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    General Meade Issues Orders to General Wright at Cold Harbor

    Historic George G. Meade Handwritten and Signed Orders to General Horatio Wright during the Battle of Cold Harbor, one of the bloodiest of the war. Two pages, 5" x 8", signed twice ("Geo.G. Meade" and "G G M") on "Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac" letterhead, 8:15, June 4, 1864. This important manuscript reads in full: "Maj Genl Wright- Your dispatch reporting you are in advance of the 18th Corps has been sent to Gen. Smith [William F. "Baldy" Smith] who is under the impression he is in advance of you. Smith and Hancock [Major General Winfield Scott Hancock] are both ordered to push forward - There is not the slightest idea that the 6th Corps is not doing what it always has done early and well. It is a question of judgement as to the timing of assaults which between the three corps may involve delay and failure- Geo. G. Meade Maj Gen [signed] Push on & when you think it time to stop report- GGM [signed]". This order was issued at Cold Harbor early on the morning after the June 3rd onslaught in which the ensconced Confederate Army under the personal command of General Lee decimated the federal forces. The most intense carnage of the entire war had resulted in an estimated 6,000-7,000 federal casualties alone in just a few minutes.

    This battle is known as one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles in American history. C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee's experienced troops were entrenched in fortifications; thousands of Union solders, many raw recruits, were slaughtered in an ill-advised, poorly planned frontal assault. General Meade was ostensibly in charge but under the supervision of General Ulysses S. Grant who would later write about this battle: "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made...At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." Meade, who was lax in the supervision of his corps commanders and who failed to perform reconnaissance before the frontal attack would, inexplicably, write to his wife immediately after the attack and express pride that it was he who ordered the attack.

    It was an impossible situation when Meade half-heartedly wrote these orders. As the three corps (Wright's 6th, Smith's 18th, and Hancock's 2nd) had advanced, Smith on the right and Hancock on the left both strayed outwardly leaving Wright's flanks exposed to the Confederate enfilade. By June 4th, it was futile to give orders to resume action. The damage had been done. The battle would last until June 12th with no more large-scale attacks but with many, many more deaths- a total of 10,000-13,000 Union soldiers gave their lives on this bloody Virginia battlefield. This engagement gave rise to anti-war sentiment in the North and Grant was called a "fumbling butcher" for his poor decision-making. But it did serve Grant's purpose. Cold Harbor was the final victory for Lee's army. He was trapped and would spend the balance of the war defending Richmond. The end of the Confederacy was in sight.

    Battlefield orders from a battle as important and historic as this one are usually only found in museums. Don't let this opportunity pass you by to own a piece of history.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2006
    1st-2nd Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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