Heading home from Yorktown, Virginia, we decided to take a detour and visit Cold Harbor National Cemetery so we could stretch our legs. Excellent decision. Cold Harbor is a closed cemetery with the vast majority of burials being soldiers lost in the battles of Cold Harbor and surrounding areas. Four impressive monuments are in this cemetery and only one Medal of Honor veteran.
Augustus Barry is the only Medal of Honor recipient in the Cemetery. At the time of his death in 1871 he was superintendent of this very cemetery.
As you enter the Cemetery, the first thing you see is a beautiful dogwood tree and a bronze plaque in front of it. The tree was starting to bloom despite the overcast skies, on the day we were there. The plaque in front of the tree says:
This Tree Dedicated by the Veterans Administration
in 1976 to America’s Medal of Honor Recipients
who helped make this BiCentennial Possible by
“Gallantry Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.”
Starting towards the flagpole the first thing you notice is a monument which appears to be a cannon stuck in the ground with the barrel being the only obvious feature. Not! That’s what I thought, until I “googled” it and discovered that it is made from an original artillary tube and set in cement.
The bronze plaque attached to the monument breaks down the burials in this hallowed spot between known and unknown.
Headstones similiar to this dot the cemetery. Some with only one burial, some with more than two. It is a sad sight to see. Somewhere a widow or mother was waiting to hear the fate of her loved one, never to know what happened or where his remains were.
Continuing the walk towards the back of the cemetery one is immediately struck by what appears to be the starkness of the white marble sarcophagus that honors the memory of the unknown soldiers whose remains are interred in this spot. At one time, there were mounds on either side with the remains of buried under them. If they were still there, we did not notice them. The inscription on the sarcophagus reads:
Near this stone rests the remains of 889 Union soldiers
gathered from the Battlefields of Mechanicsville, Savage’s Station,
Gaines’s Mills, and the vicinity of Cold Harbor.”
As I walked through the cemetery, taking pictures of headstones and interesting sites, I came across the second tree I would photograph that day. If the headstone had, at one point, a name on it, it has been lost to eternity. This is not the first cemetery I have seen headstones gobbled up by trees.
Eighth N.Y. Heavy Artillery
Col. Peter A. Porter
4th Brigade, 2D Division, 2D Corps
Army of the Potomac
ROLL OF HONOR
Killed or Died of Wounds Received in the
Battle of Cold Harbor, VA, June 3, 1864
COL. PETER A. PORTER
It then lists 219 individual names and which company they were in.At the front of the cemetery is the monument erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is visible as you approach the cemetery with the Soldier at Parade Rest atop it. The wording on this tall monument is as follows:
Erected by the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Which Participated in the Operations
From May 31 to June 12, 1864
Incident to and During the
Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia
June 1 – 3, 1864
The numbers of each Regiment involved are listed on the other three sides of this monument.Many of the headstones have just one letter, a partial name, or a first name and no last name, or just any information that could be found to identify a body. It showed the care taken to try to find out who each person was. Touching.Since we were on our way home from Yorktown, Virginia, I had to take a picture of the only Coast Guard Veteran I found in the cemetery. We had been in Yorktown, attending our grandson’s graduation from his Gunners Mate School, at no place else than the Coast Guard Training Center!and the last picture I took seems appropriate to end this blog with.
Rest in Peace, eternally, you to whom we owe so much!