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Civil War Series

The Battle of Cold Harbor

   

MAY 29: GRANT AND LEE CONFRONT EACH OTHER ACROSS TOTOPOTOMOY CREEK

During May 29, Grant advanced southwest to confront Lee across Totopotomoy Creek. Hancock followed the Richmond-Hanovertown Road to the creek, found Lee firmly entrenched on the far bank, and began digging in. Warren extended Hancock's line to the left, thrusting Griffin's division on the far side of the creek onto Shady Grove Road. Wright left two divisions at Crump's Creek to anchor the right flank of the Union line and sent a division northwest toward Hanover Court House. Burnside bivouacked in reserve near Haw's Shop, and Sheridan remained far to the left, near Old Church. The day passed with the armies contemplating each other, skirmishing but shying from active combat.

Lee remained weak from the dysentery that had debilitated him on the North Anna. Ewell also became seriously ill. As he had done earlier in the campaign, Lee once again selected Major General Jubal A. Early to stand in for an ailing corps head. Lee also renewed his pleas to Richmond for reinforcements, Late in the day, Beauregard visited Lee at "Lockwood" the Clarke family home near Atlee's Station. Lee requested Beauregard to send troops, but the Louisianian protested that he had none to spare. Lee was disappointed but remained determined. "If General Grant advances tomorrow I will engage him with my present force," he assured President Davis.

ALTHOUGH HOT-TEMPERED AND OFTEN AT ODDS WITH MEADE, MAJOR GENERAL PHILIP H. SHERIDAN CAPABLY HANDLED THE UNION CAVALRY DURING THE CAMPAIGN. (LC)

That evening, Lee's chief engineer, Major General Martin L. Smith, penned an assessment of the military situation from the Confederate perspective. "Grant's crab movements have sidled both his and our army halfway across the State and brought him to a position which he could have taken at first without the loss of a man by simply landing from his transports and marching a few miles," he asserted. "This is the fourth position in which we have confronted him and it remains to be seen whether he will draw off from this without a fight as he did from the last at [North Anna]. The present indications are that he has fortified himself strongly in his camp with a view of inducing Lee to attack him, which I do not think will be done. We on the contrary have taken up no line but are waiting for his columns to show themselves in the open ground to make an onslaught upon them."

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