Total War: March to September 1864

Disaster at Cold Harbor

Why did Richmond not fall in the summer of 1864?

By all rights it should have fallen. Lee’s men were in a rather bad state, and the morale of Grant’s men—who still outnumbered them two to one—was at an all-time high. This was one of the key moments of the war, a moment at which the “should” yielded to the “possible.”

Once across the James, Grant sent his advance units with great speed. Their mission was to capture the town of Petersburg, twenty miles south of Richmond. Once that key town, blessed with railroad connections, was taken, Grant could choke off Richmond’s already tenuous food supply lines. But the Confederates got to Petersburg first. Only about 2,000 men got there in time, with General P. G. T. Beauregard in command, but they fought heroically, well enough to keep Grant’s advance force from capturing Petersburg. Knowing the tremendous importance, Grant fired one angry message after another to his subordinates, but they were all in vain: Petersburg held. When he arrived three days later, Grant recognized he would have to reduce the town by means of a siege.


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