Lee adopted a defensive position at Cold Harbor. Recent reinforcements from other Confederate positions had increased the size of his army to almost sixty thousand men, but Lee knew that Grant's approaching force was much larger. The rebel army's only hope was to build defensive fortifications that could withstand a full assault from the Yankees.
Armed with reinforcements that increased the size of his army to almost 110,000 troops, Grant tried to use brute force to pry the Confederates out of their positions at Cold Harbor. On the evening of June 2, he ordered his troops to prepare for a
full frontal assault on the rebel defenses the following morning. A ripple of fear and apprehension ran through the Federal camp when the soldiers learned of this plan, for they knew that many of them would be killed or wounded in the attack. In the hours leading up to the assault, hundreds of Union soldiers pinned pieces of cloth and paper with their names and addresses to their uniforms so their bodies could be identified after the battle.
Grant launched his assault on Cold Harbor on the morning of June 3. The decision was possibly the worst of his entire military career. The Confederate Army shattered the advance in a hail of gunfire, and the Union Army never came close to breaching the rebel defenses. By the early afternoon Grant had lost more than seven thousand men. The Confederates, on the other hand, lost fewer than fifteen hundred in the clash. Years later, Grant admitted that his order to attack had been a terrible decision. "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made," he wrote. "At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained."
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