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It's 6:15 on a Monday morning, and as I stand on a bed of pine needles behind the remains of Rebel earthworks, I gaze across a field where vultures circled, circled, circled ... and then dived to pick at scores of Union dead and wounded more than 150 years ago. Even this early, the air is thick as hominy grits, and aside from a man in his early 70s chugging along a path, I'm the only soul in the national park.
Nothing much has changed at Cold Harbor battlefield since my first visit here three years ago. Towering pine trees stretch to the sky, giant gnats are as pesky as ever and the grass is still tall and unmowed. Trenches, which offered some protection to both armies during the Civil War, zig-zag through the woods, heaps of earth still packed fairly high in places.
There's something spiritual about Cold Harbor early in the morning. Something frustrating, too.
I feel a little bit guilty when I kick at the sandy soil, hoping to uncover evidence of the terrible slaughter that occurred here in early June 1864. A piece of artillery shell or a button. Perhaps a bullet or a knapsack hook.
|This sign denotes where the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery paused before making final, and futile, push toward Rebel lines.|