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Halloween Afternoon at Cold Harbor, VA
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Halloween Afternoon at Cold Harbor, Virginia

It was an eerie feeling on Halloween Day to be standing in the middle of the battle field where, supposedly, my great grandfather was wounded, reported missing in action and later presumed died there, along with about 7,000 others that were killed in the

Battle of the Wilderness.

On October 31, 2005, Joan O’Dell and I toured the Cold Harbor Battlefield where the Battle of the Wilderness took place in 1864. My great-grandfather, Warren William Wheeler, son of Lewis Peter and Sarah Benedict Wheeler, enlisted in the Army at Elmira, New York on 30 August 1862 for a period of three years with Company B 1st Battalion 14th Regiment of U.S. Infantry. He was wounded in the right thigh around the 5 or 7th of May 1864. On the Muster Roll for the months of May and June, 1864, he was reported "missing in action: 4 June, 1864 at Cold Harbor, Virginia. No record of his death is recorded.

As we stood in the open field looking across the vast area, you could almost feel the sense of being in the battle. Trenches have been preserved like they were when the soldiers fought in 1864, now the signs indicate where the Union Army was and where the Confederate army was. As we stood there imagining how it was back then and thinking how could more than 7,000 soldiers line these trenches and charge across the open field knowing that they may not survive the charge.

According to one story of The Battle of Cold Harbor that I read, it quoted Ulysses S. Grant as saying "Cold Harbor is the only battle I ever fought that I would not fight over again under any circumstances. I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor lasted nearly twenty-two minutes on the Second Corps’ front, eight minutes on the Sixth Corps’ front, and thirty minutes on the Eighteenth Corps’ front", The attack lost over 7,000 men in such a short time. Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his army never recovered from Grant’s continual attacks. This was Lee’s last clear victory of the war.

There is, among several others, a National Cemetery at Cold Harbor, Virginia. Many of the stones were labeled U.S. Soldier, or Unknown Soldier or Four Soldiers. There was a casket monument labeled "for those 889 soldiers whose names were not recorded". One story at the Visitors Center told of how the soldiers took a scrap of paper and pinned their name to their shirt so that they would be identified.

These men gave much in the name of freedom, and we have a lot to be thankful for in remembering what was done for us.

Although we did not find the information we were hoping for on my great grandfather, it was an awesome experience to stand there and imagine what the soldiers went through.

My Wheeler genealogy is: Lewis Peter Wheeler (1788-1877) & Sarah Benedict (1793-1872) Their children: Elizabeth Ann, Susan Mariah, Isaac Benedict, Warren William, Caroline Matilda, Bainbridge Washington, & Simon Peter.

Warren William Wheeler (1824-1864 & Lucy Canfield (1829-1897)

Their children: Francis Bradford & Betsey Ann

Francis Bradford Wheeler (1851-1925) & Elizabeth Smith (1854-1917)

Their children: Cora M, William Warren, Jesse F, & (James) Leon

(James) Leon Wheeler (1898-1978) & Pauline Effie Besley (1901-1960)

Their children: James Leon, Donald Ernest, Carole Ann, & Virginia Ruth

Virginia Ruth Wheeler (1937) & William Henry McElroy (1937-1999)

Their children: Dian Marie, Charles David, Vikki Lee.

Article by: Virginia R. McElroy, Southport Town Historian 10/31/2005

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Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 10 DEC 2005
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

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