The other battle: Cold Harbor 1864

A Park Service Visitors Center at the Cold Harbor National Battlefield about a quarter-mile up 156 from the Gaines' Mill road offers a good chance to check your bearings, and ask the on-duty Ranger any question that may have might have cropped up since leaving Richmond.

And, depending on the day, you may catch Park Service Ranger Randy Cleaver on duty.

A 14-year veteran of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, Cleaver has greeted and assisted thousands of visitors that have called on the Richmond Civil War sites. The Battle of Cold Harbor is his specialty. But he also possesses a solid knowledge of the Seven Days.

Cleaver observed that while many visitors are familiar with Cold Harbor, some also have a general awareness of the Seven Days.

"Our Cold Harbor unit has the best name recognition of every site in the Park. It's the one people are most familiar with. I would say that most people though, have a vague knowledge of the Seven Days. A large operation went on down here at the time. What they generally are not aware of are the individual engagements of the Seven Days."

If you have a passion for American history, living and working at a Civil War battlefield would never get old.

"One great advantage, or at least I would call it that, of being with this agency, is that you get to work where the history occurred, which is something that I have always found very appealing," Cleaver said. "It makes me feel somewhat closer to those that were here. You get to see some of the traces they've left behind. . It's certainly a great benefit to my occupation."

Today's Cold Harbor battlefield encompasses 180 acres. Confederate and Union forces clashed at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864. Following a respite the next day, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered a massive attack by three Union Corps against Lee's fortifications early on June 3.

The attack failed. Union casualties from the attack, which lasted less than two hours, range from 3,000 to 7,000.

Grant later admitted in his memoir the attack was a mistake.

"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 losses."

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