|Battle of Cold Harbor, throwing up breastworks|
Forbes, Edwin, 1839-189
|The remains of trenches dug by CW soldiers|
James and Burton had seen and experienced much in the two years since David had died, things that they would never forget. Many of their friends and neighbors had lost limbs, their sight, or their lives in that time. Were they aware that a younger brother-in-law, James Ganus, who fought with the Georgia 44th, Company G, had been discharged in July of 1863? James Ganus was shot at Sharpsburg and additionally had contracted an illness which left him partially blind and consequently he was found unfit for service and sent home.
Did they know of the depredations and hardships faced by their families back home? James Blackmon and Burton Cook had married Ganus sisters, Mary and Margaret. The women lived in close proximity to one another just outside of Atlanta during the long absence of their husbands.
The stories and details of my ancestors and their families raced through my mind as we visited the various Civil War sites on our recent trip to Virginia. Understandably, the day we visited the Cold Harbor Battlefield Park in the area of Gaines Mill, my thoughts focused on James Blackmon and Burton Cook who had fought there.
|Road driving into|
Cold Harbor Battlefield Pa
We left the interstate and turned onto a winding rural road as we made our way to the park, and I wondered where the Fayette Planters had camped. It was hard to comprehend that well over 100,000 Union soldiers and more than 60,000 Confederate soldiers had converged on this area for the battle. Do you ever find yourself wishing you could travel back in time and take a peek into your ancestor's life for just a moment? While I really didn't want to see all of the horrors associated with this battle, I did find myself wishing that I knew more about what James and Burton had actually experienced here.
We turned off the paved two lane road onto a dirt road leading to the main portion of the park. The road was lined with dense trees and I was once again in awe of the beauty of Virginia. It was hard to believe that this had been the scene of the long and brutal Battle of Cold Harbor.
After following the dirt road for a few miles, we pulled into the parking lot. It was a beautiful area with lush green fields surrounded by dense trees. Historical markers provided basic details about the battle and reminded us that despite it's current beauty, many men had lost their lives here.
We decided to follow one of the marked trails that led into a wooded area. Little streams of water trickled here and there and the trees filtered the sunlight, creating dense shade. Having read about copperheads and rattlesnakes in Virginia, I felt a little wary and wondered if they had posed a problem for the soldiers.
|Walking the trail at|
Cold Harbor Battlefield
As we continued along the path, I was taken by how still and peaceful it was there. I stopped and looked around and tried to imagine what it must have been like in May and June of 1864 for both Confederate and Union soldiers. I could easily imagine the scenes portrayed in movies about this battle with men running through the trees, gunfire coming at them from every side, the smoke from the rifles and muskets thick in the air. Did James and Burton crouch behind the mounds with hearts pounding as they fired upon oncoming troops in one of the bloodiest fights of the Civil War?
They had been there. Along with thousands of other soldiers, James Blackmon and Burton Cook had been there on June 1, 1864, and it was there during the Battle of Cold Harbor that both men were captured by Union Troops. They were initially taken to Point Lookout in Maryland and then in July they were transferred to the prison camp called Elmira in New York. (You can read Burton's Story here and James' story here)
The enemy had come and while the trenches and earthworks had provided a measure of safety for many of the men, for others, such as James and Burton, they simply hadn't been enough.