The Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan, v2
General Philip Henry Sheridan

Part 2 out of 5

Shenandoah on our pontoon-bridge, and by night-fall reached Lacy's
Springs, having seen nothing of the enemy as yet but a few partisans
who hung on our flanks in the afternoon.

March 1 we encountered General Rosser at Mt. Crawford, he having been
able to call together only some five or six hundred of his troops,
our unsuspected march becoming known to Early only the day before.
Rosser attempted to delay us here, trying to burn the bridges over
the Middle Fork of the Shenandoah, but two regiments from Colonel
Capehart's brigade swam the stream and drove Rosser to Kline's Mills,
taking thirty prisoners and twenty ambulances and wagons.

Meanwhile General Early was busy at Staunton, but not knowing my
objective point, he had ordered the return of Echol's brigade from
southwestern Virginia for the protection of Lynchburg, directed
Lomax's cavalry to concentrate at Pond Gap for the purpose of
harassing me if I moved toward Lynchburg, and at the same time
marched Wharton's two brigades of infantry, Nelson's artillery, and
Rosser's cavalry to Waynesboro', whither he went also to remain till
the object of my movement was ascertained.

I entered Staunton the morning of March 2, and finding that Early had
gone to Waynesboro' with his infantry and Rosser, the question at
once arose whether I should continue my march to Lynchburg direct,
leaving my adversary in my rear, or turn east and open the way
through Rockfish Gap to the Virginia Central railroad and James River
canal. I felt confident of the success of the latter plan, for I
knew that Early numbered there not more than two thousand men; so,
influenced by this, and somewhat also by the fact that Early had left
word in Staunton that he would fight at Waynesboro', I directed
Merritt to move toward that place with Custer, to be closely followed
by Devin, who was to detach one brigade to destroy supplies at
Swoope's'depot. The by-roads were miry beyond description, rain
having fallen almost incessantly since we left Winchester, but
notwithstanding the down-pour the column pushed on, men and horses
growing almost unrecognizable from the mud covering them from head to

General Early was true to the promise made his friends in Staunton,
for when Custer neared Waynesboro' he found, occupying a line of
breastworks on a ridge west of the town, two brigades of infantry,
with eleven pieces of artillery and Rosser's cavalry. Custer, when
developing the position of the Confederates, discovered that their
left was somewhat exposed instead of resting on South River; he
therefore made his dispositions for attack, sending around that flank
the dismounted regiments from Pennington's brigade, while he himself,
with two brigades, partly mounted and partly dismounted, assaulted
along the whole line of breastworks. Pennington's flanking movement
stampeded the enemy in short order, thus enabling Custer to carry the
front with little resistance, and as he did so the Eighth New York
and First Connecticut, in a charge in column, broke through the
opening made by Custer, and continued on through the town of
Waynesboro', never stopping till they crossed South River. There,
finding themselves immediately in the enemy's rear, they promptly
formed as foragers and held the east bank of the stream till all the
Confederates surrendered except Rosser, who succeeded in making his
way back to the valley, and Generals Early, Wharton, Long, and
Lilley, who, with fifteen or twenty men, escaped across the Blue
Ridge. I followed up the victory immediately by despatching Capehart
through Rock-fish Gap, with orders to encamp on the east side of the
Blue Ridge. By reason of this move all the enemy's stores and
transportation fell into our hands, while we captured on the field
seventeen battle flags, sixteen hundred officers and men, and eleven
pieces of artillery. This decisive victory closed hostilities in the
Shenandoah Valley. The prisoners and artillery were sent back to
Winchester next morning, under a guard of 1,500 men, commanded by
Colonel J. H. Thompson, of the First New Hampshire.

The night of March 2 Custer camped at Brookfield, Devin remaining at
Waynesboro'. The former started for Charlottesville the next morning
early, followed by Devin with but two brigades, Gibbs having been
left behind to blow up the iron railroad bridge across South River.
Because of the incessant rains and spring thaws the roads were very
soft, and the columns cut them up terribly, the mud being thrown by
the sets of fours across the road in ridges as much as two feet high,
making it most difficult to get our wagons along, and distressingly
wearing on the animals toward the middle and rear of the columns.
Consequently I concluded to rest at Charlottesville for a couple of
days and recuperate a little, intending at the same time to destroy,
with small parties, the railroad from that point toward Lynchburg.
Custer reached Charlottesville the 3d, in the afternoon, and was met
at the outskirts by a deputation of its citizens, headed by the
mayor, who surrendered the town with medieval ceremony, formally
handing over the keys of the public buildings and of the University
of Virginia. But this little scene did not delay Custer long enough
to prevent his capturing, just beyond the village, a small body of
cavalry and three pieces of artillery. Gibbs's brigade, which was
bringing up my mud-impeded train, did not arrive until the 5th of
March. In the mean time Young's scouts had brought word that the
garrison of Lynchburg was being increased and the fortifications
strengthened, so that its capture would be improbable. I decided,
however, to move toward the place as far as Amherst Court House,
which is sixteen miles short of the town, so Devin, under Merritt's
supervision, marched along the James River, destroying the canal,
while Custer pushed ahead on the railroad and broke it up. The two
columns were to join at New Market, whence I intended to cross the
James River at some point east of Lynchburg, if practicable, so as to
make my way to Appomattox Court House, and destroy the Southside
railroad as far east as Farmville. Owing to its swollen condition
the river was unfordable but knowing that there was a covered bridge
at Duguidsville, I hoped to secure it by a dash, and cross there, but
the enemy, anticipating this, had filled the bridge with inflammable
material, and just as our troops got within striking distance it
burst into flames. The bridge at Hardwicksville also having been
burned by the enemy, there was now no means of crossing except by
pontoons. but, unfortunately, I had only eight of these, and they
could not be made to span the swollen river.

Being thus unable to cross until the river should fall, and knowing
that it was impracticable to join General Sherman, and useless to
adhere to my alternative instructions to return to Winchester, I now
decided to destroy still more thoroughly the James River canal and
the Virginia Central railroad and then join General Grant in front of
Petersburg. I was master of the whole country north of the James as
far down as Goochland; hence the destruction of these arteries of
supply could be easily compassed, and feeling that the war was
nearing its end, I desired my cavalry to be in at the death.

On March 9 the main column started eastward down the James River,
destroying locks, dams, and boats, having been preceded by Colonel
Fitzhugh's brigade of Devin's division in a forced march to Goochland
and Beaver Dam Creek, with orders to destroy everything below
Columbia. I made Columbia on the 10th, and from there sent a
communication to General Grant reporting what had occurred, informing
him of my condition and intention, asking him to send forage and
rations to meet me at the White House, and also a pontoon-bridge to
carry me over the Pamunkey, for in view of the fact that hitherto it
had been impracticable to hold Lee in the trenches around Petersburg,
I regarded as too hazardous a march down the south bank of the
Pamunkey, where the enemy, by sending troops out from Richmond, might
fall upon my flank and rear. It was of the utmost importance that
General Grant should receive these despatches without chance of
failure, in order that I might, depend absolutely on securing
supplies at the White House; therefore I sent the message in
duplicate, one copy overland direct to City Point by two scouts,
Campbell and Rowan, and the other by Fannin and Moore, who were to go
down the James River in a small boat to Richmond, join the troops in
the trenches in front of Petersburg, and, deserting to the Union
lines, deliver their tidings into General Grant's hands. Each set of
messengers got through, but the copy confided to Campbell and Rowan
was first at Grant's headquarters.

I halted for one day at Columbia to let my trains catch up, for it
was still raining and the mud greatly delayed the teams, fatiguing
and wearying the mules so much that I believe we should have been
forced to abandon most of the wagons except for the invaluable help
given by some two thousand negroes who had attached themselves to the
column: they literally lifted the wagons out of the mud. From
Columbia Merritt, with Devin's division, marched to Louisa Court
House and destroyed the Virginia Central to Frederick's Hall.
Meanwhile Custer was performing similar work from Frederick's Hall to
Beaver Dam Station, and also pursued for a time General Early, who,
it was learned from despatches captured in the telegraph office at
Frederick's Hall, was in the neighborhood with a couple of hundred
men. Custer captured some of these men and two of Early's staff-
officers, but the commander of the Valley District, accompanied by a
single orderly, escaped across the South Anna and next day made his
way to Richmond, the last man of the Confederate army that had so
long contended with us in the Shenandoah Valley.

At Frederick's Hall, Young's scouts brought me word from Richmond
that General Longstreet was assembling a force there to prevent my
junction with Grant, and that Pickett's division, which had been sent
toward Lynchburg to oppose my march, and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, were
moving east on the Southside railroad, with the object of
circumventing me. Reasoning that Longstreet could interpose
effectually only by getting to the White House ahead of me, I pushed
one column under Custer across the South Anna, by way of Ground
Squirrel bridge, to Ashland, where it united with Merritt, who had
meanwhile marched through Hanover Junction. Our appearance at
Ashland drew the Confederates out in that direction, as was hoped,
so, leaving Colonel Pennington's brigade there to amuse them, the
united command retraced its route to Mount Carmel church to cross the
North Anna. After dark Pennington came away, and all the troops
reached the church by midnight of the 15th.

Resuming the march at an early hour next morning, we took the road by
way of King William Court House to the White House, where, arriving
on the 18th, we found, greatly to our relief, the supplies which I
had requested to be sent there. In the meanwhile the enemy had
marched to Hanover Court House, but being unable either to cross the
Pamunkey there or forestall me at the White House on the south side
of the river, he withdrew to Richmond without further effort to
impede my column.

The hardships of this march far exceeded those of any previous
campaigns by the cavalry. Almost incessant rains had drenched us for
sixteen days and nights, and the swollen streams and well-nigh
bottomless roads east of Staunton presented grave difficulties on
every hand, but surmounting them all, we destroyed the enemy's means
of subsistence, in quantities beyond computation, and permanently
crippled the Virginia Central railroad, as well as the James River
canal, and as each day brought us nearer the Army of the Potomac, all
were filled with the comforting reflection that our work in the
Shenandoah Valley had been thoroughly done, and every one was buoyed
up by the cheering thought that we should soon take part in the final
struggle of the war.



The transfer of my command from the Shenandoah Valley to the field of
operations in front of Petersburg was not anticipated by General
Grant; indeed, the despatch brought from Columbia by my scouts,
asking that supplies be sent me at the White House, was the first
word that reached him concerning the move. In view of my message the
general-in-chief decided to wait my arrival before beginning spring
operations with the investing troops south of the James River, for he
felt the importance of having my cavalry at hand in a campaign which
he was convinced would wind up the war. We remained a few days at
the White House resting and refitting the cavalry, a large amount of
shoeing being necessary; but nothing like enough horses were at hand
to replace those that had died or been disabled on the mud march from
Staunton to the Pamunkey River, so a good many of the men were still
without mounts, and all such were sent by boat to the dismounted camp
near City Point. When all was ready the column set out for Hancock
Station, a point on the military railroad in front of Petersburg, and
arriving there on the 27th of March, was in orders reunited with its
comrades of the Second Division, who had been serving with the Army
of the Potomac since we parted from them the previous August.
General Crook, who had been exchanged within a few days, was now in
command of this Second Division. The reunited corps was to enter
upon the campaign as a separate army, I reporting directly to General
Grant; the intention being thus to reward me for foregoing, of my own
choice, my position as a department commander by joining the armies
at Petersburg.

Taking the road across the Peninsula, I started from the White House
with Merritt's column on the 25th of March and encamped that night at
Harrison's Landing. Very early next morning, in conformity with a
request from General Grant, I left by boat for City Point, Merritt
meanwhile conducting the column across the James River to the point
of rendezvous, The trip to City Point did not take long, and on
arrival at army headquarters the first person I met was General John
A. Rawlins, General Grant's chief-of-staff. Rawlins was a man of
strong likes and dislikes, and positive always both in speech and
action, exhibiting marked feelings when greeting any one, and on this
occasion met me with much warmth. His demonstrations of welcome
over, we held a few minutes' conversation about the coming campaign,
he taking strong ground against a part of the plan of operations
adopted, namely, that which contemplated my joining General Sherman's
army. His language was unequivocal and vehement, and when he was
through talking, he conducted me to General Grant's quarters, but he
himself did not enter.

General Grant was never impulsive, and always met his officers in an
unceremonious way, with a quiet "How are you" soon putting one at his
ease, since the pleasant tone in which he spoke gave assurance of
welcome, although his manner was otherwise impassive. When the
ordinary greeting was over, he usually waited for his visitor to open
the conversation, so on this occasion I began by giving him the
details of my march from Winchester, my reasons for not joining
Sherman, as contemplated in my instructions, and the motives which
had influenced me to march to the White House. The other provision
of my orders on setting out from Winchester--the alternative return
to that place--was not touched upon, for the wisdom of having ignored
that was fully apparent. Commenting on this recital of my doings,
the General referred only to the tortuous course of my march from
Waynesboro' down, our sore trials, and the valuable services of the
scouts who had brought him tidings of me, closing with the remark
that it was, rare a department commander voluntarily deprived himself
of independence, and added that I should not suffer for it. Then
turning to the business for which he had called rne to City Point, he
outlined what he expected me to do; saying that I was to cut loose
from the Army of the Potomac by passing its left flank to the
southward along the line of the Danville railroad, and after crossing
the Roanoke River, join General Sherman. While speaking, he handed
me a copy of a general letter of instructions that had been drawn up
for the army on the 24th. The letter contained these words
concerning the movements of my command:

"The cavalry under General Sheridan, joined by the division now under
General Davies, will move at the same time (29th inst.) by the Weldon
road and the Jerusalem plank-road, turning west from the latter
before crossing the Nottoway, and west with the whole column before
reaching Stony Creek. General Sheridan will then move independently
under other instructions which will be given him. All dismounted
cavalry belonging to the Army of the Potomac, and the dismounted
cavalry from the Middle Military Division not required for guarding
property belonging to their arm of the service, will report to
Brigadier-General Benham to be added to the defenses of City Point."

When I had gone over the entire letter I showed plainly that I was
dissatisfied with it, for, coupled with what the General had outlined
orally, which I supposed was the "other instructions," I believed it
foreshadowed my junction with General Sherman. Rawlins thought so
too, as his vigorous language had left no room to doubt, so I
immediately began to offer my objections to the programme. These
were, that it would be bad policy to send me down to the Carolinas
with a part of the Army of the Potomac, to come back to crush Lee
after the destruction of General Johnston's army; such a course would
give rise to the charge that his own forces around Petersburg were
not equal to the task, and would seriously affect public opinion in
the North; that in fact my cavalry belonged to the Army of the
Potomac, which army was able unaided to destroy Lee, and I could not
but oppose any dispersion of its strength.

All this was said in a somewhat emphatic manner, and when I had
finished he quietly told me that the portion of my instructions from
which I so strongly dissented was intended as a "blind" to cover any
check the army in its general move, to the left might meet with, and
prevent that element in the North which held that the war could be
ended only through negotiation, from charging defeat. The fact that
my cavalry was not to ultimately join Sherman was a great relief to
me, and after expressing the utmost confidence in the plans unfolded
for closing the war by directing every effort to the annihilation of
Lee's army, I left him to go to General Ingalls's quarters. On the
way I again met Rawlins, who, when I told him that General Grant had
intimated his intention to modify the written plan of operations so
far as regarded the cavalry, manifested the greatest satisfaction,
and I judged from this that the new view of the matter had not
previously been communicated to the chief-of-staff, though he must
have been acquainted of course with the programme made out on the
24th of March.

Toward noon General Grant sent for me to accompany him up the river.
When I joined the General he informed me that the President was on
board the boat--the steamer Mary Martin. For some days Mr. Lincoln
had been at City Point, established on the steamer River Queen,
having come down from Washington to be nearer his generals, no doubt,
and also to be conveniently situated for the reception of tidings
from the front when operations began, for he could not endure the
delays in getting news to Washington. This trip up the James had
been projected by General Meade, but on account of demands at the
front he could not go, so the President, General Grant, and I
composed the party. We steamed up to where my cavalry was crossing
on the pontoon-bridge below the mouth of the Dutch Gap canal, and for
a little while watched the column as it was passing over the river,
the bright sunshine presaging good weather, but only to delude, as
was proved by the torrents of rain brought by the succeeding days of
March. On the trip the President was not very cheerful. In fact, he
was dejected, giving no indication of his usual means of diversion,
by which (his quaint stories) I had often heard he could find relief
from his cares. He spoke to me of the impending operations and asked
many questions, laying stress upon the one, "What would be the result
when the army moved out to the left, if the enemy should come down
and capture City Point?" the question being prompted, doubtless, by
the bold assault on our lines and capture of Fort Steadman two days
before by General Gordon. I answered that I did not think it at all
probable that General Lee would undertake such a desperate measure to
relieve the strait he was in; that General Hartranft's successful
check to Gordon had ended, I thought, attacks of such a character;
and in any event General Grant would give Lee all he could attend to
on the left. Mr. Lincoln said nothing about my proposed route of
march, and I doubt if he knew of my instructions, or was in
possession at most of more than a very general outline of the plan of
campaign. It was late when the Mary Martin returned to City Point,
and I spent the night there with General Ingalls.

The morning of the 27th I went out to Hancock Station to look after
my troops and prepare for moving two days later. In the afternoon I
received a telegram from General Grant, saying: "General Sherman will
be here this evening to spend a few hours. I should like to have you
come down." Sherman's coming was a surprise--at least to me it was--
this despatch being my first intimation of his expected arrival.
Well knowing the zeal and emphasis with which General Sherman would
present his views, there again came into my mind many misgivings with
reference to the movement of the cavalry, and I made haste to start
for Grant's headquarters. I got off a little after 7 o'clock, taking
the rickety military railroad, the rails of which were laid on the
natural surface of the ground, with grading only here and there at
points of absolute necessity, and had not gone far when the
locomotive jumped the track. This delayed my arrival at City Point
till near midnight, but on repairing to the little cabin that
sheltered the general-in-chief, I found him and Sherman still up
talking over the problem whose solution was near at hand. As already
stated, thoughts as to the tenor of my instructions became uppermost
the moment I received the telegram in the afternoon, and they
continued to engross and disturb me all the way down the railroad,
for I feared that the telegram foreshadowed, under the propositions
Sherman would present, a more specific compliance with the written
instructions than General Grant had orally assured me would be

My entrance into the shanty suspended the conversation for a moment
only, and then General Sherman, without prelude, rehearsed his plans
for moving his army, pointing out with every detail how he would come
up through the Carolinas to join the troops besieging Petersburg and
Richmond, and intimating that my cavalry, after striking the
Southside and Danville railroads, could join him with ease. I made
no comments on the projects for moving, his own troops, but as soon
as opportunity offered, dissented emphatically from the proposition
to have me join the Army of the Tennessee, repeating in substance
what I had previously expressed to General Grant.

My uneasiness made me somewhat too earnest, I fear, but General Grant
soon mollified me, and smoothed matters over by practically repeating
what he had told me in regard to this point at the close of our
interview the day before, so I pursued the subject no further. In a
little while the conference ended, and I again sought lodging at the
hospitable quarters of Ingalls.

Very early the next morning, while I was still in bed, General
Sherman came to me and renewed the subject of my joining him, but
when he saw that I was unalterably opposed to it the conversation
turned into other channels, and after we had chatted awhile he
withdrew, and later in the day went up the river with the President,
General Grant, and Admiral Porter, I returning to my command at
Hancock Station, where my presence was needed to put my troops in
march next day.

During the entire winter General Grant's lines fronting Petersburg
had extended south of the Appomattox River, practically from that
stream around to where the Vaughn road crosses Hatcher's Run, and
this was nearly the situation Wilien the cavalry concentrated at
Hancock Station, General Weitzel holding the line north of the
Appomattox, fronting Richmond and Bermuda Hundred.

The instructions of the 24th of March contemplated that the campaign
should begin with the movement of Warren's corps (the Fifth) at
3 o'clock on the morning of the 29th, and Humphreys's (the Second) at
6; the rest of the infantry holding on in the trenches. The cavalry
was to move in conjunction with Warren and Humphreys, and make its
way out beyond our left as these corps opened the road.

The night of the 28th I received the following additional
instructions, the general tenor of which again disturbed me, for
although I had been assured that I was not to join General Sherman,
it will be seen that the supplemental directions distinctly present
that alternative, and I therefore feared that during the trip up the
James River on the morning of the 28th General Grant had returned to
his original views:

"City Point, Va., March 28, 1865.


"The Fifth Army Corps will move by the Vaughn road at 3 A.M.
tomorrow morning. The Second moves at about 9 A.M., having but about
three miles to march to reach the point designated for it to take on
the right of the Fifth Corps, after the latter reaches Dinwiddie
Court House.

"Move your cavalry at as early an hour as you can, and without being
confined to any particular road or roads. You may go out by the
nearest roads in rear of the Fifth Corps, pass by its left, and
passing near to or through Dinwiddie, reach the right and rear of the
enemy as soon as you can. It is not the intention to attack the
enemy in his intrenched position, but to force him out if possible.
Should he come out and attack us, or get himself where he can be
attacked, move in with your entire force in your own way, and with
the full reliance that the army will engage or follow the enemy, as
circumstances will dictate. I shall be on the field, and will
probably be able to communicate with you; should I not do so, and you
find that the enemy keeps within his main intrenched line, you may
cut loose and push for the Danville road. If you find it practicable
I would like you to cross the Southside road, between Petersburg and
Burkeville, and destroy it to some extent. I would not advise much
detention, however, until you reach the Danville road, which I would
like you to strike as near to the Appomattox as possible; make your
destruction of that road as complete as possible; you can then pass
on to the Southside road, west of Burkeville, and destroy that in
like manner.

"After having accomplished the destruction of the two railroads,
which are now the only avenues of supply to Lee's army, you may
return to this army, selecting your road farther south, or you may go
on into North Carolina and join General Sherman. Should you select
the latter course, get the information to me as early as possible, so
that I may send orders to meet you at Goldsboro'.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General."

These instructions did not alter my line of march for the morrow, and
I trusted matters would so come about as not to require compliance
with those portions relative to the railroads and to joining Sherman;
so early on the 29th I moved my cavalry out toward Ream's Station on
the Weldon road, Devin commanding the First Division, with Colonels
Gibbs, Stagg, and Fitzhugh in charge of the brigades; the Third
Division under Custer, Colonels Wells, Capehart and Pennington being
the brigade commanders. These two divisions united were commanded by
Merritt, as they had been since leaving Winchester. Crook headed the
Second Division, his brigades being under General Davies and Colonels
John I. Gregg and Smith.

Our general direction was westward, over such routes as could be
found, provided they did not embarrass the march of the infantry.
The roads, from the winter's frosts and rains, were in a frightful
state, and when it was sought to avoid a spot which the head of the
column had proved almost bottomless, the bogs and quicksands of the
adjoining fields demonstrated that to make a detour was to go from
bad to worse. In the face of these discouragements we floundered on,
however, crossing on the way a series of small streams swollen to
their banks. Crook and Devin reached the county-seat of Dinwiddie
about 5 o'clock in the evening, having encountered only a small
picket, that at once gave way to our advance. Merritt left Custer at
Malon's crossing of Rowanty Creek to care for the trains containing
our subsistence and the reserve ammunition, these being stuck in the
mire at, intervals all the way back to the Jerusalem plank-road; and
to make any headway at all with the trains, Custer's men often had to
unload the wagons and lift them out of the boggy places.

Crook and Devin camped near Dinwiddie Court House in such manner as
to cover the Vaughn, Flatfoot, Boydton, and Five Forks roads; for, as
these all intersected at Dinwiddie, they offered a chance for the
enemy's approach toward the rear of the Fifth Corps, as Warren
extended to the left across the Boydton road. Any of these routes
leading to the south or west might also be the one on which, in
conformity with one part of my instructions, I was expected to get
out toward the Danville and Southside railroads, and the Five Forks
road would lead directly to General Lee's right flank, in case
opportunity was found to comply with the other part. The place was,
therefore, of great strategic value, and getting it without cost
repaid us for floundering through the mud.

Dinwiddie Court House, though a most important point in the campaign,
was far from attractive in feature, being made up of a half-dozen
unsightly houses, a ramshackle tavern propped up on two sides with
pine poles, and the weatherbeaten building that gave official name to
the cross-roads. We had no tents--there were none in the command--so
I took possession of the tavern for shelter for myself and staff, and
just as we had finished looking over its primitive interior a rain
storm set in.

The wagon containing my mess equipment was back somewhere on the
road, hopelessly stuck in the mud, and hence we had nothing to eat
except some coffee which two young women living at the tavern kindly
made for us; a small quantity of the berry being furnished from the
haversacks of my escort. By the time we got the coffee, rain was
falling in sheets, and the evening bade fair to be a most dismal one;
but songs and choruses set up by some of my staff--the two young
women playing accompaniments on a battered piano--relieved the
situation and enlivened us a little. However, the dreary night
brought me one great comfort; for General Grant, who that day had
moved out to Gravelly Run, sent me instructions to abandon all idea
of the contemplated raid, and directed me to act in concert with the
infantry under his immediate command, to turn, if possible, the right
flank of Lee's army. The despatch made my mind easy with respect to
the objectionable feature of my original instructions, and of course
relieved me also from the anxiety growing out of the letter received
at Hancock Station the night of the 28th; so, notwithstanding the
suspicions excited by some of my staff concerning the Virginia
feather-bed that had been assigned me, I turned in at a late hour and
slept most soundly.

The night of the 29th the left of General Grant's infantry--Warren's
corps--rested on the Boydton road, not far from its intersection with
the Quaker road. Humphreys's corps was next to Warren; then came
Ord, next Wright, and then Parke, with his right resting on the
Appomattox. The moving of Warren and Humphreys to the left during
the day was early discovered by General Lee. He met it by extending
the right of his infantry on the White Oak road, while drawing in the
cavalry of W. H. F. Lee and Rosser along the south bank of Stony
Creek to cover a crossroads called Five Forks, to anticipate me
there; for assuming that my command was moving in conjunction with
the infantry, with the ultimate purpose of striking the Southside
railroad, Lee made no effort to hold Dinwiddie, which he might have
done with his cavalry, and in this he made a fatal mistake. The
cavalry of Fitz. Lee was ordered at this same time from Sunderland
depot to Five Forks, and its chief placed in command of all the
mounted troops of General Lee's army.

At daylight on ttie 3oth I proceeded to make dispositions under the
new conditions imposed by my modified instructions, and directed
Merritt to push Devin out as far as the White Oak road to make a
reconnoissance to Five Forks, Crook being instructed to send Davies's
brigade to support Devin. Crook was to hold, with Gregg's brigade,
the Stony Creek crossing of the Boydton plank road, retaining Smith's
near Dinwiddie, for use in any direction required. On the 29th W. H.
F. Lee conformed the march of his cavalry with that of ours, but my
holding Stony Creek in this way forced him to make a detour west of
Chamberlin's Run, in order to get in communication with his friends
at Five Forks.

The rain that had been falling all night gave no sign of stopping,
but kept pouring down all day long, and the swamps and quicksands
mired the horses, whether they marched in the roads or across the
adjacent fields. Undismayed, nevertheless, each column set out for
its appointed duty, but shortly after the troops began to move I
received from General Grant this despatch, which put a new phase on

"GRAVELLY RUN, March 30, 1865.


"The heavy rain of to-day will make it impossible for us to do much
until it dries up a little, or we get roads around our rear repaired.
You may, therefore, leave what cavalry you deem necessary to protect
the left, and hold such positions as you deem necessary for that
purpose, and send the remainder back to Humphrey's Station where they
can get hay and grain. Fifty wagons loaded with forage will be sent
to you in the morning. Send an officer back to direct the wagons
back to where you want them. Report to me the cavalry you will leave
back, and the position you will occupy. Could not your cavalry go
back by the way of Stony Creek depot and destroy or capture the store
of supplies there?

"U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General."

When I had read and pondered this, I determined to ride over to
General Grant's headquarters on Gravelly Run, and get a clear idea of
what it was proposed to do, for it seemed to me that a suspension of
operations would be a serious mistake. Mounting a powerful gray
pacing horse called Breckenridge (from its capture from one of
Breckenridge's staff-officers at Missionary Ridge), and that I knew
would carry me through the mud, I set out accompanied by my Assistant
Adjutant-General, Colonel Frederick C. Newhall, and an escort of
about ten or fifteen men. At first we rode north up the Boydton
plank-road, and coming upon our infantry pickets from a direction
where the enemy was expected to appear, they began to fire upon us,
but seeing from our actions that we were friends, they ceased, and
permitted us to pass the outposts. We then struggled on in a
northeasterly direction across-country, till we struck the Vaughn
road. This carried us to army headquarters, which were established
south of Gravelly Run in an old cornfield. I rode to within a few
yards of the front of General Grant's tent, my horse plunging at
every step almost to his knees in the mud, and dismounted near a
camp-fire, apparently a general one, for all the staff-officers were
standing around it on boards and rails placed here and there to keep
them from sinking into the mire.

Going directly to General Grant's tent, I found him and Rawlins
talking over the question of suspending operations till the weather
should improve. No orders about the matter had been issued yet,
except the despatch to me, and Rawlins, being strongly opposed to the
proposition, was frankly expostulating with General Grant, who, after
greeting me, remarked, in his quiet way: "Well, Rawlins, I think you
had better take command." Seeing that there was a difference up
between Rawlins and his chief, I made the excuse of being wet and
cold, and went outside to the fire. Here General Ingalls met me and
took me to his tent, where I was much more comfortable than when
standing outside, and where a few minutes later we were joined by
General Grant. Ingalls then retired, and General Grant began talking
of our fearful plight, resulting from the rains and mud, and saying
that because of this it seemed necessary to suspend operations. I at
once begged him not to do so, telling him that my cavalry was already
on the move in spite of the difficulties, and that although a
suspension of operations would not be fatal, yet it would give rise
to the very charge of disaster to which he had referred at City
Point, and, moreover, that we would surely be ridiculed, just as
General Burnside's army was after the mud march of 1863. His better
judgment was against suspending operations, but the proposition had
been suggested by all sorts of complaints as to the impossibility of
moving the trains and the like, so it needed little argument to
convince him, and without further discussion he said, in that manner
which with him meant a firmness of purpose that could not be changed
by further complainings, "We will go on." I then told him that I
believed I could break in the enemy's right if he would let me have
the Sixth Corps; but saying that the condition of the roads would
prevent the movement of infantry, he replied that I would have to
seize Five Forks with the cavalry alone.

On my way back to Dinwiddie I stopped at the headquarters of General
Warren, but the General being asleep, I went to the tent of one of
his staff-officers. Colonel William T. Gentry, an old personal
friend with whom I had served in Oregon. In a few minutes Warren
came in and we had a short conversation, he speaking rather
despondently of the outlook, being influenced no doubt by the
depressing weather.

From Warren's headquarters I returned, by the Boydton road to
Dinwiddie Court House, fording Gravelly Run with ease. When I got as
far as the Dabney road I sent Colonel Newhall out on it toward Five
Forks, with orders for Merritt to develop the enemy's position and
strength, and then rode on to Dinwiddie to endeavor to get all my
other troops up. Merritt was halted at the intersection of the Five
Forks and Gravelly Church roads when Newhall delivered the orders,
and in compliance moving out Gibbs's brigade promptly, sharp
skirmishing was brought on, Gibbs driving the Confederates to Five
Forks, where he found them behind a line of breastworks running along
the White Oak road. The reconnoissance demonstrating the intention
of the enemy to hold this point, Gibbs was withdrawn.

That evening, at 7 o'clock, I reported the position of the
Confederate cavalry, and stated that it had been reinforced by
Pickett's division of infantry. On receipt of this despatch, General
Grant offered me the Fifth Corps, but I declined to take it, and
again asked for the Sixth, saying that with it I believed I could
turn the enemy (Pickett's) left, or break through his lines. The
morning of the 31st General Grant replied the the Sixth Corps could
not be taken from its position in the line, and offered me the
Second; but in the mean time circumstances had changed, and no corps
was ordered.



The night of March 30 Merritt, with Devin's division and Davies's
brigade, was camped on the Five Forks road about two miles in front
of Dinwiddie, near J. Boisseau's. Crook, with Smith and Gregg's
brigades, continued to cover Stony Creek, and Custer was still back
at Rowanty Creek, trying to get the trains up. This force had been
counted while crossing the creek on the 29th, the three divisions
numbering 9,000 enlisted men, Crook having 3,300, and Custer and
Devin 5,700.

During the 30th, the enemy had been concentrating his cavalry, and by
evening General W. H. F. Lee and General Rosser had joined Fitzhugh
Lee near Five Forks. To this force was added, about dark, five
brigades of infantry--three from Pickett's division, and two from
Johnson's--all under command of Pickett. The infantry came by the
White Oak road from the right of General Lee's intrenchments, and
their arrival became positively known to me about dark, the
confirmatory intelligence being brought in then by some of Young's
scouts who had been inside the Confederate lines.

On the 31st, the rain having ceased, directions were given at an
early hour to both Merritt and Crook to make reconnoissances
preparatory to securing Five Forks, and about 9 o'clock Merritt
started for the crossroads, Davies's brigade supporting him. His
march was necessarily slow because of the mud, and the enemy's
pickets resisted with obstinacy also, but the coveted crossroads fell
to Merritt without much trouble, as the bulk of the enemy was just
then bent on other things. At the same hour that Merritt started,
Crook moved Smith's brigade out northwest from Dinwiddie to
Fitzgerald's crossing of Chamberlain's Creek, to cover Merritt's
left, supporting Smith by placing Gregg to his right and rear. The
occupation of this ford was timely, for Pickett, now in command of
both the cavalry and infantry, was already marching to get in
Merritt's rear by crossing Chamberlain's Creek.

To hold on to Fitzgerald's ford Smith had to make a sharp fight, but
Mumford's cavalry attacking Devin, the enemy's infantry succeeded in
getting over Chamberlain's Creek at a point higher up than
Fitzgerald's ford, and assailing Davies, forced him back in a
northeasterly direction toward the Dinwiddie and Five Forks road in
company with Devin. The retreat of Davies permitted Pickett to pass
between Crook and Merritt, which he promptly did, effectually
separating them and cutting off both Davies and Devin from the road
to Dinwiddie, so that to get to that point they had to retreat across
the country to B. Boisseau's and then down the Boydton road.

Gibbs's brigade had been in reserve near the intersection of the Five
Forks and Dabney roads, and directing Merritt to hold on there, I
ordered Gregg's brigade to be mounted and brought to Merritt's aid,
for if Pickett continued in pursuit north of the Five Forks road he
would expose his right and rear, and I determined to attack him, in
such case, from Gibbs's position. Gregg arrived in good season, and
as soon as his men were dismounted on Gibbs's left, Merritt assailed
fiercely, compelling Pickett to halt and face a new foe, thus
interrupting an advance that would finally have carried Pickett into
the rear of Warren's corps.

It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we were in a critical
situation, but having ordered Merritt to bring Devin and Davies to
Dinwiddie by the Boydton road, staff-officers were sent to hurry
Custer to the same point, for with its several diverging roads the
Court House was of vital importance, and I determined to stay there
at all hazards. At the same time orders were sent to Smith's
brigade, which, by the advance of Pickett past its right flank and
the pressure of W. H. F. Lee on its front, had been compelled to give
up Fitzgerald's crossing, to fall back toward Dinwiddie but to
contest every inch of ground so as to gain time.

When halted by the attack of Gregg and Gibbs, Pickett, desisting from
his pursuit of Devin, as already stated, turned his undivided
attention to this unexpected force, and with his preponderating
infantry pressed it back on the Five Forks road toward Dinwiddle,
though our men, fighting dismounted behind barricades at different
points, displayed such obstinacy as to make Pickett's progress slow,
and thus give me time to look out a line for defending the Court
House. I selected a place about three-fourths of a mile northwest of
the crossroads, and Custer coming up quickly with Capehart's brigade,
took position on the left of the road to Five Forks in some open
ground along the crest of a gentle ridge. Custer got Capehart into
place just in time to lend a hand to Smith, who, severely pressed,
came back on us here from his retreat along Chamberlain's "bed"--the
vernacular for a woody swamp such as that through which Smith
retired. A little later the brigades of Gregg and Gibbs, falling to
the rear slowly and steadily, took up in the woods a line which
covered the Boydton Road some distance to the right of Capehart, the
intervening gap to be filled with Pennington's brigade. By this time
our horse-artillery, which for two days had been stuck in the mud,
was all up, and every gun was posted in this line.

It was now near sunset, and the enemy's cavalry thinking the day was
theirs, made a dash at Smith, but just as the assailants appeared in
the open fields, Capehart's men opened so suddenly on their left
flank as to cause it to recoil in astonishment, which permitted Smith
to connect his brigade with Custer unmolested. We were now in good
shape behind the familiar barricades, and having a continuous line,
excepting only the gap to be filled with Pennington, that covered
Dinwiddie and the Boydton Road. My left rested in the woods about
half a mile west of the Court House, and the barricades extended from
this flank in a semicircle through the open fields in a northeasterly
direction, to a piece-of thick timber on the right, near the Boydton

A little before the sun went down the Confederate infantry was formed
for the attack, and, fortunately for us, Pennington's brigade came up
and filled the space to which it was assigned between Capehart and
Gibbs, just as Pickett moved out across the cleared fields in front
of Custer, in deep lines that plainly told how greatly we were

Accompanied by Generals Merritt and Custer and my staff, I now rode
along the barricades to encourage the men. Our enthusiastic
reception showed that they were determined to stay. The cavalcade
drew the enemy's fire, which emptied several of the saddles--among
others Mr. Theodore Wilson, correspondent of the New York Herald,
being wounded. In reply our horse-artillery opened on the advancing
Confederates, but the men behind the barricades lay still till
Pickett's troops were within short range. Then they opened, Custer's
repeating rifles pouring out such a shower of lead that nothing could
stand up against it. The repulse was very quick, and as the gray
lines retired to the woods from which but a few minutes before they
had so confidently advanced, all danger of their taking Dinwiddie or
marching to the left and rear of our infantry line was over, at least
for the night. The enemy being thus checked, I sent a staff-officer-
-Captain Sheridan--to General Grant to report what had taken place
during the afternoon, and to say that I proposed to stay at
Dinwiddie, but if ultimately compelled to abandon the place, I would
do so by retiring on the Vaughn road toward Hatcher's Run, for I then
thought the attack might be renewed next morning. Devin and Davies
joined me about dark, and my troops being now well in hand, I sent a
second staff-officer--Colonel John Kellogg--to explain my situation
more fully, and to assure General Grant that I would hold on at
Dinwiddie till forced to let go.

By following me to Dinwiddie the enemy's infantry had completely
isolated itself, and hence there was now offered the Union troops a
rare opportunity. Lee was outside of his works, just as we desired,
and the general-in-chief realized this the moment he received the
first report of my situation; General Meade appreciated it too from
the information he got from Captain Sheridan, en route to army
headquarters with the first tidings, and sent this telegram to
General Grant:

"March 31, 1865. 9:45 p.m.


"Would it not be well for Warren to go down with his whole corps and
smash up the force in front of Sheridan? Humphreys can hold the line
to the Boydton plank-road, and the refusal along with it. Bartlett's
brigade is now on the road from G. Boisseau's, running north, where
it crosses Gravelly Run, he having gone down the White Oak road.
Warren could go at once that way, and take the force threatening
Sheridan in rear at Dinwiddie, and move on the enemy's rear with the
other two.

"G. G. MEADE, Major-General."

An hour later General Grant replied in these words:

"DABNEY'S MILLS, March 311, 1865. 10:15 P. M.

"Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Let Warren move in the way you propose, and urge him not to stop for
anything. Let Griffin (Griffin had been ordered by Warren to the
Boydton road to protect his rear) go on as he was first directed.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

These two despatches were the initiatory steps in sending the Fifth
Corps, under Major-General G. K. Warren, to report to me, and when I
received word of its coming and also that Genera Mackenzie's cavalry
from the Army of the James was likewise to be added to my command,
and that discretionary authority was given me to use all my forces
against Pickett, I resolved to destroy him, if it was within the
bounds of possibility, before he could rejoin Lee.

In a despatch, dated 10:05 p.m., telling me of the coming of Warren
and Mackenzie, General Grant also said that the Fifth Corps should
reach me by 12 o'clock that night, but at that hour not only had none
of the corps arrived, but no report from it, so believing that if it
came all the way down to Dinwiddie the next morning, our opportunity
would be gone, I concluded that it would be best to order Warren to
move in on the enemy's rear while the cavalry attacked in front, and,
therefore, at 3 o'clock in the morning of April 1 sent this despatch
to General Warren:

"April 1, 1865--3. A.M.

"Commanding Fifth Army Corps.

"I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court House, on the road leading
to Five Forks, for three-quarters of a mile with General Custer's
division. The enemy are in his immediate front, lying so as to cover
the road just this side of A. Adams's house, which leads across
Chamberlain's bed, or run. I understand you have a division at J.[G]
Boisseau's; if so, you are in rear of the enemy's line and almost on
his flank. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at
daylight; if so, attack instantly and in full force. Attack at
daylight anyhow, and I will make an effort to get the road this side
of Adams's house, and if I do, you can capture the whole of them.
Any force moving down the road I am holding, or on the White Oak
road, will be in the enemy's rear, and in all probability get any
force that may escape you by a flank movement. Do not fear my
leaving here. If the enemy remains, I shall fight at daylight.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

With daylight came a slight fog, but it lifted almost immediately,
and Merritt moved Custer and Devin forward. As these divisions
advanced the enemy's infantry fell back on the Five Forks road, Devin
pressing him along the road, while Custer extended on the left over
toward Chamberlain's Run, Crook being held in watch along Stony
Creek, meanwhile, to be utilized as circumstances might require when
Warren attacked.

The order of General Meade to Warren the night of March 31--a copy
being sent me also--was positive in its directions, but as midnight
came without a sign of or word from the Fifth Corps, notwithstanding
that was the hour fixed for its arrival, I nevertheless assumed that
there were good reasons for its non-appearance, but never once
doubted that measures would be taken to comply with my despatch Of
3 A. M. and therefore hoped that, as Pickett was falling back slowly
toward Five Forks, Griffin's and Crawford's divisions would come in
on the Confederate left and rear by the Crump road near J.[G]
Boisseau's house.

But they did not reach there till after the enemy had got by. As a
matter of fact, when Pickett was passing the all-important point
Warren's men were just breaking from the bivouac in which their chief
had placed them the night before, and the head of Griffin's division
did not get to Boisseau's till after my cavalry, which meanwhile had
been joined by Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps by way of the
Boydton and Dabney roads. By reason of the delay in moving Griffin
and Crawford, the enemy having escaped, I massed the Fifth Corps at
J.[G] Boisseau's so that the men could be rested, and directed it to
remain there; General Warren himself had not then come up. General
Mackenzie, who had reported just after daybreak, was ordered at first
to stay at Dinwiddie Court House, but later was brought along the
Five Forks road to Dr. Smith's, and Crook's division was directed to
continue watching the crossings of Stony Creek and Chamberlain's Run.

That we had accomplished nothing but to oblige our foe to retreat was
to me bitterly disappointing, but still feeling sure that he would
not give up the Five Forks crossroads without a fight, I pressed him
back there with Merritt's cavalry, Custer advancing on the Scott
road, while Devin drove the rearguard along that leading from J.[G]
Boisseau's to Five Forks.

By 2 o'clock in the afternoon Merritt had forced the enemy inside his
intrenchments, which began with a short return about three-quarters
of a mile east of the Forks and ran along the south side of the White
Oak road to a point about a mile west of the Forks. From the left of
the return over toward Hatcher's Run was posted Mumford's cavalry,
dismounted. In the return itself was Wallace's brigade, and next on
its right came Ransom's, then Stewart's, then Terry's, then Corse's.
On the right of Corse was W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry. Ten
pieces of artillery also were in this line, three on the right of the
works, three near the centre at the crossroads, and four on the left,
in the return. Rosser's cavalry was guarding the Confederate trains
north of Hatcher's Run beyond the crossing of the Ford road.

I felt certain the enemy would fight at Five Forks--he had to--so,
while we were getting up to his intrenchments, I decided on my plan
of battle. This was to attack his whole front with Merritt's two
cavalry divisions, make a feint of turning his right flank, and with
the Fifth Corps assail his left. As the Fifth Corps moved into
action, its right flank was to be covered by Mackenzie's cavalry,
thus entirely cutting off Pickett's troops from communication with
Lee's right flank, which rested near the Butler house at the junction
of the Claiborne and White Oaks roads. In execution of this plan,
Merritt worked his men close in toward the intrenchments, and while
he was thus engaged, I ordered Warren to bring up the Fifth Corps,
sending the order by my engineer officer, Captain Gillespie, who had
reconnoitred the ground in the neighborhood of Gravelly Run Church,
where the infantry was to form for attack.

Gillespie delivered the order about 1 o'clock, and when the corps was
put in motion, General Warren joined me at the front. Before he
came, I had received, through Colonel Babcock, authority from General
Grant to relieve him, but I did not wish to do it, particularly on
the eve of battle; so, saying nothing at all about the message
brought me, I entered at once on the plan for defeating Pickett,
telling Warren how the enemy was posted, explaining with considerable
detail, and concluding by stating that I wished his troops to be
formed on the Gravelly Church road, near its junction with the White
Oak road, with two divisions to the front, aligned obliquely to the
White Oak road, and one in reserve, opposite the centre of these two.

General Warren seemed to understand me clearly, and then left to join
his command, while I turned my attention to the cavalry, instructing
Merritt to begin by making demonstrations as though to turn the
enemy's right, and to assault the front of the works with his
dismounted cavalry as soon as Warren became engaged. Afterward I
rode around to Gravelly Run Church, and found the head of Warren's
column just appearing, while he was sitting under a tree making a
rough sketch of the ground. I was disappointed that more of the
corps was not already up, and as the precious minutes went by without
any apparent effort to hurry the troops on to the field, this
disappointment grew into disgust. At last I expressed to Warren my
fears that the cavalry might expend all their ammunition before the
attack could be made, that the sun would go down before the battle
could be begun, or that troops from Lee's right, which, be it
remembered, was less than three miles away from my right, might, by
striking my rear, or even by threatening it, prevent the attack on

Warren did not seem to me to be at all solicitous; his manner
exhibited decided apathy, and he remarked with indifference that
"Bobby Lee was always getting people into trouble." With unconcern
such as this, it is no wonder that fully three hours' time was
consumed in marching his corps from J.[G] Boisseau's to Gravelly Run
Church, though the distance was but two miles. However, when my
patience was almost worn out, Warren reported his troops ready,
Ayres's division being formed on the west side of the Gravelly Church
road, Crawford's on the east side, and Griffin in reserve behind the
right of Crawford, a little different from my instructions. The
corps had no artillery present, its batteries, on account of the mud,
being still north of Gravelly Run. Meanwhile Merritt had been busy
working his men close up to the intrenchments from the angle of the
return west, along the White Oak road.

About 4 o'clock Warren began the attack. He was to assault the left
flank of the Confederate infantry at a point where I knew Pickett's
intrenchments were refused, almost at right angles with the White Oak
road. I did not know exactly how far toward Hatcher's Run this part
of the works extended, for here the videttes of Mumford's cavalry
were covering, but I did know where the refusal began. This return,
then, was the point I wished to assail, believing that if the assault
was made with spirit, the line could be turned. I therefore intended
that Ayres and Crawford should attack the refused trenches squarely,
and when these two divisions and Merritt's cavalry became hotly
engaged, Griffin's division was to pass around the left of the
Confederate line; and I personally instructed Griffin how I wished
him to go in, telling him also that as he advanced, his right flank
would be taken care of by Mackenzie, who was to be pushed over toward
the Ford road and Hatcher's Run.

The front of the corps was oblique to the White Oak road; and on
getting there, it was to swing round to the left till perpendicular
to the road, keeping closed to the left. Ayres did his part well,
and to the letter, bringing his division square up to the front of
the return near the angle; but Crawford did not wheel to the left, as
was intended. On the contrary, on receiving fire from Mumford's
cavalry, Crawford swerved to the right and moved north from the
return, thus isolating his division from Ayres; and Griffin,
uncertain of the enemy's position, naturally followed Crawford.

The deflection of this division on a line of march which finally
brought it out on the Ford road near C. Young's house, frustrated the
purpose I had in mind when ordering the attack, and caused a gap
between Ayres and Crawford, of which the enemy quickly took
advantage, and succeeded in throwing a part of Ayres's division into
confusion. At this juncture I sent word to General Warren to have
Crawford recalled; for the direction he was following was not only a
mistaken one, but, in case the assault at the return failed, he ran
great risk of capture. Warren could not be found, so I then sent for
Griffin--first by Colonel Newhall, and then by Colonel Sherman--to
come to the aid of Ayres, who was now contending alone with that part
of the enemy's infantry at the return. By this time Griffin had
observed and appreciated Crawford's mistake, however, and when the
staff-officers reached him, was already faced to the left; so,
marching across Crawford's rear, he quickly joined Ayres, who
meanwhile had rallied his troops and carried the return.

When Ayres's division went over the flank of the enemy's works,
Devin's division of cavalry, which had been assaulting the front,
went over in company with it; and hardly halting to reform, the
intermingling infantry and dismounted cavalry swept down inside the
intrenchments, pushing to and beyond Five Forks, capturing thousands
of prisoners. The only stand the enemy tried to make was when he
attempted to form near the Ford road. Griffin pressed him so hard
there, however, that he had to give way in short order, and many of
his men, with three pieces of artillery, fell into the hands of
Crawford while on his circuitous march.

The right of Custer's division gained a foothold on the enemy's works
simultaneously with Devin's, but on the extreme left Custer had a
very severe combat with W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, as well as with
Corse's and Terry's infantry. Attacking Terry and Corse with
Pennington's brigade dismounted, he assailed Lee's cavalry with his
other two brigades mounted, but Lee held on so obstinately that
Custer gained but little ground till our troops, advancing behind the
works, drove Corse and Terry out. Then Lee made no further stand
except at the west side of the Gillian field, where, assisted by
Corse's brigade, he endeavored to cover the retreat, but just before
dark Custer, in concert with some Fifth Corps regiments under Colonel
Richardson, drove ihe last of the enemy westward on the White Oak

Our success was unqualified; we had overthrown Pickett, taken six
guns, thirteen battle-flags, and nearly six thousand prisoners. When
the battle was practically over, I turned to consider my position
with reference to the main Confederate army. My troops, though
victorious, were isolated from the Army of the Potomac, for on the
31st of March the extreme left of that army had been thrown back
nearly to the Boydton plank-road, and hence there was nothing to
prevent the enemy's issuing from his trenches at the intersection of
the White Oak and Claiborne roads and marching directly on my rear.
I surmised that he might do this that night or early next morning.
It was therefore necessary to protect myself in this critical
situation, and General Warren having sorely disappointed me, both in
the moving of his corps and in its management during the battle, I
felt that he was not the man to rely upon under such circumstances,
and deeming that it was to the best interest of the service as well
as but just to myself, I relieved him, ordering him to report to
General Grant.

I then put Griffin in command of the Fifth Corps, and directed him to
withdraw from the pursuit as quickly as he could after following the
enemy a short distance, and form in line of battle near Gravelly Run
Church, at right angles with the White Oak road, with Ayres and
Crawford facing toward the enemy at the junction of the White Oak and
Claiborne roads, leaving Bartlett, now commanding Griffin's division,
near the Ford road. Mackenzie also was left on the Ford road at the
crossing of Hatcher's Run, Merritt going into camp on the Widow
Gillian's plantation. As I had been obliged to keep Crook's division
along Stony Creek throughout the day, it had taken no active part in
the battle.

Years after the war, in 1879, a Court of Inquiry was given General
Warren in relation to his conduct on the day of the battle. He
assumed that the delay in not granting his request for an inquiry,
which was first made at the close of the war, was due to opposition
on my part. In this he was in error; I never opposed the ordering of
the Court, but when it was finally decided to convene it I naturally
asked to be represented by counsel, for the authorization of the
Inquiry was so peculiarly phrased that it made me practically a

"NEW YORK CITY, May 3, 1880

"President Court of Inquiry, Governor's Island.

"Sir: Since my arrival in this city, under a subpoena to appear and
testify before the Court of which you are president, I have been
indirectly and unofficially informed that the Court some time ago
forwarded an invitation to me (which has not been received) to appear
personally or by counsel, in order to aid it in obtaining a knowledge
as to the facts concerning the movements terminating in the battle of
'Five Forks,' with reference to the direct subjects of its inquiry.
Any invitation of this character I should always and do consider it
incumbent on me to accede to, and do everything in my power in
furtherance of the specific purposes for which courts of inquiry are
by law instituted.

"The order convening the Court (a copy of which was not received by
me at my division headquarters until two days after the time
appointed for the Court to assemble) contemplates an inquiry based on
the application of Lieutenant Colonel G. K. Warren, Corps of
Engineers, as to his conduct while major-general commanding the Fifth
Army Corps, under my command, in reference to accusations or
imputations assumed in the order to have been made against him, and I
understand through the daily press that my official report of the
battle of Five Forks has been submitted by him as a basis of inquiry.

"If it is proposed to inquire, either directly or indirectly, as to
any action of mine so far as the commanding general Fifth Army Corps
was concerned, or my motives for such action, I desire to be
specifically informed wherein such action or transaction is alleged
to contain an accusation or imputation to become a subject of
inquiry, so that, knowing what issues are raised, I may intelligently
aid the Court in arriving at the facts.

"It is a long time since the battle of Five Forks was fought, and
during the time that has elapsed the official reports of that battle
have been received and acknowledged by the Government; but now, when
the memory of events has in many instances grown dim, and three of
the principal actors on that field are dead--Generals Griffin,
Custer, and Devin, whose testimony would have been valuable--an
investigation is ordered which might perhaps do injustice unless the
facts pertinent to the issues are fully developed.

"My duties are such that it will not be convenient for me to be
present continuously during the sessions of the Court. In order,
however, that everything may be laid before it in my power pertinent
to such specific issues as are legally raised, I beg leave to
introduce Major Asa Bird Gardner as my counsel.

"Very respectfully,

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Lieut.-General."

Briefly stated, in my report of the battle of Five Forks there were
four imputations concerning General Warren. The first implied that
Warren failed to reach me on the 1st of April, when I had reason to
expect him; the second, that the tactical handling of his corps was
unskillful; the third, that he did not exert himself to get his corps
up to Gravelly Run Church; and the fourth, that when portions of his
line gave way he did not exert himself to restore confidence to his
troops. The Court found against him on the first and second counts,
and for him on the third and fourth. This finding was unsatisfactory
to General Warren, for he hoped to obtain such an unequivocal
recognition of his services as to cast discredit on my motives for
relieving him. These were prompted by the conditions alone--by the
conduct of General Warren as described, and my consequent lack of
confidence in him.

It will be remembered that in my conversation with General Grant on
the 30th, relative to the suspension of operations because of the
mud, I asked him to let me have the Sixth Corps to help me in
breaking in on the enemy's right, but that it could not be sent me;
it will be recalled also that the Fifth Corps was afterward tendered
and declined. From these facts it has been alleged that I was
prejudiced against General Warren, but this is not true. As we had
never been thrown much together I knew but little of him. I had no
personal objection to him, and certainly could have none to his
corps. I was expected to do an extremely dangerous piece of work,
and knowing the Sixth Corps well--my cavalry having campaigned with
it so successfully in the Shenandoah Valley, I naturally preferred
it, and declined the Fifth for no other reason. But the Sixth could
not be given, and the turn of events finally brought me the Fifth
after my cavalry, under the most trying difficulties, had drawn the
enemy from his works, and into such a position as to permit the
realization of General Grant's hope to break up with my force Lee's
right flank. Pickett's isolation offered an opportunity which we
could not afford to neglect, and the destruction of his command would
fill the measure of General Grant's expectations as well as meet my
own desires. The occasion was not an ordinary one, and as I thought
that Warren had not risen to its demand in the battle, I deemed it
injudicious and unsafe under the critical conditions existing to
retain him longer. That I was justified in this is plain to all who
are disposed to be fair-minded, so with the following extract from
General Sherman's review of the proceedings of the Warren Court, and
with which I am convinced the judgment of history will accord, I
leave the subject:

"....It would be an unsafe and dangerous rule to hold the commander
of an army in battle to a technical adherence to any rule of conduct
for managing his command. He is responsible for results, and holds
the lives and reputations of every officer and soldier under his
orders as subordinate to the great end--victory. The most important
events are usually compressed into an hour, a minute, and he cannot
stop to analyze his reasons. He must act on the impulse, the
conviction, of the instant, and should be sustained in his
conclusions, if not manifestly unjust. The power to command men, and
give vehement impulse to their joint action, is something which
cannot be defined by words, but it is plain and manifest in battles,
and whoever commands an army in chief must choose his subordinates by
reason of qualities which can alone be tested in actual conflict.

"No one has questioned the patriotism, integrity, and great
intelligence of General Warren. These are attested by a long record
of most excellent service, but in the clash of arms at and near Five
Forks, March 31 and April 1, 1865, his personal activity fell short
of the standard fixed by General Sheridan, on whom alone rested the
great responsibility for that and succeeding days.

"My conclusion is that General Sheridan was perfectly justified in
his action in this case, and he must be fully and entirely sustained
if the United States expects great victories by her arms in the



When the news of the battle at Five Forks reached General Grant, he
realized that the decisive character of our victory would necessitate
the immediate abandonment of Richmond and Petersburg by the enemy;
and fearing that Lee would escape without further injury, he issued
orders, the propriety of which must be settled by history, to assault
next morning the whole intrenched line. But Lee could not retreat at
once. He had not anticipated, dissster at Five Forks, and hence was
unprepared to withdraw on the moment; and the necessity of getting
off his trains and munitions of war, as well as being obliged to
cover the flight of the Confederate Government, compelled him to hold
on to Richmond and Petersburg till the afternoon of the 2d, though
before that Parke, Ord, and Wright had carried his outer
intrenchments at several points, thus materially shortening the line
of investment.

The night of the 1st of April, General Humphreys's corps-the Second-
had extended its left toward the White Oak road, and early next
morning, under instructions from General Grant, Miles's division of
that corps reported to me, and supporting him with Ayres's and
Crawford's divisions of the Fifth Corps, I then directed him to
advance toward Petersburg and attack the enemy's works at the
intersection of the Claiborne and White Oak roads.

Such of the enemy as were still in the works Miles easily forced
across Hatcher's Run, in the direction of Sutherland's depot, but the
Confederates promptly took up a position north of the little stream,
and Miles being anxious to attack, I gave him leave, but just at this
time General Humphreys came up with a request to me from General
Meade to return Miles. On this request I relinquished command of the
division, when, supported by the Fifth Corps it could have broken in
the enemy's right at a vital point; and I have always since regretted
that I did so, for the message Humphreys conveyed was without
authority from General Grant, by whom Miles had been sent to me, but
thinking good feeling a desideratum just then, and wishing to avoid
wrangles, I faced the Fifth Corps about and marched it down to Five
Forks, and out the Ford road to the crossing of Hatcher's Run. After
we had gone, General Grant, intending this quarter of the field to be
under my control, ordered Humphreys with his other two divisions to
move to the right, in toward Petersburg. This left Miles entirely
unsupported, and his gallant attack made soon after was unsuccessful
at first, but about 3 o'clock in the afternoon he carried the point
which covered the retreat from Petersburg and Richmond.

Merritt had been sent westward, meanwhile, in the direction of Ford's
Station, to break the enemy's horse which had been collecting to the
north of Hatcher's Run. Meeting, with but little opposition, Merritt
drove this cavalry force in a northerly direction toward Scott's
Corners, while the Fifth Corps was pushed toward Sutherland's depot,
in the hope of coming in on the rear of the force that was
confronting Miles when I left him. Crawford and Merritt engaged the
enemy lightly just before night, but his main column, retreating
along the river road south of the Appomattox, had got across Namozine
Creek, and the darkness prevented our doing more than to pick up some
stragglers. The next morning the pursuit was resumed, the cavalry
again in advance, the Fifth Corps keeping up with it all the while,
and as we pressed our adversaries hundreds and hundreds of prisoners,
armed and unarmed, fell into our hands, together with many wagons and
five pieces of artillery. At Deep Creek the rearguard turned on us,
and a severe skirmish took place. Merritt, finding the enemy very
strong, was directed to await the arrival of Crook and for the rear
division of the Fifth Corps; but by the time they reached the creek,
darkness had again come to protect the Confederates, and we had to be
content with meagre results at that point.

From the beginning it was apparent that Lee, in his retreat, was
making for Amelia Court House, where his columns north and south of
the Appomattox River could join, and where, no doubt, he expected to
meet supplies, so Crook was ordered to march early on April 4 to
strike the Danville railroad, between Jettersville and Burkeville,
and then move south along the railroad toward Jettersville, Merritt
to move toward Amelia Court House, and the Fifth Corps to
Jettersville itself.

The Fifth Corps got to Jettersville about 5 in the afternoon, and I
immediately intrenched it across the Burkeville road with the
determination to stay there till the main army could come up, for I
hoped we could force Lee to surrender at Amelia Court House, since a
firm hold on Jettersville would cut him off from his line of retreat
toward Burkeville.

Accompanied only by my escort--the First United States Cavalry, about
two hundred strong--I reached Jettersville some little time before
the Fifth Corps, and having nothing else at hand I at once deployed
this handful of men to cover the crossroads till the arrival of the
corps. Just as the troopers were deploying, a man on a mule, heading
for Burkeville, rode into my pickets. He was arrested, of course,
and being searched there was found in his boots this telegram in
duplicate, signed by Lee's Commissary General.

"The army is at Amelia Court House, short of provisions. Send
300,000 rations quickly to Burkeville Junction." One copy was
addressed to the supply department at Danville, and the other to that
at Lynchburg. I surmised that the telegraph lines north of
Burkeville had been broken by Crook after the despatches were
written, which would account for their being transmitted by
messenger. There was thus revealed not only the important fact that
Lee was concentrating at Amelia Court House, but also a trustworthy
basis for estimating his troops, so I sent word to Crook to strike up
the railroad toward me, and to Merritt--who, as I have said, had
followed on the heels of the enemy--to leave Mackenzie there and
himself close in on Jettersville. Staff-officers were also
despatched to hurry up Griffin with the Fifth Corps, and his tired men
redoubled their strides.

My troops too were hard up for rations, for in the pursuit we could
not wait for our trains, so I concluded to secure if possible these
provisions intended for Lee. To this end I directed Young to send
four of his best scouts to Burkeville Junction. There they were to
separate, two taking the railroad toward Lynchburg and two toward
Danville, and as soon as a telegraph station was reached the telegram
was to be transmitted as it had been written and the provisions thus
hurried forward.

Although the Fifth Corps arrived at Jettersville the evening of April
4, as did also Crook's and Merritt's cavalry, yet none of the army of
the Potomac came up till about 3 o'clock the afternoon of the 5th,
the Second Corps, followed by the Sixth, joining us then. General
Meade arrived at Jettersville an hour earlier, but being ill,
requested me to put his troops in position. The Fifth Corps being
already intrenched across the Amelia Court House road facing north, I
placed the Sixth on its right and the Second on its left as they
reached the ground.

As the enemy had been feeling us ever since morning--to learn what he
was up to I directed Crook to send Davies's brigade on a
reconnoissance to Paine's crossroads. Davies soon found out that Lee
was trying to escape by that flank, for at the crossroads he found
the Confederate trains and artillery moving rapidly westward. Having
driven away the escort, Davies succeeded in burning nearly two
hundred wagons, and brought off five pieces of artillery. Among
these wagons were some belonging to General, Lee's and to General
Fitzhugh Lee's headquarters. This work through, Davies withdrew and
rejoined Crook, who, with Smith and Gregg, was established near Flat

It being plain that Lee would attempt to escape as soon as his trains
were out of the way, I was most anxious to attack him when the Second
Corps began to arrive, for I felt certain that unless we did so he
would succeed in passing by our left flank, and would thus again make
our pursuit a stern-chase; but General Meade, whose plan of attack
was to advance his right flank on Amelia Court House, objected to
assailing before all his troops were up.

I then sent despatches to General Grant, explaining what Davies had
done, and telling him that the Second Corps was arriving, and that I
wished he himself was present. I assured him of my confidence in our
capturing Lee if we properly exerted ourselves, and informed him,
finally, that I would put all my cavalry, except Mackenzie, on my
left, and that, with such a disposition of my forces, I could see no
escape for Lee. I also inclosed him this letter, which had just been

"AMELIA C. H., April 5, 1865.


"Our army is ruined, I fear. We are all safe as yet. Shyron left us
sick. John Taylor is well--saw him yesterday. We are in line of
battle this morning. General Robert Lee is in the field near us. My
trust is still in the justice of our cause, and that of God. General
Hill is killed. I saw Murray a few minutes since. Bernard, Terry
said, was taken prisoner, but may yet get out. I send this by a
negro I see passing up the railroad to Mechlenburg. Love to all.

"Your devoted son,

"Wm. B. TAYLOR, Colonel."

General Grant, who on the 5th was accompanying General Ord's column
toward Burkeville Junction, did not receive this intelligence till
nearly nightfall, when within about ten miles of the Junction. He
set out for Jettersville immediately, but did not reach us till near
midnight, too late of course to do anything that night. Taking me
with him, we went over to see Meade, whom he then directed to advance
early in the morning on Amelia Court House. In this interview Grant
also stated that the orders Meade had already issued would permit
Lee's escape, and therefore must be changed, for it was not the aim
only to follow the enemy, but to get ahead of him, remarking during
the conversation that, "he had no doubt Lee was moving right then."
On this same occasion Meade expressed a desire to have in the
proposed attack all the troops of the Army of the Potomac under his
own command, and asked for the return of the Fifth Corps. I made no
objections, and it was ordered to report, to him.

When, on the morning of the 6th, Meade advanced toward Amelia Court
House, he found, as predicted, that Lee was gone. It turned out that
the retreat began the evening of the 5th and continued all night.
Satisfied that this would be the case, I did not permit the cavalry
to participate in Meade's useless advance, but shifted it out toward
the left to the road running from Deatonsville to Rice's station,
Crook leading and Merritt close up. Before long the enemy's trains
were discovered on this road, but Crook could make but little
impression on them, they were so strongly guarded; so, leaving
Stagg's brigade and Miller's battery about three miles southwest of
Deatonsville--where the road forks, with a branch leading north
toward the Appomattox--to harass the retreating column and find a
vulnerable point, I again shifted the rest of the cavalry toward the
left, across-country, but still keeping parallel to the enemy's line
of march.

Just after crossing Sailor's Greek, a favorable opportunity offering,
both Merritt and Crook attacked vigorously, gained the Rice's Station
road, destroyed several hundred wagons, made many prisoners, and
captured sixteen pieces of artillery. This was important, but more
valuable still was the fact that we were astride the enemy's line of
retreat, and had cut off from joining Longstreet, waiting at Rice's
Station, a corps of Confederate infantry under General Ewell,
composed of Anderson's, Kershaw's, and Custis Lee's divisions.
Stagg's brigade and Miller's battery, which, as I have said, had been
left at the forks of the Deatonsville road, had meanwhile broken in
between the rear of Ewell's column and the head of Gordon's, forcing
Gordon to abandon his march for Rice's Station, and to take the
right-hand road at the forks, on which he was pursued by General

The complete isolation of Ewell from Longstreet in his front and
Gordon in his rear led to the battle of Sailor's Creek, one of the
severest conflicts of the war, for the enemy fought with desperation
to escape capture, and we, bent on his destruction, were no less
eager and determined. The capture of Ewell, with six of his generals
and most of his troops, crowned our success, but the fight was so
overshadowed by the stirring events of the surrender three days
later, that the battle has never been accorded the prominence it

The small creek from which the field takes its name flows in a
northwesterly direction across the road leading from Deatonsville to
Rice's Station. By shifting to the left, Merritt gained the Rice's
Station road west of the creek, making havoc of the wagon-trains,
while Crook struck them further on and planted himself square across
the road. This blocked Ewell, who, advancing Anderson to some high
ground west of the creek, posted him behind barricades, with the
intention of making a hard fight there, while the main body should
escape through the woods in a westerly direction to roads that led to
Farmville. This was prevented, however, by Crook forming his
division, two brigades dismounted and one mounted, and at once
assaulting all along Anderson's front and overlapping his right,
while Merritt fiercely attacked to the right of Crook. The enemy
being thus held, enabled the Sixth Corps--which in the meantime I had
sent for--to come upon the ground, and Ewell, still contending with
the cavalry, found himself suddenly beset by this new danger from his
rear. To, meet it, he placed Kershaw to the right and Custis Lee to
the left of the Rice's Station road, facing them north toward and
some little distance from Sailor's Creek, supporting Kershaw with
Commander Tucker's Marine brigade. Ewell's skirmishers held the line
of Sailor's Creek, which runs through a gentle valley, the north
slope of which was cleared ground.

By General Grant's directions the Sixth Corps had been following my
route of march since the discovery, about 9 o'clock in the morning,
that Lee had decamped from Amelia Court House. Grant had promptly
informed me of this in a note, saying, "The Sixth Corps will go in
with a vim any place you may dictate," so when I sent word to Wright
of the enemy's isolation, and asked him to hurry on with all speed,
his gallant corps came as fast as legs could carry them, he sending
to me successively Major McClellan and Colonel Franklin, of his
staff, to report his approach.

I was well advised as to the position of the enemy through
information brought me by an intelligent young soldier, William A.
Richardson, Company "A," Second Ohio, who, in one of the cavalry
charges on Anderson, had cleared the barricades and made his way back
to my front through Ewell's line. Richardson had told me just how
the main body of the enemy was posted, so as Seymour's division
arrived I directed General Wright to put it on the right of the road,
while Wheaton's men, coming up all hot and out of breath, promptly
formed on Seymour's left. Both divisions thus aligned faced
southwest toward Sailor's Creek, and the artillery of the corps being
massed to the left and front of the Hibbon house, without waiting for
Getty's division--for I feared that if we delayed longer the enemy
might effect his escape toward Farmville--the general attack was
begun. Seymour and Wheaton, moving forward together, assailed the
enemy's front and left, and Stagg's brigade, too, which in the mean
time had been placed between Wheaton's left and Devin's right, went
at him along with them, Merritt and Crook resuming the fight from
their positions in front of Anderson. The enemy, seeing little
chance of escape, fought like a tiger at bay, but both Seymour and
Wheaton pressed him vigorously, gaining ground at all points except
just to the right of the road, where Seymour's left was checked.
Here the Confederates burst back on us in a counter-charge, surging
down almost to the creek, but the artillery, supported by Getty, who
in the mean time had come on the ground, opened on them so terribly
that this audacious and furious onset was completely broken, though
the gallant fellows fell back to their original line doggedly, and
not until after they had almost gained the creek. Ewell was now
hemmed in on every side, and all those under his immediate command
were captured. Merritt and Crook had also broken up Anderson by this
time, but he himself, and about two thousand disorganized men escaped
by making their way through the woods toward the Appomattox River
before they could be entirely enveloped. Night had fallen when the
fight was entirely over, but Devin was pushed on in pursuit for about
two miles, part of the Sixth Corps following to clinch a victory
which not only led to the annihilation of one corps of Lee's
retreating army, but obliged Longstreet to move up to Farmville, so
as to take a road north of the Appomattox River toward Lynchburg
instead of continuing toward Danville.

At the close of the battle I sent one of my staff--Colonel Redwood
Price--to General Grant to report what had been done; that we had
taken six generals and from nine to ten thousand prisoners. On his
way Price stopped at the headquarters of General Meade, where he
learned that not the slightest intelligence of the occurrence on my
line had been received, for I not being under Meade's command, he had
paid no attention to my movements. Price gave the story of the
battle, and General Meade, realizing its importance, sent directions
immediately to General Wright to make his report of the engagement to
the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, assuming that Wright was
operating independently of me in the face of Grant's despatch Of
2 o'clock, which said that Wright was following the cavalry and would
"go in with a vim" wherever I dictated. Wright could not do else
than comply with Meade's orders in the case, and I, being then in
ignorance of Meade's reasons for the assumption, could say nothing.
But General Grant plainly intending, and even directing, that the
corps should be under my command, remedied this phase of the matter,
when informed of what had taken place, by requiring Wright to send a
report of the battle through me. What he then did, and what his
intentions and orders were, are further confirmed by a reference to
the episode in his "Memoirs," where he gives his reasons for ordering
the Sixth Corps to abandon the move on Amelia Court House and pass to
the left of the army. On the same page he also says, referring to
the 6th of April: "The Sixth Corps now remained with the cavalry
under Sheridan's direct command until after the surrender." He
unquestionably intended all of this, but his purpose was partly
frustrated by General Meade's action next morning in assuming
direction of the movements of the corps; and before General Grant
became aware of the actual conditions the surrender was at hand.



The first report of the battle of Sailor's Creek that General Grant
received was, as already stated, an oral message carried by Colonel
Price, of my staff. Near midnight I sent a despatch giving the names
of the generals captured. These were Ewell, Kershaw, Barton, Corse,
Dubose, and Custis Lee. In the same despatch I wrote: "If the thing
is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender." When Mr. Lincoln, at
City Point, received this word from General Grant, who was
transmitting every item of news to the President, he telegraphed
Grant the laconic message: "Let the thing be pressed." The morning of
the 7th we moved out at a very early hour, Crook's division marching
toward Farmville in direct pursuit, while Merritt and Mackenzie were
ordered to Prince Edward's Court House to anticipate any effort Lee
might make to escape through that place toward Danville since it had
been discovered that Longstreet had slipped away already from the
front of General Ord's troops at Rice's Station. Crook overtook the
main body of the Confederates at Farmville, and promptly attacked
their trains on the north side of the Appomattox with Gregg's
brigade, which was fiercely turned upon and forced to re-cross the
river with the loss of a number of prisoner's, among them Gregg
himself. When Crook sent word of this fight, it was clear that Lee
had abandoned all effort to escape to the southwest by way of
Danville. Lynchburg was undoubtedly his objective point now; so,
resolving to throw my cavalry again across his path, and hold him
till the infantry could overtake him, I directed everything on
Appomattox depot, recalling Crook the night of the 7th to Prospect
Station, while Merritt camped at Buffalo Creek, and Mackenzie made a
reconnoissance along the Lynchburg railroad.

At break of day, April 8, Merritt and Mackenzie united with Crook at
Prospect Station, and the cavalry all moved then toward Appomattox
depot. Hardly had it started when one of the scouts--Sergeant White-
-informed me that there were four trains of cars at the depot loaded
with supplies for Lee's army; these had been sent from Lynchburg, in
compliance with the telegram of Lee's commissary-general, which
message, it will be remembered, was captured and transmitted to
Lynchburg by two of Young's scouts on the 4th. Sergeant White, who
had been on the lookout for the trains ever since sending the
despatch, found them several miles west of Appomattox depot feeling
their way along, in ignorance of Lee's exact position. As he had the
original despatch with him, and took pains to dwell upon the pitiable
condition of Lee's army, he had little difficulty in persuading the
men in charge of the trains to bring them east of Appomattox Station,
but fearing that the true state of affairs would be learned before
long, and the trains be returned to Lynchburg, he was painfully
anxious to have them cut off by breaking the track west of the

The intelligence as to the trains was immediately despatched to
Crook, and I pushed on to join him with Merritt's command. Custer
having the advance, moved rapidly, and on nearing the station
detailed two regiments to make a detour southward to strike the
railroad some distance beyond and break the track. These regiments
set off at a gallop, and in short order broke up the railroad enough
to prevent the escape of the trains, Custer meanwhile taking
possession of the station, but none too soon, for almost at the
moment he did so the advance-guard of Lee's army appeared, bent on
securing the trains. Without halting to look after the cars further,
Custer attacked this advance-guard and had a spirited fight, in which
he drove the Confederates away from the station, captured twenty-five
pieces of artillery, a hospital train, and a large park of wagons,
which, in the hope that they would reach Lynchburg next day, were
being pushed ahead of Lee's main body.

Devin coming up a little before dusk, was put in on the right of
Custer, and one of Crook's brigades was sent to our left and the
other two held in reserve. I then forced the enemy back on the
Appomattox road to the vicinity of the Court House, and that the
Confederates might have no rest, gave orders to continue the
skirmishing throughout the night. Meanwhile the captured trains had
been taken charge of by locomotive engineers, soldiers of the
command, who were delighted evidently to get back at their old
calling. They amused themselves by running the trains to and fro,
creating much confusion, and keeping up such an unearthly screeching
with the whistles that I was on the point of ordering the cars
burned. They finally wearied of their fun, however, and ran the
trains off to the east toward General Ord's column.

The night of the 8th I made my headquarters at a little frame house
just south of the station. I did not sleep at all, nor did anybody
else, the entire command being up all night long; indeed, there had
been little rest in the, cavalry for the past eight days. The
necessity of getting Ord's column up was so obvious now that staff-
officer after staff-officer was sent to him and to General Grant
requesting that the infantry be pushed on, for if it could get to the
front, all knew that the rebellion would be ended on the morrow.
Merritt, Crook, Custer, and Devin were present at frequent intervals
during the night, and everybody was overjoyed at the prospect that
our weary work was about to end so happily. Before sun-up General
Ord arrived, and informed me of the approach of his column, it having
been marching the whole night. As he ranked me, of course I could
give him no orders, so after a hasty consultation as to where his
troops should be placed we separated, I riding to the front to
overlook my line near Appomattox Court House, while he went back to
urge along his weary troops.

The night before General Lee had held a council with his principal
generals, when it was arranged that in the morning General Gordon
should undertake to break through my cavalry, and when I neared my
troops this movement was beginning, a heavy line of infantry bearing
down on us from the direction of the village. In front of Crook and
Mackenzie firing had already begun, so riding to a slight elevation
where a good view of the Confederates could be had, I there came to
the conclusion that it would be unwise to offer more resistance than
that necessary to give Ord time to form, so I directed Merritt to
fall back, and in retiring to shift Devin and Custer to the right so
as to make room for Ord, now in the woods to my rear. Crook, who
with his own and Mackenzie's divisions was on my extreme left
covering some by-roads, was ordered to hold his ground as long as
practicable without sacrificing his men, and, if forced to retire, to
contest with obstinacy the enemy's advance.

As already stated, I could not direct General Ord's course, he being
my senior, but hastily galloping back to where he was, at the edge of
the timber, I explained to him what was taking place at the front.
Merritt's withdrawal inspired the Confederates, who forthwith began
to press Crook, their line of battle advancing with confidence till
it reached the crest whence I had reconnoitred them. From this
ground they could see Ord's men emerging from the woods, and the
hopelessness of a further attack being plain, the gray lines
instinctively halted, and then began to retire toward a ridge
immediately fronting Appomattox Court House, while Ord, joined on his
right by the Fifth Corps, advanced on them over the ground that
Merritt had abandoned.

I now directed my steps toward Merritt, who, having mounted his
troopers, had moved them off to the right, and by the time I reached
his headquarters flag he was ready for work, so a move on the enemy's
left was ordered, and every guidon was bent to the front. As the
cavalry marched along parallel with the Confederate line, and in
toward its left, a heavy fire of artillery opened on us, but this
could not check us at such a time, and we soon reached some high
ground about half a mile from the Court House, and from here I could
see in the low valley beyond the village the bivouac undoubtedly of
Lee's army. The troops did not seem to be disposed in battle order,
but on the other side of the bivouac was a line of battle--a heavy
rear-guard--confronting, presumably, General Meade.

I decided to attack at once, and formations were ordered at a trot
for a charge by Custer's and Devin's divisions down the slope leading
to the camps. Custer was soon ready, but Devin's division being in
rear its formation took longer, since he had to shift further to the
right; Devin's preparations were, therefore, but partially completed
when an aide-decamp galloped up to with the word from Custer, "Lee
has surrendered; do not charge; the white flag is up." The enemy
perceiving that Custer was forming for attack, had sent the flag out
to his front and stopped the charge just in time. I at once sent
word of the truce to General Ord, and hearing nothing more from
Custer himself, I supposed that he had gone down to the Court House
to join a mounted group of Confederates that I could see near there,
so I, too, went toward them, galloping down a narrow ridge, staff and
orderlies following; but we had not got half way to the Court House
when, from a skirt of timber to our right, not more than three
hundred yards distant, a musketry fire was opened on us. This halted
us, when, waving my hat, I called out to the firing party that we
were under a truce, and they were violating it. This did not stop
them, however, so we hastily took shelter in a ravine so situated as
to throw a ridge between us and the danger.

We traveled in safety down this depression to its mouth, and thence
by a gentle ascent approached the Court House. I was in advance,
followed by a sergeant carrying my battleflag. When I got within
about a hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's line, which was
immediately in front of the Court House, some of the Confederates
leveled their pieces at us, and I again halted. Their officers kept
their men from firing, however, but meanwhile a single-handed contest
had begun behind me, for on looking back I heard a Confederate
soldier demanding my battle-flag from the color-bearer, thinking, no
doubt, that we were coming in as prisoners. The sergeant had drawn
his sabre and was about to cut the man down, but at a word from me he
desisted and carried the flag back to my staff, his assailant quickly
realizing that the boot was on the other leg.

These incidents determined me to remain where I was till the return
of a staff-officer whom I had sent over to demand an explanation from
the group of Confederates for which I had been heading. He came back
in a few minutes with apologies for what had occurred, and informed
me that General Gordon and General Wilcox were the superior officers
in the group. As they wished me to join them I rode up with my
staff, but we had hardly met when in front of Merritt firing began.
At the sound I turned to General Gordon, who seemed embarrassed by
the occurrence, and remarked: "General, your men fired on me as I was
coming over here, and undoubtedly they are treating Merritt and
Custer the same way. We might as well let them fight it out." He
replied, "There must be some mistake." I then asked, "Why not send a
staff-officer and have your people cease firing; they are violating
the flag." He answered, "I have no staff-officer to send." Whereupon
I said that I would let him have one of mine, and calling for
Lieutenant Vanderbilt Allen, I directed him to carry General Gordon's
orders to General Geary, commanding a small brigade of South Carolina
cavalry, to discontinue firing. Allen dashed off with the message
and soon delivered it, but was made a prisoner, Geary saying, "I do
not care for white flags: South Carolinians never surrender...." By
this time Merritt's patience being exhausted, he ordered an attack,
and this in short order put an end to General Geary's "last ditch"
absurdity, and extricated Allen from his predicament.

When quiet was restored Gordon remarked: "General Lee asks for a
suspension of hostilities pending the negotiations which he is having
with General Grant." I rejoined: "I have been constantly informed of
the progress of the negotiations, and think it singular that while
such discussions are going on, General Lee should have continued his
march and attempted to break through my lines this morning. I will
entertain no terms except that General Lee shall surrender to General
Grant on his arrival here. If these terms are not accepted we will
renew hostilities." Gordon replied: "General Lee's army is
exhausted. There is no doubt of his surrender to General Grant."

It was then that General Ord joined us, and after shaking hands all
around, I related the situation to him, and Gordon went away agreeing
to meet us again in half an hour. When the time was up he came back
accompanied by General Longstreet, who brought with him a despatch,
the duplicate of one that had been sent General Grant through General
Meade's lines back on the road over which Lee had been retreating.

General Longstreet renewed the assurances that already had been given
by Gordon, and I sent Colonel Newhall with the despatch to find
General Grant and bring him to the front. When Newhall started,
everything on our side of the Appomattox Court House was quiet, for
inevitable surrender was at hand, but Longstreet feared that Meade,
in ignorance of the new conditions on my front might attack the
Confederate rearguard. To prevent this I offered to send Colonel J.
W. Forsyth through the enemy's lines to let Meade know of my
agreement, for he too was suspicious that by a renewed correspondence
Lee was endeavoring to gain time for escape. My offer being
accepted, Forsyth set out accompanied by Colonel Fairfax, of
Longstreet's staff, and had no difficulty in accomplishing his

About five or six miles from Appomattox, on the road toward Prospect
Station near its intersection with the Walker's Church road, my
adjutant-general, Colonel Newhall, met General Grant, he having
started from north of the Appomattox River for my front the morning
of April 9, in consequence of the following despatches which had been
sent him the night before, after we had captured Appomattox Station
and established a line intercepting Lee:

"CAVALRY HEADQUARTERS, April 8, 1865--9:20 P. M.

"Commanding Armies of the U. S.

"General: I marched early this morning from Buffalo Creek and
Prospect Station on Appomattox Station, where my scouts had reported
trains of cars with supplies for Lee's army. A short time before
dark General Custer, who had the advance, made a dash at the station,
capturing four trains of supplies with locomotives. One of the
trains was burned and the others were run back toward Farmville for
security. Custer then pushed on toward Appomattox Court House,
driving the enemy--who kept up a heavy fire of artillery--charging
them repeatedly and capturing, as far as reported, twenty-five pieces
of artillery and a number of prisoners and wagons. The First Cavalry
Division supported him on the right. A reconnoissance sent across
the Appomattox reports the enemy moving on the Cumberland road to
Appomattox Station, where they expect to get supplies. Custer is
still pushing on. If General Gibbon and the Fifth Corps can get up
to-night, we will perhaps finish the job in the morning. I do not
think Lee means to surrender until compelled to do so.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

"HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY, April 8, 1865--9:40 p.m.

"Commanding Armies U. S.

"GENERAL: Since writing tne accompanying despatch, General Custer
reports that his command has captured in all thirty-five pieces of
artillery, one thousand prisoners--including one general officer--and
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred wagons.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

In attempting to conduct the lieutenant-general and staff back by a
short route, Newhall lost his bearings for a time, inclining in
toward the enemy's lines too far, but regained the proper direction
without serious loss of time. General Grant arrived about 1 o'clock
in the afternoon, Ord and I, dismounted, meeting him at the edge of
the town, or crossroads, for it was little more. He remaining
mounted, spoke first to me, saying simply,

"How are you, Sheridan?" I assured him with thanks that I was
"first-rate," when, pointing toward the village, he asked, "Is
General Lee up there?" and I replied: "There is his army down in that
valley, and he himself is over in that house (designating McLean's
house) waiting to surrender to you." The General then said, "Come,
let us go over," this last remark being addressed to both Ord and me.
We two then mounted and joined him, while our staff-officers
followed, intermingling with those of the general-in-chief as the
cavalcade took its way to McLean's house near by, and where General
Lee had arrived some time before, in consequence of a message from
General Grant consenting to the interview asked for by Lee through
Meade's front that morning--the consent having been carried by
Colonel Babcock.

When I entered McLean's house General Lee was standing, as was also
his military secretary, Colonel Marshall, his only staff-officer
present. General Lee was dressed in a new uniform and wore a
handsome sword. His tall, commanding form thus set off contrasted
strongly with the short figure of General Grant, clothed as he was in
a soiled suit, without sword or other insignia of his position except
a pair of dingy shoulder-straps. After being presented, Ord and I,
and nearly all of General Grant's staff, withdrew to await the
agreement as to terms, and in a little while Colonel Babcock came to
the door and said, "The surrender had been made; you can come in

When we re-entered General Grant was writing; and General Lee, having
in his hand two despatches, which I that morning requested might be
returned, as I had no copies of them, addressed me with the remark:
"I am sorry. It is probable that my cavalry at that point of the
line did not fully understand the agreement." These despatches had
been sent in the forenoon, after the fighting had been stopped,
notifying General Lee that some of his cavalry in front of Crook was
violating the suspension of hostilities by withdrawing. About
3 o'clock in the afternoon the terms of surrender were written out
and accepted, and General Lee left the house, as he departed
cordially shaking hands with General Grant. A moment later he
mounted his chunky gray horse, and lifting his hat as he passed out
of the yard, rode off toward his army, his arrival there being
announced to us by cheering, which, as it progressed, varying in
loudness, told he was riding through the bivouac of the Army of
Northern Virginia.

The surrender of General Lee practically ended the war of the
rebellion. For four years his army had been the main-stay of the
Confederacy; and the marked ability with which he directed its
operations is evidenced both by his frequent successes and the length
of time he kept up the contest. Indeed, it may be said that till
General Grant was matched against him, he never met an opponent he
did not vanquish, for while it is true that defeat was inflicted on
the Confederates at Antietam and Gettysburg, yet the fruits of these
victories were not gathered, for after each of these battles Lee was
left unmolested till he had a chance to recuperate.

The assignment of General Grant to the command of the Union armies in
the winter of 1863-64 gave presage of success from the start, for his
eminent abilities had already been proved, and besides, he was a
tower of strength to the Government, because he had the confidence of
the people. They knew that henceforth systematic direction would be
given to our armies in every section of the vast territory over which
active operations were being prosecuted, and further, that this
coherence, this harmony of plan, was the one thing needed to end the
war, for in the three preceding years there had been illustrated most
lamentable effects of the absence of system. From the moment he set
our armies in motion simultaneously, in the spring of 1864, it could
be seen that we should be victorious ultimately, for though on
different lines we were checked now and then, yet we were harassing
the Confederacy at so many vital points that plainly it must yield to
our blows. Against Lee's army, the forefront of the Confederacy,
Grant pitted himself; and it may be said that the Confederate
commander was now, for the first time, overmatched, for against all
his devices--the products of a mind fertile in defense--General Grant
brought to bear not only the wealth of expedient which had hitherto
distinguished him, but also an imperturbable tenacity, particularly
in the Wilderness and on the march to the James, without which the
almost insurmountable obstacles of that campaign could not have been
overcome. During it and in the siege of Petersburg he met with many
disappointments--on several occasions the shortcomings of generals,
when at the point of success, leading to wretched failures. But so
far as he was concerned, the only apparent effect of these
discomfitures was to make him all the more determined to discharge
successfully the stupendous trust committed to his care, and to bring
into play the manifold resources of his well ordered military mind.
He guided every subordinate then, and in the last days of the
rebellion, with a fund of common sense and superiority of intellect,
which have left an impress so distinct as to exhibit his great
personality. When his military history is analyzed after the lapse
of years, it will show, even more clearly than now, that during these
as well as in his previous campaigns he was the steadfast Centre
about and on which everything else turned.



The surrender at Appomattox put a stop to all military operations on
the part of General Grant's forces, and the morning of April 10 my
cavalry began its march to Petersburg, the men anticipating that they
would soon be mustered out and returned to their homes. At Nottoway
Court House I heard of the assassination of the President. The first
news came to us the night after the dastardly deed, the telegraph


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