Talk:Battle of Cold Harbor

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Did Lee have 59,000 troops as per the article, or did he have 62,000 troops a per the info box in the article? Dalf | Talk 20:12, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Just as with the casualty table I added at the end, estimates vary. The guys who did the battleboxes in these articles use the National Park Service numbers and I think consistency is a good thing for those boxes. For this battle, Esposito and Eicher say Lee had 59,000. Smith says 60,000. I could look up others, but you get the idea. Hal Jespersen 21:05, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Facts altered[edit]

Certain facts in this article seem to have been altered. Can someone please confirm that the altered versions are correct. If not, please revert the changes.
gorgan_almighty 14:47, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

Such as what? I did a 'diff' back to March and other than the big casualty discussion at the end, few substantive changes have been made in the past 7 months. Hal Jespersen 15:13, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

I did the original article; I don't see any factual changes, or any changes at all that I'd disagree with. user:Jsc1973


I just watched Ken Burns' "The Civil War", and it repeatedly stated that 7,000 soldiers died in 20 minutes at some point during the battle. Anyone have a source on this?Lord of the Ping 06:26, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

There is a rather lengthy discussion of casualty figures in the article. The 7000 figure is often mentioned for the first 20 minutes of the June 3 assault, although recent scholarship has indicated that it was closer to 4000. It is either sloppy writing or sloppy listening to consider a casualty figure to be the number killed. Casualties include wounded and prisoners as well and often only about 10% of the casualty figures from a Civil War battle are actually killed in action. Hal Jespersen 16:27, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm aware that casualties and the number of killed are not necessarily the same. The film said there were 7000 killed in 20 minutes, not that there were 7000 casualties. I just brought it up because "The Civil War" is a popular documentary and that was a salient statistic. I couldn't find a reputable online source for that either.--Lord of the Ping 06:59, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Details of the Battle[edit]

I am not a Civil War buff, far from it, and I know that the real buffs take their history very seriously. As I read the details of the battle (the section named "Battle"), I noticed that the various divisions of each army are consistently identified by their commanding officer, but not necessarily by their affiliation (Union or Confederacy). Obviously, I could have clicked on the links for each commander and found their affiliation quickly enough, but this article, by itself, does not always make the affiliation of a particular unit clear. Is it standard in detailed Civil War or military history discussions to only identify a military unit by its commander, and not by affiliation? If so, I'll quite happily leave it as it is and not interfere. If not, however, clearly indicating which side each unit is fighting for would improve the text description of the battle dramatically. Oneforlogic (talk) 22:06, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Ever notice?[edit]

At what point in the War did Union soldiers stop being green and inexperienced and become "veterans" as the Confederates are always described as being? Certainly not by the 4th year of the War. In reading the battle histories I have noticed these truisms...

(1) Union victories are due to the brilliance of Union commanders, while Confederate victories are due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, bad ground, bad weather, or simply sheer good fortune favoring the "veteran" Confederates.

(2) Union victories stand alone in triumph. Confederate victories are not absolute, and must be weighed against other factors such as earlier or later battles, or the eventual outcome of the war. Confederate victories are therefore always tainted with a "it did no good for them to win" approach to the victory.

(3) Union soldiers are only veterans in the case of heroic or successful military actions, but are always poorly led raw recruits in Union defeats. Win or lose, the Confederates are always battle hardened veterans. This hardness contributes both to Union defeats by creating an excuse, and to Union victories by glamorizing the extra courage and effort necessary to defeat the Confederates.

(3) Despite their overwhelming size, the Union armies never use "all their forces" in any battle, especially the ones the lucky Confederates won. The Confederate Army of course never suffered from this problem, and its troops were always in the thick of things.

(4) Union forces sizes are always ambiguous and usually understated despite the excellence of U.S. Army record keeping, while Confederate numbers are generally inflated despite the absence of reliable archival data and statements of Confederates to the contrary. The Union Army always seems to know more about the size of the opposing forces than it did its own. Union numbers usually include only those activily committed to battle, while Confederate "estimates" are theaterwide. Dead Confederates are simply dead, while as in this article dead Federals are dead only in relation to the relative sizes of the two armies (therefore a higher Union loss is really a lesser loss).

(5) The Union soldiers had finicky morale, which could be affected by a number of factors. The Confederates, despite their rarely mentioned many privations that were unknown to the Federals (such as living hungry and barefoot), always had superb morale which again runs counter to Confederate accounts. Where the word "morale" is used, either good or bad, it is nearly always in reference to Union soldiers. The only differences between the Union and Confederate armies were their sizes in numbers, and the right to have bad morale which was afforded only to the Federals. The types, numbers and condition of weapons and other necessities of war such as shoes are not considered.

(6) Accounts of battles, which resulted in Union defeats, are always prefaced by the reasons for the upcoming defeat (see #1, #2 and #3). It is possible to determine the victor of any battle simply by reading the first two paragraphs of the text. And, I think I know why. The reason is to obscure the simple fact that in all the essentials of war except population size and industrial capacity, the Confederates were superior. If the South could have enjoyed anything approaching parity with the North on these two factors, the history we read would be very, very different.

The article is typical. (talk) 01:26, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Rather than waxing philosophically about generalities, why don't you recommend specific problems to correct in specific articles--or, in the spirit of Wikipedia, edit them yourself? Cold Harbor definitely had some green troops (at least in terms of their combat infantry experience) on the Union side because Grant transferred some soldiers from DC heavy artillery units to the front. Proportional losses in the armies was one of the key factors in judging the effectiveness of Grant's campaign. The morale of the Union soldiers in this battle is widely noted by all historians--they felt they were being sent on a hopeless attack, and rightfully so. (Although I tend to doubt that a cheerful army would have prevailed here in any event, it's too widely remarked upon to ignore here.) And if you think that trying to disguise the winner of the battle in the first couple of paragraphs is a good idea, perhaps you would be more interested in mystery novels than history articles. Hal Jespersen (talk) 14:46, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Cold Harbor vs Fredericksburg Aftermath[edit]

I have read both articles (an example of splendid Wikipedian writing that this site can be recognized for), however, one thing that makes me a little mad is the the criticism that occurred in the aftermath of both battles. At Fredericksburg, it seems that Burnside is heavily criticized and flamed upon by the press to great lengths, while the only thing I can find in this article that criticizes Grant is "Grant became known as the "fumbling butcher" for his poor decisions". Whereas, I see all this towards Burnside and the President:

The Cincinnati Commercial wrote, "It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day." Senator Zachariah Chandler, a Radical Republican, wrote that, "The President is a weak man, too weak for the occasion, and those fool or traitor generals are wasting time and yet more precious blood in indecisive battles and delays." Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin visited the White House after a trip to the battlefield. He told the president, "It was not a battle, it was a butchery." Curtin reported that the president was "heart-broken at the recital, and soon reached a state of nervous excitement bordering on insanity." Lincoln himself wrote, "If there is a worse place than hell, I am in it."

Was this battle seriously only a "small blow to Union morale" or are there some unmentioned facts in this article?--McBuHoMeGr (talk) 02:41, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Well, it also states "The battle caused a rise in anti-war sentiment in the Northern states." The tendency to focus on the Fredericksburg aftermath is probably due to the fact that it represented the end of a failed campaign for a new commander and the rest of the winter would be spent mulling over the defeat. In the case of Cold Harbor, it was the third in a series of really bloody battles coming one after another and Grant kept moving forward, giving reporters other things to write about. That is only my opinion. This is one of my earlier articles and as you can see it is deficient in citations. I will eventually upgrade it and take your concerns into account, but in the meantime you are welcome to make improvements to the article yourself. Hal Jespersen (talk) 16:41, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Wait, you wrote this article? Congratulations man, I mean, this article is really good. What else articles have you wrote about the Civil War? Also, when exactly do you plan on "upgrading" this article? Thanks!!!--McBuHoMeGr (talk) 17:08, 25 January 2010 (UTC)


An anonymous user persists in changing the casualty numbers presented by the article. The numbers here are supported by citations to secondary sources, and therefore cannot be changed without adjusting those citations. In the case of this article, eight secondary sources are shown in the table and they all differ from each other. Most of them do not attempt to present anything more than an estimate of Confederate casualties. However, a very recent secondary source, Young's Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study, has done significant research into the actual numbers. This study has been endorsed by Gordon C. Rhea, the preeminent modern historian of the Overland Campaign. Because of the focused approach of this work, it is the most appropriate choice when attempting to select from the eight secondary sources. Now if there is a consensus that these numbers are incorrect, and that another secondary source is more accurate, the numbers in the information box and in the casualty section can be modified, but only if the citation/footnote is rewritten appropriately. We can have the discussion about that decision in this talk page, and I will continue to revert arbitrary changes to the article until that discussion has reached consensus. Hal Jespersen (talk) 17:01, 8 July 2013 (UTC)

Since you mention consensus, I will add my agreement with you, for what it is worth. You of course are correct that the early sources on casualties almost always differ, sometimes considerably. Confederate casualty numbers were often estimates of uncertain origin or value. They are usually even more problematical than Union casualty figures. Modern scholars have taken all the early sources on casualty figures into account, not just one or two of them, along with any other information they can gather. They then come up with what they consider the best figure taking into account all the information. Just because a figure is from an early source does not give it special worth because the early source is often not based on someone or group of people doing a formal and careful count, especially for large battles. One must be attentive to whether a modern writer has given consideration to all the sources or to a definite later study, of course. In this case, it is quite clear that if a careful, expert author on this campaign such as Gordon Rhea accepts these numbers, especially after work by another careful author working specifically on a book that gives the results of the study of the statistics of the campaign, they are the best that can be offered. Donner60 (talk) 23:04, 8 July 2013 (UTC)

Our anonymous user has posted the following on my personal talk page, but it is more appropriate here: "Any and every source available suggests that Confederate battle dead at Cold Harbor was no more than a hundred. Your illusion of this 788 figure is erroneous and in no way could be close to an accurate figure. In fact, wikipedia is filled with lies and inconsistencies, because historical revisionists such as yourself want to control and distort accurate facts."

My reply: I would be interested to see all of the available sources you have seen that give accurate figures for Confederate deaths. Confederate record-keeping was often unreliable. The casually section of this article lists a variety of popular sources, and as you can see, few of them offer any numbers other than estimates of total casualties for both June 1 and 3. These estimates range from 1500 to 5000+. At the upper range, 788 deaths (killed immediately and mortally wounded) is not an unusual percentage of the total casualty estimate. In any event, Young goes into great depth, breaking out the types of casualties for each of the units at division level at Cold Harbor, so it seems a reasonable source. (It is rather interesting if you look at the previous numbers we used in this article, which are based on the Bonekemper reference in the table. Looking at his citations, he based his casualty estimate on an article that the same Alfred Young wrote in 2000. This goes to show that Civil War historiography continues to evolve as more sources become available.) By the way, as you become more familiar with Civil War history, you will find that "accurate facts" are not as accurate as you might think, and "lying" by historians is not nearly as common as laziness. Hal Jespersen (talk) 17:38, 9 July 2013 (UTC)

After page protection by Berean Hunter (thank you for that, by the way; I was just about to file a 3RR complaint against our IP hopper when you did), our ubiquitous anonymous user posted another unsigned complaint directly on Mr. Jespersen's talk page (as opposed to, you know, here). It is as follows:

I am disgusted with the editors of wikipedia. Making up silly numbers, locking pages that have inaccurate information. If you all choose to edit online encyclopedia's [sic], take on some responsibility and report accurate figures.

My response to their desire that we, "take on some responsibility and report accurate figures," is quite simple: That's exactly what we did. IcarusPhoenix (talk) 01:44, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Poor article - lack of strategic view[edit]

I think this article poor. The detail is impressive, but the narrative wholly fails to comprehend and so to convey the larger Union strategy; to pin Lee down, giving Sherman free reign. (talk) 20:05, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Many of the American Civil War articles on Wikipedia rely on a concept called hyperlinking, which allows background information to be accessed easily by clicking on links of overview articles, etc. There is no reason for the 500+ battle articles to each give strategic views of the campaign or war in which they are a part. In this case, the battle is part of the Overland Campaign, the article about which gives a lot of strategic detail. Your opinion about giving Sherman free reign while Grant merely pinned down Lee is not really a mainstream opinion, by the way.
I reverted your change to remove the cited material. In the first place, Grant's memoirs are hardly an unbiased view of the events. They are a primary source, and the secondary sources cited in the article take precedence. Second, you should not blithely remove cited material from Wikipedia articles. If there are alternative viewpoints not represented, they can be added to the article, not simply used to overwrite existing secondary sources. Hal Jespersen (talk) 15:23, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Great Article and good to the point[edit]

First of all, there is nothing wrong with the way the detail of this article is portrayed; in fact, the opening read is straightforwardly brilliant. Conclusively, there is no necessary exigency to alter this article from where it stands in ANY form.shyjayb 13:38, 9 July 2015 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Shyjayb (talkcontribs)

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