June 3 always brings recollections of the 1864 battle of Cold Harbor. There, at least 1,100 Union soldiers were killed and 4,500 wounded in a bloody attack that Confederates easily repulsed in less than an hour. (7,000 is the usual number given for Meade’s casualties.)
The assault force numbered as many as 40,000 in three corps (Hancock’s II; Wright’s VI and Smith’s XVIII). The Confederates were outnumbered, but standing behind strong parapets, they easily mowed down the attackers.
For one imaginative pictorial take on the battle, there’s Alfred Waud’s “Battle of Cold Harbor.” The drawing appears in Joseph T. Derry’s Story of the Confederate States (Richmond, 1895). Take a look:
Georgia-born Derry (1841-1926) was a Confederate veteran, professor of classical languages and a prolific author. He is best known for Georgia, volume 6 of Confederate Military History (1899), but he also wrote Story of the Confederate States, a general war-history.
This latter volume includes a number of illustrations one usually sees in books of this era. One of them is Waud’s well-known “Jackson Attacking the Right Wing at Chancellorsville.” (It’s in Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White’s That Furious Struggle.) One Waud picture that you won’t see elsewhere—at least I haven’t—is this one, showing eighteen Confederates holding off parts of two Union infantry corps; judging from their flags, it’s the II (trefoil/three-leaf clover) and V (Maltese Cross).
As a pictorial representation of Lee’s soldiers holding off “overwhelming numbers” in the last year of the war, Waud’s illustration is hilarious. (My guess is that Derry commissioned it specifically for that purpose. Derry lived out his years in Atlanta; Waud died at Marietta, north of the city, in 1891.)