JUNE 1, EVENING: WRIGHT AND SMITH ASSAULT AT OLD COLD HARBOR
By evening, Confederate and Union troops faced off behind earthworks
extending perpendicularly to the road running from Old Cold Harbor to
New Cold Harbor. Wright's corps held the left portion of the Union line,
with Brigadier General James B. Ricketts's division north of the roadway
and the divisions of Brigadier Generals David A. Russell and Thomas H.
Neill extending south and curving back to the east. Smith's corps
continued the line northward, then bent back to Beulah Church, with the
divisions of Brigadier Generals Charles Devens, Jr., William T. H.
Brooks, and John H. Martindale arrayed northward in that order. On the
Confederate side, Hoke faced Wright, and Anderson faced Smith, with
Kershaw's division on Hoke's left, Major General Charles W. Field's
division on Kershaw's left, and Pickett's division in reserve.
AS WRIGHT'S BATTLE LINES SWEPT FORWARD, CONFEDERATE ATTENTION WAS
DIVERTED FROM AN UNDEFENDED STREAMBED, WHICH ALLOWED A LONE FEDERAL
BRIGADE TO PASS THROUGH THE SOUTHERNERS' POSITION. THIS MOMENTARY
ACHIEVEMENT RAISED HOPES AT GRANT'S HEADQUARTERS FOR A MORE SUCCESSFUL
ASSAULT THE FOLLOWING MORNING. (NPS)|
Late in the day, Grant decided to attack once more at Old Cold
Harbor. At 6:30 P.M., Wright and Smith pitched in. South of the road,
rebel musketry and artillery turned the approaches into killing fields.
The Federals made no appreciable headway. Advancing immediately north of
the road, Brigadier General Emory Upton's brigade of Russell's division
met a bloody repulse. The 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, commanded by
Colonel Elisha Kellogg, had recently joined Upton as infantrymen,
bringing with it 1,500 men, more than doubling the size of the brigade.
Kellogg's men marched forward under a deadly fire, clawed through pine
trees the rebels had felled as obstacles, and emerged onto open ground
in front of Clingman. "Aim low and aim well," Clingman instructed his
soldiers. According to one of Upton's troops, "A sheet of flame, sudden
as lightning, red as blood, and so near that it seemed to singe the
men's faces, burst along the rebel breastwork." A bullet tore through
Kellogg's head, killing the colonel, and his men broke for the rear.
Clingman's soldiers shot them down as they ran. "Men of Connecticut,
stand by me," Upton bellowed, setting an example by firing from behind
a tree as fast as soldiers could hand him loaded rifles. When Kellogg's
replacement complained that his ammunition was exhausted, Upton
retorted, "Catch them on your bayonets, and pitch them over your heads."
Upton's bravado was no match for Clingman's minie balls, and his brigade
fell back to its starting point.
Colonel William S. Truex, stationed on Upton's right, had somewhat
better luck. Clingman's left flank rested on a swampy brush-filled
ravine north of the road. Brigadier General William T. Wofford's Georgia
brigade picked up the Confederate line on the ravine's north side. The
depression itself, however, was undefended and created an inviting gap
in the Confederate formation.
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OPTIMISM RUNS HIGH: JUNE 1, 6:30 P.M.|
Having gathered both Wright's and Smith's corps at Old Cold Harbor,
Grant orders an attack. Kershaw ties down Smith's attack to the north,
while Hoke contends with Wright's advance. Along a small creek on which
the two Confederate divisions hinge, an undefended gap is discovered by
Truex's brigade. Funneling through the Confederate line, Truex effects a
break-through only to be stopped by Southern reinforcements. Emboldened
by this partial success, Grant plans to follow up with a general assault
the next morning.
Truex funneled into the undefended ravine to emerge behind Clingman
and Wofford. Clingman swung two regiments around to face the intruders,
and Anderson, who had snapped out of his doldrums, promptly pulled
Brigadier General Eppa Hunton's brigade from its reserve position and
directed it into the breach. Elements from other rebel units piled in as
well. Lacking reinforcements, Truex faced the difficult task of
extricating his brigade from a pocket lined on three sides by
Confederates. Darkness settled over a confused melee as soldiers fired
at opposing muzzle flashes. Truex finally disengaged, bringing with him
hundreds of captured Confederates, predominantly Georgians. The rift in
the Confederate line closed behind him.
GRANT'S REPULSE ON JUNE 1 DID NOT
DISCOURAGE THE UNION COMMANDER. (LC)|
Shooting petered out a few hours after dark. Wright and Smith had
lost about 2,200 men and had no gains to show for their efforts. Upton
was furious with Grant, whom he complained had "recklessly ordered
[Wright and Smith] to assault the enemy's entrenchments, knowing neither
their strength nor position." The attack also upset Meade, who bridled
at Grant's penchant for ordering assaults without sufficient
reconnaissance or preparation. Grant's popularity with the press also
nettled the army commander. "The papers are giving Grant all the credit
for what they call successes," he grouched to his wife, "I hope they
will remember this if anything goes wrong."