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[732] Devin to make a long detour by the Boydton plank-road to rejoin his chief. The Rebels, mistaking this for a farther retreat, attempted pursuit; thereby presenting their flank and rear to Sheridan, who charged with the brigades of Gregg and Gibbs; compelling the enemy to let go of Devin, and permit him to rejoin his chief without farther trouble. And, though they now assailed the latter in superior force, fully resolved to drive him, they were unable to make any headway. Sheridan dismounted his troopers, posted them behind a slight breastwork, and received his assailants with so deadly a fire that they recoiled; and darkness fell before they were ready to try again. When morning came, they had been withdrawn by Lee; who doubtless saw that Pickett was exposed to be struck in flank by Warren, while assailed in front by Sheridan, and thus disastrously routed.

Meantime, there was very natural alarm and anxiety at headquarters, where it was only known that Sheridan had been driven back from Five Forks to Dinwiddie, and there attacked by the enemy in force, with every prospect of routing him. Warren received order after order to hasten to Sheridan's rescue, and had sent Ayres's division through the mire and darkness; but Ayres, moving on the Boydton plank-road, had been stopped at Gravelly run, where the bridge was gone; and it was 2 A. M. before he had rebuilt and got across it; hurrying on to Dinwiddie; where he arrived at daybreak;1 just as the last of the Rebels--a picket of cavalry — were hurrying off to join their departed comrades.

Sheridan, who had ascertained by midnight that the enemy were leaving, had been perfectly at ease while all beside his command had passed a night of apprehension on his account; so at daybreak he advanced, supported by Ayres, on the track of his late assailants; being, at 7 A. M., joined midway by Warren with his two other divisions.

Advancing steadily and boldly, Sheridan had, with his cavalry alone, by 2 P. M., pressed back the Rebels into their works at Five Forks, leaving Warren's corps entirely disposable: and now, while directing Gen. Merritt, with his division of cavalry, to threaten to turn the Rebel right, at the same time that they were sharply pressed in front, Sheridan ordered Warren — hitherto passive in his rear — to advance the 5th corps on our right to the White Oak road, so as to be fully on the enemy's left flank, and then, by a left-wheel movement, fall upon that flank in full force, striking the enemy well toward the rear, and rolling his force up on itself, in utter rout and confusion. Meanwhile, McKenzie, with the inconsiderable cavalry of the Army of the James, just arrived, was to cover Warren's right flank against attack from the direction of Petersburg. This order was promptly and thoroughly obeyed; McKenzie vigorously attacking and driving the only Rebel force discoverable in that quarter. This done, he promptly countermarched, and was back in the vicinity of Five Forks, ready to participate in the combined attack, before Warren was prepared to charge.

Sheridan was profoundly dissatisfied with the slowness of Warren's

1 April 1.

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Philip H. Sheridan (9)
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