At the time of the Civil War, Miles and Margaret Garthright lived in a two story home a few miles east of Richmond, Virginia. While the location near the city was no doubt convenient in peacetime, it was very much in harm’s way during the war, and was on the battlefield of two major battles during two campaigns.
The house was on the edge of the June 27th, 1862 Battle of Gaines Mill, one of the Seven Days Battles of the Peninsula Campaign on 1862. It was more in the middle of the action two years later during General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, specifically, during the Battle of Cold Harbor from the end of May into early June of 1864. Cold Harbor is probably most infamous for the ill advised Union assault against entrenched Confederate positions on June 3rd, when the Federals suffered over 6,000 total casualties. Units from both the 2nd and 6th Corps charged through the property during that fateful assault.
The Federals turned the building into a field hospital, forcing the Garthright family into the basement. As the historical marker on the site notes, blood from the wounded dripped through the floorboards and into the basement. Some 97 Union soldiers died there and were hastily buried in the Garthright’s yard. In 1866, the bodies were removed to the Cold Harbor National Cemetery across the road. After the Union army moved on from Cold Harbor, the Confederates also used the house as a hospital.
Portions of the Garthright House date to the 1700’s. The house was damaged by a fire in 1970 and was restored, and is a part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. The house is an exterior exhibit only and the interior is not open to the public.