I stopped at Cold Harbor Battlefield as a detour on the way back to the Richmond airport following a week of meetings in Hampton, Virginia. There were several options for Civil War sites in the Richmond area (all part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park), but I only had time for one of the 13 units. Cold Harbor was the easy choice due to its proximity to the airport and its historical significance.
I arrived about 12:15 and started with the small visitor center and a short discussion with the Ranger to see how best to spend my limited time. There are a couple of walking trails and a driving tour. I opted for the 1-mile walking trail that looped from the visitor center and worked along portions of both the Union and Confederate entrenchments. I was amazed that the earthworks were still as intact and obvious as they were. The trail provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the trenches and at one point actually crosses through the Confederate trenches. The trail was well-marked with signs describing the happenings and use of the trenches.
One of the historical points that I probably read earlier but forgot was the role of the Union Heavy Artillery units. These units were pulled from the Washington and Baltimore defenses and sent to the field, many just weeks before the battle of Cold Harbor. These were over-sized regiments, and while they were veteran units, they had not seen active campaigning or battle as infantry (they were trained as infantry as well as heavy artillery). Several of the units did well during the battle, but their casualty rates were very high (20% for at least one unit). The displays in the visitor center also described the change of tactics that occurred following the Union debacle at Cold Harbor. Grant later stated that this was the only battle that he should not have ordered.
Overall, I spend a little over an hour at Cold Harbor. I'll have to come back to explore along the extended trail through this battlefield unit and to visit the other units in the Richmond Battlefield Park.
There are restrooms at the Cold Harbor Visitor Center.
There is no admission cost for Cold Harbor.
There are water fountains at the VC, but no food or drinks for sell.
Most of the 1-mile trail is through woods, but there are some exposed areas at the beginning and end of the trail, so plan accordingly for exposure to sun.