On the morning of June 1, General Lee was anxious to regain control of the Old Cold Harbor Crossroads and ordered two Confederate infantry divisions to attack the outnumbered Union cavalry troopers defending the intersection.
Colonel Laurence M. Keitt, a signer of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, played a critical role in the attack. His regiment, the 20th South Carolina Infantry, had joined Lee's army just the previous day and was placed in Col. John W. Henagan's Brigade. Though inexperienced at handling troops in the ﬁeld, Keitt outranked Henagan and assumed command of the brigade. Leading the attack on June 1, Keitt moved his men from right to left across this ground, toward the dismounted Union troopers, many of whom were armed with repeating carbines and ﬁghting behind breastworks. Captain Theophilus F. Rodenbough of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry noted, "the whole thing was over in less than ﬁve minutes." The attack failed miserably, with Keitt mortally wounded. Federal infantry soon arrived to relieve the cavalrymen. The next move was up to Grant.
"Every man in ranks knew that he was being led by one of the most gifted and gallant men in the South, but every old soldier felt and saw at a glance his inexperience and want of self-control. "
Captain D. Augustus Dickert, 3rd South Carolina Infantry, describing Keitt
The Old Cold Harbor crossroads, objective of Keitt's attack on the morning of June 1, received its name from the tavern that sat at the southeastern corner of the intersection. This sketch by combat artist Edwin Forbes shows the Old Cold Harbor Tavern ﬂying a Union 2nd Corps ﬂag just two days after Keitt's failed offensive.
Colonel Laurence M. Keitt, Photo courtesy: Museum of the Confederacy