Sunday, June 12, 1864
The two armies faced each other for nine days behind entrenchments. After repeated requests from Union General Ulysses S. Grant Confederate General Robert E. Lee granted a cease-fire on Tuesday, June 7, to bury the dead. The halt in fighting lasted two days, and at 9:00 A.M. on Thursday, June 9, the fighting resumed.
The Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment remained in their advanced position for the nine days of the battle. During this time "covered ways," communication trenches covered with boughs and leaves, allowed men from the rear lines to convey water and supplies to the front lines during the daytime.
General Grant realized that during the last month his campaign to capture Richmond had concluded in a bloody stalemate. His new objective was to head south of Richmond and attack the Confederate supply lines at Petersburg. After nightfall on June 12 Grant gave the orders to withdraw from Cold Harbor. The Twentieth Massachusetts, like others in an advanced position, followed the orders in silence. In order to mask his withdrawal from Cold Harbor Grant left behind a temporary picket detail from the Sixth and Ninth Corps.
1Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 381-86.