On this date in 1862, the Battle of Gaines Mill took place in Hanover County, Virginia. The battle was also known as the First Battle of Cold Harbor and the Battle of Chickahominy River. It was the third battle in the Seven Days Battles, and the first major victory for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His pre-war reputation was stellar, but after losing the Battle of Cheat Mountain in 1861, some were unsure whether he could take the place of Joseph E. Johnston, who had been the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia until he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862.
During the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Confederates unusually outnumbered the Federals. Lee led an attack with over 32,000 soldiers at 7 p.m., and this charge is considered to be the biggest assault by the Confederates during the entire war. Union Brig. Gen. Phillip St. George Cooke counter attacked, but the result did little to affect the outcome. Once it was over, the Battle of Gaines Mill was the second bloodiest day of battle in American history.
General Cooke was the father-in-law of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, who led the Confederate cavalry. When Stuart learned that Cooke had decided to stay true to the Union, he said, “He will regret it only once, and that will be continually.”
Both Confederate and Union troops flew hot air balloons over the battle. This was significant, because it was the first time observation balloons from both sides flew at the same time. The balloons were used for reconnaissance and spotting artillery. Union balloons stationed at the Gaines’ Farm were able to observe what was going on in downtown Richmond, which was only about seven miles away. The largest balloons, such as the Intrepid (pictured below) could carry five people in its basket and held 32,000 cubic feet of lifting gas.
Read more about the battle in my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Glittering-Lie-Novel-Civil/dp/1469771748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466993220&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Beautiful+Glittering+Lie