that morning. “We made a circuitous march of about eighteen miles within the path of the Pamunkey,” recounted Sergeant Neese.
Non-public Thomas Dennis, Firm G of the 2nd New York Cavalry, a well-known foe of the Confederates within the Japanese Theater. (Library of Congress)
As he had carried out on Might 28, Hampton rode east towards Haw’s Store, unaware he was heading straight for Wilson’s division. Main the Accomplice column have been the 2nd and fifth North Carolina Cavalry, a part of a brigade quickly below the command of third North Carolina Colonel John A. Baker following the loss of life of the common brigade commander, Brig. Gen. James B. Gordon, on Might 12.
Upon reaching Haw’s Store, the Tarheels bumped into the eighth New York Cavalry, a part of Colonel George H. Chapman’s 2nd Brigade. The North Carolina troopers dug of their spurs, drew their sabers, and charged the New Yorkers with “deafening yells”—catching the Empire Staters unexpectedly. The 2nd and fifth North Carolina led a fast rout, driving the eighth again towards the remainder of the Federal brigade. Rooney Lee ordered the Southern horsemen to dismount and assault. Roberts and his males dismounted, fashioned a line of battle, and superior in opposition to the Union breastworks, drawing fireplace from the Federal horse artillery as they proceed.
Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Barringer of the first North Carolina Cavalry had a transparent view of Roberts’ assault. He watched because the 2nd and fifth North Carolina “charged without delay the enemy’s line which was pushed quickly via a thick wooden, again right into a line of works, which was charged, and carried in a most impetuous fashion, driving the enemy again upon one other line of entrenchments, with heavy assist.” Chapman disputed Barringer’s evaluation. “[T]he enemy made a spirited assault,” he wrote, “however have been repulsed with extreme loss, leaving quite a few their killed and wounded upon the bottom.”
“This spirited and dashing affair,” Barringer famous, “was executed below the attention of Common Hampton, and elicited his particular commendation.”
Because the opening part of the preventing performed out, the 4 weapons of Chew’s Battery unlimbered close to Haw’s Store and opened upon Wilson’s horse artillery. “We had a heat and spirited artillery duel with them of a pair hours’ length,” famous Sergeant Neese.
As soon as he may type a coherent line, Chapman ordered a counterattack. “Transferring ahead below a heavy fireplace my males drove the rebels from [the first line of works] and so they fell again to a different line of breastworks,” he recounted. Among the many eighth New York troopers concerned within the assault, Lt. Col. William H. Benjamin was painfully wounded within the leg; Lieutenant Harmon P. Burroughs suffered a chest wound; one non-public was killed, one captured, and several other wounded.
Realizing he confronted not less than a brigade of cavalry and that he was outnumbered, Roberts pulled again and established a dismounted line of battle in a dense stand of woods southwest of Haw’s Store. The Tarheels constructed three strains of swiftly constructed breastworks and waited for the Federals to assault.
Through the pause, Wilson penned a fast replace to Military of the Potomac headquarters. “Now we have developed a substantial power at or close to Haw’s Store, with artillery in place,” he wrote. “I’m pushing ahead now, the enemy having been repulsed in three or 4 sharp dashes at our skirmish line.” Ominously, Wilson additionally reported that he had heard no exercise in any respect alongside Burnside’s entrance.
About 1 p.m., supported by horse artillery, the first Vermont Cavalry and the fifth and eighth New York Cavalry all dismounted and crashed into the woods towards the Accomplice works, prompting Main William Wells of the first Vermont to watch that his regiment had been dismounted day-after-day since they’d crossed the Rapidan on the outset of the Battle of the Wilderness. The Vermonters took place with one battalion on the correct of the street and the opposite two on the left once they have been ordered to go to the left towards the enemy’s flank. Wilson proudly watched as his troopers superior steadily in open order, “their rapid-fire carbines pouring out volley after volley, capturing prisoners and clearing up the nation as they went alongside.” A Vermonter described the motion as “Indian fashion,” the boys preventing from behind timber as they superior. “We…drove them killing and capturing fairly quite a few them,” famous a fellow trooper.
Throughout this advance, Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston, the hard-fighting commander of the first Vermont, ordered Wells to position his battalion in line on the left, telling the most important, “[D]on’t enable your males to fireside, for our males [from other regiments] are in your entrance.”
The 2nd’s tattered guidon, now in the New York State Military Museum’s collection. (New York Military Museum)
The 2nd’s tattered guidon, now within the New York State Navy Museum’s assortment. (New York Navy Museum)
Drawing heavy fireplace, the Vermonters dropped and commenced firing from the bottom. Whereas reconnoitering in entrance of his regiment’s line of battle, Preston was mortally wounded, shot within the again, the bullet passing close to his coronary heart. Trooper H.P. Danforth of Firm D tried to retrieve Preston’s physique. Recognizing a bunch of Confederates behind a clump of timber—probably troopers who had shot Preston—he stood as much as fireplace at them, solely to obtain a bullet to his shoulder that whirled him round like a prime. “He was not a lot damage, however that he walked to the rear, and was despatched to [a] hospital,” recalled Sergeant Horace Okay. Ide of the first Vermont. “From [the] hospital he went residence on furlough and there died.”
Because the Vermonters flanked Roberts’ left, Rooney Lee ordered the North Carolinians to withdraw, whereas the pursuing Yankees concurrently pressed their proper and entrance. “The cross fireplace of artillery and musketry simply mowed down the rebels,” noticed a Northerner. Roberts and his males pulled all the best way again to Enon Church, abandoning Haw’s Store to the Federals.
The 2nd and fifth North Carolina managed to halt the Union counterattack at Enon Church till relieved by the third North Carolina Cavalry. The third held on for about one other hour, then withdrew in an orderly vogue, on Hampton’s orders, leaving only some pickets within the street. Roberts’ command suffered about 20 casualties through the conflict.
At 2:40 p.m., Wilson reported to Meade: “The enemy appears to have withdrawn on the street to Enon Church, however definitely towards the fortifications initially occupied by their infantry. I’m now overlaying with the principle physique of my power the street to Hanovertown and the Totopotomoy,” he wrote, “and have despatched a part of a regiment to cross the creek close to its head…with directions to establish the place of the enemy’s infantry if potential.”
“I don’t suppose it will be even handed to relinquish this place for a motion with my entire power within the path towards Bethesda,” Wilson concluded. “I’ll threaten it.”
Having pushed the Accomplice cavalry away, Wilson and his division crossed the Totopotomoy, positioned a piece of horse artillery there, dismounted, and anticipated to affix Burnside’s assault on Heth’s infantry. Unknown to Wilson, nonetheless, Burnside had known as off his assault when he discovered that Grant had canceled an offensive alongside all the Military of the Potomac entrance after the failure of his assaults at Chilly Harbor that morning. Burnside’s resolution to not transfer in opposition to the Accomplice flank left the unaware Wilson and his troopers to deal with the cussed Accomplice infantry on their very own.
Chapman, with about 400 troopers of the 2nd New York Cavalry and the third Indiana Cavalry, together with Captain Dunbar Ransom’s third U.S. Artillery, Battery C, forded Totopotomoy Creek and struck the twenty second Virginia Battalion of Brig. Gen. Birkett D. Fry’s Infantry in Heth’s Division, which was in place alongside the forehead of a ridge.

Weapons of Alternative
Rifled Blakely cannons have been robust and dependable.
The muzzleloading, rifled 12-pounder Blakely was a favourite weapon of Accomplice horse artillery items that supported their saber-wielding comrades. Invented in The good-looking Kerr revolver. Britain by Theophilus
The good-looking Kerr revolver.
Alexander Blakely, the gun got here in numerous sizes and calibers. The three.5-inch mannequin proven beneath was generally utilized by horse artillery. Different weapons of selection for a lot of Accomplice troopers, proven beneath, have been the Kerr revolver and the M-1840 sword, nicknamed the
M-1840 sabers have been lethal weapons within the palms of veterans.
“Previous Wristbreaker.” Although cumbersome to wield in motion, the M-1840’s dimension (a 35-inch-long blade) and weight have been important attributes in fight, when one slash may be sufficient to kill or incapacitate an opponent. Adopted by the U.S. Military earlier than the struggle, it was normal concern for a lot of Union troopers as nicely. Just like the Blakely, the 5-shot, single-action Kerr revolver was imported from Britain. Simply over 12 inches in size, with a 5-inch barrel, it was reliable and simple to look after and fireplace—a priceless attribute for mounted cavalrymen. –C.Okay.H.
The dismounted troopers attacked whereas supported by their horse artillery. The Southerners claimed that they “drove them again with ease,” however the Union horsemen disputed that, arguing that they’d pulled out on their very own.
“The rebels after firing just a few pictures broke and fled, leaving 10 or 15 prisoners in our palms,” Wilson reported. “Failing to determine communication with the infantry on my left, I withdrew to the [north] facet of the Totopotomoy.” To Wilson’s shock, he may hear no sound of any motion from Burnside’s entrance. The weary Union horse troopers held the Accomplice trenches for about an hour earlier than Wilson determined to interrupt off and withdraw.
By then, it was almost darkish, and Lee, fearing his flank was at risk of being turned, withdrew his left wing from its place fronting the ninth Corps, successfully ending the Battle of Chilly Harbor. The third Cavalry Division returned to the junction of the roads resulting in Haw’s Store and Hanover Court docket Home and bivouacked there in an effort to watch the roads in all instructions.

‘There lies the most effective preventing colonel’
Preston (left); Cushman
Whereas the engagement nonetheless raged, Federal troopers tried to rescue mortally wounded Lt. Col. Addison Preston. “A number of occasions I attempted to advance my strains to get [Preston’s] physique however was pushed again,” wrote Main William Wells of the first Vermont, “however the third time I obtained his physique off, he was simply alive, not acutely aware.” Some males threw water on Preston’s face to attempt to revive him, however it was too late. The boys gently laid Preston’s physique on a horse, holding him in place, and took him to the regimental surgeon, who confirmed he was gone. When the troopers tried to get an ambulance to take Preston’s physique to White Home Touchdown, the surgeon in cost asserted bluntly {that a} dwell non-public was price greater than a useless colonel, noting that there have been already extra wounded than might be carried. As an alternative, the boys made a impolite coffin out of bureau drawers, gently laid Preston inside, positioned it in a rickety outdated wagon, and proceeded to division headquarters, three miles away. En route, they handed Brig. Gen. George A. Custer, who, upon studying of Preston’s destiny, checked out his corpse and remarked, “There lies the most effective preventing colonel within the Cavalry Corps.” Preston’s fee as colonel got here via that day, too late for him to benefit from the deserved honor. Additionally killed within the preventing was Captain Oliver W. Cushman of the first Vermont. The intrepid, common Cushman had survived a determined wound to the face (nonetheless seen within the photograph above) driving alongside Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth throughout Farnsworth’s ill-fated cavalry cost at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Although left for useless on the sector, Cushman would recuperate and later return to responsibility. “Ordinarily quiet, modest, unassuming—in battle the lion aroused inside him, and he was the bravest of the courageous,” declared considered one of Cushman’s buddies. “[W]e misplaced considered one of our choicest and finest.” Cushman’s physique was positioned right into a swiftly constructed coffin, just like the one made for Preston, and each officers’ stays have been transported to White Home Touchdown to be despatched residence. Main Wells assumed command of the regiment. –E.J.W.
Wilson was justifiably happy with the efficiency of his command in bringing about that end result. “For its gallant conduct,” he declared proudly, “the division acquired the congratulations of Common Meade. The operations have been hazardous, and though solely profitable, value us the lives of fairly quite a few courageous officers and males.”
The Second Battle of Haw’s Store could also be remembered as only a small incident through the tragic preventing on June 3, however it nonetheless had strategic implications. Despite the fact that Burnside known as off his assault on the left flank of the Military of Northern Virginia, as soon as Wilson’s dismounted troopers drove away Hampton’s decided cavalry, the stress they exerted on Heth’s place on the Accomplice left helped persuade Robert E. Lee to drag again that uncovered flank. That, in flip, prompted Grant to develop a plan to shift his base of operations throughout the James River and to maneuver on the important railroad junction city of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. 
Eric J. Wittenberg, an everyday America’s Civil Struggle contributor, is the creator of Six Days of Terrible Preventing: Cavalry Operations on the Street to Chilly Harbor (Fox Run Publishing, 2021), from which this text is customized. His article on Wade Hampton and the First Battle of Haw’s Store appeared within the Might 2018 ACW.

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