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[379]

A lapse of two years brings us back to historic Cold Harbor. The war had now progressed more than three years. Other commanders had failed and public clamor was demanding better results for the money and blood so liberally and lavishly spent in the Old Dominion.

Grant was summoned from his successes in the West, and the government assigned him this terrible task. Unlimited resources were placed at his disposal; when he broke camp early in May, 1864, 141, 160 splendidly equipped and veteran soldiers followed his standard. Against this host Lee could oppose but 52,625 ill-fed and poorly-clad, yet superb troops.

Then followed the Spotsylvania, the North Anna, written in the blood of thousands of brave men. A month of almost incessant battle followed, the two armies gravitating toward Richmond. In June, in the course of these side movements, Cold Harbor was again reached, but circumstances and positions reversed. Lee now held the entrenchments and acted on the defensive. Grant massed his army for the assault. Up to this time the genius of the great Confederate commander had everywhere matched the enormous preponderance of the enemy.

Grant made three desperate assaults on Lee's works; the attack was made in the forenoon. Each attack was repelled with appalling slaughter. So terrific had been the Confederate fire that in one hour Grant's losses had amounted to more than 13,000, while he inflicted a loss of but 1,200 upon Lee.

History records General Grant as a man of great determination and tenacity. He was unwilling to yield his point, so determined was he to renew the assault in the afternoon. The order for attack descended in proper gradation from the lieutenant-general down to regimental commanders; but when the bugles sounded the onset, there was no forward movement, and the immoble lines of the army of the Potomac thus silently rebuked its commander for his butchery. Its inactive attitude spoke plainer than words:‘Show us a possibility and no troops will more loyally and promptly respond, but to again hurl us against certain defeat and direful slaughter, we must refuse to obey.’

Thus for the second time Cold Harbor became the scene of the fiercest of conflicts, and established its value as a strategic point.

It is worthy of note to mention the great disparity of numbers

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